19 Essential Tools Every DIYer Should Have

Fill up your tool chest so you can take on just about any project.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |June 29, 2018, at 2:33 p.m.

19 Essential Tools Every DIYer Should Have

Slideshow

Stock up for your next DIY project.

Grungy tools

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If you're always finding new home improvement projects to take on, you're not alone. In a 2015 study of 500 do-it-yourselfers by Venveo, a digital marketing agency and parent company of DIYConsumer.com, 58 percent of respondents said they do a DIY project either because it's a simple project or they find the work fun, while another 39 percent said they want to save money. Regardless of your reason for taking on a DIY project, you need to be prepared with the right tools. Read on for tools every DIYer should have to tackle home improvement, maintenance and crafting tasks. We've included a price range for each tool, based on current prices at various home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's, to help you plan your purchases.

The basics

The basics

Old woodworking tools on wall, retro tinted

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These DIY and maintenance must-haves help set you up for success. They're simple tools that are fairly inexpensive yet key to ensuring your safety, avoiding damage or making mistakes while you work.

The internet

The internet

Happy Asian man lying on the sofa and working on laptop

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Especially if you're new to DIY projects, take advantage of the free resources available online to help you figure out the best way to build something, make a repair or master regular maintenance you've never done before. "The information is the power," says Chris Zeisler, master technician and technical service supervisor for RepairClinic.com, an online marketplace for appliance and repair parts and equipment. Zeisler recommends watching tutorials and informational videos on YouTube or advice sites like RepairClinic.com to get a better understanding of what you need to do. If you're still nervous about the job after watching tutorials, consult a professional.

Cost: Nothing beyond the cost of your Wi-Fi or mobile data plan.

Safety glasses

Safety glasses

Mixed Race woman cutting wood with saw

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Regardless of skill level, eye protection is a necessary part of any project you take on. Safety glasses are particularly important when doing tasks that can create debris, like sawing, drilling, spraying paint or using a sealant.

Cost: As cheap as $1.50, or you can go all out and get prescription safety glasses, which can put you back a few hundred dollars.

Tape measure

Tape measure

Close up of unrecognizable manual worker making measurements while working on a piece of wood in carpentry workshop.

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The saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once." So naturally, you need to be able to measure when it comes to cutting wood for a bookshelf, framing your artwork or simply figuring out what size couch you need for the living room.

Cost: Less than $10.

Level

Level

Woman Using Level

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Keep your home from looking like a college dorm room and use a level to hang any wall decor. A level is also an important tool when building or repairing anything that's supposed to have a flat surface – a DIY nightstand isn't quite as nice if your glass of water keeps sliding off a slanted tabletop.

Cost: Free phone apps are available, or you check out torpedo, beam or laser levels ranging from $4 to $30.

Drop cloth

Drop cloth

Young couple painting a wall

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Whether you're painting, sawing, drilling or gluing, keep your floor or driveway from getting damaged by placing a drop cloth beneath your workspace.

Cost: Use an old bedsheet for free, or invest in a canvas or plastic drop cloth for $7 to $10.

Wood glue and other adhesives

Wood glue and other adhesives

Carpenter. Glue on a piece of wood. Closeup.

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Plenty of DIY projects and repair scenarios can be strengthened with a little extra sealant. For wood projects, use wood glue to back up screws and nails. When wood isn't the material you're working with, a super glue or all-surface construction adhesive can help get the job done.

Cost: Depending on the type of adhesive, expect to pay $3 to $12.

Stud finder

Stud finder

Young man with stud finder examining wall at home

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If you're hanging a picture frame or shelf, a stud finder allows you to find the best possible place to anchor a nail or screw – without worrying whether it will fall off the wall later. When you're cutting a hole in the drywall, the same stud finder will help ensure you don't cut through an important part of the structure of your house. Studs in residential buildings are typically wood, but a stud finder using magnetism often still works by locating the nails in the stud. More sophisticated stud finders will detect the differences in density along the wall.

Cost: Depending on type, it will cost between $10 and $50.

Ladder

Ladder

A room ready to be painted.

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A 12-foot ladder isn't necessary if you're an apartment dweller who relies on the property manager for most maintenance issues, but a short stepladder can always help you reach the top shelf in the kitchen or get a better angle while hanging wall decor. In a house, a taller ladder can come in handy for cleaning out your home's gutters, as well as reaching high-up spots while painting, cleaning or decorating inside.

Cost: Depending on height and stability, a ladder will cost anywhere from $40 to $1,000.

Hand tools

Hand tools

Hands sawing wood

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You don't need construction experience to use these household tools skillfully. These simple tools are an important part of being able to make small, straightforward repairs at home, whether you live in an apartment, condo or house.

Clamp

Clamp

Man crafting wooden chair object keeping wooden boards in hands. Do it yourself project making process. Using press vise

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In DIY scenarios where the wood glue comes in handy, you'll typically want a clamp to help serve as additional security while the adhesive dries. Clamps also help hold wood and other materials together or in place while you're sawing, drilling or sanding and need help keeping the materials steady. You can opt for a simple C-clamp or bar clamp, which will suffice in relatively simple projects.

