Here it is, the much requested post about our favorite DIY tools for all of you folks who are asking Santa for something tool-ish this year (or trying to figure out what to buy a handy guy or gal in your life). None of the items in this list paid us or perked us for the mentions, they’re just actually the tools that we use and love on the regular. So without further ado, let’s chat about the things that help us get ‘er done….
We previously wrote this post about a few things that we pretty much can’t live without (any of which would make great gifts/stocking stuffers), so here’s a quick summary since we’d be remiss to leave them out:
- a hammer
- a crowbar
- a flat head screwdriver
- a phillips head screwdriver
- a tape measure
- plumber’s putty
- a hack saw
- a drywall saw
- liquid nails
- plumber’s tape
- a box cutter
- an exacto knife
- straight razors
- channel lock pliers (these are our DIY MVPS, they come in handy for all sorts of things, even stripped screws and rusted pipes)
- wrenches of all sizes
- needle nosed pliers
- a level
- a caulk gun
- a putty knife
- painter’s tape
- high quality rollers (they’re labeled for smooth or textured surfaces – so pick the right one for your walls)
- mini foam rollers (great for painting furniture and even cabinet doors)
- paint trays and drop cloths
- high quality angled brushes (here’s my favorite paint brush ever)
- an assortment of nails and screws
If you have any questions about the items mentioned above, you can read way more on those specific small-ish tools right here. And for a breakdown of the items in the photo above, there’s this post. And I’d say if you’re staring at the screen saying “I can’t ask for/buy all of that stuff!” a cute gift idea might be grouping things that go together for a common project, like:
- a level
- a hammer
- some picture nails and anchors and screws
- some spackle and a putty knife (for filling in any mistakes along the way)
Or you could toss together a cute painting kit with:
- painter’s tape
- paint trays
- a drop cloth (heck you could even wrap everything up in the drop cloth and tie it sweetly with twine)
But now let’s move on to the bigger guns – for anyone hoping to give (or receive) something with a little more power. Over the years we’ve tried some heavier artillery on for size…
… and let’s just say that power tools have a way of making us permasmile in that I-am-handy-hear-me-roar kinda way. So here are a few of our favorite staples (along with a quick bit about what we’ve used them for):
- a miter saw (nice for cutting crown molding and baseboard – but also for cutting pretty much any board less than 8″ wide – it makes quick, clean cuts, both angled or straight)
- a wet saw (awesome for doing backsplash or bathroom tile – and even cutting patio pavers)
- a table saw (great for tackling large boards or planks of wood – especially when you need long straight cuts)
- a reciprocating saw (nice for cutting out old dead bushes – it’s sort of like a mini chainsaw)
- a jigsaw (good for smaller, not perfectly straight cuts, like demo-ing out the built-in around our old fridge)
- an electric sander (awesome for refinishing furniture or smoothing any wood you’re using to build something from scratch)
- a cordless drill and drill bit set (for drilling holes or screwing nearly anything together)
- a Kreg Jig (for making pocket holes to create tight joints when doing any sort of wood working like building furniture or making shelves)
- a demolition hammer (for demo-ing out nasty old tile stuck in metal mesh and mortar like we did in our first house’s bathroom – we actually rented one at a home improvement store, which is a nice way to save money if you won’t use something very often – plus you don’t have to store it)
So any of those guys would make for a great gift. After all, a new bathroom/desk/wall o’ frames/kitchen/anything else you can make with those tools is right up there with any other “big” gift – at least according to DIY junkies like us. As for where we store everything, we have three large drawers in our kitchen full of small tools and paint supplies (currently sitting in our sunroom because we have yet to put the kitchen back together/reorganize) and we keep most of the big things (like the miter saw) in the basement.
Speaking of specific products and brands, we’re sure there’s more than one way to tick things off the ol’ to-do list, 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 Williams 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 painting project (we love a good 2″ angled brush for cutting in & painting furniture and a nice good quality roller for walls & ceilings)
- We have a Skilsaw table saw and a Skilsaw reciprocating saw
- We got our wet saw at The Tile Shop
- Our miter saw is made by Craftsman
- 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 sandpaper comes in a nice wide range (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 Fast ‘N Final Lightweight Spackle (for filling holes and all that good stuff – more on that here)
As you can see, we don’t have a bunch of expensive DeWalt things – which is a nice reminder that you can gussy 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). We don’t want this crazy exhaustive list to sound defeating, so remember that we started fixing up our first house five years ago with a hammer, a screwdriver, and a paint brush. Das it. So we don’t recommend trying to grab all of this stuff at once (ack, that would be crazytown). Just think about what projects you might have on your priority list and grab one or two things as you can afford them to make things easier as you go.
