When owning a home it’s not uncommon for small works to be carried out to improve or maintain your property. Even if you buy a new build there is, more often than not, a requirement to add and change things to suit your personal design ideas and decor desires.
Some of these jobs may be complex and require hiring a skilled tradesperson, but most of the time they are simple straightforward tasks such as fitting some shelves or wall mounting a TV.
Many new homeowners won’t have any experience with these types of tasks and so you might find yourself looking for online guidance and tutorials to carry out these tasks or you could even consider hiring a local handyman.
Regardless of whether you hire someone to do odd jobs around your home or not, it is still worth investing in some of the essential hand and power tools that will help you to maintain your property, do simple DIY tasks and get the job done right.
I’ve been improving and maintaining properties now for over 10 years and I’ve come to rely heavily on a number of basic tools that I simply couldn’t live without.
If you’re looking to carry out some work yourself and you’re a little unsure where to start, take a look through the list below for what I believe are must have tools for any homeowner.
In no particular order here’s my top 20 essential tools:
- Screw drivers – A simple set of screwdrivers is a must for anyone and you don’t need to spend a fortune on these. To manage 99% of jobs around the home you’ll need a couple of different size Phillips (cross head, aka pozidriv) and slotted heads. There are many other types of screwdriver heads but you’ll likely never need them unless it’s for a specialist job.
- Tape measure – A 5m tape measure with a locking mechanism is a tool used regularly in my household. You can go larger but the longer they are the bigger they tend to be. The 5m measure is the perfect all round size for most jobs and fits nicely into most tool boxes. It’s worth getting one that has both feet/inches and centimetres on as in the UK we seem to be stuck using both units.
- Adjustable spanner – A very handy tool for loosening and tightening bolts and nuts. Owning one of these will help you avoid having a whole box full of individual size spanners. They aren’t always the easiest tool to use but if you buy a good one it’s going to last and will be suitable for most nuts and bolts jobs needed around the house. I find some of the cheaper ones can lose their grip and generally be more awkward to use, especially in tight spaces.
- Hammer – The good old wacker. Whether it’s hitting in a nail, tapping in a Rawl plug or simply dismantling something this is an essential tool that I simply couldn’t live without. It’s worth getting one with a steel claw to allow the pulling of nails.
- Pliers – You’ll most likely find yourself at some point needing to hold something, pull something or twist something that isn’t possible with your bare hands. That’s where the pliers come in handy. Getting a good grip on something is important in a number of situations and pliers allow you to do just that without causing harm to your hands. You can get a number of different types of pliers but if I were to live with just one it would be a strong set of needle nose pliers. These will suit a large number of different applications and are a great all rounder.
- Spirit level – Simple but effective tool to get things straight, whether it’s a picture frame, shelf or even something bigger you’ll want it straight and level. You won’t need to spend a fortune on these, as sometimes cheap and cheerful does the job just fine.
- Stanley knife (aka utility knife) – A sharp knife is a good tool to have around and these are super sharp and strong knives with removable blades. Cut carpet, wires, wallpaper, plasterboard, the list goes on and these knives cover most jobs that a standard kitchen knife wouldn’t. It’s also worth having a set of spare blades on standby.
- Tape – Duct tape (aka duck tape or gaffa tape) and masking tape are two handy bits of kit to have around. Duct tape is a tough, durable and very sticky tape used for general purpose and temporary repair jobs. Masking tape is always good to have around for painting jobs. If you want a nice tidy finish then this tape will make all the difference.
- Tool box – You’re going to need somewhere to store all these tools so a toolbox is a great idea. They tend to come with a number of compartments for all the little bits and bobs, are tough and come with a neat carry handle. There are a number of different size and shapes but if you’re just looking for the basics then something small will do it. I currently own a small, medium and large tool box and carry case. The small one I have in the house for easy quick grab tools that I use regularly and then the medium and large for those tools that are used less frequently and taken to jobs away from home. If you don’t want to invest in a toolbox then you might settle for a simple carry bag or rucksack, either way it’s always nice to have all the essentials in one place.
- Pen and pencil – One of each of these should do it, but ensuring they are kept with the rest of the tools makes them easily accessible when doing the quick easy jobs like hanging a picture frame or measuring for the centre of a wall. Don’t forget a pencil sharpener for the pencil and I’d recommend a Sharpie pen for drawing on almost anything.
- Cordless power drill – A good drill is normally top of my list for essential tools because I use it so regularly. I couldn’t live without one. In fact, I’d recommend owning two. There are loads of different brands on the market but I’d strongly recommend investing a reasonable amount of money in a good one. This way you will have a drill that will last many years and will be durable and powerful enough for most jobs. I personally use Dewalt equipment but you might also consider Makita or Milwaukee. One of these combi drills should set you back about £100. You could spend less but as the saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for’. If you’re doing a bit more than the odd job around the house then a spare battery or even another drill or impact drive is a sensible option. One for drilling and one for screwing. This can half the time on most jobs.
- Drill bits – If you have a drill, you’ll now need a few drill bits. It’s worth buying a little set with a mixture of drill bits and driver bits. This won’t cost much but will cover you for the majority of your screwing needs.
- Hardware (Screws and plugs) – Known as hardware, screws and nails may be required around the home for many different applications so it’s worth having a small stock of these at the ready. Wall plugs are also good to have around for mounting things on the wall.
- Putty knife – A putty knife, also know as a decorators knife or filling knife is a small flat blade that is generally used to smooth filler. You can use it to apply filler when treating cracks or filling holes in a wall. The knife will allow you to smooth over and remove any excess filler before allowing it to dry and sand.
- Hand saw – A handy tool if you ever work with wood. A small hand saw will fit nicely into most tool boxes and can be used for those quick accurate cuts on most types of thin timber.
- Mole grips – These handy little plier type grips are great if you need to get a really tight grip on something. They can be adjusted to size and then act like a clamp, applying great pressure to an object. They feature a nice easy quick release lever once the gripping has been completed.
- Sander / sanding block – Depending on the amount of sanding you plan to carry out it might be worth investing in a orbital sander or a simple sanding block and sandpaper might do it. If you’re just tidying up a little dried filler then sand paper might be enough. If you plan on sanding back some garden furniture you will most certainly need an orbital sander. Either way I always keep a little sand paper in the small toolbox.
- Slip joint pliers – These are ideal for plumbing jobs and versatile enough to complete most jobs. If you have a leaky pipe or need to swap over some pipework then these will be needed.
- Safety gear (goggles / gloves) – Whilst not essential for most small jobs it’s worth having some glasses to protect your eyes, especially if you’re working on the ceiling or with power tools. Gloves are also handy when working with sharp or heavy blunt objects to protect yourself as accidents do happen.
- Set square or builders square – I always carry one of these as I work with a lot of wood. Getting the perfect right angle cut on many joins can make a big difference to many construction jobs and a decent set square can help you achieve this. Having one easily accessible in the toolbox is always a good idea if you like things straight.
So there is my top 20 essentials for a toolbox as a DIY home owner. Whilst not all are essential for absolutely everyone, I would recommend the first 10 at least for most.
Carrying out some basic maintenance around the home can be daunting for some but if you have these basic tools you can at least have a go at some stuff.
And, if you don’t like the thought of attempting any of this then you can always look for a local handyman like myself to help you along the way.
Thanks for reading