We’re asked pretty regularly for a list of our must-have tools and while we’re sure we’re forgetting something, here’s a rundown of our all-time favorites (most of which we store in the kitchen cabinet to the left of the stove- yes, we know we’re weird).
- Hammer and crowbar (no explanation required)
- Flat head screwdriver (for using with screws but also with a hammer as a makeshift chisel to pop off baseboards and trim)
- Tape measure (we have a huge beat up old Stanley one that we love)
- Phillips head screwdriver (another self-explanatory item)
- Plumber’s Putty, Liquid Nails and plumber’s tape (three major problem solvers that are always nice to have on hand)
- Box cutter, Exacto knife, straight razors (for everything from cutting vinyl tile to scraping paint off of a window or mirror)
- Channel lock pliers (we have a big one and a small one- they’re amazing for turning old rusted believed-to-be-unturnable nuts and bolts)
- Wrenches of all sizes (although we usually reach for the channel lock first since it’s such an all star)
- Needle nosed pliers (good for detail work and also handy since they have the wire cutting thing in the middle of the… uh, nose? mouth?)
- Level (because wonky is never a good look)
- Cordless drill (we have a little one for smaller jobs and a big manly battery operated one for the major stuff)
- Sandpaper (we like our electric sander but use regular old sandpaper and elbow grease far more- and we haven’t found sanding blocks that we like better than cheap sheets of sandpaper, so we stick to those… and save a few bucks while we’re at it).
- Caulk, a caulk gun, spackle and a putty knife (because it’s all about fixing those holes and cracks before painting- remember paint magnifies flaws instead of hiding them)
- Painter’s tape, high quality angled paint brushes (we love this one), paint trays, a roller extension rod, and high quality not-foam rollers (foam riles up paint and leaves you with more bubbles than the good quality wool and poly ones)
- An assortment of nails and screws (these are just things you should always have on stand-by so you don’t have to drive to Lowe’s or Home Depot fifty times per project thereby looking lame to the people at the cash register- we speak from experience here)
So there it is. A handy breakdown of our favorite tools. And since we know we’re forgetting something (or have yet to discover some life-changing tool) definitely let us know what you can’t live without when it comes to getting ‘er done.
I can not live without Mr.Smashy, my rusty crowbar. He was unearthed in our creepy shed and has been my right hand man ever since during our house demolition.
Amanda V says
Don’t forget a small and large set of handy dandy flashlights!!
Jenelle at This Lady Blogs says
A Sawz-all (reciprocating saw) is always handy.
Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog says
Thanks for the list- I need to stop borrowing friends’ tools and make my own drawer!
Robin R. says
My favorite tool is my all-in-one screwdriver. It has two Phillips heads, two flat heads and two nut drivers all built into one handle. So you just flip around the shaft and the driver heads as needed. Super handy and compact for those “I could really use a screwdriver” moments. We have several in different locations around the house. You just never know…
Liz @ It's Great To Be Home says
Love that you use the word “wonky” – it’s one of my all-time faves. I’m with you on the tape measurer – I even have a handy little one that I carry around in my purse. But the best trick if you’re caught without a tape measurer is to use a dollar bill – it’s just a little over 6 inches, so it’s not precise but it’ll do in a pinch!
heather s. says
I cannot live without my miter box or staple gun! I did a similar post last week!
- Sarah :-) says
I am a BIG fan of a good ole pair of heavy duty scissors. They can do wonders and also work as a light-weight hammer, when you’re too lazy to go diggin’ around for it! ;-)
Wouldn’t all of those in some sort of cool bucket wrapped up with butcher string make a great wedding gift or a house-warming gift??? You could pick all of them, or just a couple!
Totally! That’s a great idea. We also got a cute little moving basket from John’s sister on the day we came to Virginia with toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, scissors, and a pizza delivery flier. It was totally everything that we needed right away but had packed far out of reach without thinking. It was such an awesome little welcoming gift that made unpacking so much easier!
