Ask John: What Tools Do You Use Most? Any Favorites?

Q: Hello Youngsters. As I read about all the projects you tackle around your house, I find myself wondering whether you have a gigantic toolbox, or if in fact there are just a small handful of tools that you use on a regular basis. Do you have a few essentials you’d recommend to any DIYer? Are there any tools that you don’t have, but find yourself wishing for? Thanks!  -Chris

A: We’ll admit up front that we’re extremely weird about storing our go-to tools. We actually keep many of them in a few of our kitchen drawers. Betcha didn’t see that one coming. Even our installer thought we were crazy when I told him the cabinet base to the left of the stove would be solely devoted to screwdrivers, paint rollers, nails, anchors, sandpaper and other home improvement essentials. But it really works for us and everything is über organized thanks to four whole drawers of sorted-by-theme gadgets and gizmos.

I don’t know why I feel so ashamed to admit it, but our tool drawers really do look like that all the time. I guess I should be proud, but I feel a bit obsessive. It’s just that we’re always doing something around the house so it’s easier to grab things and get to work when we know where they are. Oh and just in case you’re wondering, here’s the per drawer breakdown:

  • The top drawer is full of  screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, pliers, a box cutter, a tape measure, and more.
  • The second drawer is where we keep nails, anchors, screws, hooks, and other hardware-ish items.
  • The third drawer is full of sandpaper, caulk, duct tape, plumber’s putty, wood glue, cable ties, putty knives, liquid nails, etc.
  • The bottom drawer (which is twice as deep) is where we store tons of painting supplies like brushes, rollers, paint trays, painter’s tape, and stir sticks.

We also previously wrote this post about our all-time favorite tools, but to summarize it we basically can’t live without: a hammer, a crowbar, a flat head screwdriver, a tape measure, a phillips head screwdriver, plumber’s putty, liquid nails, plumber’s tape, a box cutter, an exacto knife, straight razors, channel lock pliers, wrenches of all sizes, needle nosed pliers, a level, a cordless drill, sandpaper, caulk, a caulk gun, spackle, a putty knife, painter’s tape, high quality angled brushes, and an assortment of nails and screws (read way more on that subject right here).

Since then we’ve also tried some heavier artillery on for size (like a rented demolition hammer to rip up our old tile floor, a borrowed wet saw and miter saw from my dad for putting the bathroom back together, and a circular saw along with some pretty great hole cutting bits for our drill).

And I must admit that bigger tools really do make me feel infinitely more manly. In fact I’d be willing to bet that the amount of amps or volts that you have in your hand is directly proportional to your testosterone level, so it’s definitely worth renting, borrowing, or buying something along those lines to truly feel like a home improvement god (even just for a few hours before it’s due back to its rightful owner). And this empowerment perk carries over to the ladies too. Sherry never has a bigger smile on her face than when she’s using some heavy duty tool and telling that wood/tile/drywall who’s boss.

So along the “what tools don’t you have but wish for” vein,  I’d never turn down my own miter saw, wet saw, or demolition hammer although I realize that I’d probably have to store these bigger guys in our attic or out in the garage so there’s something nice and simple about renting or borrowing them when we need ’em instead. Oh and items like our sander, our two cordless screwdriver, and a few caulk guns are kept in hidden storage space above our washer and dryer (behind our bamboo blinds) so they’re still on hand but out of sight.

And everyone knows I love my Kreg Jig. That’s probably the one item that I would name my “tool of the year” since it has single-handedly helped me build shelves for the nursery, a two person desk for the office, and even a storage shelf that slides under the desk for organizing our files.

Speaking of specific products and brands, we’re sure there’s more than one way to get ‘er done but here are the companies, and some of the actual products, that we use in our house on a regular basis:

  • Stanley makes great screwdrivers, tape measures, crowbars, box cutters and mini sledgehammers
  • Craftsman makes great hammers
  • Black & Decker makes great cordless drills (we have this one)
  • Black & Decker also makes great sanders (we have this one)
  • Frog Tape is the best painter’s tape we’ve ever used
  • Sherwin William’s stores sell this awesome short handled brush that we love for painting trim
  • Purdy brushes and rollers (available at Home Depot & Lowe’s) are great for nearly every other painting project (we love a good 2″ angled brush for cutting in & painting furniture and a nice good quality roller for walls & ceilings).
  • Sears sells a set of wrenches that we’ve used for years
  • Grip Rite (available at Home Depot & Lowe’s) sells nice big boxes of screws, nails, anchors, etc
  • 3M makes a wide range of sandpaper (we like low grit versions, like 60-100, for deeper sandings and high grit alternatives, like 200-300, for smoothing things out for a finished look)
  • Dap caulk is our favorite brand (we get the white paintable “Premium Indoor/Outdoor Sealant” for most jobs and the “3.0 Advanced Kitchen and Bath Adhesive Caulk” also in white – which isn’t paintable but is ideal for caulking a tub, toilet, or sink).
  • We also love Dap CrackShot spackle (for filling nail holes and all that good stuff)

So there you have an in depth rundown of the tools we have, where we keep ’em, the ones that make me feel the manliest, and the brands and particular products that Sherry and I prefer (none of which paid or perk’d us for this mention, they’re just actually what we use here at Casa Petersik). As you can see we don’t have a bunch of expensive DeWalt things – which is a nice reminder that you can spiff up your house without owning a $500 saw (and we also definitely believe in renting and borrowing anything that you can to get the job done). Now go forth and build/paint/demo something!

