The title says it all. In this post, I’ll explore the ten tools everybody should have in their home. Not everyone is handy, and that’s okay, but even if you don’t have any experience with DIY projects, that doesn’t mean you have to call a pro for every task.
From hanging a picture to putting up a paper towel holder, or even just assembling a TV stand, there are plenty of small projects that can be done on your own with a little time and the right tools. So, without further adieu, here’s a list of the top ten tools everyone should own.
1. Utility Knife
You should never underestimate the importance of a utility knife. Also called a “box cutter,” “Stanley knife,” “X-Acto Knife,” and “carpet knife,” these nifty little tools are good for a plethora of uses. Not only can you use it for jobs like cutting drywall, carpet, and insulation paper, but they are also handy for everyday tasks like opening a package or letter, and even precisely cutting that stray thread on your favorite sweater.
The beauty of this tool is that it can basically last forever since the blades are replaceable and inexpensive. There are a lot of fancy models on the market these days, but I tend to stick to the basics; two pieces of metal held together by a screw, with a changeable blade sitting on a sliding tray inside of the casing. You can find the Stanley model for about $4 or $5 at your local Home Depot or hardware store. Just remember to always be careful when using this tool, after all, it does use razor blades.
2. Multi-Bit Screwdriver
The most important tool that everyone should own, in my opinion, is a multi-bit screwdriver. A multi-bit screwdriver is basically a traditional screwdriver that you can take apart to fit other uses. This means you can have a Phillips head, flat head, square driver, Torx (star) bit, and nut driver all in one handheld tool.
You may be thinking “What is a Torx driver and why would I need one?”, which is a valid question, but I can tell you from experience, every bit gets used. This tool makes replacing a door knob, installing a towel rack, or tightening a loose drawer handle, that much easier. I prefer the Klein 11-in-1 (which is about $14), but there are dozens of great models on the market that will get the job done.
A hammer may be the most common and universal tool in the world. As a matter of fact, it was one of the first tools humans ever invented, with primitive versions dating back more than two and a half million years. I don’t think I need to describe a hammer for anyone reading this, but I will say, they can be used for a lot more than installing or removing nails. I personally have used a hammer for knocking out studs while demolishing houses, tapping a crooked table leg back into place, and in a pinch, digging a trench in the dirt for ground wire (with the claw end).
No matter what you use it for, it’s always good to have one lying around the house. A simple tack hammer can do the trick for most jobs, but I prefer to use a 16 to 24 oz. Estwing framing hammer (about $20 to $30) for every job. The balanced weight, slim handle, and steel construction, all make this the most durable tool that money can buy.
4. A Good Pair of Pliers
A good pair of pliers is probably the most versatile tool on the planet, with the potential to be used for a million different jobs. The reason I say a “good” pair is because cheaper pliers can start to fall apart after a year or two, but quality tools can go 10 to 20 years, or even longer, and the difference in price may only be $15.
I’m a big fan of any tool that has more than one use, so I tend to stay away from novelty plier or wrench sets if at all possible. Channellock Tongue and Groove (about $10 to $20) and Robo Grip by Craftsman (about $15 to $25) are two great examples of high quality, versatile pliers. From replacing a shower head to tightening the nut on a light fixture cover, a good pair of pliers can do it all.
5. Putty Knife
A putty knife is perhaps the most unexpected necessity on this list. It can be used for scraping mud from floors without damaging tiles, scraping random gunk from walls and the undersides of tables (for households with toddlers), patching holes in drywall, applying drywall tape, removing unwanted wallpaper, and in a pinch, it can even serve as a replacement ping-pong paddle.
You can buy plastic putty knives for under $3 and metal ones for under $10 at your local hardware store or Home Depot. Personally, I think a 6-inch steel Wal-Board putty knife for $9 is the best way to go, but try out a few different materials and sizes to see what works for you.
6. Allen/Hex Key Set
Even if you aren’t familiar with the name, chances are you’ve used this tool many times in the past. An Allen key screws and unscrews any hexagon-shaped fasteners, which are most often found in manufactured products. This means self-assembled furniture, some newer door knobs, some cabinet knobs, towel racks, various set-screws, toilet paper holders, and many other products, all require the use of an Allen key.
