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Basic Tools for Home Improvement and Repairs

by TimJones on March 6, 2010

klein screwdriver setThere’s a tool for everything.  You’d be surprised at how many specialty tools are made for home improvement and repair projects.

However, the average homeowner just needs a good, basic set of tools that will satisfy your needs for most home improvement projects.

  1. Screwdriver set – I usually use one of the multi-screwdrivers, rather than buying a set.  I have about four of them and have found that over time, the bits that go into the shaft of the screwdriver break and rust, easily.  You then end up with a useless screwdriver.  Spend the extra money and get a good set of decent screwdrivers that include some of the more unusual styles, like Torx.  Appliance and electronics manufacturers are increasingly using Torx and/or allen-style fasteners.  Personally, I like Klein screwdrivers.  They’re a bit more expensive, but worth it.
  2. Hammer — Go with a ripping/framing hammer, rather than an old claw hammer.  I find that I’m more accurate with a ripping hammer (a ripping hammer has a claw that is straight, when compared to the curved claw hammer) and I use the claw for tearing and destroying more than removing nails.  Also, make sure to get a good quality hammer.  You’ll use it for more than pounding nails and you don’t want the head to come flying off because you bought a cheap hammer.  I like Estwing, as do most in the professional building trades.  In fact, that’s the hammer I have in my picture at the top of the page.
  3. 5-in-One Tool — A 5-in-one (also known as an 11-in-one, 7-in-one, and so on) is a painting tool, traditionally.  However, it has a ton of uses and every toolbox needs at least one.  I have three at any one time.  You can find one in the painting section of your favorite hardware store.
  4. Torpedo level – You can get a big, long, fancy level, but for basic home tool sets, you will get more use out of a torpedo level.  Make sure it has a magnet embedded in the level.
  5. Tape measure – Get the cheapest tape measure that will do the job.  At least a 25 foot tape.  Spending the extra money on a tape measure is seldom worth it, especially when you cut the end off a $30 tape with your circular saw (don’t laugh, it happens more often than you might think).
  6. Safety equipment - Eye protection, dust mask, knee pads, and gloves.  These will get you started.
  7. Wire cutters - I just use my linesman pliers (see below), but you may want something more suited to stripping wire.
  8. Linesman Pliers - You’ll probably find these in the electrical section of your local hardware shop.  I prefer longer ones (get the 8″ or 9″, instead of the 6″) because it just makes your life easier.
  9. Pry bar - No need to be picky here.  You’re using this to destroy! Take out baseboard, 2 x 4s, and so on.
  10. Open-end wrenches - These are the basic wrenches you see in everyone’s tool sets.  You don’t need to get fancy, just a basic set will work just fine to get started.
  11. Combination square - What’s a combination square?  You might be asking.  It’s basically a ruler with an angled piece of metal and a level attached.  This will allow you to make a lot of precision cuts during your home improvement projects.
  12. Pipe wrench – These are those red, adjustable wrenches you loved to play with as a kid.  Well, at least I did. As the name implies, they’re meant for turning pipes (or other round, metal items) to thread them together or take them apart.
  13. Channel lock pliers - Channel type pliers open wide for big nuts and they’re long, so you have lots of leverage without having to exert a lot of grip strength.  These come in incredibly handy.  I think this is one of the top 3 used tools in my bag.
  14. Adjustable Wrench - Also called a crescent wrench, this sort of replaces the open-end wrenches mentioned above.  However, you can seldom get them tight enough for those really tight nuts.  Then you strip the nut and sometimes damage the wrench.  I see this as more of a back-up for your wrenches.
  15. Wood chisel – Here, I would really recommend a set of wood chisels, since you will want different widths.  You use these for shaping wood, but you’ll also notice me using them in lots of different applications in my videos, too.
  16. Sanding block - Until you get the power sander mentioned in the next post, this will work for sanding all surfaces.  Just attach the proper sandpaper and go.
  17. Awl – An awl gives you something with which to poke.  You will need this, periodically.

This makes up a good set of hand tools to get you started with some home improvement projects.  Next up, what about power tools?

Related posts:

  1. Basic Power Tools for Home Improvement

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