10 Essential Tools for New Homeowners (and DIYers)

With Father’s Day sales coming up (Sunday, June 19), I thought it would be a good idea to share my list of essential tools for new homeowners. But subvert the gender stereotypes and capitalist exploitation of fatherhood, and instead seize the opportunity to buy yourself some tools for less. I guess you can get your dad some, too, if he’s into that sort of thing. I’m sure he’s no less of a man, or father, if tools aren’t his cup of tea. And this isn’t a list of tools “for girls,” because even though I’m a woman, men can use the same tools! (Did you have any idea DIY tools could be so politically charged? Sorry, I just have some pet peeves regarding tools, DIY, and gender stereotypes.)

10 essential tools for new homeowners (and DIYers)

Since we bought our house two years ago, we’ve done a lot of DIY projects. We’ve probably tackled everything we’re going to do ourselves, from painting every wall (and cabinets, and a couple of floors), to installing new moldings and shelves, replacing rotted floor boards, tiling, and changing out light fixtures. As far as fixer-uppers go, our house was relatively low-difficulty, but our kitchen got a pretty dramatic transformation. Along the way, we’ve had to pick up some tools that I had no idea we’d need, but which have proven their worth multiple times.

So while you should make sure that you have basics like a good heavy hammer, a cordless screwdriver/drill, an easy-to-use tape measure, and safety goggles, if you’re not sure what else you might need, check out my picks.

10 Essential Tools for New Homeowners (and DIYers)

1. Miter saw – Cutting wood with a power saw, versus a handsaw, will save you hours of time over the years. At the very simplest, you just put the wood under the blade and chop it, but you can also get fancy and cut it at angles. This is one of the first power tools I bought, and I highly recommend it. Features I looked for were a laser marker, beveling ability, and a dust collector.
hitachi compound miter saw

I have this one, the Hitachi C10FCH2 Compound Miter Saw, and I’ve been very happy with it.

2. Extension cord with light – I had no idea these were called “trouble lights” until I was just trying to look them up for this list. And it’s an apt name. You never know when you’ll need extra light with your power. Chances are there isn’t good lighting everywhere you’ll need it, and sometimes you don’t have enough hands for a flashlight.
trouble light

Trouble light in fun colors.

3. Caulk gun – This one might seem too basic, but until we bought our house, I never needed one. And then I needed one every other weekend for a while. I have a love-hate relationship with caulk, because while it fixes a lot of sins and can really make a big positive difference in making a project look finished, I’m not good at caulking. I always end up making a mess. But in the end, you really do need caulk for a lot of different projects, so get used to having a caulk gun in your life.
caulk gun

Dripless caulk gun. This one is sounds better than the random one I grabbed from a hardware store.

4. Convertible screwdriver – I honestly have no idea where my convertible screwdriver came from–it just appeared one day, like a gift from the gods. But if I lost it, I’d immediately replace it, because when I need to do non-electrical screwing, it’s the first one I reach for. It’s essentially four screwdrivers in one, two sizes of Phillips heads and two flatheads, and it saves loads of time to have them all in one place.
screwdriver

Mine is unbranded, but this Stanley All-in-One Screwdriver has great reviews, and currently costs less than a fancy espresso drink.

5. Jigsaw – Not every cut you’ll need to make will be straight, or fit in your miter saw. According to Amazon, June 3, 2016 was the second anniversary of me purchasing this jigsaw. Maybe I should’ve gotten it some flowers? We’ve been through so much together. Well, it did most of the work, slicing through wood, metal, and even plexiglass (with specialized blades). *sniff sniff* Thanks, little saw!jigsaw

Bosch Jigsaw

6. Chisel set – You may wonder when you’d need to chisel anything, but being able to widen a hole, or take just a bit of extra wood off of a surface, is incredibly useful. Things we’ve used ours for:

  • Removing wood from the inside back of our kitchen cabinets so our new sink faucet pieces would fit (what we originally bought it for).
  • Moving the locations of door strike holes so doors would latch properly.
  • Chipping off extra paint from doors and window frames so they’d close.

chisels

Stanley Wood Chisel Set

7. Non-contact voltage tester – If you’re going to be replacing light fixtures or switches (dimmers are always a good idea), you need one of these. The first rule of working with electricity is, TURN OFF THE BREAKER. But in old houses, the breakers aren’t always properly labeled, and if you don’t want to turn off all of the electricity, and end up having to reset your oven clock every time, one of these might give you some peace of mind. Just turn it on, stick the end next to the wires you’re about to touch, and if doesn’t beep, you’re good to go.
voltage tester

Use this Klein Tools Non-Contact Voltage Tester to check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.

8. Corded drill – I went years, a decade even, getting by with my trusty cordless drill/screwdriver. But eventually we needed to drill some wide-diameter holes (for our live-edge floating shelves), and it just wasn’t up for the job. After we got this corded screwdriver, Steven compared me to the Tim Allen character on the old sitcom Home Improvement when I raved about how powerful it is.
corded drill

This Ridgid Heavy-Duty Drill has plenty of power!

9. Random orbital sander – These are so essential that we have two. We bought a second one when we were painting our kitchen cabinets, so that both Steven and I could sand at the same time. They’re both totally good, but I think that the Ridgid one does a better job at dust containment.
random orbital sanders

Ridgid Random Orbital Sander and Bosch Random Orbital Sander.

10. Nail set – If you’re wondering what the heck a nail set is, it’s how you hide your nails if you don’t have a nail gun. You bang in your nail with a hammer as far as it’ll go, then put one of these over the nail head, and whack it until the nail head is recessed into the wood. Then you can fill the hole, paint it, and your nail is invisible. They’re small, less than $10, and essential to a nice finish.
nailset

Sorry ladies, this Tekton Nail Set will do nothing for your manicure! </sarcasm>

What do you think of my list? Did I miss any of your favorite tools that you don’t know how you’d live without?