As a professional handyman and the creator of the YouTube channel Renaissance Man (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9oLa1RQperlpDw9-RHEhZA?view_as=subscriber0 )
I have a list of tools that get me through 95% of home tasks. These tools will get the handy person through most repair tasks. The last two tools on the list are the two power tools that I most often grab for small projects.
There is nothing worse than being at a friend’s house and discovering that you have clogged up their toilet. How embarrassing and what will you do. Look for a “how to” video on my YouTube channel for tips and tricks. Now, do not be the person that leaves your friend or guest in a bind, make sure you have a plunger to clear those pesky clogs. The plunger is one of my least used tool but likely the most important to have on hand when needed.
There are two different types of plungers available, a sink plunger and a toilet plunger. I rarely use a sink plunger, as there are much easier and better ways to clear a sink drain. In a pinch my go to tool to clear a clogged toilet is the toilet bowl brush.
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with good lighting. Honestly, I mostly use a headlamp when I need additional lighting for a project. Historically, I was sold on the “MagLight” for its durability and function. The advent of LED technology has opened a plethora of options. When shopping for lighting tools purchase the one with the highest lumen rating possible.
The variety of screw styles has changed over the years. In the past one only needed a flat blade screwdriver. Today having a flat head and Philips is critical. You may also need to have a star drive for some more advanced projects. It is now possible to get a driver handle with a variety of bits to fit different screw styles. To complicate the selection of screwdriver choices, each drive style flat blade, phillips, star, square, etc. each come in different sizes. This makes a good driver handle with bits a convenient choice for most.
There are many different types of pliers to suit a variety of tasks. The ones I most commonly use are the slip joint plier, the tongue and groove plier, the needle nose plier, and the locking plier. Locking pliers come in both standard jaw and needle nose jaw styles.
Adjustable wrenches are a suitable but not perfect substitute for a set of combination wrenches. One must be careful not to round off the bolt or nut by ensuring the jaws are properly adjusted. For most home tasks an adjustable wrench or two are all that are needed.
A tape measure is a must have for many projects from hanging pictures to moving furniture. Tape measures come in lengths from six foot to 100 foot. For most home needs a 25 ft tape measure is all that is needed. The most important feature of any tape measure is the “stand out,” that is how far can the tape be extended without support before it bends. The farther the better, as this will assist in measuring from the middle of a wall to the corner.
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own. A hammer should be well balanced and heavy enough to make light work of driving nails but not so heavy as to be cumbersome to swing. Hammers come in many different styles, sledge, claw, ball peen, dead blow, and soft head to name a few, and sizes or weights. A good quality 16-ounce claw hammer is all that the average homeowner will need. I prefer a straight jaw but either a curved or straight jaw will serve most well.
Levels are used to easily determine if something level or plumb (vertical). There are several types of levels the most common are the line, ost, torpedo and beam level. The torpedo and beam are the two I would have in my home tool kit. A beam level comes in lengths from two feet to six feet long, a two-foot level will serve almost all home needs. A level in indispensable when hanging pictures, installing shelving, installing curtain rods, and installing TV wall mounts. When using a level ensure that the bubble is in the exact center of the lines for a plumb or level reading.
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires. They can also be used to cut small nails or to grip a nail and pull it out. Like other types of tools there are many different styles of wire cutting pliers. The two most common for the average homeowner are the side cutting and end cutting plier. Most needle nose pliers have a wire cutter at the base of the jaws and many slip joint pliers can be used to cut wires at the case of the jaws in a pinch.
Side cutting plier https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stanley-6-in-Diagonal-Pliers-84-105/100079613
End Cutting Plier https://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-7-in-End-Nipper-48060/203287749
Every expert will recommend that you wear safety glasses or googles and a respirator when performing any maintenance task. Having been to the eye doctor to have foreign objects removed from my eyes I can personally attest to the import of wearing protective eye wear when working on projects. Safety glasses can be clear or tinted and can come with prescription lenses. If you wear corrective glasses, they may be sufficient but check to make sure they are impact resistant and offer side protection. Most corrective glasses are not adequate protective eyewear. They are only an issue in the heat of summer when they suffer from condensation or sweat. Breathing protection is a good habit to develop to prevent lung exposure to harmful chemicals. I can assure all that you will not find any joy in blowing gunk out of your nose following a project. The appropriate breathing protection to use will depend upon the project. For simple dust creating projects a simple dust mask will do the job. I prefer a dust mask with a valve for comfort. A full-blown chemical respirator with the appropriate cartridges that has been properly fitted will be required for aerosol painting or projects involving volatile chemicals or mold exposure.
I recommend keeping two types of tape on hand for your home projects. The one I turn to most often is a painter’s tape. This tape is not just for taping around trim when painting. It offers a secure hold without leaving a sticky residue. Place a piece on a wall that you need to mark on to hang a picture and when you are done the marks disappear when you remove the tape. Use it to tape a cut line or drill spot on a piece of wood to prevent splintering. Use it to temporarily hold parts together as a third hand. I frequently use it to tape hardware and screws to items to prevent their loss.
Duct tape is the other type of tape to keep on hand, but it is the type I use the least often. Duct tape offers a secure hold but will leave a sticky residue, so be careful where you use to avoid difficult clean up.
The impact driver is by far the first tool I pick up when I need to drill a hole or drive a screw. They accept ¼” bits that lock into place. These bits come in every screw drive type and in multiple lengths. You can get drill bits in a variety of sizes and styles for almost any task you can dream up. I personally use a Dewalt 20v platform. Honestly, that is because I purchased Dewalt twenty years ago and once you by a battery platform it is difficult to switch. Milwaukee has an incredible line of professional quality tools. The other major brands have great tools for the professional. These are more the what the average homeowner needs. Ryobi offers a great line of hobbyist level tools. My brother owns many Ryobi tools and the can almost keep up with my Dewalt tools. It you want a mid-range tool for quality and price then I would look at the big box store brands, Rigid at Home Depot and Kobalt at Lowes. A side note on batteries for these tools. The higher the amp hour rating on the battery the heavier the battery and the longer it will last between charges. I only use 4.0-amp hour batteries because of the run time they offer. I can drive screws for several hours between charges. For the average homeowner a 2.0-amp hour battery will last weeks before needing a charge. When searching for the right brand you will be faced with the option of buying a combo kit that includes a drill and impact driver. To be honest, I mostly use my drill to stir things or when I need to drill a hole that is larger the 1.5 inches. The only reason I use my drill for these tasks is that the stirring tools and large drill bits only fit in the drill.
The oscillating tool is one of the greatest tools released in years. You can get wood and metal cutting blades as well as scraping blades, grout saws and detail sanding pads. With all the available attachments this is truly a must have tool. I own a corded Rockwell Sonicrafter X2 which has been replaced with the F80. I will eventually purchase a cordless version of this tool.
A final note on this list and the specific tools I mentioned. I am not getting paid for these endorsements and have listed the tools that I would purchase as a homeowner not always the ones that I use. I listed many of the tools from Home Depot only because that is the site that I chose first. For every tool sourced from Home Depot, Lowe’s has an equal quality too. Lowe’s is possibly out pacing Home Depot in the hand tool market with their addition of the Craftsman brand. If Lowe’s is maintaining the quality and warranty of the original Craftsman brand, then you cannot beat the value of purchasing Craftsman tools.
I hope this helps and will gladly answer any questions you have about tools.