Whether you live in a fixer upper or bought the house turn-key, all of our humble abodes will experience some wear & tear and fall victim to outdatedness eventually. But those necessary home improvements can be daunting, either because of the cost to hire a pro or because of the neverending list that keeps. getting. longer. There are times that call for a big budget and team of day laborers, but so many household projects are better done by your own two hands.
Home improvements increase the value of your home (+$$$) and DIY home projects can save you mad money (-$$$). But of course, you can’t just imagine these things will happen. You’ll need some tools to get the job done! While you don’t need these in your arsenal from day one, I’ve listed the 10 essential tools an ambitious DIYer needs in order of acquisition.
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1. hand tool set
When you first move into a house, or even a rental, you’re gonna need some hand tools. This includes things like a hammer, a phillips head screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver, a wrench, a tape measure, and pliers. These will cover the bulk of “easy fixes” around the house like changing out electrical faceplates , and fun decorative needs like hanging pictures!
These tools are like basic math; you need it if you’re going to make it through Algebra or Calculus. They’re foundational and you will end up using them in even the most advanced projects down the road.
2. cordless power drill & screwdriver set
My first step into power tool land was with our Porter Cable drill set. These are necessary for more serious hanging, like curtain rods, blinds, heavy wall hangings, etc. And this was the only power tool set I used to build my floating deck. One drill makes the holes, and the other drill fills them. Make sense?
You can buy them separately, but it’s best to buy them as a set. The set will share the same batteries which is ideal. We bought the Porter Cable set on a whim and have expanded our power tool “suite” with them because I love the versatility of the same battery.
These go on sale, but even at full price they are well worth $100 or so. A good set will last for years. My favorite brands are DeWalt, Craftsman, Ryobi, and of course Porter Cable 🙂
This is arguably the most useful power tool, which is why it’s so high up here!
Here are my babies and I don’t know what I’d do without them.
3. drill bits
Your drill set will come with some standard bits, but even the most standard projects will require something out of the ordinary. The different drill bits will cover every base (ie. screw size) you come across.
We bought a super cheap set, and pieces have broken over the last 5 years. Our original 30+ piece set is down to a lonely 6 or so and we’re due for an upgrade anyway. More expensive bits are generally stronger and less likely to break.
4. stud finder
I am embarrassed to admit that I just got one of these. It was a running joke around here that there are no studs in our house. Typical stud-finding methods don’t work around here because our walls are covered in plaster instead of drywall. We got a deep scan stud finder and it works like a charm.
I can’t believe this house actually has studs! It’s awesome the best way to hang something remotely heavy on your walls is to secure it on a stud. The best alternative is to use wall anchors but those have trouble with plastered walls too.
A stud finder is so fun, easy, essential and will run you about $25.
5. caulk gun
Because a fresh caulk line makes every room look better. These are super cheap and altogether awesome/essential. This bad boy will only run you $11…..! Caulk honestly makes me so happy. I realize how weird and inappropriate that sounds, and I’m fine with it.
6. a real level (or two!)
Those little green air bubbles are all created equally, but when I mention a “real” level I’m talking about length. The longer the better.
A typical tool set might come with a small one, about 6-8 inches long, but bigger projects call for a bigger level. Anything between 3 and 6 feet is perfect. For part 1 of my deck, I received a 4 ft level as a Christmas gift from my cousin and it made my whole year. I finished that deck by New Year’s Eve.
There are some sweet laser levels that will span an entire room too, and they are awesome/expensive but can’t always replace the original for regular projects. Or anything outdoors.
7. nail gun
I had no idea what I was missing out on until I got a nail gun. So many simple home upgrades and impressive craft projects can be completed with a nail gun. For mother’s day, I built my mom an 8ft wide picture ledge for less than $8 dollars using only my 18 gauge brad nails and 3 furring strips.
This is the one I have and it is incredible. Not to mention my go-to weapon for the zombie apocalypse.
A nail gun will run you $60 – $200
The multitool is so high up on this list because it makes so many household projects possible without an actual saw. You can turn this thing into a handheld tool for virtually anything with one of the several attachments. It’s a speedy solution for a myriad of projects from demo to woodworking.
One of these will range from about $50 – $150
9. miter saw
Oh my god my miter saw changed my life. Once my husband trusted me to handle a real saw with friggin’ huge blade, I never looked back. The one I have now is old and was acquired from my father-in-law. I absolutely love it, but after getting comfortable I am dying for a fancy upgrade.
A miter saw will make straight, beveled and/or angled cuts on wood boards. My upgraded saw will be a dual beveled, sliding saw with a laser for more precise cuts. I’m seriously excited!!
These things are an investment, but they can last a lifetime. The expensive, upkeeping thing about saws is the blade. They get dull over time, and a replacement can cost up to $100. For that reason, I definitely recommend checking out your local pawn shops. People will dump an awesome saw because the blade got dull. Crazy, right? I swear it happens.
The saw itself is well worth $275-500
10. voltage tester
A voltage tester is critical for the serious DIYer because if you’re like me then you aren’t afraid to eff with electricity too. And upgrading a light fixture or replacing old yellow outlets is wayyy too easy to hire an electrician.
A voltage tester is my preferred safety precaution against getting shocked. The alternative would be leaving a light on and flipping the breaker switch to know it’s “off”, but I swear I’ve done that before and that wire was still alive. Cue electric shock. I only put this last because it isn’t something I do very often. Replacing fixtures is a pretty long-lasting project, but they are cheap (around $15) and sooo great to have for peace of mind if nothing else!
Shop more of my essential DIY tools
I won’t lie, it was hard to narrow this list down. And even harder to put them in order of necessity for a DIYer looking to start a full blow tool collection. I’ve included this list and more in my Amazon Shop.
Do you have any tools you absolutely can’t live without? Please let me know below so I can have a fresh new obsession! Also, I love a good excuse to tinker 🛠
Which tool is next on your list?