Even if you’re not an avid do-it-yourselfer, every homeowner needs to have these basic tools and know how to use them! This easy list from home improvement guru Danny Lipford will help you be prepared for the small fixes that are sure to pop up.
Always wear safety glasses, hearing protection, and an approved dust mask, if needed, when working with hand or power tools.
Top Tool #1: Tape Measure
A 16-foot or longer retractable tape measure is a necessity for almost any home improvement project around the house.
Choose a tape measure with a 3/4” or wider blade, since the wider the blade, the further the tape can be extended. Also, make sure the markings are clear and easy to read.
Top Tool #2: Hammer
A 16-ounce claw hammer with a cushioned fiberglass handle makes a good, all-around hammer for most home projects.
Make sure the hammer feels well balanced and has a comfortable grip. Choose a hammer with a smooth, crowned striking face to allow you to drive nails flush without damaging the surface.
Top Tool #3: Screwdriver
You used to need a drawer full of different screwdrivers, but thanks to screwdrivers with interchangeable bits, that’s no longer the case.
A reversible, multi-bit screwdriver, with large and small slotted bits on one end and #1 and #2 Phillips bits on the other, allows you to have the most common screw sizes always available when you need them.
Top Tool #4: Pliers
Pliers are available in many types with the most common being slip joint, adjustable, locking, needle nose, and linesman pliers. If you only have one pair, standard slip joint pliers are a good choice.
Adjustable pliers are also handy, since they can handle a wide range of sizes, while locking pliers allow you to grip tightly without slipping. Needle nose pliers come in handy in tight spots and linesman pliers are perfect for cutting wire and other electrical work.
Top Tool #5: Handsaw
A 26” long crosscut saw with 10-12 teeth-per-inch is a good choice for clean, smooth cut. Rip saws, and crosscut saws with fewer teeth-per-inch, cut faster but leave a rougher cut.
Other handsaws that come in handy include hacksaws for cutting metal, keyhole and coping saws for cutting curves, and miter saws with a miter box for cutting accurate 90° and 45° angles.
Top Tool #6: Cordless Drill/Driver
A rechargeable, battery powered drill/driver makes fast work of drilling holes and driving screws. Lithium-ion batteries provide more power and hold a charge much longer than NiCd or NiMH batteries.
Look for a variable, duel-speed cordless drill with a 3/8” keyless chuck in the 12-volt to 18-volt range. It should also have an adjustable clutch for driving screws and recharge in an hour or less.
A set of high-speed twist drill bits are perfect for drilling small holes in metal or wood, while spade bits work well for drilling larger holes in wood.
Top Tool #7: Level
A level is really two tools in one, since it can be used to find both level and plumb. A 24” level is a good choice for most projects. A small torpedo level is great when working in cramped spaces.
To check the accuracy of a level, place it on a flat surface with the bubble centered, then reverse ends without turning the level over. If the bubble is still centered, the level is accurate.
To test for plumb, hold the level against a wall with the bubble centered. Flip the level over to the other side, keeping the same end pointing up. If the bubble is still centered, the level is accurate for plumb.
Top Tool #8: Square
Squares come in several types, including framing and combination squares. A 24” framing square is the best choice for marking wide stock, but a 12” adjustable combination square is more versatile and easier to use.
To check the accuracy of a square, align the edge of the square against a straight edge and draw a 90° line, then flip the square over. If the edge of the square and the line align, the square is exactly 90 degrees.
Top Tool #9: Wood Chisels
Wood chisels are used to cut the recess for door hinges and deadbolt locks, as well other wood removal projects. A set of 1/4” to 1” wide chisels with plastic handles will tackle most jobs.
It’s important to keep wood chisels sharp and avoid hitting nails or screws, which can chip the cutting edge.
Top Tool #10: Circular Saw
A portable circular saw makes fast work of cutting plywood and framing when tackling home improvement projects around your house.
Look for a corded circular saw that takes a 7¼” diameter blade. Cordless saws with a lithium-ion battery and a 5½” to 6½” blade work well for smaller projects.
Which tool would you never do without?