But wait, first we’d love to hear more about your tool sitch. Do you have any life-changing tools that you’d like to share? Any other brands or products that have done you right? Dish that tool time dirt.

Psst- This post contains affiliate links


  1. says

    I can’t believe you can store all your tools in such a compact space! Our whole hall closet is crammed with tools and my husband has a huge (5ft tall by 8 feet wide) roll around tool box in the garage.

    I have a question that’s a little off topic… how do you keep the kitchen rug clean? We have a runner right in front of our stove and I vacuum it once a week but it still seems to get really dirty.

    • says

      It’s jute so it repels stains like a straw broom would. We just vacuum it once a week or so and spot scrub anything like oil or jam that spills with water (or leave an ice cube on it if we’re lazy). Over a year later it’s still in perfect condition!


  2. says

    I wish we had the space to store all of our tools. A fair part of our garage is taken up by a table saw, assorted nail and staple guns and other necessary tools. We are lucky that Ben can borrow some tools from work to do some things. I have my own little toolbox (a cute wooden one) with all of the essentials in our hall closet, though.

  3. says

    Thank you for this post. It’s so helpful to me. I recently started organizing one of the very few closets in our house and it’s been really tricky because it’s where we dump all of our tools. We have no organization system for the tools and I’ve been stumped as to how to organize them. But you’ve given me so great ideas. We have a rolling cart with three drawers that has always looked out of place in my son’s bedroom. I think I’m going to repurpose it to store all of the tools tucked away in the closet. Thank you!

  4. says

    Great post!

    My hubs and I love tools and there are a few things that have been absoltuely invaluable to us in doing home renos. We wrote about it awhile back here:

    I’d also love to add that a LASER LEVEL is such an awesome tool!!! We used it to paint stripes in our laundry room:

    …and hang just about any and every picture in our house. I love mine and use it all the time! They’re actually pretty reasonably priced and I’d recommend it for whenever you have to hang or paint something en masse – makes it much easier.

    I’d also add ELECTRIC DRILL to this list. It makes every job so much easier – wall anchors, hanging curtains, hanging pictures, unscrewing/screwing ANYthing…I love mine and can’t live with out!

    But then again, maybe I’m just a “tool”. LOL!


  5. Meredith V says

    Tape measures. We have them in the car, my purse, the kitchen, the basement… so pretty much everywhere. There is even one on my desk here at work! As we work on rehabbing our house you never know when you are going to find a great deal on furniture or materials.

  6. Renee says

    Great post! My husband and I are in the process now of organizing the garage with a workbench and much needed tool storage. It’s amazing you can fit all that in a few kitchen drawers!
    Random question for you, how do you store a half-used tube of caulk or liquid nails?

  7. Rebekah says

    Is this a repeat post? I seem to remember a “where we store our tools” post from some time ago. At least, I remember that photo of your tool drawer.

    • says

      Rebekah- We did a big post all about how we store nearly everything in our house so we threw open the drawers and snapped some photos. That’s probably what you’re thinking about!

      Renee- We actually picked up caps for a few bucks at Home Depot so they keep stuff fresh. Then we just tuck those tubes (with their caps) on the shelf above the washer and dryer. Hope it helps!


  8. says

    We own lots of power tools mostly because the rental fees started to cost as much as just buying the tool and we didn’t have DIY friends nearby. Now ppl borrow our stuff ;o)

    Compressor is probably one of the best tools we have – we have used it to install feet and feet of molding, and it’ll be used to install hardwood flooring in our current house (I dropped $200+ renting one from home depot in 2003 – never again).

    Circular saw is also extremely useful and good to have. We have used ours to create closet shelving, cut plywood for countertop bases, and trimming down interior doors.

    Oh and collapsible saw-horses!!!

  9. Emma says

    Growing up, my parents had this white dresser out in the front hallway that held the extra place mats and water bottles (with 4 active girls they needed a drawer for them!) but there were 2 drawers in this dresser reserved exactly for tools. one had the nails and tape and markers and the other had a smaller hammer, tape measure, wire cutters, needle nose pliers, regular pliers, wire, screw drivers (like 3 or 4) and a utility blade.

    Now that I own my own house and am doing massive renovating (new bathroom, turning gross finished attic into new bedroom, my dad rebuilt & turned my stairs etc. etc. etc.) I’ve got a whole table set up temporarily filled with tools and nails etc. Eventually, I do actually plan on converting one of my kitchen drawers into a tool drawer. But that’s the next room on the list! :)

    My fav tools are putty knife, utility blade, screw driver, some sort of pliers, screw gun and crow bar. With these and some screws, wires, tape or wood, you can do anything!

  10. says

    I’ve been really surprised at how many times we’ve used our Dremel since buying it. It was the perfect size to sand down little cracks in a cabinet we refinished and it was super easy to whip out when we needed to cut some plexiglass.

  11. Barbara says

    Please, please tell me you have ONE drawer or closet that is messy in your house!! I’m feeling very inadequate right now.

  12. says

    That must be really funny when you have people over and they want to cook, and look in your drawers! Actually..they probably are already aware of it…but it still must be amusing.

    Thanks for this post, especially the summary of your favorite brands/items, I am tackling a painting project soon, so I really needed this list.

  13. Carmen says

    I’ve always had a “tool drawer” in my kitchen. Saves lots of steps out to the garage! The most helpful tool I’ve ever owned is my rechargeable screwdriver which I just couldn’t live without!

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