To be fair, if you do need an Allen key, then whatever you bought will likely come with one, but since those ones are often cheap and strip easily, I’ve found that owning your own set can be a useful asset. Traditionally, they are L-shaped with points shaped like a hexagon, but these days you can buy a pocket set where each size folds out individually. The Husky Folding Hex Key Set and the Dewalt Locking Hex Key Set (both for about $10) are among the best options on the market, but the company that started it all, Allen Tools, still manufacturers some of the most reliable products in the world.
7. Tape Measure
A tape measure, or measuring tape, is another oldy-but-goody that dates back more than 2,000 years. Ancient Romans would use marked pieces of leather or linen to more accurately measure out lumber, as well as a number of other materials. Although, the modern version was invented about 150 years ago by an American named Alvin Fellows. Besides being used for measuring lumber, or the width of a doorway to see if your new couch will fit, this tool can be utilized for a nearly endless number of possibilities.
From keeping track of a growing child’s height to checking the size of your old computer screen when contemplating a new purchase, a tape measure can do it all. My personal favorite is a 25 foot Stanley FatMax for about $20, which I’ve accidentally dropped off of a roof more than once, only to find it’s still in perfect working condition. No matter what size or brand you buy, make sure your home tool kit isn’t missing the versatility of a tape measure.
8. Electric Drill
An electric drill, corded or cordless, is probably the most convenient tool on this list. Half of an electric drill’s function is the same as a screwdriver, just much faster and easier. In many cases, a screwdriver is all the job requires, but when it comes to any screw that’s going to take force to sink or remove, a drill with a Phillips or flat head bit is the best way to go. The other half of a drill’s function is, of course, drilling. This means making holes in the bottom of a flower pot for drainage, installing new cabinet knobs, predrilling studs for picture hooks, or even just working on an arts and crafts project, are all made easier by using an electric drill.
The Bosch 12V Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill or Impact Driver for about $80 to $150 (depending on which kit you buy) and the Dewalt 12V Lithium Ion Cordless Drill for about $100, are two options that I can’t recommend highly enough. They’re both small and lightweight but have the power of a much larger tool. There are a plethora of great options on the market to choose from, so do your own research and see what you like. My only warning is that the motors in the cheapest models tend to wear out after a year or two, so you may want to steer clear of those.
I’m perfectly aware that WD-40 isn’t a traditional tool, per se, but it’s still a product that should be in every single home, right next to the toolkit. Lubricating sprays like WD-40 are perfect for many uses in the home: eliminating that squeak in your door hinge, loosening an old rusted pair of pliers, keeping bicycle chains in good working order, or even greasing the wheels on lawnmowers and wheelbarrows.
For $4 at your local Home Depot, hardware store, drug store, or even grocery store, it’s certainly worth the investment to have a can stashed somewhere around the house.
10. Duct Tape
Even though duct tape is another product that isn’t classified as a tool, it’s still a lot more important to have in the home than many of the one-function devices you see on late night infomercials.
I don’t think I need to tell you the seemingly infinite number of uses duct tape has around the house, so I’ll just say, keep two rolls on hand at all times. For $4 per roll, duct tape is a steal for the amount of use you can get out of it.
10.5. The Tool Kit
Now that we’ve covered the ten most important tools to have in the home, it’s time to address where you’re going to put all of this stuff. Keeping tools in a drawer or closet is a great way to misplace them, even if you’re pretty diligent about putting them back where they belong. That’s why a good tool kit is just as important as every other item on this list, it gives you an organized, central location to put everything in at the end of a project.
Simple tool bags range from $5 to $20 for a basic open and shut model, while more accessible tool totes (which are generally open and have more pockets) range from $20 to $60, and then there are freestanding metal tool chests, which can be anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
Personally, I think a tool tote is by far the best option. It’s affordable, easy to organize, you can stash it anywhere that’s dry and out of the way, you can carry it with you so you don’t have to run back and forth, and it’s open, which means you don’t have to root around to find what you’re looking for. The Husky 17 inch Open Tool Tote for $25 is a sturdy and inexpensive option that will certainly get the job done.
As long as you have these ten tools in your kit, you’ll be on your way to a more convenient and productive home experience. Your collection will probably grow over the years, and may include everything from spline rollers to roofing nails, but you should always be able to rely on the basics to get you through any project. As long as you take care of them, use them properly, and store them correctly, these tools could even last you a lifetime.