I meet with a lot of home buyers (obviously for my profession), and a large majority do not have even a basic set of tools. However, new home owners especially first time buyers tend to have one common problem; they just bought a house and have no money. I could have drawn up a list of 100 or even 1000 tools everyone needs! I don’t usually have a problem justifying the need for more tools, and most guys that grew up similar to me don’t.
Before we get in to the mix of tools to start with let me make one point clear. Nothing drives me crazier then to have people use my tools because they don’t want to mess there’s up. Tools were meant to get used, beat up, and banged around. Care for them, but use them! Don’t shy away from using them for their intended purpose, and always remember you use the 1 right tool not 3 wrong tools.
I tried to put these in some type of order to buy the ones you need first but don’t stress about that. Get the ones YOU need immediately first but preferably all 10 at one shopping spree.
1. Every home owner will be hanging pictures, tapping rusted and worn hinges, and in general beating stubborn objects. My number one pick is a quality hammer; I use it more then just about any tool in my shop and they cannot be substituted without sacrificing precision, finesse, and fingers!
Working construction as a teenager my foreman told me once that when I buy my hammer only buy brands that start with a V. Not knowing what he meant I went to the nearest hardware store and learned that the V he was speaking of was Vaughan, score one for me at less than $20 for a hammer and I’m set. Though Vaughan is not the best hammer out there it is a quality hammer and the best bang for the buck. My hammer has built many houses since then and it still has the original handle.
Now you ask “what type of hammer do I need?” A framing hammer tends to be the most versatile and can be used for any job but is only perfect for framing. I’ll be honest I cheat here and rarely ever grab another hammer over my framing hammer. Choking up on the grip gives you good support for driving finishing nails and all the way back will remove a rusted wheel rotor.
Grips change preference by many people, though most prefer a curved wood handle. Wood is easy to replace and lasts a long time, fiberglass handles cant always be replaced. Wood handles also seem to balance and generally feel better in your hand. Plus there’s just something that makes you feel like a man holding something your ancestors could have been using to pound their way through history! $24.95
2. Ok so technically 2 tools but since they really go as a pair or set screwdrivers will be considered 1 tool. For basic jobs you need a flat head and a phillips and they will likely cure anything that ails you. However, an 8 piece Craftsman set is $14.99 and well worth the cost. This set will cover most anything you need it for and will take apart almost anything in your home.
A quality screwgy will do everything from hanging a TV mount and removing the remote battery screw to changing a will socket. My old Drill Sergeant told me there’s 3 rules a man needs to live by: Don’t ever mess with another mans kids, never take his money, and the last beer in the fridge belongs to the one who bought it. Since then I’ve added a fourth one… buy quality screwdrivers! There’s nothing worse then the tip breaking in the middle of a job forcing your immediate surrender.
3. Needle nose pliers, can grab about anything you have in the house and can even assist you in reaching those hard to get areas. Believe me the list is endless as to what you will use these for! Wires will need to be re-routed, clasps pinched, and rusted knobs turned. This list truly needs to have more then 1 number 1, because tools like this are invaluable and impossible to substitute.
4. Now some of you reading this are asking why I said needle nose pliers instead of regular pliers and here’s why. You truly need both but when starting out you can accomplish most tasks with a decent set of channel locks and needle nose pliers.
Channel locks cannot be substituted with pliers but pliers can be substituted with channel locks. You cannot use pliers to open a beer bottle, it’s simply uncivilized! But Channel locks provide the necessary torque and mannliness required for such a task and you then upgrade from uncivilized to truly barbaric!
Ok in seriousness, channel locks provide more versatility for a home owners tasks then do pliers and you always have the needle nose pliers when they cannot be used.
A lower end but still quality set of channel locks can run you about $15 until you can afford something a little higher end. However I would urge you not to purchase Husky pliers, they seem to break when you attempt to pick up a pudding pack. Stanley may not be the best brand anymore but their channel locks will rip the legs off a bear.
5. Adjustable crescent wrenches are not necessarily fun but a 20 inch one does complete your art of manliness starter package. But lets dial it down for just a bit and look at a 12 inch adjustable crescent. They can fit in to almost any space your home provides (admittedly they can get a little tight in an engine compartment) and are up to the task of most home maintenance projects.
