30 Basic Home Improvement Tools For Beginners

by Darwin Hall

puzzle house

If you are new to home improvement and repair, the first step in your journey at becoming a DIYer is assembling a cache of tools to get the job done.

You could easily buy a homeowner’s tool kit found at most hardware stores and home centers, but they oftentimes don’t come with many of the tools you will actually use.

These toolkits also have a lesser quality of the tools in them; usually cheap versions of the common ones.

For new do-it-yourselfers or a seasoned weekend warrior, these starter items should be included in your beginner’s toolbox.

1. A Utility Knife

utility knifeThis is first on the list because I consider a utility knife as one of the most versatile and important items to have on hand!  There are so many different versions available today.  Before you buy one, pick several up to test them.  It needs to feel comfortable in your hands.  There are small ones and larger ones.

Some come with a quick blade release and exchange.  Others are made like a flip blade, in which  you depress a small locking button to release the flip part.  The flip style should be used with caution because there is no protection in the event that you inadvertently close the blade and leave a finger in the line of the closing area.

2. Tape Measure

Tape MeasureChoose a tape measure that is easy to read with large numbers.  Consider the length you need:  It should be long enough — between 20 feet to 30 feet in length.

I wouldn’t consider the short versions of tape measures found in most homeowner’s toolboxes.  The metal tape used in them is simply too flimsy and not wide enough to extend adequately without bending.


3. Pencils

PencilsThe best kind of pencils to use are the basic, No. 2 pencils.  You may wish to use the fat construction pencils, but in my opinion, the lead constantly breaks when you use those.  Pick up a pack at a dollar store or local convience store.  You may wish to buy a sharpener, too.  Or, you can use your utility knife as a sharpener!


4. Multiple-size, multiple-bit screwdrivers

assorted screwdriversA good set of screwdrivers with different bits is essential to most projects.  Get different size lengths and thicknesses to handle the most difficult of areas you’re working on.




5. Tool belt

Tool BeltA good fitting toolbelt is needed to carry specific tools with you for the job, eliminating the need to go back and forth to the tool box to look for something.  Most come with adjustable waist belts.  Try to purchase the leather variety — it will last much longer than others that are available on the market.



6. Drill Bits

dewalt drill bitsJust like multiple bits on screwdrivers, you will need several different kinds of bits for your power drill.  Many kits come with additional quick-change connections.  Several include bits for socket tools.  Some even come with hole-drilling bits.  Just pick a well-known supplier when making a buying decision.


7. Compound Miter Saw

Compound Miter SawA compound miter saw is essential to making angled cuts in trim and moldings.  Most come with laser lights to guide your cuts.  If you want a professional look to all your projects, get one of these saws.  If the cost is prohibitive, you may wish to start off with a miter box jig and saw combo, with which to make manual cuts from.


 8. Level


Get a two foot level and a four footer to start out with.  Quality levels come with re-enforced sides and a measurement scale imprinted on them.  You can use the smaller 2 foot level to hang pictures and install top door jamb trim.  Use the four foot level for just about anything, like fence posts and rails.


 9. Caulk Gun

Caulk Gun

A standard sized caulk gun will suffice.  Buy one with an added penetration stem for caulk that has a plastic bag inside of it, and a cutting outlet, to cut the tip of the caulk tube.




10. Step Ladder

step ladder

Start with a 6 foot step ladder.  Use it to install light fixtures and ceiling fans.  Works great for painting projects and getting into an attic without attic stairs.  Choose light-weight aluminum for general purposes, and get a fiberglass ladder if you’re doing mostly electrical work.

Check the weight rating to make sure you buy the right kind.



 11. Safety Glasses

safety glasses

Protect your eyes from anything that could get into them.  Better safety glasses will incorporate thick plastic on the side arms, and have scratch-resistant lenses.  Many are fashionable, with added UV protection for the sun.



12. Palm Sander

palm sanderA palm sander is a small sander and is just as it’s name implies — it fits in the palm of your hand.  This little tool can sand in the tightest of places with it’s added attachments for even the most difficult spots to reach.  You’ll still have to purchase additional sanding sheets for your projects.


13. Knee Pads


A good set of kneepads will have plastic knee caps, in addition to adequate padding for those arduous flooring projects.  When you have several square feet of hardwood or tile flooring to install, these are a must!



