8 Tools Every Homeowner Absolutely Must Own—and Why
Congratulations: You’re a homeowner! Whether you’re just settling into your new rent-free digs or you’ve been making mortgage payments for decades, every homeowner should be sure their toolbox has the necessary items to handle common problems around the house. That includes leaky faucets, drywall that needs patching, and heavy frames that need hanging.
If you don’t already have a well-stocked toolkit, now's the time to gear up. Even if you’re already pretty handy, it's not a bad idea to run through the list below and make sure you aren’t missing any of the essentials.
We asked renovation pros to share which tools are essential for every homeowner, along with examples of why you should keep each tool within reach.
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1. Assortment of hand tools
Screwdrivers, a hammer, a utility knife, pliers, and a tape measure: These make up the bare minimum for every homeowner.
Screwdrivers are useful for assembling and disassembling just about everything in your house, from furniture to cabinet hardware.
Cristina Miguelez, remodeling specialist at Fixr, a marketplace for contractors and homeowners, suggests buying a multipurpose screwdriver.
“Get the kind you can switch out the bits for, and make sure that they have options for those really tiny screws that come with things like the battery compartments on kids toys,” she says.
You never know when you might need a hammer to secure a nail, and a sharp utility knife is also important to have around the house, even if it's used only to slice open Amazon delivery boxes.
Pliers are also useful in lots of situations, including minor plumbing repairs that you can handle yourself.
“You could have something leak and tighten up a sink with your pliers, and then you don’t have to call a plumber,” says Kirk Staedter, owner of Caliber Builders and Remodelers, in Elkhorn, WI.
In addition, you may want to have a set of Allen keys for disassembling or repairing common items.
“These are surprisingly helpful for everything from bikes to fixing your Ikea furniture,” Miguelez says.
2. Stud finder
As a homeowner, you wouldn’t be caught dead using tape on your walls and damaging the paint, right? Besides, some decor is too heavy to secure with just 3M Command Strips. But you don't want to try to hammer a hook for that gilt mirror in drywall, either. Enter: the stud finder.
This hand-held tool locates sturdy beams inside the wall where you can safely secure heavy artwork, mirrors, and other decor. A basic stud finder costs less than $10.
You may also want to stock up on drywall anchors for situations when you can’t find a stud in the right spot. These plastic pieces help keep heavy wall decor in place without damaging your drywall.
A level is another useful tool for hanging wall decor, towel bars, and toilet paper holders. The bubble inside the level helps you determine whether your item is straight or crooked.
“Do not underestimate the importance of a level and getting in the habit of using one in order to get the job done correctly,” says Chris Sewell, general contractor at Key Structures, in Chesapeake, VA.
Sewell suggests keeping both a 6-inch and 12-inch level on hand, along with an assortment of small nails and screws in different sizes so that you’ll always have the part you need.
Need to change a light bulb or replace the battery in your smoke detector? Or need to knock leaves out of the gutters? Even the tallest among us can use a lift from a ladder on occasion, so be sure to keep one around.
A basic 6-foot ladder generally costs $50 to $100. For a more versatile option, splurge for an adjustable multiposition ladder.
5. Safety equipment
Take a cue from the professionals, and stock up on basic safety equipment. That includes safety glasses, dust masks, work gloves, and chemical-safe gloves.
You can use this gear for anything from cleaning with strong chemicals to spray-painting an old piece of furniture. Work gloves also provide traction when moving heavy furniture.
“A really good tool everyone should have is a multitool,” Staedter says.
This vibrating tool features an interchangeable head so you can use different blades for different purposes. You can use it to cut a hole in drywall, or—for more advanced DIYers—to cut the jambs off doors when you're installing flooring.
And the list goes on. This versatile tool will set you back about $100, but if you foresee a lot of renovation projects in your future, it’s worth the investment.
A reciprocating saw, also known as a Sawzall, is great to have when navigating close quarters.
“If it’s a tight situation, you have to use the Sawzall to finish it,” Staedter says.
Advanced DIYers should also make sure to have a circular saw, which is better for making straight cuts.
Another tip for the handy homeowner or aspiring DIYer: Stock up on plastic sawhorses from the hardware store. They’re more versatile than you might think.
“You can use these to make your own workbench when space is limited and you need a large, flat workspace,” Sewell says. “Buy yourself two 2-by-4s and place them on the ends of each sawhorse, then place a sheet of three-quarter-inch plywood on top—you now have yourself a homemade workbench.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the tools you need, remember this: For big projects with a very specific goal (e.g., tiling your bathroom or installing a deck), you can wait until you get started to stock up on equipment. Don’t stress about buying everything at once.
“Start asking for items for birthdays or holidays,” Sewell says. "Before you know it, you will have yourself an awesome treasure chest of home improvement necessities.”