Cost: Expect to pay between $3 and $20, based on the size and type of clamp.

Screwdriver

Screwdriver

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Securing a dresser to the wall or finally putting that Ikea coffee table together will likely see you reaching for a screwdriver. Screws vary in shape and size, so Zeisler recommends checking out a set of screwdrivers with interchangeable screwheads to keep the number of screwdrivers you own down, while still having access to the Phillips head, flat head, Allen wrench (hexagon), Torx drive (star) or Robertson (square).

Cost: Either invest in a set of screwdrivers with different heads or get a multibit screwdriver, which both run from about $7 to $30.

Wrenches and ratchets

Wrenches and ratchets

Cropped shot of man’s hand reaching for a tool from his toolbox

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Whether you're tightening a bolt on your bed frame or building a deck in your backyard, a wrench or ratchet and socket set is a must-have. Like with a screwdriver, Zeisler recommends checking out investing in a set to help reduce the total number of wrenches you need, and ensure you have the tool for every possible scenario. "You can get more than one thing and more than one component," he says. "Instead of having seven or eight combination wrenches, you can get one particular tool that has a combination of all those on one assembly."

Cost: Sets of wrenches with additional adjustability typically cost around $20. Ratchet and socket sets typically start at about $15.

Claw hammer

Claw hammer

close up builder's hands hammering nail into wood

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A hammer almost seems too simple a tool to have, but you'll find yourself needing one quite often, whether it's to hang a calendar on the wall, construct a birdhouse or repair siding on your house. A claw hammer is often the recommended go-to for DIY projects because the backside of the tool also allows you to pull out nails as needed.

Cost: Depending on the brand, expect to pay $5 to $40.

Pliers

Pliers

Goldsmith performs a wedding ring.

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You may need help pulling something apart or holding it in place while you apply an adhesive – and pliers are an effective tool in both cases. Some pliers are specially designed to help cut or strip wire as well, which helps if your project requires some basic electrical work. In such cases, always have the power turned off and call a licensed electrician if you're not sure what you're doing.

Cost: Pliers range from $9 to $40.

Utility knife

Utility knife

person carefully scoring drywall during a remodeling job

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You could be opening a package you got in the mail or cutting dowel rods that don't quite require a saw, but having a utility knife specifically for home improvement purposes means you don't have to ruin your kitchen knives to complete simple projects.

Cost: Utility knives range from $5 to $45.

Handsaw

Handsaw

Woman with saw cutting wood

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For a bigger cutting project, have a handsaw ready. This is one tool you want to have your safety glasses on hand for, along with gloves to protect your hands. Before getting started, mark the wood or material you're cutting with a pencil and straightedge to ensure you cut along a straight line.

Cost: Handsaws run between $9 and $25, so there’s no need to break the bank.

Power tools

Power tools

Close-up of carpenter cutting a wooden plank

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For some projects, you need a bit of additional power behind it. Enter the motorized tool. "If you're going to be in an apartment or condo where it's going to be smaller projects, I don't think power tools are going to come into play," Zeisler says. "But if you’re a homeowner, you've invested in a mortgage [and] you're in the home, you're probably going to want to start getting familiar with some of that."

Drill

Drill

Close-up of carpenter assembling furniture. He is screwing a screw with an electric drill. Selective focus.

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As you get into more skilled DIY projects, you'll likely need to use a drill to put holes in wood, masonry, plastic or other materials. Different drill bits are used for different scenarios, and most good DIY tutorials will tell you which one to use for setting screws or creating a clean hole. Like with a saw, always use eye protection.

Cost: Cordless power drills run between $50 and $130.

Sander

Sander

Closeup low angle shot of early 30;s man doing some carpentry work in a workshop. He's removing edges on a plank with a lunge router. Wearing protective glass and ear protectors. Tilt shot.

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When building a bookshelf or giving your current one a makeover, sanding is a key step before the staining or painting phase. A sander takes a painting or staining project from time-consuming to convenient. Many DIY bloggers recommend a 5-inch orbital sander, as it's relatively easy to handle.

Cost: A sander will likely cost between $40 and $70.

Nail gun

Nail gun

A construction worker, an African American man in his 40s, working on a home remodeling project.  He is standing on a ladder with a nail gun, nailing wood posts.  He is serious, wearing safety glasses.

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When your DIY skills are more advanced, a nail gun might be the tool to help you up your game. Like with a sander, a nail gun makes the time-consuming process of hammering nails happen in a fraction of the time, though it requires a certain level of caution and some more money. There are also different types of nail guns for the project at hand – flooring, roofing and building furniture all use different types of nails, for example. Some of the more sophisticated nail guns require an air compressor, which may come with the tool or need to be purchased separately.

Cost: Expect to pay $80 to $650 or more, depending on the type of nail gun you select.

Circular saw

Circular saw

Close-up of carpenter cutting a wooden plank

(Getty Images)

If you're looking to build furniture or upcycle some key pieces, many DIY tutorials call for a circular saw to cut larger amounts of wood. The circular saw is recommended as the more basic option and is less expensive than a table saw – not to mention, it'll take up less room in your garage.

Cost: As low as $39 or as high as $500.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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