While the essential tools for homeowners can vary from one garage to another depending on personal preference and the types of projects one takes on, there are some tools that every DIYer should have. We’ve assembled the essential picks you need for the best home tool kit to complete the most common home maintenance and project needs.
You can’t drive nails into wood (or remove them) without one. A quality claw hammer is a vital basic tool in any home workshop or tool kit. Weight and material are key. Go with a 16-ounce head, which is a good all-around hammer weight that is easy to use. You’ll also want a hammer with a rubberized, vinyl, or plastic handle for shock absorption and extra gripping power.
No DIY tool kit is complete without screwdrivers. We recommend screwdriver sets that include a mix of Phillips and flathead screwdrivers. Also, look for sets with a molded ergonomic shape with rubberized grips that will allow you to create maximum torque when using them.
A full set of wrenches is recommended (more on that below), but they can take up a lot of space in the tool kit. An adjustable wrench or two can fit a broad range of nuts and bolts and won’t hog space. An 8-inch model will handle most of your household repair needs.
While an adjustable wrench offers versatility, you need a good set of wrenches to get a tight grip on a stubborn bolt or nut to apply maximum torque. Choose box-end wrenches with a closed end on one side that allows you to get a secure fit on a nut or bolt head so you can pull hard on it.
A couple of sets of pliers are invaluable tools for gripping and turning nails, screws, wires, and other items you can’t get a good grip on with your fingers. While pliers come in various shapes and sizes, slip-joint, groove joint, and needle-nose are the three essential types of pliers your workshop needs.
Before you can build something new, you often have to rip out the old. You’ll need a pry bar for this. These wrecking tools can pull trim and drywall off framing and yank out loose nails. Look for one at least a foot long, giving you the leverage required to tear building materials apart.
These handy cutting instruments can cut through 18-gauge sheet metal, making them essential tools for working with ductwork, repairing gutters, corrugated metal roofing, or even some types of flooring. They come in left and right models for cutting circles and straight models for cutting straight lines. Buy a pair with ergonomic grips to comfortably apply the pressure needed to cut.
Cutting insulation, certain types of flooring, plastic sheeting, felt roofing paper, carpet, and drywall are all jobs for a utility knife, which is why you need one in your workshop. The handle is key with this tool. Make sure it’s molded to fit your hand so you can get a good grip on it while applying the pressure needed to cut through the above materials.
A chisel is unique to the other tools in your workshop that cut or sand wood. When used in tandem with a mallet or hammer, a chisel can remove chunks of wood. This makes it useful for woodworking or such jobs as installing a new lock in a door. You don’t need to invest in a full set unless you build furniture. One good 1-inch chisel will do.
You won’t be able to follow the rule of measure twice and cut once unless you have one of these. Look for a tape measure that spans 20 to 25 feet, is easy to lock, and will stay locked until you hit the release button. The blade should also retract smoothly and have a bump stop that reduces wear and tear on the tape measure’s rewinding mechanism.
You can’t trim out a door, install kitchen cabinets, or even hang a picture without being able to confirm that things are level and plumb. You’ll need a level for that. Look for a 24- to 36-inch model, which is long enough to handle most projects that require a level.
These handy tools eliminate the trial-and-error process of drilling multiple holes in your wall or ceiling to locate a stud or joist. They’re essential for any job that requires you to anchor something to wall framing, be it a mount for a 50-inch flat-screen TV or a set of floating shelves. Make sure to get an electric one, which you need to locate wood studs.
Whether you’re building a deck, installing hardwood, or cutting drywall, you will need to make square cuts and joints. And the only way to tell if something is square is to use a square. While carpentry squares come in various forms, a speed square is the easiest and fastest way to check if something’s square.
The cordless drill is easily the most essential power tool in any DIYer’s power tool arsenal. You’ll need it for just about any carpentry or renovation project you choose to take on. It’s also handy for odd jobs around the house, such as hanging a mirror or mounting a flat-screen TV. Most homeowners should look for an 18-volt model (20-volt if it’s DeWalt or Craftsman).
Large screws and lag bolts are the go-to fasteners for many carpentry jobs, from building a deck to assembling a set of built-in shelves. Unless you don’t mind driving these fasteners in by hand with a ratchet and socket, you’ll need the torque of a cordless impact driver to get the job done. Buy one with a long-lasting and powerful brushless motor.
These handy power tools allow you to cut through everything from 2x4s to 3/4-inch thick plywood with a fair amount of precision, which is why they’re must-have tools for DIY carpenters. Look for a model with a 7-1/4-inch blade that can cut through thicker boards. And, if you can afford it, spring for a cordless model.
Ask any DIYer what step they hate the most in a carpentry project, and most will tell you it is sanding. While you can’t skip this step, you can make it a lot easier by trading out the old sanding block for an orbital sander that will get the job done in a fraction of the time while saving your arm. Orbital sanders come in both corded and cordless models.
You’ll need a jigsaw if you want to make cuts that don’t go in a straight line. These nimble saws allow you to make intricate cuts in wood, plastic, and metal, making them necessary for various projects. Look for one with variable speed control and the ability to make bevel cuts.
Miter saws are expensive, but they’ll considerably speed up your carpentry projects. They’re necessary if you need to make miter cuts, such as when installing baseboards or trimming out cabinetry. They can also be invaluable for projects requiring you to cut a lot of dimensional lumber, such as a deck or fence.
If you’re doing any home renovation involving demolition, you’ll probably need a reciprocating saw. Sometimes referred to as a Sawzall, these tools allow you to cut through wood, metal pipes, plastic, and various other materials, depending on what blade you load into it. Cordless models are more convenient, but corded models will give you the most cutting power.
You should have at least one good set of safety glasses in your workshop to protect your eyes while using all the other tools on this list. A proper pair will have shatter-proof and impact-resistance lenses to protect your peepers from projectiles and offer side protection.
No workshop workbench is complete without a vice that securely holds whatever you’re working on so you can cut, drill, sand, or chisel it. Choose a cast iron vice with 4- to 6-inch wide jaws and a built-in anvil for shaping metal.
Clamps are vital for holding plywood 2x4s secure while you sand, drill, or cut them. They’re also vital when joining wood with glue. Clamps come in many shapes and sizes. Get a set of C-clamps to start, which will cover most projects, and then add pipe clamps when you can to handle larger materials.
An extension cord may be more of an accessory than a tool, but it’s just as essential. You won’t be able to use any corded power tools without one. A 25-foot 14-gauge power cord will suffice for most of your power tool arsenal.
This tool is useful for various small jobs, including removing paint off smooth surfaces, scraping or chiseling, spreading spackle, opening and closing paint cans, and even prying out nails. Go with a 6-in-1 scraper, which offers the most versatility.