If youíre just venturing into the do-it-yourself world, thereís no need to spend hundreds of dollars on tools of all kinds. Sure - if you take on more complex or specialized home improvement or repair endeavors down the road, youíll likely need (and want) to expand your collection. However, most DIY home projects can be mastered using only the toolbox basics listed below.
A claw hammer (almost certainly what youíre thinking of at this moment) is the best choice. These vary in length, weight, and general feel, so try out a few and choose one that feels comfortable, as this will become one of your most frequently-used items.
Buying a screwdriver set is an easy way to ensure that you end up with a few different sizes of both flat head (slotted) and Phillips head (those with a cross-shaped tip) varieties. A mid-sized collection of 6-8 should be more than adequate.
Cordless Power Drill
Although not an absolute necessity, if you plan on doing more than the occasional project, a drill can be a very convenient time-saver. Keep in mind that the more powerful a drill is, the heavier it is, and for basic do-it-yourself projects a 12-volt drill is a great choice. Although most drills come with at least a few drill bits (differently-sized and shaped tips), itís a good idea to buy a small set on the side. And while you might be tempted to go with a slightly-cheaper corded version, in my opinion itís worth spending a few bucks more for the convenience of not having to deal with looking for outlets and positioning cords so theyíre not in your way.
Wrench & Pliers
Every basic tool kit should include an adjustable wrench (aka crescent wrench), which tightens and loosens bolts of various sizes, and a pair of slip-joint pliers, which are useful in all sorts of basic repairs and small projects.
Tape Measure & Level
You can get a standard level, which uses air bubbles within 3 small vials of liquid, for around $10, or spend more on a laser level that projects a small beam of light in a perfectly straight line along the wall. A 12í tape measure should be sufficient.
Also known as a box cutter or razor knife, this handy tool consists of a razor blade that slides out of a metal casing, and cuts a wide variety of materials including cardboard, carpet, drywall, and linoleum.
Assorted Screws, Nails, Nuts, Bolts, Washers, Hooks, etc.
Keeping an assortment of fasteners on hand will minimize mid-project runs to the hardware store. To start, pick up a variety pack that includes those of various sizes and styles. Eventually youíll be able to stock up on the types you use most often.
Tapes & Adhesives
There are numerous tapes and adhesives available, but itís not necessary to fill your box with rolls and bottles galore. Start with a multi-use tape (such as duct tape or packaging tape) and a bottle of all-purpose adhesive, and buy the others when the need arises.
At the very least, youíll need safety glasses or goggles. Consider getting a pair of work gloves with grips, and if youíll be painting often, a respirator designed for paint projects is a must.
Toolbox (or bag, case, bin, basket, etc.)
A trip to any home improvement store will reveal boxes made of all sorts of materials and of a wide variety of sizes. Choose one thatís slightly bigger than what you think youíll need, and look for features such as a durable finish, strong latch, comfortable carrying handle, and deep bottom. If traditional toolboxes donít appeal to you, thereís no requirement that you store your tools in a container that was designed for this purpose! If itís unlikely that youíll venture far with your gear, something as simple as a big plastic bin or large canvas tote could do the job. Starting with an all-purpose inexpensive option like this will allow you to upgrade later once you have a better idea of your needs and preferences.
While that first trip to the tool department may be daunting, becoming familiar with these common household tools is a great way to increase your comfort-level and confidence, and will make it easier to eventually move on to more complicated gadgets. Of course, should you decide that everything you want to do can be done with these essential items, thatís fine too! But never say neverÖtake it from someone who, a few years ago, had trouble remembering the difference between pliers and a wrench. Now, a circular saw tops my wish list!