Everyone needs to start somewhere when it comes to building a tool collection. I didn’t go out one day and just buy all of the tools in my collection. For me, and my family really, it’s been a slow, multi-generational, process. I wanted to write this article for those of you who are just getting started in the DIY world, want to know what tools will give you the best bang for your buck.
I really tried to focus on finding and linking quality tools. You could definitely build a similar toolkit for a lot less money, but it probably wouldn’t last nearly as long. Many of my tools were passed on to me by my father and even my grandfather. Buying quality tools always pays off in the long run, avoid the cheap stuff and you’ll have tools that you can pass onto your children. Wherever possible I’ll try and include a couple of different options to help keep costs down.
With this toolkit you’ll be able to take apart, reassemble and fix just about anything that could go wrong in your average home. This will be the cheapest $100 you ever spend because its going to save you so much money in the future.
- Screw Driver(s)A good quality screw driver is probably going to be the single most important tool you can have when it comes to home repairs and maintenance. Changing a light switch? Changing the batteries in a smoke detector? Cleaning the filter in your furnace? I could go on for days. If you don’t have a screw driver you’ll quickly find there’s a lot of nooks and crannies in your house that are completely off limits to you. Doesn’t feel very good, does it? Being denied access to somewhere inside of your own home?!
By listing screw drivers as a single item I’m king of cheating, because really, you’re going to need many different screw drivers. There are many different screw head patterns and sizes, each needing its own specific screw driver. Luckily there are some good kits out there that come with all of the common sizes you’ll need for 90% of jobs, and they aren’t that expensive. Another alternative is to buy a screw driver with interchangeable heads. Generally I’d advise against buying “multi-tools” (i.e. single tools that claim to be able to do many jobs) because I find the more jobs a single tool does the worse it does each individual job. If however space in your toolkit is limited, or just cant justify buying 10 screw drivers, a multi screw driver will still get the job done, and is probably one of the rare exceptions to my multi-tool rule.Here’s a couple of links for screw drivers I’d recommend:
Screw Driver Set
Multi Head Screw Driver
Next up is the trusty hammer. Central prop to construction worker Halloween costumes everywhere. Obviously the hammer is great for setting nails, like when you’re hanging pictures and installing trim. That would be reason enough to include it in this list. To me though the common hammer really shines when it comes to light duty demolition. If you have to remove an old vanity, strip a wall of drywall, or just pounding down that damn screw you keep catching your arm on in the basement, the hammer is going to be your best friend. Flip it around and you can use it as a pry tool, perfect for pulling nails.Trust me, nothing is more therapeutic than tearing down a whole wall with nothing more than your bare hands and a 16oz framing hammer. 16oz by the way is the size/weight of hammer that I would recommend for the average adult. Unless you’re a particularly small person I wouldn’t waste your time with anything smaller. A 16oz hammer is a good middle ground where you can still use it for setting small finishing nails and also use it for hammering stubborn studs into (and out of) place. It also seems to be the weight where most manufacturers start making the hammer as a single piece of metal. Avoid 2-piece hammers at all costs, you know the ones, wood handle with a metal head, that’s amateur hour stuff. I’ve never seen one last more than a couple of years. If you want to pass your tools onto your children stick to a good 1 piece hammer.Here’s a couple of links for hammers that I would recommend:
16 Oz Framing Hammer (I own 3 of these hammers, all of them older than I am)
12 Oz Claw Hammer (Sorry about the pink)
- Utility Knife
I wasn’t sure what to call this tool. It seems to go by many different names depending on where you are and what circles you run in. I usually just call it an exacto knife. These knives are super useful, I use them for cutting sheets of drywall, striping wires, cutting insulation, sharpening pencils, cutting packaging open, cutting drywall tape, and, well, I could go on all day with different uses for these knives. I think I own 4-5 of them in various sizes and shapes.Their interchangeable blades means you only ever need to buy a single body and then as the blade dulls you can easily replace them in a couple of seconds. The blades are also segmented and can be snapped away to reveal new sharp cutting tips further down the blade. I prefer this style of knife to the folding knives and utility knives with only a short blade because their longer blades make them more useful in certain scenarios and you wont have to swap the blades as often.It’s one of those tools that doesn’t seem that important until you actually have one in your tool kit and you find yourself reaching for it all the time.
Here’s a link to my personal favorite utility knife:
25mm Utility Knife
- Tape MeasureHow are you going to measure your cuts? How are you going to know if that new couch will fit through your front door without a tape measure? How are you going to be able to brag to your friends about the size of your… ughh… nevermind…
The point is, if you need to know how big something is, or make accurate measurements for cutting purposes you’re going to need yourself a tape measure. If you’re going to buy a tape measure, spend the extra 3 dollars and get a good quality tape measure. Not only is it going to last longer, but it’s going to give you more accurate results that are easier to read. Cheaper tape measures have tips that are made of thin metal and warp, bend and scrunch up, ruining all of your future measurements.Try to avoid tape measures that have more than a single unit of measurement listed on them, trust me here. It’s just annoying and eventually you’re going to mix the two of them up. “Oh crap, was that 12 centimeters or 12 inches I just measured!?”. Decide if you want a tape measure denominated in centimeters or inches before you buy and stick with it, or have a dedicated tape measure for each unit of measurement.
Here’s a link to some of my favorite tape measures I own:
25 Foot Tape Measure
16 Foot Tape Measure (Go figure, the shorter one is more expensive!)
- Adjustable WrenchLast but certainly not least I have the adjustable wrench. Any amateur plumber will tell you that this tool is a must. If you need to get under the sink to fix a clog or replace a faucet you’ll be wanting an adjustable wrench in your toolkit. Also works great for removing and tightening nuts and bolts.I’ve always found that the highest quality adjustable wrenches are the simplest ones. Simple forged metal wrenches are near indestructible. It’s worth it to buy a set of different sized adjustable wrenches if you can afford it. Bigger wrenches provide more leverage for extra stuck bolts, while smaller wrenches can fit into tighter places and get those tough to reach nuts.
Here’s a link to some good wrenches:
4-Piece Adjustable Wrench Set
8 Inch Adjustable Wrench
Depending on which of the options you picked above you very well could’ve built yourself a great starter toolkit for less than $100. These aren’t cheap no-name tools either. All of the tools I linked above are quality tools that I either would, or do, use myself. They’ll last you a long time. And once you get into the DIY mind set and start tackling more projects around the house yourself they will pay for themselves many times over. It’s a really cheap and easy investment you can make right now that will pay dividends in the long run.
I’ll be doing another top 5 list soon with power tools. So watch for that if you feel like you’re ready to take your tool collection to the next level.
What do you guys think? Did I miss anything obvious or do you think that hammers are way over rated? Let me know in the comments!