The 10 Household Tools Everyone Needs to DIY

Or “Never Use a Butter Knife as a Screwdriver!”

Everyone knows you can save money by doing it yourself (DIY) when it comes to maintenance and small (or even large) repairs. But in order to make this work, you need to make a minor investment…in household tools! There are a few basic tools that everyone needs to own, and that’s what today’s post is all about.

In order to do it yourself (DIY) and save money around the house, you need to make a small investment in these 10 household tools.

I grew up in a home where doing the little “odd jobs” were not a subject of interest by my dad despite the constant complaints by my mom. Everything from changing lightbulbs in that high up chandelier to tightening screws on the dining room chairs was a battle and my dad would use the excuse that he didn’t have the tools he needed so he couldn’t do it. Since I was the next in line to do those jobs, I tried in vain to handle them but the lack of knowledge and training combined with not having the basic tools doomed every project to failure.

When I eventually found myself out on my own and becoming a homeowner, that early-in-life experience (or lack thereof) became a real burden. I just didn’t know where to begin and what to do. That’s why now I realize that everyone needs to be prepared for the time in their lives that they will be out on their own so they know what to do, how to do it, and what to do it with when it comes to household repairs!

Getting the Training That Usually Comes From Your Parents

As I said, training and knowledge were lacking for me as a kid. But, the people who actually get that kind of information at home usually master it and save themselves a lot of money because they don’t have to hire “experts” to do even the most simple tasks.

One thing I did learn as a kid was a basic that I have repeated hundreds of times over the years. I get a chuckle from it now but at the time I was acting more like Attila the Hun when I was performing a very simple task for my mom. It involved me trying to hang a beautiful new ceiling fan in her bedroom. The lesson I learned that day that I can share with you is this: never use a butter knife to install a ceiling fan!

That’s exactly the reason they make screwdrivers. I wound up stripping the screw heads and failing miserably at the attempt. Mom eventually hired good old “Bob” who got the job done for a mere $65 and I wore the shame of ruining a perfectly good butter knife. Lesson learned.

Your mom and/or dad is the best teacher and if you don’t get it from them, then other relatives or friends are the ones that can help. But if you don’t have someone in your life to teach you, don’t despair. Google and YouTube are your friends when it comes to learning how to do basic maintenance and repairs.

Top 10 Household Tools Everyone Needs To Own

Once you’ve got the knowledge of how to do it, the next and biggest concern you will have is to own the basic tools to get those jobs done right. If you are in this situation or about to be in it, these are the tools you definitely need to survive doing it yourself. Not repairing something or doing it poorly means that you will eventually be laying out even more money down the road. Investing in a few good tools is money well spent!

1. A Phillips Screwdriver

A Phillips or X-shape screwdriver is probably one of the most common tools you will find you need. Try to find a handle that accepts interchangeable tips and that will cover a wide range of screw types, or purchase a small sized set.

2. A Flathead Screwdriver

A flathead or straight screwdriver is invaluable; most light switch plates use straight screws, for example. Having the right size flathead can make a difference, so start with at least a set of three (small, medium and large) to be able to handle most jobs.

3. A Hammer

Pounding nails, pulling nails, crowbar action, tapping things into place—it almost goes without saying why you need a hammer. It doesn’t have to an expensive hammer, but long and lightweight are my preferences.

4. A Pair of Pliers

The serrated jaws of pliers assist with holding objects firmly, as well as with pulling, pinching, or bending any metal.

5. Adjustable Crescent Wrench

There is a screw built into the head of this wrench; turning it adjusts the size of the opening, so that it fits onto most any hexagon nut. Turning a nut with pliers just strips the edges, making it harder and harder to get a good grip when tightening or loosening it. Using an adjustable wrench is a blessing.

6. A Power Drill

Drilling implies creating holes, and a power drill is the ultimate luxury when tired hands have turned too many screws. It adapts not only to drill bits to bore holes, but also to every kind of screw-head bit, making larger projects go quickly and with less muscle. Just be careful you don’t strip the screw head. Don’t skimp on this tool—you will appreciate having a lot of power.

7. A Utility Knife

From cutting paint around windows that are stuck closed to opening boxes, scoring drywall, or even trimming the edges of carpet, the uses are so many that you’ll be surprised how you ever got by without one. Plus they are very inexpensive.

