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10 essential DIY tools for your home toolkit

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | January 19, 2016

DIY may be your hobby or it may be a way for you to seriously save money on your home improvements. In either case, having the right tools on hand when you need them helps minimize frustration and hazardous situations.

While each project may require specialized equipment, your basic home toolkit should contain certain essential DIY tools, including safety equipment. Usually the last thing newbie DIYers consider buying (and certainly the least glamorous) is safety gear, but it shouldn't be overlooked. Even if you are recording your project for YouTube, physical well being trumps appearance.

Ripping out your old bathroom, kitchen, or siding before a professional contractor comes in to remodel can save you money on big ticket home improvements. You can do demo work even if you lack tons of DIY remodeling experience, but it requires tools for pulling, pounding, and prying.

When it comes to planning and executing your remodel, measuring, squaring, and leveling devices help ensure your project doesn't turn out cattywampus. Which cutting tools should you own -- power or manual? Finally, tools that grip, clamp, drill holes, twist, loosen, tighten nuts and bolts, and turn screws are needed for even the simplest projects.

Not every item in our suggested home toolkit is big, burly, and costly, but if you are just starting out and your toolkit is empty, costs can mount quickly. Even an empty but sturdy toolbox adds to your expenses. Until you know whether DIY is really your thing, you might want to shop garage sales, consignment and pawn shops, craigslist, etc. for bargains on these and other used tools.

10 best tools for your DIY home toolkit

  1. Goggles. Get a good pair of goggles to protect your eyes -- even if you wear prescription glasses. DIY creates hazards from airborne particles that can get lodged in your eyes or larger pieces that can damage your glasses. Look for long-wear comfort, flexibility, climate adaptability, and venting features.
  2. Hammer. A hammer can punch through drywall and pull out nails. Get a robust model with a long, easy-to-grip handle in a material that absorbs impact, like rubber, plastic, or fiberglass. Titanium striking tools are lightweight, durable, and they dissipate shock to your hand, wrist, and anything else connected along the route to your shoulder; however, the best hammers figuratively can "cost an arm." Nevertheless, spending for a good one is better than the long term expense of a repetitive motion injury that can cut short your DIY work, sometimes permanently.
  3. Tape measure. No home toolkit is complete for remodeling work without a tape measure. You don't need the fancy laser kind: the sturdy, metal, retractable ones do the job, but keep in mind that the wider the tape, the easier it is to grapple with when extended. A good one doesn't have to be expensive, but you don't want to take a chance on getting a factory-reject measuring tape with imperfect understanding of feet and inches. Buy from a reputable retailer and avoid dollar-store bargains on this one.
  4. Level. A torpedo level contains a number of liquid filled vials imbedded in its frame. If your project is level, the liquid in every one of them lines up with its markings.
  5. Power circular saw. One of the more popular power tools for the DIY weekend warrior, a hand-held circular saw offers convenience when you want to cut a lot of boards. It's also handy for mitering a large quantity of moldings, too.
  6. Utility knife. Don't forget about small jobs like slicing open packages of supplies, breaking down boxes, and even shaving a pencil point. No DIYer should be without a decent utility knife, another reasonably priced toolbox addition.
  7. Clamps and locking pliers. C-clamps and bar clamps are used for holding glued pieces stationary while the adhesive sets. Locking pliers (also know as plier wrenches and lever-wrench pliers) clamp onto a piece -- typically metal -- that needs to be held in place while you work on it. They can also be used as wire cutters and as a stationary clamp.
  8. Wrenches. An adjustable wrench provides another all-purpose piece of equipment for loosening and tightening nuts, bolts, and plumbing assemblies of varying diameters.
  9. Power drill. An electric drill is a favorite of most DIYers, often the first power tool any DIYer purchases. You can get cordless models for convenience, but they are more costly. Additional accessories for electric drills include paint mixers, sanders, and grinders.
  10. Screwdrivers. Sometimes the power drill is overkill for some jobs. Manual slotted and Phillips screwdriver heads belong in every DIYer's kit. They are also some of the least expensive items. Like the bits for a power drill, ratchet screwdriver sets have interchangeable heads in different sizes and shapes.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.