Taking on a home improvement project? Start with the essentials...
A Basic DIY Tool CollectionHammer: From hanging a picture to replacing wall molding and millions of DIY projects in between, a hammer is probably the most-used tool there is. Don't choose just any hammer. Select a claw hammer – a hammer with a claw on one end for pulling nails and prying material – with a flat peen (the surface which drives nails) rather than rounded.
Tape Measure: Many home repair and improvement tasks require a tape measure. Get a retractable tape measure, which is made of a rigid metal and snaps back into the case when you push a button. For most jobs, a 25-foot tape measure is sufficient.
Carpenter's Level: With a good level you have a straightedge for cut lines and a tool to tell you if an item is flush (straight up and down) or level (perfectly flat). Don't let the store's selection overwhelm you – a basic 4-foot bubble level, which uses air bubbles inside a liquid-filled cavity, is basic but dependable.
Carpenter's Square: Get both a speed square, which is hand-held, and a larger framing square when possible. Squares are great straightedges, tape measures and right-angle testers.
Utility Knife: Whether you call it a box cutter, razor knife, or any of several common terms, a utility knife is a DIY tool essential. Your utility knife makes quick work of slicing through drywall, carpet, linoleum, rigid foam insulation and many other materials. Keep a supply of razor blades in the knife's hollow body.
Flashlight: From peering underneath your foundation to working in the dark to restore power to your breaker box, your flashlight will shed some light on various tasks.
Screwdrivers: If you plan to limit your DIY ventures to basic carpentry and fixture installation, a handful of screwdrivers will get you started. Choose both Phillips-head screwdrivers (which have a cross-shaped tip) and flat-head screwdrivers (with a knife-shaped tip). More advanced repairs may require different heads. To save money, consider a multi-bit screwdriver with interchangeable tips.
Pliers: If you need to pull staples, cut wire, or loosen tight connections, pliers will help. Look for three basic types: needle-nose pliers (which have a pointed end), side-cutting pliers (which look much like scissors) and adjustable flat-nose pliers (aka flat-head pliers).
Wrenches: When pliers won't get the job done, look for your wrench. Grip or remove pipes, nuts, bolts and other stubborn household items. Start with a set of adjustable crescent wrenches for all-around usefulness.
Staple Gun: A staple gun comes in handy for installing faced fiberglass batt insulation, hanging plastic sheeting and other projects around the home. Manual staple guns require a little more muscle but eliminate the need for electricity.
Drill: Once you have a drill, you'll wonder how you ever got along without one. From simple tasks such as hanging curtains to more complex jobs like replacing wood flooring, a drill – cordless or not – makes it easier. A cordless drill is more convenient but has a limited battery life.
Saws: Two basic saws will see you through most general DIY home projects. First, select a handsaw for places where you don't have power or for situations where a power saw just isn't practical. Next, decide on either a table saw or a circular saw. A table saw is sturdy and makes cutting boards and other material easy. However, a circular saw is portable and hand-held, making it more convenient. When you're ready for a new saw, consider a jigsaw or reciprocating saw.
Stud Finder: A stud finder will help you quickly find the framing members in your walls, ceiling and floor.
Orbital Sander: Small enough to easily control with one hand, an orbital sander is perfect for basic work. Keep a supply of sandpaper, of various grits, on hand.
Ladder: Depending on the jobs you anticipate tackling, you might prefer a stepladder instead of an extension ladder. Extension ladders are useful outdoors and reach higher, but stepladders work inside or outside.
All of the tools in the world won't help you if you don't have accompanying supplies. Keep wood glue, superglue and caulk in your supplies. Add an assortment of nails, screws, bolts and nuts to your tool collection as well. Don't forget tape: masking tape, electrical tape and duct tape in particular. A heavy-duty extension cord is essential. Your collection will continue to grow over the course of your DIY adventures.
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