8. A Tape Measure

A good tape measure is indispensable for estimating material quantities, figuring out placement of objects, and calculating floor plans and furniture sizes. It’s always a good idea to measure more than once to make sure you’ve got it right.

9. A Level

Some people are good at eyeballing whether something is level or not, but this tool takes all the guesswork away. Remember, it takes only a slight error to make objects look off-kilter and you may have to make extra holes for no good reason to correct it.

10. A Ladder or Step Stool

Painting, reaching the lightbulb, changing fixtures, trimming the hedge, stringing lights, getting into the attic, and many more activities require the aid of some kind of ladder. Avoid climbing on a chair if you value your health.

One more thing that needs to be on your list and that is a toolbox to store most of these things inside. One of the most frustrating times you can have is trying to locate a tool because you “know it’s around here somewhere”! Put everything away and know where you store the box so you will have what you need when you need it.

And a bonus tip…if you ever assemble any kind of furniture and an Allen wrench (or hex key) is included, tape that wrench to the underside of the item or put it into your toolbox. You never know when a connection will loosen and you’ll need that special kind of tool.

Final Thoughts

There are probably a few more things you may need at your fingertips but that’s something you can add as you go. You don’t need to have every power tool and piece of carpentry equipment handy to do minor repairs around your home, and most of us can’t or don’t want to be doing that even though Home Depot and Lowes might argue differently. For some things and for some people, home improvement is more that a necessity, it is their fun and recreation time. Not for me and most of the people I hang with. But when it comes to screwdrivers these days, I have my go-to friend, “Mr. Phillips” and my butter knife knows only the feel of grade AA butter!

What kind of household tools do you have to handle minor repairs in your home? Did you learn from your parents the art of fixing things at home? Have you done some damage when you tried to save money and couldn’t fix a simple repair? Have you learned a lesson from that kind of experience?

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About Gary Weiner @ Super Saving Tips

Over the last 45 years I've worked in retail (department stores and supermarkets) and financial planning. In addition, I am a shopper, born and bred, who enjoys the challenges of finding the best items for the best prices. When I'm not busy saving money or writing here at Super Saving Tips, I enjoy baseball, music, and classic movies. I am retired and live in New Jersey with my wife.
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11 Comments

  1. A basic tool kit is a must for anyone living on their own or attempting any DIY. My tool kit has expanded over the years. Depending on the job/project you are attempting, sometimes there are specific tools it may call for. My three children have learned some of the basics over the years being my assists on projects around the house.

  2. This is such a great list!

    My father was a lot like yours. We called the building “super” or one of his handymen for anything. Then when I was on my own I relied on the kindness of handymen and male friiends. Mr. Groovy had trouble hanging blinds when we first met and now he can build furniture and lay flooring. Still some things are best left to the pros especially when it involves wiring.

    It’s wonderful if you can teach your children basic skills when they’re young.

    • I have learned over the years to do a little better with my home repairs, but I don’t think I did a great job teaching any of my children, and I do have regrets about that. It may not be something that’s on the top of people’s minds, but it definitely has a long-term effect on your kids. I hope that some will benefit from just thinking about this subject. Thanks for your comments, Mrs. G.

  3. That’s a good list Gary! I would always have a big tool box with me in my apartment. And a good power drill is really really helppful. Even If you can live without it, it’s so convenient.

  4. What, no glass jar of screws, nails, and broken metal and plastic bits you can’t identify but might need some day to hang window coverings or pictures?

    When I got my first home away from home, my parents bought me a tool box and filled it with some of my Dad’s former screwdrivers, a hammer, and a crank hand-drill. They still get used a good many years later.

    A rechargeable drill is of great help. Are ones with electric cords even made any more?

    • First, Louise, I have to chuckle. I can’t tell you how many screws and nails are at the bottom of my toolbox, and pieces of who-knows-what along beside them. Aren’t we just afraid to throw those things out? I don’t think they make the drills any longer with actual cords. Rechargeable is certainly a real convenience. Thanks for making me smile!

  5. I would like to add a paint can opener. Mrs. JumpStart always drives me crazy when she borrows a chisel to open a paint can.

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