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Home Toolkit Essentials

September 30 2009

A home toolkit is handy for basic home maintenance and repairs. The components you need will depend on your skill and comfort level with tools and the types of tasks you will perform. Most hardware stores sell prepackaged toolkits for $30 to $50. A one-stop kit can be a useful purchase if you are building a tool collection from scratch. However, if you already have some tools, assembling your own kit can also be a cost-effective option.

This article covers four levels of tools, each tailored to a range of household needs and skills. Your home toolkit will grow as your requirements change. When using any tools, always remember that proper safety is extremely important. Your toolkit should also include protective goggles, gloves and heavy-duty knee pads.

Basic Essential Tools

All toolkits should contain certain essential items. These will assist you with simple tasks, such as hanging artwork and mirrors, installing a smoke detector, removing nails and tightening loose hinges.

  • Crescent wrench – designed to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts of all sizes with its movable jaw
  • Flashlight
  • Hand saw – suitable for basic cutting wood
  • Level – extremely useful for ensuring that mirrors and shelves hang straight
  • Measuring tape
  • Mini hammer
  • Multi-bit screwdriver – an excellent space saver since it will fit a variety of screw types
  • Needle-nose pliers – designed for gripping and straightening
  • Utility knife with a retractable blade – choose a snap-off blade that can be removed once the edge has dulled
  • Wire cutters – useful for trimming wire ends
  • Extension cord

Intermediate Tools

These tools will help you with more advanced tasks, such as assembling indoor or outdoor furniture, installing appliances and removing carpets. You can also use intermediate tools to repair light fixtures and leaky faucets.

  • Caulking gun – ideal for sealing windows, bathtubs, sinks and floorboards
  • Electrical wire stripping pliers – ideal for stripping wires when installing or repairing light fixtures
  • Flat-head (slotted) screwdriver
  • Hack saw – designed to cut metal (chains, nails, etc.)
  • Hex or Allen keys – useful for assembling furniture and repairing bathroom fixtures
  • Rubber mallet
  • Square-head (Robertson) screwdriver
  • Standard hammer (15–20 oz.)
  • Star-head (Phillips) screwdriver
  • Vice grips – designed to ensure a sturdy reliable grip

Specialized Tools

Once you have a collection of basic and intermediate tools, you may wish to purchase tools for more complex tasks. These include demolition work, drywall and plaster repair, tile installation and minor electrical repairs. However, before purchasing specialized tools, carefully consider whether you will feel comfortable using them. If in doubt, consider hiring a professional tradesperson, or enrolling in a trades course at a local college to strengthen your skills and safety awareness.

  • Crowbar/prybar
  • Drywalling trowel – designed for drywall application
  • Grouting trowel – designed for grout application
  • Metal snips – designed specifically to cut sheets of metal and duct materials
  • Putty knife
  • Sledge or demolition hammer
  • Slotted tile trowel – designed for cement application
  • Tile cutter

Power Tools

For larger projects, such as installing kitchen cabinets or building a deck, you may need to use power tools. These tools will also help you work faster and more precisely than with manual tools. The following power tools will add extra functionality to your home toolkit:

  • Air compressor – can be used in combination with a nail gun, a paint gun, an air hammer or an air ratchet, or on its own to inflate tires and sports balls
  • Chop saw – ideal for cutting wood to specific lengths
  • Circular saw – designed to cut wood with speed and precision
  • Corded or cordless drill with drill bits – handy for attaching shelves to a wall, or for tasks that require more power and precision than a screwdriver
  • Jigsaw – useful for cutting into small areas and creating curves and angles; appropriate blades can be installed to cut wood, plastic and metal
  • Table saw – ideal for cutting wood to specific widths