If you’re really in a jam you can always grab your channel locks and framing hammer and then rip the door out of its frame and you can just hang a blanket. Again it’s another item that falls into that $15 range.
6. This item could have easily gone higher on the list but a tape measure is invaluable. I like a Stanley Fat Max 25’ or 35’ but you don’t necessarily need that much of a hog to carry around. Fat Max is nice if you use it a lot because the wider tape makes it easier to span distances without support, I’ve had that bad Larry out to 14’ unsupported!
You can stick to the 25’ tape as this will suffice for home repairs but when you start doing framing and landscaping a 35’ is nicer. Buy a second one when the time comes right now you just want to handle repairs.
A Fat Max will run you about $30 but you can get a knock off 25’ tape for around $15 at your local hardware. The choice is yours and unlike Highlander their can be more then 1! One last thing to consider is the tape measures with the magnetic tip. They can be very handy when you’re working alone, so its worth a little extra.
7. Next you need a torpedo! Every guy reading this is salivating right now running to their spouse with their well thought out excuse to buy an underwater projectile that explodes on impact. Unfortunately We are talking about a level that you can use to plumb pictures.
These levels can be substituted for longer ones by strapping a straight edge to it. Though guys do not tend to care if the Wolverine mount in their man cave is level, or if it looks like you bolted it to the wall while you were drunk with a rabid ferret clawing at your genitals, your spouse will thank me for this one and your marriage will likely last at least another 6 months. It’s all about sacrifice…
Look for a level with a magnetic strip on one of the sides because when you actually start using it to do minor repairs and remodels the strip is invaluable. Plumbing a metal fence post will never be easier than with two of these with a magnet.
Now you may be tempted to buy the electronic calibrated level for $735 (I’m not joking this really exists) you can pick up a normal duty use level for $15 – $30 depending on the brand. Again though this is another great item to go with Stanley, I’ve had mine for over 10 years and I use it constantly.
8. Ok so I hate to even stick this one in there but it has to be said, because it blows my mind how many people do not own a flashlight. You’re home repair tool box should have a decent flashlight. $20 gets you an LED Maglight that is perfect for repairs, I love Surefires too but this isn’t weapons training 101, just get what you can afford and Maglights are a good bang for the buck.
The reasons for the flashlight should be fairly obvious; bottom line here is that you cannot do anything if you can’t see. Not to mention often when you are doing home repairs you have to shut off the electricity so you have no light from the inherent light source of the room. So when you pull out your straight razor in the morning and go to trim the neck line of your 2 and a half foot beard and the power goes out, you can immediately wash the razor and realize that shaving is second priority to to swinging a hammer for 8 hours in the dark!
9. Allen wrenches are unfortunately one of those things that seem to be on every mechanical piece in your home and there is truly no substitute. Everything from your furnace to your sink will have them and you need it to really get anything done. A quick tip if you haven’t yet purchased your allen wrenches and you desperately need them you can always pound the furnace cover like Thor with your hammer and rip the cover off with the channel locks. This again can be something to anger the
beast wife I recommend you spend the $14 for allen wrenches.
10. Lastly, A ladder though not fun or mannly they keep you from breaking both your legs instead of balancing a bucket on a chair on the hood of your wife’s Honda while your best friend moves it forward as you clean the debris out of the gutters.
This is the most expensive item on this list and brings up the price for the list as a whole. An articulating ladder is best if you’re only going to own one and can accomplish almost any home owner task unless have an extremely high roof. 17’ or 19’ articulating ladder is ideal for the home owner and allows you to the highest peaks of 90% of homes. If you do have an exceptionally high roof you can get a 25’ extension ladder and get your man card back from your neighbor who uses an articulating ladder.
The Little Giant is the gold standard for these types of ladders but they are overpriced and knock off brands can be had for less then half the price with the same material quality. You just have to lower your standard of aesthetically pleasing. Northern Tool often has them on sale for $125 delivered to your door, or a little cheaper in stores.