You need the right tools to do a job right. That’s a given in any kind of job. Home maintenance is no exception. Though you can do a lot with duct tape and WD-40, you will need more than that for home maintenance tasks.
Walk into any hardware store and you will find an almost overwhelming variety of tools. Not only different types of tools but different variations on the same tool. It’s like a toy store – so many choices!
Assuming that you are not on a mission to collect them all, how do you go about stocking your tool box with the right tools for the tasks you will be doing? What do you really need? How do you tell whether the quality is acceptable? How do you weigh features, uses, and budget?
That’s what we are here to talk about.
- tool quality and cost considerations
- basic tools for home maintenance
- beyond the basic tools for home maintenance
Quality and Cost
It’s no surprise that higher quality tools cost more than cheaply made tools. A well-worn bit of advice is to always buy the best tool you can afford on the assumption that you will be using it more than once. If you truly need a tool for a one-time-only specialized use, seriously consider renting or borrowing it.
Price is not the only indication of a tool’s quality. Sometimes high-priced tools are expensive for reasons other than intrinsic quality – perhaps they have gimmicks or styling or extra features that you don’t really want or need. Picking the most expensive tools won’t necessarily give you the best basic tools for the job.
If you are a novice at buying tools, ask someone more experienced to come with you to help select what you need. Just be sure to talk with them about the kinds of jobs you want to do so they can help make choices that are appropriate for those jobs.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to decide which tool to buy.
- What job(s) do you want the tool to do?
- Does the tool have the strength or weight or shape to do those jobs?
- Is the tool comfortable to hold and use?
- Where is the tool manufactured? At the current time, many tools made in China do not have the same precision as those made elsewhere. Depending on the tool, this lack of precision may matter a lot.
Basic General-Purpose Tools
Some basic tools cover a lot of tasks. You might already have a few of these just because you have a house. A good general purpose tool is solidly made, can withstand normal force for the tasks you would use it for, and will likely last for years.
Keep your own needs and style in mind. You don’t have to have everything in the list if you don’t ever expect to do tasks that require those tools. If you almost never do home maintenance tasks beyond hanging a picture, you need fewer tools on hand.
A basic kit will include
- a claw hammer
- screwdrivers – flat blade and Phillips head – in a few sizes
- an adjustable crescent wrench
- a tape measure
- pliers – needle nose and regular
- a level
- flashlight or work light
- utility knife and blades
- electric drill
- safety goggles
- work gloves
There are also smaller bits of hardware that are handy to have around so that every task is not a mandatory hardware store trip for basic supplies.
- assorted nails
- assorted screws
- picture hangers
- nuts and bolts
- glue (wood glue, super glue, general purpose glue)
- duct tape
- all-purpose oil like 3 in 1
- penetrating oil like WD-40
You can find “basic tool kits” already selected and packaged. Depending on the kit, this might be an adequate way to get a full set of basic tools without having to decide on each piece. You may find that you would spend less for better tools if you bought them individually. Or you may find that the kit is good enough for your current needs.
Beyond The Basics
If you want to beef up your toolbox with some more specialized tools, the list of possibilities is almost endless. With home maintenance tasks still in mind, some beyond-the-basics tools would include:
- voltage tester
- stud finder
- crosscut saw
- circular saw
- Allen wrenches
- socket set
- pipe wrench
- pipe cutter
- vise grips
- ratcheting screwdriver
- putty knife
- pry bar
- heavy-duty extension cord
Like so many things in life, selecting basic tools for your toolbox means thinking about why you need it as much as the details of the specific tool.
- consider the quality and cost of a tool
- ask yourself whether the tool will be useful for the types of tasks you expect to do
- think about the tools you already have and how this new one will replace, enhance, or expand your tool set
A good set of basic tools lets you manage home maintenance tasks at the level you feel comfortable doing them. If you have the tools and the interest but are not quite sure how to approach a specific task, check out our “how-to” category of posts.
Doing all home maintenance tasks yourself is not the only option, of course. If you don’t have the right tools or you don’t have the time or interest to tackle a task, there are experts you can call on to step in and do the work for you.
Download our Home Maintenance Schedule to see how easy it can be to keep up on those home maintenance tasks.