20 Essential Tools for DIY Homeowners

If you’re a new homeowner, congratulations! You've embarked on an exciting journey of home improvement project—and some not-so-exciting home maintenance chores. Choosing the best tools for each job can be overwhelming. 

Whether starting your DIY adventures or looking to bolster your toolbox, here are 20 essential tools every homeowner should own. Plus, this might be a perfect time to add items to your holiday wish list or to shop for someone else!

The Basics

When you're a new homeowner, there are countless tools to choose from, but here are the ones you’ll likely reach for time and time again.

1. Hammers

Hammers are a cornerstone of any toolkit. You'll want to own two versions:

- A heavy-duty hammer is excellent for driving in nails and indispensable for removing them. A curved claw adds versatility for easier nail extraction.

- Also, a smaller, lightweight tack hammer is ideal for delicate projects such as hanging light wall art with tiny, headless trim nails.

2. Screwdrivers

Invest in a set of screwdrivers of different sizes and types, including flat head and Phillips head, to handle various screws. Magnetic tips can be a game-changer, preventing screws from dropping into hard-to-reach places. An ergonomic handle provides a comfortable grip for extended use, reducing hand fatigue during your projects.

3. Wrenches

Wrenches are handy for plumbing repairs, furniture assembly, and general household tasks—anything that involves tightening or loosening nuts, bolts, and other fasteners. Ideally, you’ll want a conventional set that includes various predetermined sizes, plus a large and small adjustable wrench. Note that fixed wrench sets come in standard and metric sizes.

4. Tape Measure

Tape measures are essential for measuring dimensions accurately. Opt for a flexible, durable, tape measure at least 25 feet long. Look for a tape measure with both metric and imperial measurements for added convenience, especially if you're tackling projects with international or custom specifications.

5. Metal Straight Edge

You may already have an inexpensive wood yardstick, but a metal (typically aluminum) straight edge is more durable and accurate. They’re convenient for double-checking measurements and drawing or scoring straight lines with a utility knife when hanging wallpaper.

6. Carpenter’s Square

Straight lines are essential, but sometimes must pinpoint a perfect right angle, too, using a type of carpenter’s square. For example, combination squares resemble a straight edge with an adjustable head that can be used to measure both 90- and 45-degree angles.  

7. Level

For DIY projects to achieve professional-looking results, they can’t be crooked! That’s where a level comes in handy. A two-foot-long level is suitable for most projects, but longer or shorter levels can be helpful, too. Levels can also double as a straight edge for drawing lines on walls or boards.

8. Pliers

Choose suitable pliers for the job; needle-nose pliers are excellent for delicate work, while slip-joint pliers are versatile for various tasks. Consider locking pliers for stubborn, hard-to-grip items and diagonal cutting pliers for snipping wires and nails.

9. Clamps

Clamps come in various types, including C-clamps, spring clamps, bar clamps, and pipe clamps. They are indispensable for holding items securely while cutting, gluing, or drilling. Quick-release clamps, with their one-handed operation, can help you work more efficiently. 

10. Pry Bar

If you're tackling demolition work, a pry bar will increase your leverage, making it easier to disassemble and lift heavy items. If you’re doing extensive demo work, choose a pry bar with a comfortable, non-slip grip to reduce hand fatigue during prolonged use.

11. Utility Knife

A utility knife with a retractable blade is perfect for cutting rope, cardboard, carpeting, and other materials. Look for models that offer convenient blade storage inside the handle. A locking blade feature enhances safety, ensuring the blade stays in place during use.

12. Putty Knife

Different sizes and blade angles make putty knives versatile. Use them for applying spackling compound, peeling off old paint, or removing old caulk. A putty knife with a comfortable, ergonomic handle allows for precise and controlled application of compounds.

13. Staple Gun

Handy for fastening thin materials like upholstery fabric to wood—such as reupholstering dining room chair cushions. Ensure the staple gun has adjustable depth settings to control how deeply staples are driven.

14. Ladder

Every homeowner needs a lightweight and secure step ladder for various tasks! Consider investing in a taller ladder, too, for projects like cleaning gutters. It’s easier to keep your tools and materials handy if you opt for a ladder with a platform or tray.

15. Safety Glasses

Accidents are never expected, but many DIY projects can produce small flying debris. Protect your eyes with safety glasses! For outdoor projects, you might prefer glasses that provide impact and UV protection.

Power It Up!

Moving on from hand tools, here are several essential power tools for your DIY projects.

16. Cordless Drill

A cordless drill is one of the most versatile tools you can own! It’s used with bits for drilling holes or screw head tips for setting and removing screws. Look for a drill with multiple speed settings and torque control, allowing you to handle various materials and tasks.

17. Laser Level

When precision is vital, a laser level ensures everything stays aligned straight up and down. It's perfect for mounting shelves or building a deck. Some laser levels have self-leveling features, which save you time and ensure accurate results even on uneven surfaces.

18. Circular Saw

A circular saw can handle many cuts, making it an excellent first power saw for homeowners. It's perfect for everything from simple crosscuts to more elaborate bevel cuts. Consider a circular saw with a laser guide for increased accuracy, especially if you're new to woodworking.

19. Heavy-Duty Extension Cord

For working in the garage or the yard with power equipment, a heavy-duty extension cord is necessary to ensure safe power delivery. Look for cords with built-in cord reels for easy storage and tangle prevention.

20. Portable Work Light

Some DIY projects require working in dark spaces. Ensure you can see what you're doing with a powerful, portable work light. Explore modern LED options and mounting possibilities, such as tripods, clamps, or magnets. Battery-powered work lights are convenient for remote locations or when you don't want to deal with cords.