No home or garden would be complete without a good set of household tools. But how do you know if you have the essential ones? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the myriad of tools available and the variety of each type. Just looking at the shelves and aisles at your local big box stores can cause a certain level of respectful amazement, and can even make you suspect you should amass more tools than you need just to feel prepared.
What tools do you really need? If you’re like me, you are probably handy, but nowhere near a professional tradesman. Rather than a collection of tools you will never use, I have compiled this list of essential tools for any household. Occasionally you may have a project that calls for additional or specialized tools. But my list is filled with those that are likely to be often used, making them useful to have on hand.
1. Proper Toolbox
You will need a proper toolbox to collect, store and protect your valuable tools. There are many brands, styles, and sizes available, including my favorite, the Viper Tool Storage system. Not only is this a quality product, you can express yourself with one of their color options like bright green, pink and more.
You will need a basic 16-ounce hammer with a smooth face on one end and a claw for pulling out fasteners on the opposite end. This is useful for everything from hanging pictures to putting furniture together.
3. Screwdriver Set
A simple set of screwdrivers is critical for so many everyday projects. You will need both flat and Philips head screwdrivers. Look for an inexpensive, but well-made set in several sizes.
Pliers provide the grip you need to do several common household projects. Find an inexpensive set that provides a range of the most commonly used types. Needle-nose, slip-joint and side-cutters are great; they cover a variety of common needs, like working with wiring, straightening plugs or tightening faucets.
5. Tape Measure
You can’t get through life without a tape measure. Have at least one, although I opt for more. I keep one tape measure in my kitchen and one in my toolbox — and sometimes another in the trunk of my car (a lifesaver if you stop to ogle a piece of furniture at a tag sale). Look for a quality tool. You will want a lock stop type (keeps the tape locked in place as needed) in at least a 12-foot length.
A flashlight is a critical tool. Of course, you will want to use the flashlight when working in the dark, but even during the day, there are some areas of the house that could use better lighting — like under vanities and the backs of closets. The LED flashlights being made today are bright, long-lasting and you can even find rechargeable models.
7. Adjustable Wrenches
You might not realize it, but Crescent wrenches are super handy for tightening or putting things together. From kid’s toys to plumbing, a crescent wrench will do the job. Look for models with long handles for leverage. You will need a 6 and 10-inch model.
8. Tapes and Twines: Painter’s Tape/Duck Tape/Spool of Wire, Twine/Command(TM) Products
Painter’s Tape is the go-to when you want a temporary adhesive that leaves no marks; it’s handy beyond painting, such as blocking out options for picture locations on a wall or furniture placement on a floor. It’s no wonder Duck Tape brand tape has become so popular: it is incredibly useful, from quick repairs to mending torn plastic painting tarps to holding up trim while you nail it in place. Wire and twine are useful for hanging wreaths and other decorations. And super-versatile Command(TM) products–hooks, hangers and more–mean you can quickly hang items, whether for party decor, temporary needs (like dorm rooms) or on surfaces that make screws hard to anchor.
A small bubble level is a must-have when doing a job right. Many small home projects will frequently require affixing something level and plumb, such as hanging mirrors, placing shelves, placing countertops and more.
10. Utility Knife /Wire-cutters/Scissors
You will be grateful for these items over and over again. Opening packages sealed in heavy plastic and unboxing items delivered in the mail are nearly impossible without a utility knife, such as an X-ACTO. The best models come with replacement blades right in the handle.
And there you have it! While everyone will have unique tool needs, these core items are a great start to being well prepared for what comes your way. Not sure what you need for a specific job? Your local hardware store is a great place to find experts who can explain the tools needed for the job at hand.