10 Essential Tools Everyone Should Have in Their Home

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Projects around the house always come up, and when they do it’s nice to have the right tool for the job. Even professional home builders, who build custom homes and renovations for a living, have varying opinions when it comes time to choose models. As a homeowner, you’ll find it typically comes down to choosing a quality product and having the right tools for the most common job types. Following are essential tools that every well-stocked home toolbox needs.

Essential Tools

Tape Measure
Having a few tape measures on hand makes different projects easier to manage. Mini tapes will fit into your pocket so you can carry one to the home improvement store to find the right rug or drapery rod. Sixteen-foot tapes are standard, but you can also find much longer ones for bigger jobs, such as measuring a room to calculate paint. Look for models with a thumb-activated lock or an automatic stop to prevent accidental retraction or snap-back.

Carpenter Square
Squares help you find and mark angles with accuracy. Triangular speed squares have one lipped edge that hooks on the edge of a board, and no carpenter is without one. Larger, traditional L-shaped carpenter squares are sometimes called framing squares. They also work as a straightedge.

Circular Saw
Corded saws typically have more power and do not rely on the relatively short battery life that cordless varieties often come with. Professional home builders will always use a corded saw. If you’ll be cutting a board only occasionally, a cordless model should suffice.

Cordless circular saws are portable and weigh less than corded tools. With lithium batteries, they hold their charge better than older models did. Look for a quick-charge base if you opt for cordless; it can cut your charge time in half.

Claw Hammer
Everyone knows what classic hammers look like and why they’re essential. But newer, anti-vibration rip-claw hammers with a straighter claw pry out nails with more leverage. Rip-claw hammers also rip out boards and plywood with less tearing. So they’re great for light demo work. They also buffer the stress on your forearm when you drive nails.

Assorted Screwdrivers
You might never have noticed the variations in screwdrivers. Phillips and Frearson screwdrivers look almost identical, but they’re different. The Phillips has a blunt tip, and the Frearson tip has a defined point. This matters because screws vary.

Flat-head screwdrivers, also known as straight or common-blade, work with straight-slot screws. And a Robertson screwdriver set rounds out your collection nicely. Robertsons are square and work with square-head Robertson screws. You’ll want a size assortment of all styles for a complete toolkit.

Locking Pliers
Known by a few trade names, such as “mole grips” and “vise grips,” locking pliers lock in place to hold tight, which frees up your hands. They have a lever in one half of the handle and an adjustment bolt in the other.

Locking pliers clamp materials together, hold objects in place, turn stubborn bolts, and even work as a makeshift knob or handle. Always go for a quality brand, as budget models are known to strip and work loose.

Power Drill
No home is complete without a power drill. As with circular saws, they come in corded and cordless models. But where cordless saws aren’t known for exceptional power, new cordless drills are becoming a mainstay, even with professional home builders. An adjustable chuck, which is the tip of the drill, converts it to a power screwdriver. You’ll need an assortment of drill bits and driver bits to round out your power drill set.

Handsaw
Manual handsaws still have a lot of selling points. They work everywhere because they don’t need a battery or an extension cord. They’re lighter, and they’re also quiet. Handsaws come in crosscut and ripsaw styles. Crosscut saws cut across the grain, and ripsaws cut along the grain. If you want to own only one, buy a 10- or 12-tooth crosscut saw. It’s effective at both cross and rip cuts.

Carpenter Levels
Levels help you determine whether an object is true horizontal (level) or true vertical (plumb). Many have an additional angled vial to find true 45-degree level. Small torpedo levels work well for smaller jobs, such as leveling a small shelf or hanging a painting. Longer spirit levels, often simply called 4-foot levels, perform the same functions as torpedo levels. But the length also acts as a straightedge.

Random Orbital Sander
You’ve got a few choices in handheld sanders, but the random orbital style gives the best all-around results. Instead of a straight spin or rotation, the movements are random, which means there’s less risk of swirl marks on whatever you’re sanding. Random orbital sanders are great for refinishing furniture without causing scratches, but they’re not the right choice for fine woodworking. They are most effective for jobs like taking off rough-sawn edges after you cut a board or stripping off old paint.

Few people build a tool set overnight. It’s a process that takes time, and for different reasons. No single brand has a corner on the market for quality. But what you’ll find is that you prefer the grip on a certain screwdriver and the battery life of a particular drill, etc. That’s how you develop a great set of tools.