Anyway, I hope Santa (or someone else) brings you everything on your list this year! Assuming you were good. If not… well, maybe there are crafts you can do with coal? Oh and we’d love to hear more about your take on which tools get the most use at your house. Do you have any life-changing ones that you can’t live without? Are there certain brands or products that have been especially helpful?
Psst- Once again for the people in the back: no items/companies in this post paid or perked us for the mention, we just genuinely love these tools and wanted to share ’em with anyone in need of some holiday handy-ness. Oh and we announced this week’s giveaway winner. Click here to see if it’s you.
Update: You can check out all of our favorite holiday decor finds here – many of which are under $15!
I highly recommend the Ryobi line of tools at Home Depot. Their new lithium ion line lasts longer and charges faster, plus the non lithium ion batteries are interchangeable. You can even use Dewalt batteries with most Ryobi products.
An impact driver is awesome and I think anyone who uses a drill often would benefit from one and never look back!
Our family owns a contracting company and while Rigid, Makita and Milwaukee are our go to tools for job sites, we have had great luck with Ryobi for at home projects.
You’re the second person to love Ryobi! We’ll definitely have to give them a try!
I just wanted to say thank you… for all the time and thought you put into this post. :) This is such a helpful list and I’m having my husband print it out and circle what he wants/needs because he’s been wanting to start building a collection of tools, but I had no idea where to start.
You guys are awesome!
Aw, you’re welcome Melissa! Glad it’ll come in handy!
toni from says
I know this will sound kind of weird but did you know that it is called a cross-tip screw driver and not a phillips screwdriver? Phillips is a brand name. It is the same principal as facial tissue being called Kleenex. My uncle pointed this out to my once, although I admit, I frequently still get it wrong. Just thought I would mention it to you guys.
So funny! Never even knew that! I’m also guilty of calling tissues Kleenexes. Haha.
Great list! Thanks!
PS: I hope you meant “painting” and not “paining” furniture in your third section of text. “Paining” furniture sounds a bit creepy . . .
“mini foam rollers (great for paining furniture and even cabinet doors)”
Thanks Bethie! Got it fixed!
I just wanted to say that I love this blog! Me and my hubby just bought our first house, we haven’t even moved in yet and I’m already planning so many DIY projects! We are basically going to do the same thing yall are doing. Can’t wait! Thanks for the inspiration! :)
Susan DuBose says
You may have covered this and I’m sure you own one, Sherry & John, but one of our favorite DIY ‘tools’ is our Shop-Vac.
It’s one of those things that you don’t know you’ll use until you actually have one – and, from personal experience, it saves wear and tear on a fancy Miele vacuum! Also great for vacuuming out your car. Buy the strongest one you can and you won’t regret it.
Oh yeah! We do have one from my dad that we used a lot during the bathroom renovation, but admittedly haven’t relied on it much since. This is a good reminder to break it out again!
Emily McCord says
We have a Makita miter saw that I absolutely love. We found it on Craigslist for a great deal. There’s a lot of junk out there, but if you watch long enough you can get some great deals on like-new tools on Craigslist.
We also hung some beadboard and trim in our kitchen a couple of months ago and that was just the excuse we needed to buy an air compressor and brad nailer. Those things are awesome! I need to find more excuses to use it :)
My husband and are both engineers. He’s really handy and I want to become more handy, so tool purchases in our home don’t tend to wait for Christmas to come around. We kind of collect tools.
I’m sure you’ve already heard, but in case you haven’t – I just saw an article that the Nate Berkus show is ending its run.
Lindsey @ arkadian belle woods says
aww I love this list! Great ideas for the DIYer(s) in your life! I mean I have most if not all of these tools haha but I’d love to receive a gift like this if I were just getting my collection built!
Seriously Clara can’t get any cuter! Ok ok she can and she will but she’s just too freaking precious! :-)
Snob on a Budget says
What a great list! I’m putting it up on my link love this week.
Thanks! So glad it could come in handy!
Oh goodness… I have bought most of these things in the past few months! I got married 6 months ago and my husband and I moved into our first home right after our honey moon! We are not naturally handy, but we are learning! Our house was built in 1925 and is filled with charm, but also needs massive amounts of updates! Where did you all learn most of your DIY tricks? Were you both just born with it like Tim “the tool man” Taylor or did you learn from someone? We are slowly getting better, but we have failed several times along the way :). Can’t wait for your book to come out! It is definitely on my most wanted list!
Haha, we definitely do a lot of research and googling and just try to figure things out as we go! Here’s a post about that: https://www.younghouselove.com/2009/12/email-answer-diy-damage/
I received a little neon pink tool kit as a high school graduation present…well, let’s just say a number of years ago. (Longer ago than I care to remember!) Anyway, it came with the basics: hammer, flat head screwdriver, philips head screw driver, measuring tape, pliers, and some basic screws/brackets. Ever since every single one of my suitemates in Maupin (my first-year dorm, RIP) used it during move-in weekend, I have loved that set to pieces. Three different states and at least half a dozen moves later, it’s still kicking–neon pink handles and all!
