Home Toolbox Essentials
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A common challenge of home ownership (especially for a first time home owner), is having to repair things that break or actively maintain things around the property -- then finding you don't have the proper tools for the job.  So my question to you is: Do you have the handyman's essentials in your toolbox?  Read on to find out...

Being a relatively new homeowner myself, I've been slowly purchasing tools for each given task/project.  This has proven to be a bit of a pain; as I'm always running to Sears, Lowes, Home Depot & other places to buy the tools needed.  I had one of those small home tool essential kits, that are sold in a molded plastic case when I had my apartment and they were pretty useless then.  Now, as a handyman home owner, I have found that a more diverse set of basic tools is really required.  Without a good toolbox to work from, you'll never know you need a given tool until after you get deep into a project.

From personal experience & some research, I have compiled a list of what I would consider a well-equipped essential toolbox, for the average handyman home owner.

This guide should help you stock your toolbox with the basic essentials you'll need.  I'll also make a few recommendations for more advanced tools that are very very handy (but not required).

Hopefully the below list will help you take stock of your tools, to determine if you have a well-equipped home essentials toolbox or not.

You may want to print out this list & check off each tool you have.  Then buy or borrow the ones you don't have.

Here are what I would consider the absolute basics:

  • Multi-Draw Toolbox Cabinet
    (you need a proper place to store & organize all of the tools you accumulate)
  • Tape Measures
    (I recommend owning a 12' & 75' length tape measure)
  • Sheet Rock Knife
    (get a really good one, as you'll use it pretty often.  Don't forget to get extra raiser blades for it as well)
  • Hammers
    (handheld sledge, ball ping hammer, claw hammer, rubber mallet & soft-faced hammer w/replaceable heads)
  • Screwdrivers
    (get a decent set w/various lengths & types -- at a bare minimum it should include Phillips & slotted types, long & short lengths, #1 #2 & #3 sizes)
  • Allen Keys
    (get a complete set common sizes, in short & long lengths)
  • Sockets & Ratchets
    (purchase a complete set, which contains both metric & standard, as well as both short & deep sockets, w/extensions.)
  • Wrenches
    (purchase a complete set, which contains both metric & standard)
  • Adjustable Wrenches
    (get a few different sizes)
  • Pliers
    (channel-lock, needle-nose, long needle-nose, slip-joint, duckbill & lineman pliers)
  • Locking Pliers
    (get a few different sizes & types)
  • Wire Cutters
    (you should have diagonal-cutters & a good pair of wire strippers)
  • Hacksaws
    (Standard 12" hacksaw & smaller 10" compact-type.  Don't forget to get some hacksaw blades as well)
  • Pry Bar
    (both short & long)
  • Corded Drill
    (remember to get a good set of general purpose drill bits to use with it.  Purchase specialized sets of drill bits as necessary)
  • C-Clamps
    (get a few different sizes)
  • Multi-Meter
    (useful to test wires, light sockets, fuses, etc...)
  • Flashlight
    (get the good larger Mag-Light)
  • Straight Edge
    (get a few different types & lengths, as you will use this more then you think)
  • Drywall Putty Knives
    (get a few different sizes in metal [not plastic])
  • Levels
    (get at least a 9" short straight level & a 3' long straight level)
  • Collapsible Saw Horses
    (2 to 4 are useful; as its useful to implement a makeshift workbench & when working on various projects.)
  • Miscellaneous items
    • variety of general usage sand paper
    • pencils & felt-tip markers
    • making tape
    • duct tape
    • electrical tape
    • Elmer's glue
    • Gloves
    • Eye protection
    • Ear protection
    • can of WD-40
    • containers to hold misc parts [screw, nuts, bolts, etc..]

Here is our list of optional (but recommended) tools:

  • Cordless Drill
  • Dremel Rotary Tool
  • Staple Gun
    (don't forget the staples)
  • Table Vise
  • Bench Grinder
  • Soldering Iron
  • Torque Wrench
  • Wet/Dry Vacuum
    (at least 10 gallon size)
  • Air Compressor
    (get at least a 150 PSI pancake compressor or better)
  • Compressor Air-Tools
    (impact wrench, angel grinder, ratchet, impact driver, nail gun -- don't forget the impact sockets & miscellaneous accessories to go with them)

I would consider more advanced tools, beyond the scope of this write-up.  Consider purchasing or borrowing those tools as you expand your collection or work on more complex projects.  This typically would consist of specialized hand tools, other power tools & more specific versions of the tools we recommended above.

If you have all of the tools outlined above, this should give you a good running start.  You should be able to fix, repair & maintain most normal things without needing to purchase additional tools.

Ensuring you have these essential tools in your toolbox will provide you a good base for growth; should you wish to expand your tool collection &/or move into other specialized areas (such as automotive repair, hobbies, wood-working, etc...).

Before I end this write-up, I would like to make a few points you should think about:

  1. Highly consider purchasing quality tools, such as the Craftsman line of tools offered through Sears. Owning quality tools is an investment in keeping your home maintained - as quality tools will last a lifetime, regardless of how how much you abuse them.
  2. Sears Craftsman tools are usually affordable (especially near the holidays) and offer some very nice comprehensive tool kits that contain many of the essentials noted above.
  3. Try to avoid buying cheep tools, like those offered via Harbor Freight -- they simply don't last or stand up to abuse like a quality tool would.
  4. The extra expense for purchasing quality tools upfront may seam a bit steep, but they will last a lifetime & you'll have everything you need.
  5. Quality tools will pay for themselves over time, in the hands of a handy home owner.
  6. Quality tools can be handed down to the next generation.  Cheap usually you have to be replaced several times over in a lifetime.
  7. Having the toolbox essentials on hand, especially in the middle of the winter/night when something breaks, you'll have what you need to make a quick repair.  This alone could save you enough money to pay for itself.  Just think about how much it would cost you at 3AM, for someone to come over and make a temporary fix for you.

If we happened to have missed listing an essential tool, please post a comment to let us know.

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