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Must-have tools for the DIY homeowner

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

The tools you need

A fully-stocked toolbox isn’t going to make your DIY projects magically turn out wonderful, but it’ll go a long way toward making sure you start off on the right foot.
Do you have what it takes to do the job?
Woman with hammer and nail

Here are our top picks for the tools every DIY homeowner should have in her toolbox.

Claw hammer

If you’ve ever hung a picture, you’ve probably used one of these. A claw hammer is moderately lightweight, but heavy-duty enough to drive a nail into a piece of wood or even do a little bit of demo work.

How to hang a frame sans hammer >>

Pliers

A pair of needle-nose pliers is good for any time you need to bed, grip, strip or cut a piece of wire. They’re also very handy for getting into small places or grabbing a hold of things that are tiny. If you’re afraid of smashing your fingers with a hammer, they’re handy for holding onto a nail while hammering it into place.

Vice grip pliers are also useful. They lock into place, much like a clamp and serve as an extra set of hands when you need one.

Power drill

A power drill is an essential part of every toolbox. You’ll use yours for making holes in sheetrock, wood or other materials, or for driving screws into a piece of wood. There are corded and cordless options, and both have pros and cons. A corded drill tends to be more powerful, but the cord can be cumbersome and makes it tough to use when you don’t have access to an outlet. Cordless drills are much more convenient, but the battery tends to run low at the most inopportune time, so be sure to have a backup battery charged and ready.

Screwdrivers

You’re going to need a set of screwdrivers to put just about anything together that doesn’t come preassembled. Make sure your set contains two types of screwdrivers — a Phillips and a flathead. A flathead screwdriver has a single blade and a Phillips has four. Look for one piece with interchangeable bits that fit in the handle to make your toolbox less bulky.

Level

Whether you’re hanging a picture or building a cabinet, you want it to be level. Make sure there’s a level in your toolbox to keep everything in line.

Painting tips and tricks >>

Tape measure

Keep a big tape measure in your toolbox and a smaller one in your purse. They’re handy for making sure all the pieces of whatever you’re building will fit together and for making sure that anything you buy will fit in your room.

Staple gun

If there’s any chance you’ll ever attempt to reupholster anything, you’ll need a staple gun. They’re inexpensive, and can let you finish a job that could be difficult in ten minutes or less.

Tip

Before you buy a tool, hold it in your hand. Check the grip and the weight of the tool to make sure it's something you can work with.

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