It doesn’t matter where you live, or whether you rent or own. As long as you have four walls and a roof to call home, sooner or later there’s going to be something to repair, install or update. Whether you need to mount shelves to a wall, fix a leaky faucet, or just stop the kitchen table from wobbling, having a tool box that’s stocked with a few basic hand tools makes any home improvement project easier. Need a few tips on where to start? Just check out CableOrganizer’s list of DIY must-haves.
Hammer: The number one hand tool must-have – you’ll use it for everything from hanging pictures to installing decorative molding. A great option is the claw hammer (that’s the proper name for the tool you’ve probably spent your entire life referring to as a plain old “hammer”). Claw hammers feature that widely recognizable steel head, made up of a peen (the nail-driving face) on one side, and a claw (the crowbar-like nail-pulling lever) on the other. You’ll find that claw hammers are available with either rounded or flat peens. The choice is all yours, but we’re especially partial to the flat variety; because their driving faces are straight instead of curved, flat-peen hammers tend to strike nails more evenly, with less likelihood of you missing a nail and hitting your fingers instead.
Tape Measure: You can’t put a price on accuracy, especially when it comes to home improvement. Incorrect estimates can end up costing you both time and money, so save yourself the trouble by simply keeping a tape measure in your toolbox to measure for things like cabinets, carpet, garage shelving, furniture and window treatments. All tape measures follow the same basic design, but little details can make a difference. For example, the wider the rule is, the more control you’ll have over it when it’s fully extended (wider tapes flop around less). Another handy variation is the magnetic-tip tape measure – Rare Earth magnets are integrated into the rule’s leading end, and hold it firmly to iron and steel surfaces while you measure… no hands needed.
Level: Wondering if that picture you’re hanging is straight? Need to be sure that the length of chair rail you’re about to nail to the wall isn’t crooked? Sounds like you could use a level. These days, it’s pretty common to come across high-tech laser levels, but we think the best choice for all-around home use is a standard torpedo level. A torpedo level uses air bubbles in three clear, liquid-filled vials to give you visible proof of a surface’s level. Each vial is set into the tool at a different angle (for complete level, plumb, and 45° measurements) and marked with fine lines. If the bubbles fall within these lines, you know that the surface is level. Having one on hand is especially convenient for those times when you’re working solo and need to determine whether something is level without the benefit of a second opinion.
Screwdrivers: Because there are so many different screw designs, it’s a good idea to stock your home tool kit with at least a couple types of screwdrivers, so you’ll be ready for anything. A screw’s “drive type” is defined by the shape or design stamped into its head, which a screwdriver blade fits into in order to drive or extract it. Since the most common screw drive types are slotted (with a straight line running through the middle) and Phillips (with a “+” shape), both slotted and Phillips screwdrivers are a must. Sizes come into play as well, but it can get a little expensive trying to purchase each type of screwdriver in a range of sizes. To save money and toolbox space, you can always opt for a multi-bit screwdriver, which comes with a full set of interchangeable blade bits that can be instantly switched to suit any project.
Pliers and Wrench: Both pliers and wrenches provide you with extra grip and leverage for projects around the house, but you’re best off owning one of each, since they’re cut out for slightly different jobs. Pliers are great for anything from pulling out nails to bending wire, and some types even have cutting edges built into their jaws for easy wire cutting. Wrenches, on the other hand, are the tools to reach for when you need grip combined with extra torque for tightening and loosening pipes, as well as turning nuts and bolts.
Utility Knife: A utility knife – also called a box cutter, razor knife or carpet knife – is made up of a hollow plastic or metal handle that houses a retractable razor blade. Utility knives are incredibly useful tools for any do-it-yourselfer, regardless of his or her skill level. They make quick work of slicing through cardboard, drywall, carpet, thin plastics, and even linoleum.
Voltage Detector: This is the tool that could save your life – literally. Voltage detectors are pocket-sized devices that sense electrical voltage, and then alert you to the electricity’s presence with sounds and blinking lights. Anyone checking power cords for faults, rewiring light and fan fixtures, or changing out wall plates and outlets should take the precaution of checking for electricity before touching. Even if you think you’ve shut the correct breaker off, it’s always better to do a quick check with a voltage detector and know for sure.
And don’t forget something to keep them in…
If you’re going to be investing in a collection of household hand tools, be sure to protect those investments by storing them in something sturdy and protective. Fortunately, when it comes to toolboxes, rugged doesn’t have to equal enormous, so there are plenty of options available – even for small homes where storage space is at a premium. We like the 20-inch Portable Metal Tool Box from Excel, which gives you two full drawers – as well as a top tray compartment – for storing tools and other supplies. It’s roomy enough to accommodate all of your home DIY essentials, but compact enough to fit in a closet or on a garage shelf.