7 tools every DIYer should own

April Dykman | Improvement Center Columnist | December 5, 2013

Many homeowners can relate to scenes from The Money Pit, a movie about an unsuspecting couple who sink their savings into a house with some serious structural, plumbing, and electrical problems -- problems that only come to light after they've moved in.

Their situation is pretty extreme - however, anyone who owns a home knows what it's like to discover those "fun" surprises after they've moved in. Typically these fun surprises require a bit of renovating, updating, or refinishing. But a new homeowner usually lacks the right tools for the job, especially if he or she was recently an apartment dweller.

So if you want to be better prepared for common and "surprise" projects around the house, here are seven essential tools for your arsenal.

  1. Utility knife - A utility knife would easily be at the top of MacGyver's list of essential tools, and it tops our list, too. A utility knife is the tool you'll grab to open boxes, cut wire, and perform a hundred other tiny-yet-essential tasks. There are lots of brands and models out there, but we like the DeWALT Folding Retractable Utility Knife for its easy, one-handed opening and closing as well as for its blade storage (because you always need to have extra blades handy).
  2. Tape measure - For almost every project, you'll need a tape measure. Tape measures come in a variety of lengths, but a 25-foot model should cover you for most household projects. The Stanley PowerLock is a great option that should last for years, given its tough case and corrosion-resistant end hook.
  3. Screwdriver set - Whether you're replacing switch plates or putting together a 50-piece IKEA bed, you'll reach for a screwdriver. Invest in a mixed set of flat heads and Phillips, and you should be covered. This 12-piece set by Wiha offers the added benefit of soft "ergo-cushion" grips, which you really might appreciate by the time you get to page 32 of the IKEA instruction manual.
  4. Claw hammer - A hammer is another essential tool for hanging pictures, assembling furniture, and hey, it can even crush ice. The Craftsman 16 oz. Curved Claw Hammer is a great choice and provides shock-absorption, a third claw for difficult-to-reach nails, and a comfortable rubber grip.
  5. Adjustable wrench - DIYers don't need a set of wrenches as extensive as the ones the pros carry, they just need one that'll handle most household projects. The Channellock 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench fits the bill, with greater jaw capacity for larger nuts and bolts and thinner jaws that make it easy to get into small spaces.
  6. Pliers - Need to grab a small nail in a tight work area? You'll need a pair of long nose pliers. What about gripping a bolt that just won't budge? You'll need slip joint pliers for the job. Start with these: the Stanley 8-Inch Long Nose Plier and the Stanley 6-Inch Slip Joint Plier, which both come with a lifetime warranty.
  7. Torpedo level - A 9-inch level is is perfect for making sure that pictures are straight and that food won't roll off your new stovetop. These days you can buy levels with fancy laserbeams, but your best best is going old school with the little floating bubble model. The Klein Tools Torpedo Level gets high marks for its easy-to-read vials and magnetic edge.

Of course, this is just the beginning. You could add quite a bit to this list of basics, like a ratchet and socket set, tongue-and-groove pliers, a circular saw, a cordless drill, an electronic stud finder, a sander, a staple gun, clamps -- as you can see, the list is never-ending! Our advice? Buy quality tools and start small, only purchasing what's necessary. You can add to your toolbox as you go.

About the Author

April Dykman is a writer who specializes in real estate, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes MoneyBuilder, Inc. Magazine, and Yahoo! Finance.