10 Essential Tools for Your DIY Toolkit (Plus One Bonus Item)

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Every home needs a basic toolkit to do simple jobs around the house (or flat). Think of all the DIY tasks a homeowner has to do such as painting and decorating, measuring windows for curtains or blinds, hanging pictures, putting up shelves, assembling flat-pack furniture and fixing your kid’s bike.

Without a basic toolkit, all of these things and more would be impossible. So, what DIY tools do you need for a basic toolkit? And what kind of tools do you need if you want to undertake more complicated projects? Let’s start with the basics.

1) Screwdriver

One of the first tools most new homeowners buy is a screwdriver. You need them for so many things these days it’s essential you have some at home. A general all-purpose 3 or 5 piece set is the perfect starting point, but you can also buy specialist sets for working on laptops, smartphones and other electronic equipment.

You don’t need to spend a lot on a set of screwdrivers, but if you plan on using them every weekend, it’s worth spending more than the average person. Think about storage too. Some screwdriver sets come with a plastic carry case or rack, while others come in throwaway packaging.

Screwdrivers are essential for every DIY toolbox. They’re used for tightening and loosening screws, obviously. And as screws are used in so many DIY projects and products we buy from markets, shops and online, you’ll need a variety of sizes.

There are two main types of screwdriver, and each of these types has a variety of names.

The most common type is the flat-head screwdriver. It’s used the world over for tightening and loosening screws with a straight notch across the head.

The other popular type of screwdriver is Philips or crosshead. This one’s used for tightening and loosening screws with a cross-shaped notch on the head.

Ideally, you’ll have screwdrivers for both types of screw to fit heads of different sizes. You might also want to think about buying screwdrivers with shanks (the part between the handle and blade) of different lengths.

You can buy packs of flat-head or crosshead screwdrivers, but if you’re buying your first set, buy a mixed pack.

2) Hammer

The average DIYer needs only two or three different types of hammer in their toolkit to do most jobs around the house and garden. But that doesn’t mean there are only two or three different types of hammer on the market. In fact, there are plenty of specialist hammers around that most people never use.

For the sake of this article, let’s forget about specialist hammers and instead focus on the types of hammer you’re likely to use when doing DIY jobs around the home.

Claw hammer

The claw hammer is the most popular hammer for DIYers. It’s a versatile tool that’s typically available in three different weights – 80z, 16oz and 20z. This weight refers to the weight of the head, not the entire tool. 

The head of a claw hammer performs two jobs – the flat face knocks-in nails and the claw pulls them out. You can also use heavier claw hammers for light demolition work such as breaking up old furniture.

If you only have one hammer in your toolbox, make it a claw hammer.

Lump (or club) hammer

The lump (aka club) hammer is much heavier than a claw hammer. They’re typically used for hitting chisels to break up hard materials like concrete, brickwork and other types of masonry. They usually have short, stubby handles.

Weightwise, you’re looking at around the 2-3 pound mark for most tools but you can buy heavier ones.

Cross pein pin hammer

The cross pein pin hammer is typically used for woodworking. Think knocking-in lightweight fixings such as clips, tacks and panel pins. The head performs two functions. You start with the thin end of the cross pein hammer until you have enough purchase, then finish the job with the wider opposite face. The design and this process protect you from hurting your fingers.

Ball pein hammer

Ball pein hammers have a different shaped head again and are typically used for metalwork. One side of the head has the traditional flat face and on the other side of the head, there’s a rounded striking surface for manipulating metal.

The head is typically made from hard steel, while the handles are traditionally made from wood. But you can buy models made completely from fibreglass.

Ball pein hammers are available in a range of weights including 4oz, 8oz, 32oz and 48oz.

3) Retractable tape measure

Basic retractable tape measures cost less than a fiver and even heavy-duty ones don’t cost much more. If you’re in the process of improving your home you’ll need one of these for all sorts of tasks – measuring room dimensions for carpets, wallpaper or paint, planning which furniture to buy and measuring windows for new blinds or curtains.

If you’re into making things you already know the value of a retractable tape measure!

