Paul has been a DIY enthusiast for over twenty years and managed a number of properties, as well as being a homeowner. He lives in Florida.
Even if you aren't somebody who is particularly confident at DIY, there will be times as a householder when repairs are necessary. Emergency situations can also require action, even if it is just to stop the problem from getting worse while professional help is sought. Owning some basic tools and being prepared to use them will save you time and money.
This article lists twelve tools that I would recommend every homeowner owns. I explain the main uses for each tool and, where appropriate, give recommendations regarding specific tools.
12 Essential Tools For Every Homeowner
Here are 12 tools that I consider vital to own.
- Tape Measure
- Claw Hammer
- Screwdriver Set
- Power Drill
- Utility Knife
- Tool Box
- Duct Tape
- Pliers Set
- Adjustable Wrench
- Hex Key Set (Allen Wrenches)*
I explain my choices in more detail below, and in some cases, give particular recommendations.
1. Tape Measure
Measuring heights, lengths, and widths is essential for many jobs. A tape measure is also vital for understanding the dimensions of a fitting, or product, when you need to buy a replacement. Even if you are just painting a wall or covering a floor, you will need to know how much area that you are covering and therefore how much paint or floor covering that you need to buy. Tape measures vary, if you aren't sure what type to get, I would suggest an easy-locking ¾-inch-wide.
2. Claw Hammer
No home should be without a hammer. They are excellent for hitting nails, performing small scale demolitions, as well as for dealing with any problem that needs some concentrated blows. Ideally, you want a hammer that is comfortable to hold, with a grip coating that provides some vibration dampening. If you only have a limited amount of tools, claw hammers are likely the most versatile because as well as for pounding, you can use them to pull out nails.
3. Screwdriver Set
Screws come in different sizes and types, so you will need a range of screwdrivers to reflect this. Generally speaking, screws are either of the flat head or Phillips variety, so you will need screwdrivers for both. In my experience, the most common screws that a householder is likely to encounter are 1/8-inch tip flat-head, 3/16-inch tip flat-head, 0 Phillips-head and 2 Phillips-head. In addition, or alternatively, you may just wish to purchase an electric drill with screwdriver bits, or an electric screwdriver.
4. Power Drill
As far as power drills go, you've got two main options: corded or cordless. Corded drills are more affordable (though you may need to buy an extension cord too), but cordless are often less hassle to work with. All of them will usually drill and drive screws, but it may also be worth investing in one that can sand and grind too, depending on the work you're likely to need it for. Depending on the nature of the job and what comes with the particular drill, you may also need to buy some bits or other accessories.
Buying a drill is personal, it's about individual comfort and practicality, so opinions on which ones are best can vary. I personally am a big fan of of the DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless for household work. I find it comfortable to use and it gives me the power I need. It's particularly great for difficult spaces like under the sink, due to its lightweight and compact design. The batteries also last a long time, which I love. It has enough features to fit most people's needs, I believe, but there are certainly drills that are capable of more, provided you are prepared to pay more.
5. Utility Knife
A good quality utility knife is vital for tasks such as cutting open packages, bags, and boxes, as well as sharpening pencils, shaving wood, and trimming carpet. Experience tells me that it's worth buying one with a comfortable rubber-covered grip and built-in blade storage, so that you always have a sharp blade on hand. The cheaper knives can turn out to be a false economy, as the blades can break, or they don't properly lock into place.
6. Tool Box
Keeping your tools together and organized is vital. As well as space for tools, a good tool box will also have compartments for screws, nails, and other smaller items. Keeping everything secure and portable means that you can deal with problems around the home quickly and efficiently, without having to run around searching for tools, or making multiple trips out to the garage or shed to retrieve them.
7. Duct Tape
This exceptionally sticky tape adheres to just about any surface and can be used to make all sorts of fast fixes and repairs. It has got me out of trouble many, many times. The thick, woven backing gives it plenty of strength, but it's still easy to rip or cut to the required length. I've used it for things like securing a tarp, fastening down power cords, patching a hose, and fixing a leaking tub.
8. Pliers Set
Pliers are another tool that are essential for home DIY fixes. They are great for gripping, holding, pinching, bending, straightening, as well as stripping and slicing wiring. Pliers come in different sizes and styles, and my recommendation is that you should seek a set that includes side-cutting, needle-nose, tongue-and-groove, and slip-joint pliers.
If you want a recommendation for a group of pliers that will see you through pretty much any common household situation, I would recommend the IRWIN VISE-GRIP GrooveLock Pliers Set. This set gives the Average Joe or Jane some very comfortable tools to grip and to hold for a very reasonable price. While I won't pretend that these are top-of-the-range tools, you will have to pay considerably more money for those, this set is perhaps the best deal I've seen.
The beauty of a handsaw is its simplicity. Unlike with a power saw, there is nothing to set up and no cords to deal with. For sure, a power saw is better if you're cutting lumber regularly - but if it's something you're only going to do occasionally, then a handsaw might be the better option. The nice thing about handsaws is that they cut on both the pull and the push strokes. A hacksaw may be necessary in addition, if you need to cut through metal.
Okay, you can sometimes get away with the flashlight function on your smartphone, but nothing beats the power of a purpose built flashlight when you are fixing the under-sink plumbing, or if you are trying to locate the source of a strange noise in the darkness. A flashlight should always be kept in an easily located place, in case the lights go off suddenly.
11. Adjustable Wrench/ Wrenches
You should have at least one adjustable wrench, preferably a few of different sizes. These tools are excellent for tightening, loosening, and gripping nuts and bolts, and are often invaluable for plumbing work, in my experience. They are one of the most versatile tools out there. Long handled wrenches give you a lot of leverage, short handled ones are great for tight spaces.
A set of three adjustable wrenches of different sizes will usually be enough to cover most situations that you encounter in a household. While there are a number of great deals out there, my favorite is the CRAFTSMAN Adjustable Wrench Set. These tools are priced reasonably and decent quality, not prone to wobbling like with cheaper sets. While I consider them an excellent buy for a general home repair tool box, you should consider spending more if you are planning to use them regularly on a vehicle or machinery.
12. Hex Key Set (Allen Wrenches)
Also known as "Allen keys" or "Allen wrenches", hex keys are necessary for assembling or disassembling household furniture, devices, or structures, which are held together with screws that have hexagonal head sockets. You need a full set of hex keys to deal with the range of sizes that you might encounter. Believe me, they are useful to have around, as you never know when you might need them, and there is no substitute.
For household use, I would recommend a TEKTON Hex Key Wrench Set, which has thirty keys, all held in a handy little hinged box that opens out flat, so that you access the wrenches easily. There are two groups, one for US customary/British Imperial measurements, and one for metric. For sure, there are better quality hex key sets out there, but these will do the job for an affordable price.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Goodman