Jenny @ DIY Newlyweds says
We must be weird too, because that’s exactly where we keep our tools! Right next to the stove, in a kitchen drawer. It’s such a convenient place. Although my drawer is no where as neat as yours, I need to take some organizing notes from you so I can stop fumbling around every time I need a screwdriver ;-)
Allison Harris says
I couldn’t live without our 36″ metal ruler. It serves the same purpose as a yardstick but since it’s metal you can use it as a cutting edge as well.
Oh, and if you’re cutting with an x-acto or box cutter, be sure to have a self healing cutting mat.
We keep our smaller household tools in a kitchen drawer too!
I have the same ancient Stanley tape measure! It was my dad’s so I can’t bear to part with it. And I don’t think you’re weird at all- I have tools in the kitchen drawer next to the sink!
Libby from Houston says
Ditto on the metal ruler, miter box and staple gun. My fave screwdriver is a ratcheting all-in-one. I also use a stud-finder when hanging shelves and artwork …or looking for my husband ;D
Definitely need a level in there, unless you’re just amazing at eyeballing it.
Also, electrical tape is very handy.
Well, my husband has a growing collection of tools… which can get expensive, but it was much less expensive to get him a new tool to allow him build a new deck or install our crown molding! Our friends have also purchased him tools in exchange for labor in their house (building a dining room table for one friend). His workshop include table saw, mitor saw, planer, drill press, router, air compressor with guns, and too many hand tools to mention!
In a way, I can’t live without most of these because they allow my hubby to create some pretty awesome home improvements! I typically find myself using his cordless drill. I also love the laser level!
I hear you on the looking lame at the lowes check out. When my husband and I redid our closet: http://courtbaker.blogspot.com/2009/08/finished-closet.html
I had to go to Lowes a million times, but one time I had to go twice in an hour because, well, we made a bad cut on some crown molding. I promise the cashier looked at me and said, “Didn’t you just come through here.” Ah yea… yea I did. Next time I’m changing clothes.
My parents have always kept their tools in the drawer next to the stove, too! Popular place!
The organization in those drawers makes my type-a little heart go pitter pat! :) My most trusty tool is my tape measure – it is the one tool I think I use the most but can never find!
Alicia M says
WOW! Is your tool drawer really that organized?! Or did you clean it up for the picture? I’m a bit envious!
I guess I wouldn’t be too shocked if it was actually that way, as you guys are rock stars at organization!
Thanks for another handy tip :o)
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 just 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. Hope it helps!
I design landscapes and outside of houses for a living so a tape measure which fits in my pocket is a must. It was a wonderful day when I came across one which was longer than 3 feet. Yet shortly after my nephews came to see me at work and broke my Perfect Tape Measure! I hunt is back on.
Another vote for keeping tools in the kitchen! We keep our big toolboxes and collection of random nails/screws, etc. out in the garage, but the most-used items (hammer, screwdriver, pliers) live in the junk drawer. Sooo much more convenient.
My favorite tool is the 5 in 1 tool. We do a lot of painting and scraping and it makes the job so much easier.
I have recently become obsessed with your blog lol. I inherited an old family home with a lot of “features” so I relate to most of your posts all too well.
Love the list, but I was surprised not to see regular pliers on there. I never thought they were that useful but I constantly find myself wanting them, usually needlenose pliers can work in a pinch (no pun intended) but sometimes you just need that good old fashioned one.
Anyway, just my observation. Thanks for the great great blog!
POSTER PUTTY!!!! NO JOKE!!! We use poster putty alot at our house, to put behind the corner of a picture frame to hold it straight, under tapers/candles to keep them straight and from falling over. We use it to put scrap book paper in the back of cupboards for decor……the uses are endless. THE GREATEST PART is that it does not leave any residue on the wall or on your item. WE LOVE POSTER PUTTY. ;-)
Carol from Indian Springs says
No saw? We have a compound mitre saw that my husband gave me for Mother’s Day one year (from the kitties). But we also have some smaller, less deadly versions too. Over the years we have actually graduated to a ‘his’ box and a ‘her’ box of the small tools. I use mine in my hobbies and it is easier to have 2 sets than to keep using them and forgetting to put them back.
I’m another homeowner with selection of small tools (and nails, brads, etc) in the kitchen! Also in that drawer – strike on box matches, emergency candles, the flashlight.
