With the right tools, household chores like leaky faucets, crooked pictures, squeaky doors, and dead batteries can go from never-gonna-happen to already-done in minutes. The following 10 tools can help you accomplish myriad projects. And buying them over time, rather than all at once, reduces the impact on your budget. Remember: The quality tools you invest in today will last for years to come.
1. Claw Hammer
Officially used for pounding nails into wood with one end and extracting them with the other, the claw hammer is arguably the most common tool in a homeowner’s arsenal. Lesser-known uses include demolition, measuring, board splitting, digging, and breaking ice dams in gutters. Look for one with a rubber, plastic, or vinyl handle that provides a better grip as well as shock absorption.
2. Screwdriver Set
From installing bike training wheels to opening paint cans and battery compartments, a good set of screwdrivers is a toolbox necessity. Look for screwdrivers that have magnetic tips and comfortable grips in kits that include a variety of both flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers in various sizes.
Also known as plier wrenches, lever-wrench pliers, and vise grips, locking, adjustable pliers are versatile tools with many uses. Pliers can remove broken screws, loosen stubborn nuts, clamp things in place, and even open a zipper when the pull breaks off. Because pliers are strong, take care not to damage the object you are clamping.
4. Adjustable Wrench
Rather than investing in a set of wrenches of varying sizes, free up space in your toolbox — and save time finding the correct size — with an adjustable wrench. Wrenches prove useful for minor plumbing repairs and furniture assembly, as well as bicycle, auto, and motorcycle maintenance. Wrenches provide grip to help turn or hold in place objects such as nuts and bolts.
5. Tape Measure
Dad was right: Measure twice, cut once. A tape measure comes in handy when determining if furniture will fit in a room (or through a doorway), measuring windows for blinds, and keeping a record of kids’ growth spurts.
A new flat-screen TV deserves to be hung perfectly, as do family photos and shelves. Get these jobs done with the help of a level, which indicates a true horizontal line. A 3- to 4-foot metal level can also serve as a straight edge, while laser levels are hands-free favorites. Need to save space in your toolbox? Some smartphones have digital levels preinstalled, and there’s at least one level app available in most app stores.
7. Utility Knife
Safer than scissors for opening and cutting cardboard boxes, utility knives are also good for trimming carpets and branches and cutting sheet rock and rolls of plastic.
Not just for cutting wood, a hacksaw can also cut through metal and plastic, like PVC pipes, and are handy for projects such as model airplanes and woodcrafts. The standard hacksaw length is 12 inches, and you should look for one that has an easy-to-change blade.
9. and 10. Duct Tape and WD40
No toolbox is complete without duct tape (now available in a countless colors and patterns) and WD40 for fixing squeaky cabinets and unsticking sliding doors.
Bonus items such as safety goggles, work gloves, rags, pencils, and super glue are useful items to round out your supplies so that you can tackle common home repairs and projects with confidence.