10 essential tools for every homeowner

Everything you need for basic home maintenance

By Steve Maxwell

Photo by Steve Maxwell


No matter how thrilled or bored you are by the prospect of maintaining your home, you’ll need at least a few tools to complete basic repairs and upgrades. That’s why most people keep a screwdriver, hammer and tape measure somewhere in the house. But what many homeowners don’t understand is how much more pleasant maintenance becomes with good tools. I’m not necessarily talking about expensive, pro-grade stuff, either. There are many affordable options that will make your around-the-house tasks easier and more enjoyable.

1. Toolbox

Organization is important, even if you only have ten tools. That’s why you need a toolbox. I suggest one with metal latches, lots of room and a rubber seal around the lid to keep things dry. This box is also strong and long enough to accommodate a 24” level – another must-have home improvement tool.

2. 18-volt cordless drill


If you can only afford one power tool, this is the type to get. There are many good brands out there. Regardless of the brand you choose, keep your eye out for three specific features as you select a drill kit. A model with two batteries let’s you work continuously while the second battery is charging. You’ll also appreciate a fast charger—one that fully recharges a dead battery in an hour or less. Cheap drill packages sometimes come with chargers that take 3 to 8 hours to do their job. And finally, consider a model with hammer drilling capacity. This allows much faster drilling progress in brick, block and concrete.

3. Tape measure

You will want a tape measure that can extend out fairly far before folding downwards under its own weight. This is especially helpful when you’re measuring large spans without a helper. A good quality tape measure can extend 10 to 13 feet before collapsing.

tape measure

4. Hammer

Nothing fancy needed here. A 16-ounce claw-style hammer works fine for hanging pictures, driving small nails and assembling things. If you’ll be building a deck, dock or backyard shed, a 20- to 24-ounce framing hammer with straight claws works better.

5. Utility Knife

A good utility knife is simple, strong and easy to reload. It’s a good idea to get a knife that takes wider, stronger blades for heavy work.

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Feb. 29, 2012

3:09 pm

If your toolbox is large enough, I'd recommend a 12V cordless Lion drill and a larger driver (and I have a corded hammer drill, too :-) The smaller drill is great for doing odd jobs around the house and doesn't weigh all that much. The driver is great for bigger jobs like putting screws to the sub-floor before I lay down new flooring.

Canadian Home Workshop

Canadian Home Workshop

Feb. 28, 2012

11:13 am

gmoore - Steve suggested the Stanley FatMax 28" Structural Foam water resistant toolbox. It meets all his requirements listed above. You can find a store near you here: http://www.stanleytools.com/default.asp?TYPE=STATICLEFT&PAGE=whtobuy.htm&LEFT=left_whtobuy.htm


Feb. 28, 2012

9:26 am

Steve - your recommendation for a toolbox is wise indeed - do you have a brand in mind, and where would I get one, please?


Feb. 28, 2012

2:15 am

A tip about Tape Measures: Having them extend out without being floppy is all well and good but get one that doesn't attack you when you snap it back! Some of them have a mighty kickback. I had to specifically find a lighter duty one that had a gentle return for my sewing room. My toolbox has a medium duty and snap. The killer one I gave to my husband. :) Also try to get them with both standard and metric measurements (saves on converting).


Feb. 28, 2012

2:04 am

For household use, I find that you get the most use out of a cordless screwdriver. As far as a cordless drill goes; I much prefer the corded one. You never have to wait for any battery charges (or burnouts) and they are ready instantly (even if an extension cord is needed, you should have a sturdy 10-12 foot cord in your repertoire). I find my corded Dremel tends to do a number of odd jobs easily whereas my cordless Dremel is usually too light duty but perfect for doing my nails. My toolbox is better organized so my husband tends to "borrow" my tools, a lot. (I think I need to put locator chips on my tools). :P

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