I see somebody has mentioned crowbars and staple guns, both must haves in my tool kit. Also, I like ViseGrip pliers. And everybody needs a few clamps of various types. I have a strap clamp, several C clamps – lots of sizes, and a few little ones that look like clothespins on steroids.
We don’t have a bunch of fancy tools, but the most handy tool our level that has a ruler on the side. It makes hanging pictures super easy, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a lot of patience when hanging things.
Where did you get your rug for your kitchen? We have been looking for a nice neutral rug for our office.
Our rug is actually from The Company Store. Don’t know if they still sell it, but if not checking back from time to time is always good. It has come in and out if stock a few times. Hope it helps!
Have you tried Frog Tape? I’ve heard it is far superior to blue painter’s tape for making super sharp edges (like when painting lines) and that it is especially great for old houses (like mine) where peeling off the tape can often lead to peeling off some of the multiple layers of paint. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.
We haven’t tried Frog Tape yet but have heard great things! Hopefully someone will drop in with some experince!
Love my level; it’s like family.
I’m sorry this has nothing to do with this post, but I have a question for you. My husband and I recently purchased the CB2 pendant lamp that you guys have. It just came in the mail today and we saw that it has a plug and needs to be converted to be hardwired. Can you tell me how you hardwired yours?
I appreciate your help, thanks!
After talking to CB2 and an electrician, we just carefully cut the cord with scissors to expose the interior wires which could then be attached to a ceiling fixture box to hardwire it. Of course be sure not to cut the cord too short so you still have a nice hanging length. Hope it helps!
i know this is not on the subject, but i was randomly looking at home decor articles on msn.com & found a picture that is either your bedroom, or one made to look like yours…
just thought you*d like to know. imitation is a form of flattery!
That’s our bedroom as it was shot for The Nest magazine by David Land. They must have picked it up on MSN! Thanks so much for the link!
What a great idea keeping the tools inside the house. Ours are in the shed so little home imporvement tasks get put of because it’s sometimes too hard to go outside to the shed to get the tool. I think i need to move a few inside to live.
I loooooove level since I was a child. I mean how a tool can be cooler than level?!!
I wish our last builder had also liked it a little bit more cause our fridge looks really wonky. We had to put a piece of wood under one side. Oh how I hate builders!
This is the perfect time to ask: My 11 year-old daughter wants her own tools for Christmas. I couldn’t be prouder of that. Her dad died in January and she has figured out and organized his very messy and big tool chest/drawers, plus actually started using them on several renovation projects since then. And she just turned 11, too!
So I’d like to find tools that are fun to look at (NOT pink handles, but something cute) but that are decent quality, like good enough to take to her first home. And not break the bank while doing so. Any advice or Web sites?
Good question! We actually have no idea. We like Home Depot and Lowe’s but I’m sure there are some great local home improvement stores that you could drop in on too. Anyone have any ideas for Sheila? Hopefully someone will weigh in!
I once bought a miniature pry bar, I’m talking really tiny about six inches in length and about half an inch wide. My husband laughed so hard when he saw me take it out of the bag. I think his exact comment was “what can you possibly do with that?” well let me tell you, it opens paint cans, it prys off door trim and baseboard, pops nails out of walls etc. etc.. wouldn’t you know it 3 weeks later i am looking for my handy little tool and where should i find it? oh yeah, in my husbands tool box. he just shrugged his shoulders when i asked him “what could you possible do with that tiny little thing” LOL he is a flooring installer and has come to realize how handy my mini pry bar is for getting delicate moldings and trim work off without damaging it!
FYI got mine @ Home Depot for around $7
Jill Stigs says
Oh Sherry………….we are all just so jealous that you can keep your tool drawer looking so fabulous. Since I am a renter I cannot be without my white out. In a former old place I used it to help a gouge in a porcelin sink and now it serves as a touch up for a gouge in my counter. Also use poster putty for hanging things all the time.
My husband and I have matching leathermans. They are the boy scouts of the multi-use tool.
