Being a homeowner means that you occasionally have to get a bit handy. There are a lot of common home problems that are easy enough to fix yourself if you’ve got the essential tools on hand—things like leaky faucets, crooked cabinets, and unsticking sticky doors and windows, to name a few.
If you’re feeling brave, you can even attempt some more serious repairs, assuming you’ve got the basics down and aren’t just trying to wing it (sometimes, it really does make more sense to call in a pro).
So how do you build a sufficiently stocked toolkit? It starts with nailing down the essential tools that all homeowners should have, which you can then add on to if necessary for specific projects. Whether you’re moving into your first home or just need to make sure you’ve got everything you need, read on for the 13 tools you should definitely have handy in your home.
1.ScrewdriversTypes: There’s actually a pretty wide variety of screwdriver types out there, but for basic home repairs you’ll want to have a Phillips head screwdriver (also called a cross slot screwdriver) and a flat head screwdriver (also called a slotted screwdriver). Many home improvement stores sell screwdriver bases with multiple heads that you can swap in depending on your needs.What they’re good for: Any time you need to remove or tighten a screw—a quick fix that can actually solve a lot of common home problems.
2.HammerTypes: A basic smooth-faced, clawed hammer should be sufficient. Experts recommend getting one that’s medium weight (about 16-20oz) with a rip claw, which is the part that allows you to pull out nails. Opt for a fiberglass or metal handle instead of a wood one for more durability. And if you plan on ever doing some light demolition work, pick up a mallet hammer as well.What it’s good for: Basic clawed hammers are used to pound nails into and extract them out of surfaces—typically wood. You can use them for demolition work too, though you’ll have a bit more control with a mallet hammer.
3.WrenchesTypes: You should have quite a few different wrenches as part of your essential tools, including an Allen wrench, open-end wrench, combination wrench, adjustable wrench, and socket wrench. If you don’t want to get all five to start, go with just an Allen wrench and an adjustable wrench.What they’re good for: Each type of wrench serves a distinct purpose. For example, you’ll use an Allen wrench to do things like building furniture, while other types of wrenches will help you loosen and tighten nuts and bolts. An adjustable wrench—also called a crescent wrench—is one of the most useful wrenches you’ll have, since you can change the size depending on the size of nut or bolt you’re working with.
4.PliersTypes: There are a ton of different types of pliers, but start with the basics—needle nose pliers, slip-joint pliers, and cutting pliers—and then purchase more as needed.What they’re good for: You’ll use needle nose and slip-joint pliers to grip, tighten, and loosen metal elements, and cutting pliers to cut wires when you’re doing electrical work.
5.Utility knifeTypes: There’s really only one type of utility knife, though you have a choice between buying a retractable one or a foldable one. You may know this tool under one of its alternate names: box cutter, Stanley knife, or X-acto knife.What it’s good for: A utility knife is incredibly sharp, which makes it an excellent tool for precision cutting. The sharp edge also makes it safer than using a dull knife or scissors to make cuts, since you’ll be able to get the job done with just one swipe.
6.Tape measureTypes: Tape measures are classified according to the material that they’re made out of. For most home repair jobs, you’ll want a self-retracting metal tape measure. You could get away with using a plastic one as an alternative, but it’s a bit flimsy which makes it difficult to work with if you’re measuring on your own. To cover your bases, get a tape measure that shows both inches and centimeters.What it’s good for: Any time you need to measure. This includes not just home repairs but hanging art and shelving, determining the fit of new furniture, and more.
7.LevelTypes: There are more than 20 types of levels, but most homeowners will get all they need out of a standard carpenter’s level. Pick your preference in terms of material (they come in wood, plastic, or aluminum) and length.What it’s good for: Ensuring that vertical and horizontal surfaces are completely straight. Before securing a shelf into a wall, for example, you’ll want to use your level to double check that it’s not resting on an angle.
8.Stud finderTypes: Once again there are quite a few varieties available, but you should be fine with a basic one. In this case, that’s an electronic stud finder.What it’s good for: Stud finders act as your eyes into what’s going on behind your walls, locating wood and metal studs that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to find. Some newer models can also notify you of the location of certain types of wiring. All of this comes in handy when you’re hanging things on your walls, especially heavy items that require the additional support of a stud.
9.Hand sawTypes: Hand saws are themselves a type of saw, and within their designation are even more types of saws: rip cut saws, pull saws, back saws, bow saws, keyhole saws, and pruning saws, to start. But you should be fine with just a rip cut hand saw for general home repairs and improvements.What it’s good for: Making quick and clean cuts in wood. Hand saws are light and easy to handle, which make them a better option than power saws (the latter of which you can hold off on buying until you have a specific need for it).
10.FlashlightTypes: The flashlight on your phone is fine for simple tasks, but you’ll want a more heavy duty flashlight for when you’re doing work around the house. A small or medium-sized LED flashlight will work in a pinch, but if you don’t want to have to worry about how to hold or position the light, get an LED headlamp.What it’s good for: Providing lighting when you’re working in dark spaces (such as the crawl space under the house or on pipes in cabinets), as well as when you need to hone in on the details of a specific element you’re working on.
11.Electric drillTypes: Of all the types of electric drills on the market, a 12-volt cordless drill is going to be your most versatile option. These work on rechargeable battery packs to provide power without the limits of a corded pistol grip drill, and can be fitted with various types of drill bits and attachments depending on what your needs are.What it’s good for: Drilling holes in walls and other surfaces, including when you’re making repairs or building something from scratch.
12.Duct tapeTypes: A standard roll of duct tape is your best bet, though you can get creative with colors or prints if you’d like.What it’s good for: A better question might by what isn’t duct tape good for? It’s considered among the essential tools needed in a home precisely because it has so many uses in terms of patching and repairing. Just don’t use it on any heated devices or elements since warm temperatures reduce the effectiveness of the adhesive.
13.Nails and screwsTypes: It’s always smart to have a bunch of different types of nails and screws in your toolbox so that you don’t need to run to the store every time you need one. Pick up an assortment of finishing nails, galvanized nails, vinyl nails, stud anchors, and drywall screws. You should be able to buy all or most of these in one kit.What they’re good for: Fastening items to walls and other surfaces. Depending on the project you’ve undertaken, you may need to use more than one type of nail and/or screw, as well as more than one size.
With these essential tools in your home, you should be able to tackle pretty much any basic home repair issue that comes your way. Up against a fix you don’t think you can handle on your own? Here are eight ways to find a handyman, plumber, or other home service providerin your area.