14. Electrical Pliers

electrician's pliersYou need these to cut and twist wires for virtually all electrical projects.  I would get at least two different pairs of these — some have a needle nose in front which is great for twisting wires, while others have a divot that you set the wire into and turn.



 15. Speed Square

Speed SquareA speed square allows you to quickly mark cuts and angles on 2 by 4 stock.  You can also use it as a rail guide for your circular saw as you make the cut.




16. Circular Saw

Circular SawA staple of any carpenter and do-it-yourselfer.  Use different blades for different materials, from coarse to fine teeth.  If you have to choose one kind power saw, make it a circular saw.




17. Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating SawUsed for mostly demolition work, like removing walls, cutting pipes, slicing through just about any kind of nail or screw.  It can cut through wood or metal like butter.  Buy a quality tool; it will serve you many problem-free years.



18. Drywall T Square

drywall squareUsed to make fast cuts through drywall.  Set the square’s guide on one side of a sheet, then cut with your utility knife.  Finally, fold and give it a deliberate snap on the scored line and cut the paper backing.



19. Headlamp Kit

headlamp kitEnjoy a hands-free working environment with a headlamp kit.  Buy the brightest light you can find; many come with LEDs.

Headlamp kits have several setting on them to control the brightness.  Adjust the strap for a perfect fit. Used for sight while crawling under houses, plumbing repairs, basement projects, and electrical jobs.  Use anywhere a flashlight is needed.

20. Shop Vac

Shop Vacuum

Used for vacuuming up dry debris, as well as wet debris.  Swap out the filter for material-specific cleaning.  Use added attachments to extend reach areas.




21. General Purpose Work Light

WorklightBrighten a basement or attic, allowing you to work safely in the area.  Old-style work lights used halogen lights, which can be dangerous if left in direct contact with building materials.  Safer units are now available, which use no-heat LED lights.



22. Adjustable Wrenches

crescent wrenchGet several different sizes of these wrenches, sometimes called, “crescent wrenches”.  Used in most plumbing applications, or any application where you don’t want to damage the bolt you are turning with it.



23. Needle Nose Pliers

Needle-nose PliersNeedle nose pliers allows you to get into tight places and grab a nail head, nut or bolt.  They have a wire cutter attached to the inner jaw of the tool.




 24. Vise Grips

Vise Grip Locking PliersThis form of common pliers will lock it’s jaws in place, making a removal of stripped nuts and bolts easy to handle.  You can buy a needle-nosed version of vise grips as well as heavy duty versions made of hardened steel.  I’ve even used a locking plier to hold open a lawn mower chute!



25. Basin Wrench

Basin WrenchA basin wrench lets you reach under a sink and adjust lock nuts that hold a faucet into position.  It features a metal extension rod and a set of “jaws” which lock around a faucet bolt.




26. Pipe Wrench

Pipe WrenchUse a pipe wrench to remove galvanized water pipes and gas service pipes.  Large versions are used to remove drain cleanout plugs.  The length of the handle gives you just the right leverage to easy turn most things.



27. Calculator

builders calculatorThis item is a must to calculate dimensions for estimating construction materials.  Go a step further and purchase a builder’s calculator — which has common construction formulas and simplifies equations for getting to the right answer.



28. Ear Protection

Hearing Protection

Think about how loud construction tools can be — you must protect your hearing.  Choose from ear bud inserts or full outer ear coverage — it depends on the wearer and what feels comfortable.  For obvious reasons, ear muffs provide the best sound control.



29. Electrical Tester

Electrical TesterA tester is crucial in determining if electrical power is running through wires.  Choose from a two-prong pen type — which you either insert into an outlet or touch a light switch terminal, or a safer, touch-less tester.

You don’t have to worry about touching anything with a touch-less tester; the light on the unit change from green to red and beep when you are close to a live wire.


30.  Cordless Drill

Power DrillI don’t know anyone that does home improvement projects without a cordless drill.  With extended battery life on these units and a vast array of choices, spending money on a quality drill is a sound buying decision.




DIY tip:  You should also grab a few cheap plastic toolboxes, and label the outside of them for the specific projects that the tools in them carry.  An “electrical” labeled toolbox should house all of your electrical tools, a “plumbing” box should house your plumbing tools, so on and so forth.  Good luck!

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