4) Adjustable wrench

If you don’t have a set of spanners, an adjustable wrench is the next best option. They’re used for tightening and loosening bolts, which are used in conjunction with nuts to hold stuff together when a screw or nail won’t do the job.

Typical examples include when working with metal such as attaching or removing bike wheels from a frame, putting together metal shelf racks or working on a car engine.

An adjustable wrench has a movable jaw section which is altered to fit the size of the bolt you want to work on. Once the jaw’s at the right size, you can tighten or loosen the bolt.

Cheap adjustable wrenches can be a little tricky to work with as the jaw grip can loosen and make the job harder. For this reason, it’s worth spending a fair amount on a strong tool with a good handle. Alternatively, buy a set of spanners.

5) Utility or Stanley knife

The main feature of a typical utility knife is the retractable blade. This lets you carry the knife around with you and safely store it away without fear of cutting yourself on the sharp blade. The original manufacturer of this type of knife was the company Stanley, hence why people often call this tool a Stanley knife.

Back in the day, the original Stanley knife was a simple tool made from metal with a sliding switch-like mechanism on top for retracting or using the blade. These days, you can still buy utility knives that follow the classic design, but you can also buy them with plastic and folding bodies.

A new utility knife will come packaged with at least one blade, and you can buy replacements when the original(s) have worn out.

6) Pliers

Pliers are gripping tools that help you bend, twist, straighten and pull things that you can’t bend, twist, straighten or pull with your fingers. A pair of pliers has a metal gripping end and metal handles covered with rubber.

They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. With the two most common being long-nose pliers and combination pliers. Ideally, you’ll have one of each type in your basic DIY toolkit.

7) Torch

It might be tempting to use your phone as a torch, but there’s always the chance you might drop and break it. For this reason, it’s worth investing in a torch so you don’t have to take the risk next time you’re working in a dark closet or trying to find something in a dimly lit shed or garage.

Something small with a powerful beam is all you need for a basic home toolkit. Torches running on LED bulbs tend to have a longer battery life than the rest.

LED hand torches come in a range of shapes and sizes and are kind of essential for your DIY toolkit. You may or may not use a torch very often, but it’s always good to have one to hand, especially if you have a power cut and your phone has no charge.

When it comes to choosing a torch, there are a few things worth considering.

The lumens rating

The brightness of an LED torch is measured in lumens. So when you’re looking at specs, torches with a high lumens number provide a brighter light than torches with a low lumens number.

Typically, lumens ratings range from anywhere between 12 and 1500 so you have plenty of options to choose from. If you shop around, you can find torches higher than 1500 lumens but for doing DIY jobs around the home, you shouldn’t need one that bright.

Battery-powered or USB rechargeable?

While many modern torches are powered in the traditional way – by AA, AAA or other types of battery – there’s an increasing number of USB rechargeable torches on the market.

8) Spirit level

Spirit levels help you check that a surface is perfectly horizontal or perfectly vertical. They come in a range of lengths to suit every task. You can get short ones for checking the level on the pictures and paintings you’re hanging or longer ones to check the level on a new patio or timber structu

9) Screws, nails and other hardware

Most people buy screws, nails and other hardware as they need them. The problem is, you can’t pop into your nearest DIY store and buy screws or nails in anything other than multipacks. So, you might only need a couple of nails for a job, which means there’ll be plenty left over for another time.

It’d be stupid to throw these things away so store them for future use. Same goes for screws and anything else you might buy for a project or that comes with something you’ve bought (nuts, bolts, allen keys, rawlplugs etc). Keep them all safe and well-organised and you’ll save money and time in the long run.

10) Safety goggles

I know you’re going to look a bit daft wearing a whopping pair of safety goggles when you’re doing DIY. But, better that than being blinded by a stray piece of tile when you’re removing wall tiles, eh?

Bonus: Toolbox

Storing your tools in a particular location helps protect them from damage and helps you quickly find what you’re looking for. If you store your tools in the garage and need to do some work in your house, you can pick up the toolbox knowing you have everything you need with you. There’s no need to keep running backwards and forwards for each bit of kit.

Look for a toolbox with a top lid divided into smaller compartments and a larger storage area underneath for some of the gear listed above.

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