Everyone needs a collection of basic tools for jobs around the home – and, the good news is, you get to go shopping in a hardware store! Aim for average-quality tools because, if you’re not using them daily, inexpensive items will be adequate. You’re bound to encounter jobs that need other bits and pieces. But, rather than having to call in the professionals, you can buy extra items as you need them, and they’ll pay for themselves in no time.
Toolbox or carryall
To store and carry around your tools, as well as other bits and pieces, buy a cheap plastic carryall. Better still, make your own out of wood, just like you made in woodworking class at high school.
Personal protection equipment, (also called PPE) keeps you safe when creating dust, fumes and noise or flicking up splinters and specks that can get in your eyes. Safety goggles, ear muffs, masks and gloves are important items.
Accurate measuring is a must, and for that you’ll need a tape measure. An 8m tape is fairly compact but is long enough to measure most rooms. Make sure it locks and that you can easily read the numbers.
When taking measurements, you’ll need to make a note of them or mark the surface. This type of pencil has a broad lead and is less prone to snapping off. For fine work, you can use a normal pencil.
To draw square lines for setting out or preparing to cut, you need a combination square, which features both 90- and 45-degree angles, and a movable stock. The shaft can be removed for use as a ruler.
Whether you’re hanging pictures, installing shelves or building a house, finding a true horizontal is a great place to start. Spirit levels range in length from 225mm to 1800mm. They can also be used to check for plumb.
The best first hammer is a claw hammer of medium weight that’s comfortable to use. It’s worth buying a quality hammer that will last you a lifetime. It’s used to drive nails, tap bits and pieces into place, remove nails and pry things apart.
A set of screwdrivers is essential. As well as driving screws with them, you can also use them to open paint tins and pry things apart, and as small levers. You need slotted and crosshead screwdrivers, as in older houses you still find slotted screws.
When you're tired of driving screws by hand, you can buy a cordless drill/driver. You’ll also need bits to drive screws with various head types, as well as drill bits for wood and masonry. Look for a 12-18V drill that comes with two batteries.
Most DIY involves projects with timber, so you’ll be needing a saw. A hardpoint saw with about 12 teeth per 25mm is a good start. They cost from around $12. There are many other saw types, which you can buy as you need.
When working with timber, you’ll need chisels. A set containing 6, 12, 19 and 25mm chisels of good quality is money well spent. If you buy just one, go for 19 or 12mm. And hang on to Grandpa’s blunt one-inch chisel – it’s a great demolition tool.
These knives with exchangeable blades are designed for cutting soft materials such as cardboard, rubber, carpet, vinyl and even soft timbers. You’ll also want
one to open packaging, sharpen your pencil... the list goes on.
A shifting spanner or adjustable wrench is used to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts, of various sizes, with hexagonal or square heads. Just adjust jaws in and out to suit the head or nut. A good one to begin with is a 200mm shifter.
These are great for holding, bending, cutting and squashing things, mainly metal. It’s worth getting broad-nose and long-nose pliers. Both feature a wire cutter, which is ideal for snipping fencing wire or trimming speaker leads.
Arguably, the most common home-maintenance task is painting, so have a 38mm or 50mm brush to hand. You can spend a lot of money on brushes, but if you don’t clean them properly after use, it’s best to head towards the cheapies rack.