By Nancy Mattia
Maybe you just bought your first house or are trying to save money by doing home fixes on your own. Whatever the reason, a basic toolbox will serve you well. We’ve put together a must-have list for an average homeowner. While you don’t have to get professional grade, buy high-quality tools since they’ll perform better and last longer. Here’s what your toolbox should include:
The most versatile is a 16-ounce, curved claw hammer with a rubber grip and fiberglass frame. “It’s very comfortable in your hand and easy to pull out nails with,” says Dale Contant, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
No toolbox would be complete without a Philips screwdriver, with its distinguishable crosshead tip, and a flat-head screwdriver, which you can use on everything from installing electrical faceplates to removing lids on paint cans.
This battery-powered tool can sub for a screwdriver. “When you have to put together furniture from IKEA, it saves you so much time,” Contant says. “It’s faster and way more efficient than a regular screwdriver.”
Get both needle-nose pliers, which cut and bend wire and can get into hard-to-reach places, and locking pliers (also called vise grips) with “jaws” that adjust to the exact size you need to grip or clamp nuts and fixtures.
An adjustable crescent wrench, shaped like a crescent moon, tightens nuts and bolts.
Look for one with a retractable blade and built-in storage. “It’s important that the blade is retractable so when you reach into your tool bag, you won’t get cut by it,” Contant says. Besides slicing open cardboard boxes, you can use it to chop up old carpet and tear through drywall.
Contant suggests getting a torpedo level that’s nine to 10 inches long and useful for positioning fixtures (doors, cabinets), wall artwork and big, new appliances like a washing machine.
True to its name, this hard worker can be used as a putty knife, scraper, hammer, nail puller and hole enlarger.
You need a wood chisel, which is used for trimming off wood on doors for hinges, and a masonry chisel, for things like breaking bricks and removing broken tile. One- to two-inch-wide chisels are the most versatile.
This is what you’d use to detect studs in walls and for marking holes in drywall. “It’s like an ice pick with a handle on it,” Contant says.
You’ll use this whenever you need an accurate measurement, which is more often than you’d think. “Get one that locks, stretches to sixteen feet and has one-sixteenth to one-eighth increments,” Contant says. A tape measure that’s three-quarters to one-inch wide is most versatile.
Among this spray lubricant’s myriad uses: “unsticking” metal like the kind on a door hinge (no more squeaking!) and removing oil-based paint on hands.
“What’s not to like about duct tape?” Contant says. “You can put your car back together with it!” For home use, the durable tape can do things like cover – and stop – a leak on a water hose or fortify windows during a big storm.
You’ll be glad this is in your toolbox when you encounter a dark attic, crawl space or any area where you need more light. Contant recommends an LED flashlight. “It’s super-efficient and super bright,” he says.
Protecting yourself from injury means including safety items in your toolbox. If you’re going to do sanding, you’ll need dust-protection masks and safety glasses. Gloves are a necessity when doing heavy-duty jobs that involve brick or cement or when carrying heavy sharp objects.
Rather than storing the equipment in a rigid box, Contant prefers a lightweight, durable tool bag instead. “It’s expandable like a suitcase and can fit more things,” he says. “With a toolbox, if something doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit.” Look for a tool bag with inside and outside compartments and pockets. Since you won’t be able to carry all the tools you need in one bag, Contant suggests having a second bag close by.