As you can see by the title of this issue, I’m talking about tools. No, not the kind you might be thinking of. I mean real tools – the kind you absolutely must have to be a self-sufficient, successful new homeowner. As usual, here’s my top 5 list of basic, must have tools.
Hammer: My oldest son’s favorite super hero is Thor and while I wish I were worthy to swing Mjolnir, it wouldn’t do me much good other than a demo job. There are all different sizes of hammers and several different types too (claw, framing/finishing, ball peen, mallet, sledge, etc.). Every type of hammer serves a different role obviously, but the standard in-home DIY hammer is a claw. They come with a curved claw or a straight claw. Either one is fine, really. These can easily drive a nail, pry one out and can be used to break apart boards. The hammer’s head can vary between 8 – 32 ounces. An 8 ounce isn’t going to do much good for anything other than maybe hanging a small picture. But swinging a 32 ounce for any reason other than construction is a little overboard. Basically, the lighter the job, the lighter the hammer’s head should be and vise versa. I have a 10 ounce for hanging pictures and a 20 ounce for projects like driving nails into studs or installing molding. The other part of a hammer is the handle. Wood handled hammers are cheap and fine if you’re not swinging too hard. They can break easily though. The next step up is a fiberglass handle. That’s what my hammers are and they’re durable. Then there’s a steel handle in case you’re deciding to work construction.
Drill: This will be the most expensive tool you buy for basic in-home use. But you can still find one for a reasonable price. And again, this is a must have. I just bought a new one recently to replace my old one. It was interesting because I asked the guy in the hardware to give me the rundown on the difference between brands. Believe it or not, he sold me the cheapest brand. He said he’s sold more of those in the last year than any other brand and hasn’t had anyone bring them back. There are two main types of drills. The standard drill/driver and an impact drill. For basic in-home use, get a drill/driver. In each type there is also a corded version and a battery powered. Get the battery powered. I used a corded drill for years and it was awful having to drag a 20-foot power cord outside to plug my tiny 4-foot cord in to use my drill. Another thing with drills is the voltage. They can range from 6 – 20 volts. Anything under 12 volts is worthless if you ask me. However, I had a 12 volt for years and it could handle most jobs. With doing some big projects this year, I upgraded to a 20 volt recently and it will do anything I need it to. Plus it has power settings to choose from so that I can keep it from offering too much power for a smaller job. After buying one, be sure to look at the instructions before ever using a drill for the first time. It will explain everything you need to know. Last thing with drills is drill bits. For starting out, there’s no need to go with a 240-piece titanium set. Get a basic 20 piece set with a good variety and you’ll be fine.
*Note – Get a flat head and a regular (Phillips head) screwdriver too for jobs where you don’t need all that drill power
Pliers: You would be surprised at how versatile this little tool can be. I’ve used pliers to do things from pulling a stripped out screw out of the wall to pulling our golden retriever’s hair out of the bathtub drain after his bath. So gross. Anyway, as with all tools, there are a variety of types of pliers and each has a certain role. There are crimping, wire snip, needle nose, slip-joint, tongue and groove, etc. Basics, right? All you need starting out as a new homeowner are 2 types: needle nose and slip-joint. Needle nose pliers can help you grab ahold of those things that are difficult to get to. Slip-joint pliers can help you grab ahold of and keep ahold of just about anything. Like I said, these are versatile tools. Usually, if I’m working on a project and I’m stuck trying to figure out what tool I need to use on something, I’m probably going to grab the pliers.
Tape Measure: This one I feel doesn’t need much explanation. Its metal rolled up like tape that you use to measure things with. For basic in-home uses, probably just a 16-foot one would work fine. Unless your house is pretty big, most rooms tend to not be more than 16-foot long. For a larger space you might need 25-foot of measuring tape, but any more than that and you might want to have a contractor do the job you’re thinking about taking on 😊
Level: This last one isn’t really necessary if you’re the type of bachelor I used to be. But if you have a significant other currently in your life or you’re even thinking about hosting a potential significant other anytime soon, you might go get a level. You don’t want to hang cabinets without a level. You don’t want to frame a window or door without a level. And in my house today, you don’t want to hang a shelf or curtains without a level. Without my amazing lady, my house would look like a shack in an old Looney Toons episode. I have no innate sense of leveling; therefore, this tool is a must for me. And it should be for any homeowner.
These are the bare necessities tool-wise for entering homeownership for the first time. There are several others that could be on this list: wrenches, vise grips, adjustable wrenches, a ratchet and socket set, an Allen wrench set, electrical tape, and of course the almighty duct tape. But these are what I found starting out were the minimum “must haves”. As things happen in your home over the years or you decide to take on a new DIY project, you’ll find that you’ll need all sorts of other tools. My first Christmas gift from my Father-in-law was a tool chest. Every year since, guess what I’ve gotten from him? And I love him for it more every year. Except now I need a bigger tool chest.