Every home needs a tool kit – the essential home tools you’ll need for easy DIY projects or other DIY emergencies. You don’t have to be a DIY expert, but having a toolbox, storage bin or tool belt means everything is close at hand if you need something. You may find you have tools you use less frequently that can be stored in the garage or shed, but our guide to compiling an essential – but compact – tool kit will help you measure, snap a picture and deal with common problems. home emergencies, without having to drive back and forth from the garage or shed.
“Believe it or not, I have a basic set of pink tools,” says Emma Morton-Turner, stylist and founder of Inside Stylists (opens in a new tab). “No one ever picks them up by mistake on a set, she laughs, because everyone knows they’re mine!
Of course, if you specialize in one area, for example upcycled furniture ideas, your toolbox may contain some of our basics, as well as a few extra tools, such as sandpaper for awkward edges and assorted paint brushes. . “I also have a circular saw, which I love. I’ve done all sorts of things with it, from shelving to furniture, but of course whether you need it or not depends on your planned projects,” says Emma.
1. Tape measure
Looking for new furniture, replacing curtains and blinds…or even checking that the new vase won’t be too high, a metal tape measure is number 1 in our toolbox chart. While you may have one made of fabric from sewing projects, one made of metal will give a much more accurate measurement. Pack a smaller metal one in your bag if you’re buying furniture etc, while a 25m long model should be fine for most jobs. Choose one at least 2.5 cm wide, so that it does not collapse when extended beyond a meter. You can, of course, upgrade to flash with a laser measure, which is great for measuring large areas, but we still recommend a metal tape as one of your essential household tools.
2. Screwdrivers and hex keys
To tighten, loosen, and build flat-packed furniture, each tool kit requires at least two screwdrivers, one Phillips (or Phillips) head and one flathead, with a posidrive a third. Choose a mid-size head for your essential kit, keeping other sizes in the shed. A set of mini screwdrivers (often the most coveted Christmas cookie prize) come in handy for really intricate jobs. You can also equip yourself with a screwdriver with interchangeable bits, perfect if storage is limited.
“Go for the decent ones,” Emma says, “otherwise the ends may soften and you can’t get a handle on anything well.”
A set of hex (or allen) wrenches are used to drive bolts and hex socket screws through their heads. Build furniture from a kit? The most common size is 4mm for Ikea, either an L-shaped or S-shaped hex key.
3. Pillars and cutters
Equip your household toolbox with a few pairs of stackers – 8 inch long noses will be the ones you’ll pick up the most, but a pair of heavier 10 inch grooves will come in handy for removing nails or taking out staples, while smaller pliers are handy for reconnecting metal rings on jewelry. A pair of wire cutters is useful for cable ties, craft projects and cutting electrical cables, such as rewiring an outlet.
4. Bubble level
Fan of a gallery wall? In that case, a decent spirit level is a must – and you’ll get what you pay for here. Ideally, equip yourself with a long length (but not too long), while a small bubble that can be used to quickly check that something is level is also handy. Depending on the scope of your DIY project, a laser level, which projects straight lines directly onto walls, can prove invaluable. “I can never tell if something feels right, so my level is invaluable,” says Emma.
5. Adjustable wrench
Facing a plumbing emergency? Reach for your wrench, which loosens and tightens the pipes. Need extra torque to tighten or loosen something? Reach for your key again! If you have the space, a socket set is worth adding to your tool stash.
For most home DIY jobs, a claw hammer will suffice. Use it to drive nails, pull nails, and act as a pry bar to separate wood. This comes in very handy when working on pallet ideas for your home or garden. It needs to be reasonably heavy to swing and do the job – 16 ounces is a good start.
7. Knife with retractable blade
Stored safely in your essential household tool kit, a retractable knife or Stanley knife is essential for cutting and slicing most household materials. Choose a design that allows spare blades to be stored in the handle.
Want to create a DIY headboard idea or a DIY shelf? If you only have one power tool in your essential home tool set, make it a power drill/driver, which can be used for drilling and repairing around the house. Cordless means you’re not limited by cable range, but keep an eye on the battery charge as they don’t like being left idle for long periods of time without a charge. “I have one that’s mains powered, which I got for my 40th birthday,” Emma says, “because I didn’t want to be left without a load in the middle of a project.”
9. Nails, screws, nuts and bolts
A mini set of different sizes might seem like overkill, but at least they’ll fit in a lidded jar. You’ll need assorted lengths of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, washers – and even 3M Command strips – ready to hang frames. “I keep mine in a Tuperware box with sections – it’s full of raw plugs in different colors, sticky hooks and all sorts of fixings that might come in handy,” says Emma.
10. Putty and putty knife
For those mini repairs and holes, choose a pot of multi-surface putty and a putty knife – metal or plastic. Don’t fill the knife though and keep an eye out for open filler jars as they won’t stay soft for long.
11. Ruler, pencil and sticky stuff
A metal ruler, at least 30cm long, to measure and use as a ruler when cutting materials with the utility knife, while a pencil (and even a marker), will save you searching for a half- task. Rolls of masking tape and gaffer tape, adhesive pads under furniture, and tubes of superglue, PVA, and wood glue will always come in handy, although once opened they have a limited shelf life. Sticky label remover (or acetone) is another essential, as well as a soft cloth.
Your essential home tool kit should be easily accessible – a tool bag with divided pockets to slip tools into for easy access is one idea. Small DIY bits are best kept in a lidded container, like a really useful box – a transparent version will let you see where a tool is at a glance. Keep tools out of reach of children at all times. For on-the-go DIY, Emma loves her tool belt, “I always feel like a pro and have everything at my fingertips,” she shares.
Store screwdrivers and stackers pointing down, either in a tool bag or in heavy-duty fabric tool rolls. And be sure to always put your tools away when you’re done, ready for your next DIY project.