Haha – I love it! I could use some neon pink tools around here…
Best place to find decorations that are affordable? I’m spending my first Christmas away from home here in DFW, and have roughly a $100.00 budget. I have nothing christmasy.
Hmm, Michael’s and Target have some great deals (some ornaments at Target are 4/$1 and some sets of 6-8 are 50% off at Michaels). Hope it helps!
oh… such a cute Clara, I can see she’s also a natural born DIYer!..
you guys are so awesome for laying out all those handy dandy tools and things for us to see! it’s more work than people realize but i’m sure a ton of us appreciate it! thank you.
Aw, so glad to be of help Jen!
Nikki Grove says
This has Christmas gift for you guys written all over it!
This post is just what I needed! We just moved to Henrico from NC and have lots of work to do. Thank you thank you!
Amy @ Lovely Nest says
we have a level/ruler (in one) that makes picture hanging super easy. It makes hanging multiple frames super easy since you can measure distance and make sure it’s level at the same time!
We are just getting ready to buy our first home–a foreclosure that needs a LOT of work–and I already
know your website is going to be a God-send (especially because we know nothing. nothing at all.)
This list was a great help for thinking of stocking-stuffers for my husband, as well as a few more gift ideas for us!
Thanks and keep up the great posts!
Aw, so glad! Good luck with everything!
Seems i might be the only one but i have tried for over an hour to get onto site. Its times out and now that i am on it, its completely different format with no header or anything. Anyone else experiencing this?
Sorry for the site issues everyone! We’ve been furiously working on things since our blog crashed three hours ago. Ack! Thanks for bearing with us as we attempt to restore everything!
Your tree looks great!
Do you remember where the Dandelion print is from in your bedroom – next to the paint chip DIY project..?? thanks!
That’s from Ikea a while back. Hope it helps!
Thanks so much for this! We just moved into our first house a few weeks ago. My husband wants to build a dining room table for us so I used your hand tool guide to figure out a gift for him. Table saw! So manly :)
This is kind of stupid and I hate that I’m interfering in your parenting but I just wanted to let you know in case you hadn’t thought about it. Tape measures are really sharp on the side. When I was about three I nearly cut off my finger playing with one by stretching it out all the way putting my finger on the side and letting go. Feel free to not actually post this.
Oh no worries at all! We mentioned in an earlier post where we originally shared this video that it’s a slow release one. So it doesn’t snap back! Thanks for the concern though – you know we’re all about safety!
I’m a little late, but I’ve read your post and comments and still have a question about saws. My husband and I are fairly new to the DIY work, but are working on small projects so far – ottomans and headboards, etc. We’re looking to get a little more adventurous, and have some Christmas $$ to spend on some tools. I was thinking some sort of saw (we only have a Dremmel so far), but not sure where to start. Circular saw? Reciprocating? Worm saw? (These are all still a little foreign to me!) We are thinking mostly small boards/cuts… home depot does a good job cutting our plywood! Would you have any recommendation for around $200? Thanks – love your site!
Ooh miter saw all the way! We use ours to cut boards straight across and on an angle for molding and stuff! It’s very versatile and makes nice clean cuts!
[email protected] says
My husband and I were at Lowe’s yesterday, and we saw they were selling the Kreg Jig. He picks it up to look at it, because he’s eager to start woodworking and thought it might be helpful. As he’s looking at it, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is “BUY IT! IT’S PETERSIK APPROVED!”
You are now officially a household name!
And we officially own a Kreg Jig!
I’ve been searching, and was wondering if you have a list of tools/must haves for the yard?
I don’t think we’ve done one of those yet! Fun idea! In the meantime, our abbreviated list is: hedge clippers, 3″ branch cutter, extended arm branch cutter, lawn mower, weed cutter, and leaf blower (we have a plug in one), and some shovels/rakes. Hope it helps!
I know this is an old post, but am wondering if we could get an update to it soon with more specifics on which of the tools you own in each category?
Also as a very loyal YHL reader, I’d love to see more of them in your amazon store if possible so you guys can get commission and credit for the sales when I buy the tools. Can’t think of the last time I bought a tool without first checking your site for recommendations. (ps: I love the Craftsman nail gun!)
That’s actually a really good idea! We could update our amazon store with all the things we like and use (nothing we’re meh about) and then share the link for you guys! Will share that with John when he gets home!
I am sure youmentioned it before in another post but what exactly is the brand of laser level that you have? I am trying to find one that is inexpensive but works well. Also does your laser level stick to the wall by itself or do you need to buy sticky strips? Thanks!!
I think ours is Black & Decker and it’s from Target. Don’t know the model name, but it has a small pin that holds it to the wall. Hope it helps!