Buying a house is a little like taking up a new hobby. There are lots of things you don’t know yet that you’ll learn as you go along. You’re also going to need some specialized equipment before you get very far. Whether you hope to become a top level home remodeler or simply want to put some new slats on your privacy fence, it takes the right tools to do the job.
The right tool for the job
First, it’s important to note that you need the tool you need on any given job. Trying to improvise can result in connections that don’t connect quite fully, excessive and unnecessary damage to your home or damage to fasteners that will make them hard to back out later. Always use the right tool. If you don’t know which tool is the right tool, ask someone at the hardware or home improvement store — they’re usually pretty friendly and ready to help.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the top tools all homeowners need:
7. Stud finder. When you need to hang something heavy, you really should hang it on a stud. Although people with really good hearing can use the tap test on sheetrock, it’s always better to be certain that you’re hitting a stud, rather than tapping and hoping.
6. Hammers. Yes, it’s a broad category, but you really need one of each of these:
* 10 oz. hammer. This tiny hammer, otherwise known as the “tack hammer” is handy beyond imagination. Not only is it great for projects that require finesse (you can’t take a big whack at anything with this baby hammer), it’s also dainty enough to use to pull delicate trim work or tiles off the wall.
* Rubber mallet. It gets the award for best rubbery-headed hammer for its ability to pound things without leaving a dent. If you decide to put down certain kinds of laminate floors, for example, this guy is a must-have.
* Standard claw hammer. Everybody needs a standard hammer. They’re general purpose tools that can put nails in and take nails out. Claw hammers also double as pry bars in a lot of situations.
5. Pliers. Another combo group. It wouldn’t be fair to break the family up, after all. Plus, these pliers all do different jobs. Check them out:
* Locking pliers. These adjustable pliers also have a clamping feature, making them a multi-purpose wonder. You can clamp, you can hold, you can adjust! If you buy only one pair of pliers, choose a mid-sized pair of locking pliers. They’ll do everything regular pliers can do, plus some things groove joint pliers can.
* Groove joint pliers. This iconic plumbing tool is good for other stuff, too. The grooves allow you to expand the plier opening across a wider range of sizes than your locking pliers, but you have to hold them closed yourself. They are incredibly handy at 3 a.m. when the plumbing’s sprung a leak.
* Needle nose pliers. In a totally different class, needle nose pliers are helpful when you’re trying to wire anything or fish out tiny things when you drop them in weird spaces. Primarily used, though, for wiring things in your home. Always turn the power off before wiring anything, even a new smart thermostat.
4. Utility knife. If you don’t have one of these, it’s high time you got one. Or six. Skip the disposables and go for the heavy metal options – you will not regret it. A good utility knife is perfect for cutting through boxes, carpet and vinyl flooring.
3. Level. Everybody’s seen those pictures on your wall, but they’re afraid to say anything about how badly leveled they are. Is it because you didn’t own a level when you hung them? The level on your phone is all fine and good for an estimate, but things like cases change how well they can work. An old fashioned level will never steer you wrong. Ideally, you’ll want a set, including one that’s about six inches long, another that’s two foot long and a third that’s four feet long if you intend to do any construction work in your home.
2. Tape measure. Look, I know you know exactly how long your shoe is and that you never vary in your strides, but for the sake of appearances, pick up a good tape measure. The wider models with 25 feet of tape are really flexible choices. Guess what? You can also use a tape to level if you didn’t pick up a level. Just choose either the ceiling or floor to level with, then measure from either point to the place where your shelf or picture is going to go. Make a mark, then go to the other side and repeat, making sure your tape isn’t slacking. Set as many points as you need between the two ends, being sure to mark at the same height each time.
1. Screwdrivers. You’re not going to get very far in your homeownership without interacting with a screw. That’s why you need screwdrivers. But instead of keeping track of a pile of screwdrivers, choose a really good model with magnetic bits. The longer the bit shaft, the better for the really tough jobs. You can also get kits that contain sockets, as well as hex and torx bits. This will be your favorite screwdriver — and your only screwdriver. Ratcheting screwdrivers can be more trouble than they’re worth, but well-made models do significantly cut down on wrist strain.
If you have a little extra cash rattling around, you should seriously consider a battery powered tool set that contains, at minimum, a drill and small circular saw. These two tools can get almost any job done, though you may have to buy different bits or blades. Eighteen volt models are much better at being tools than the lower voltage units; many are designed for professional work, they’re that tough.
No interest in a tool shopping spree?
If you’re really not the handy type or simply want to live a much simpler existence, forget the tool buying mania and instead find a well-recommended handyman can help you when you need it. Garage Door Guy can give you a recommendation if needed, as we prefer using a handyman ourselves (for non-garage-door jobs, of course).