Whether someone is a homeowner, a renter or some other version of an inhabitant, having a few skills and tools can both be money-saving and empowering. Skills are acquired with a can-do attitude and a free wealth of YouTube videos. Tools, well, the list doesn’t have to be that extensive, but it helps to have a select handful of basics around that’ll get most jobs done.

Before we get to that list, it’s worth saying that many household repairs aren’t especially complicated, nor do they require a professional certification to handle. When it comes to some things, such as replacing the toilet handle, fixing a leaky faucet or even changing a light switch, a novice with instruction and the right tools can do it.

The Google Search is up to you, but in terms of tools, here’s a good start for becoming a proficient DIYer, something that’ll impress friends, family, and neighbors.

1. A Bucket for Your Tools

Tool bucket

Source: photopackpl/Shutterstock

Rather than going for a toolbox, a tool bucket with a removable caddy is a great idea. There’s not much use for a toolbox other than being a box, but buckets are endlessly useful. A five-gallon bucket with an organizer caddy can hold just as many tools.

2. Screwdriver with Switchable Heads

Screwdriver with many types of heads

Source: Nor Gal/Shutterstock

While our fathers’ toolboxes might have been full of screwdrivers, nowadays one is all we need. There are screwdrivers that come with every imaginable head — Phillips, flathead, square, cruciform, etc. — at all the normal sizes available as part of an all-in-one kit.

3. A Quality Hammer

There are a lot of hammers out there to choose from at a range of cost, but buying one good hammer is a great idea. A steel or fiberglass handle will likely be much stronger, and 16-20 ounces with a rip-claw is the right choice for general use.

4. Tape Measure

The standard tape measure is a 25-foot model with an inch-wide tape. This size ensures that it can likely span any room in the house, and the width will give it the rigidity to reach several feet vertically before bending.

5. Utility or Steak Knife

A sharp knife is extremely useful, obviously for cutting things — drywall, packages, insulation, gaskets — but also for scraping things clean, sharpening a pencil, and doing things we never foresee needing it for. A utility knife is the standard choice, but an old steak knife from the kitchen is sometimes even better.

6. Crescent (Adjustable) Wrench


While there are more efficient ways to deal with nuts and bolts, such as a socket set, an 8- or 10-inch adjustable wrench (just choose one, not both) will get folks through most jobs. A wrench this size can open to about an inch, which is a very large bolt head.

7. A Pry Bar

As opposed to a crowbar, buying a pry bar that is a rather sleek-looking, curved flat steel bar is likely better for the small-scale home improvement job. They can be used for removing boards, pulling nails or opening a jammed door.

8. Pliers

It would be nice if one set of pliers could do it all, but that’s not always the case. Linesman pliers are the all-arounder of the group, but they sometimes lack. Locking pliers, or vice-grips, are good for working with bolts and nuts, as well as pipes, and they help with clamping stuff. Needle-nose pliers are better for working with small things or in tight places. Tongue-and-groove pliers are also a good idea.

9. Hacksaw

A hacksaw is relatively compact, and it has the potential to cut through metal, plastic, and wood (in a pinch), unlike the typical handsaw. In terms of basic DIY stuff, a hacksaw is far more useful to the homeowner than a wood saw, and there are many different types of blades available for them.

10. Allen Wrenches

Like the multipurpose screwdriver, Allen wrenches no longer need to be individual pieces and are easier to deal with as an all-in-one kit. However, they are important for the home maintenance toolbox because a lot of plumbing and build-it-yourself stuff requires them.

11. Safety Equipment

Though not always viewed as the most rustic of items to utilize, safety equipment is important, and avoiding it is uselessly reckless and potentially expensive. Some safety glasses, a dust mask, and a pair of gloves can prevent a lot of minor, and even major, injuries. A stepladder probably belongs with this stuff as well.

While this toolkit might not get us through every endeavor, it’s a sound start. We are likely to add more stuff along the way: perhaps files, chisels, a level, a putty knife, a square, and some clamps. As skills build, so will the kit. Eventually, it may move into power tools and taller ladders, but starting out, these things cost more than they are worth. Earning them before buying them will prevent wasting money. The best way to acquire more tools is to use the ones we’ve got.

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