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Putting Together Your Toolkit

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You are about to move into your very own, grown up home...aka, "something that will often need a few tweaks," so it's best to be prepared. Rather like approaching marriage with a constructive attitude and a good set of relationship skills. And while a handyman's (ahem, handyperson's) number is "handy," there will be times when you want to (or have to) handle a few things yourself.

That's where you need a solid tool kit (& mini tool stashes). One that can actually get you hanging pictures, removing weird screws, getting the nasty spider-infested mailbox off the wall etc...So I'll share my list of "Must-Haves" along with some "Eventuallys." But first, we need to talk about:

Location, Location, Location

Put a good flashlight*, scissors, small tape measure (~10-12') and multi-bit screwdriver** in each main room for easy access. I recommend the kitchen & office and by the front door if you have a table there - and the garage will have tools.

Note: My expertise comes from assembling office furniture, changing toilets, installing my own retrofit windows (!!) and assembling Ikea bookshelves. Guess which was the hardest...

Why am I a flashlight fiend? Let me count the ways:

  1. It's really nice to have a flashlight powerful enough to illuminate whatever is going bump in the night in your backyard, roof or to see under your refrigerator to find what just rolled under there.
  2. We do actually get power failures...put a tiny (2" size) in every single room. Power failures can happen when you are in bed, in the bathroom etc.These don't need to be the powerful (and pricey) ones. In fact, if you are my client, just ask and I will give you one for every room of your house. You have to buy the expensive ones yourself though. ;)
  3. For flat tires (I warned you to put one in your car! - use a good quality one here)...
  4. So other people can see us while we walk our dog... (just because it's night, they are tired and driving doesn't mean they aren't texting! - Make yourself visible!). Scissors and tape measures get used ridiculously often, and it's really, really nice not to go hunting for them. Especially since they can be purchased for under $10 for the pair.

Tool stashes around the house

Toolkit Must-Haves

What I recommend for your basic toolkit (links to examples way below):

  • Cordless Drill - light (4#, but less is better) and strong. I love Makita.
  • Some drill bits and lots of screw head bits. Buy good quality so they don't mush out.
  • Screwdrivers; Assorted flathead (some) and Phillips (more). Buy good (but not great, because they will get lost) quality
  • Mini assorted screwdrivers (tiny heads)
  • Good quality flashlight*
  • safety goggles
  • Claw hammer (aka 'regular' hammer)
  • Duct tape (I've never once used it but still...)
  • Kit of assorted nails and another of screws. Usually the packages are about 4" x 5"
  • all purpose hacksaw
  • 25'+ tape measure
  • level (18"+)
  • pencil (get one of those cool, fat ones from the hardware store).
  • WD-40
  • scissors
  • work gloves
  • restickable hooks
  • stud finder
  • power checker
  • needle nose pliers
  • adjustable pliers
  • utility knife
  • tape gun w/ tape
  • visegrips
  • clamps
  • crescent wrenches
  • smallish crow bar
  • a really handy tool bag to carry it in***

Giant Tool Bag


  • Rubber mallet
  • sledge hammer
  • large pipe wrench
  • bolt cutters
  • fancier saw
  • staplegun
  • big crow bar
  • socket wrenches (only because everyone says you need them, but I have never used them)

Note a well placed hint to your significant other about the above making great gifts will be really appreciated by both of you!

Further Reading

Two good articles about tools:

  1. How to Build the Essential Toolbox for Every Level of DIY
  2. 12 Tools Every Man Should Have in His Toolbox

Links to Examples of What I Mean