The Gardener's Eden says
This is a most EXCELLENT list. I was just working at a garden-design client’s home last week, and she needed a hand hanging her tool organizer in the garden shed. She didn’t own a cordless screw-gun/drill, and after discussion she went out and got herself a nice small model. Once I showed her how to change the various bits for drill and screw, she was off and running. I loved watching her go from feeling helpless to enthusiastic and capable. It was cool. I am in the middle of creating just such a list for gardeners. I started this week with basic weeding tools on my latest post, “The Zen of Weeding” http://www.thegardenerseden.com/?p=1473. It’s amazing to me how few homeowners own basic tools, including outdoor things like wheelbarrow, rake and shovel. Thanks for compiling this list. I will send the link to all the homeowners I visit… endlessly in search of a hammer :) -xo Michaela
I need to step up my game when it comes to organizing my tools. In addition to your must-haves, my favorites revolve around painting and furniture refinishing. I am a fellow DIY enthusiast who loves to turn trash into treasure. I wrote a similar post, “These Are a Few of My Favorite Tools”
back in July. Having the right tools on hand are definitely a must!
A few years back, I bought myself a husky tool kit. Pre-filled with everything that I’d need for the house including a handy dandy briefcase-sized organizer bag. Hubby has a ton of tools, but they aren’t organized. I can go to “MY” tools and get anything I need. Pliers, hammer, level, tape measure, 5-in-1 screwdriver, you name it. I keep it in the pantry and it has saved us on many a project.
Having just recently moved into a new house I have found that I always have my carpenter’s square and stud finder on hand. There is nothing more annoying than banging on a wall trying to find a stud, thinking you’ve found it, and then realizing that you have not when one smack with the hammer send the nail flying out the other side of the dry wall! (yes…I’ll admit it was me who did that!)
How can you live without Quake Hold? I think someone else called it Poster Putty, but out here in California we call it Quake Hold. MAN that stuff is FABULOUS.
Nicole at Making It Lovely said once that she could not live without her 5-in-1 tool, but I’ve never used one. My toolbox has pretty much the same stuff as yours. Oh, and I could not live without my ratcheting screwdriver either. So much easier on the wrist.
Can’t live without my trusty staple gun. It’s the one you push, not squeeze and my hubby gave it to me for Christmas a couple of years ago. I’m also in love with his chop saw, after using it to put down 5 rooms of laminate flooring all by myself! …But of course, that doesn’t fit into a kitchen drawer..
All very useful and important tools! We have our to the left of the stove in the kitchen too. How funny!
We have some essential tools in the drawer to the left of our stove too. I sense a trend here….
We’re loving that so many of you keep your tools in the kitchen. And we’re seriously enjoying all the other tools that you guys are taking the time to mention! What an awesome master list this has become. We definitely see a few that we neglected to mention in our roundup- and a few that we have yet to try! Fun…
s (& j)
In response to Sheila’s question about a tool kit for her daughter… My parents bought the one linked below for me when I went to college, and five years later I am still using it! I am about to move into my own house and can’t wait to put it to work there as well. Everything has stayed in great condition. Oh and the hammer is lightweight (only 7 ounces) but packs a punch. I know it’s unavailable on the Amazon link but a little bit of Googling should do the trick!
P.S. Love your blog! Can’t wait to put some of your ideas to work… and I’ll have a drawer to the left of the stove just begging for some tools! :)
Thanks so much for chiming in with that advice Becca! I’m sure Sheila will appreciate your recommendation and we love that you took the time to share what worked for you.
I know you mention you prefer good old fashioned sandpaper to an electric sander, but for those of us who would rather use a sander, is there one you recommend? I’m looking to refinish/paint some furniture…
We actually don’t have a specific brand that we prefer. Any “mouse sander” will do the trick! And they’re pretty affordable too. Hope it helps!
My husband and I bought a house last spring and really want to dig into the DIY-ing and get some projects done. Our problem is that we have almost no power tools with which to tackle many projects. We have a drill and a hack saw and small palm sander. We had to borrow my dad’s table saw and chop saw for one project already. So my question is this…we want to build our inventory of power tools necessary for DIY and home improvement. Do you have a post or list somewhere already made of your favorite/necessary tools for your projects? We want to invest in stuff we’ll use the most first. Thanks!
We have an old one if you search “tools holiday” it should hopefully come up. We need to do an updated one!