Everyone needs to own a certain quantity of tools to assist them in performing various household tasks, but not everyone has the space to accommodate a full-blown toolkit. So only pick up the essentials. But what are they? Here are the tools you need to own to cover most everyday fix-it projects without taking up valuable closet space.
To help keep this list—and your toolkit—organized, it’s broken down into two types of tasks. Most basic DIY repairs and improvements require either measuring and cutting or tightening and loosening, so they’re useful categories for organizing your tools.
Measuring and cutting
You can’t “measure twice, cut once” without the right tools. These basic supplies will keep your artwork perfectly level and ensure you never buy a couch that’s too big to fit through the door.
- Heavy-duty scissors: A set of utility shears has many uses, from the kitchen to the workshop. Office scissors can’t handle cutting rope, so save those for lighter tasks.
- Tape measure: From woodworking to interior design, a tape measure is indispensable. A 12-foot locking tape measure should handle most jobs around the house, and won’t have the bulk of a 25-foot contractor grade tape measure.
- Level: A 12- or 24-inch standard bubble level with a measuring scale is necessary for installing shelves, hanging mirrors or artwork, and mounting TVs.
Tightening and loosening
Nails, screws, bolts, and staples hold just about everything in your house together, so you need the right tools for adjusting them.
- Screwdrivers: A multi-bit set with interchangeable flat and Phillips heads is more versatile than a few of each and takes up less space, especially if you go for the stubby-handled variety.
- Drill: Chances are good that if you are measuring and making sure things are level, you’re eventually going to be hanging something heavy, and to do that, you will almost definitely need a basic power drill and a set of interchangeable bits (which will often be included in the purchase) to aide you in placing wall anchors and other hefty screws. If a special job pops up, you can always buy a specialized bit—like one for drilling to brick, for example.
- Crescent adjustable wrench: At least one adjustable wrench is a must-have in any tiny tool kit. Consider a kit that includes multiple sizes, so you’ve got all your nuts and bolt sizes covered.
- Hammer: No need to get too fancy here—an 8-ounce stubby claw hammer will do 90% of the jobs around the house.
- Pliers: Ideally, you’ll want at least two pairs of pliers: One adjustable and one non-adjustable. They come in tons of different shapes and sizes, all of which are suited to different tasks. Do a little research to make sure you choose pliers that will do what you need them to.
- Allen wrenches: These small wrenches are inexpensive and indispensable. Buy a set and keep them on hand so you’re always prepared.
Even if you don’t really think of yourself as the DIY type, having some basic tools on hand is a must. Knowing you have what you need to get the job done will empower you to fix things as they arise, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
This article was originally published on October 18, 2014. It was updated on May 7, 2021 with a new photo, updated links, a recommendation for Allen wrenches and a drill, and to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.