20 Tools That Every Handyman (or Handywoman) Should Have

handywoman chicagoBeing able to build and fix things requires skills. It’s not a secret that even professionals, such as roofers and builders, aren’t all created equal. Some are better than others precisely because they are more skilled (and sometimes a little bit more talented too). While bigger projects should always be left to professionals, it doesn’t mean that an average homeowner is not capable of doing small repairs on their own. In fact, working on small projects and performing basic maintenance of your property will not only make things last longer, but will provide a much needed stress relief and a sense of satisfaction.

Before getting down to business, you need some tools. And, no, not fancy expensive gadgets, but real handyman’s (or handywoman’s) tools that will help you get stuff done. So here’s a list of tools that every homeowners should have.

  1. Hammer. Any hammer will do it? Not if know what you’re doing. A 16-oz. curved-claw nail hammer is your best bet. A rubber grip handle is more comfortable to use for long periods of time. Especially if you’re not used to working with your hands, they will thank you if you go for the one with a rubber grip handle. It still doesn’t mean that you won’t get any calluses, but, hey, you should be proud of them!
  2. Saw. A cross-cut hand saw will handle most things. There are some short ones that will fit in the average tool box. Just make sure it’s in working condition (that is relatively new, not something you found in your granddad’s attic).
  3. Screwdrivers. A small basic set that contains both standard flat blades as well as Phillips heads will suffice in most jobs. There are some pretty neat combination drivers that include a variety of blades that all fit on one main handle. It’s a matter of taste, really. We’re not fans of the ones with replaceable blades. It’s one of those things that sounds good in theory, but in practice, I just keep losing them and end up with an empty handle with no blades at all.
  4. Tape. Don’t forget the incredible duct tape, which can hold anything together. Electrical tape is handy too.
  5. Drill. Either cordless or electrical will do. You will also need a variety of bits. Here’s a really neat one that we like.
  6. Level. Don’t forgo this important tool! Even a small, inexpensive level can help your work come out straight. And if you think that your project doesn’t need one… you’re wrong. It certainly does and you’ll be glad you listened to us and got level-headed.
  7. C-Clamps. These will hold lots of things you are trying to put back together.
  8. Pliers. A good, basic pair of slip-joint pliers can tighten, loosen and hold all sorts of things for you. In addition to the regular pliers, consider getting a wire stripper. A wire stripper has a blade for cutting wire to the proper length and several notches for scoring the insulation around wires of varying sizes, which can then be pulled off. Wire has to be exposed without the plastic coating to make electrical connections.
  9. Wrench.  An adjustable wrench or a “Crescent” wrench can give you lots of extra muscle to tighten and loosen a variety of nuts and bolts. Using pliers for the same task it’s just wrong… and a classic rookie mistake.
  10. Ruler. A retracting flexible tape rule is compact, accurate and very useful.
  11. Utility Knife. Get one with replaceable blades. It’s only useful if it actually… cuts.
  12. Glue. Household cement will take care of most things.
  13. Sandpaper. A basic variety pack should have what you will need for the average project.
  14. Lubricant. WD-40 is simply amazing stuff.
  15. Flashlight. A small, rechargeable flashlight is important for all sorts of emergencies and to see what’s lurking in the dark corners, especially when working in places like basements or attics.
  16. Tool Box. A lightweight, plastic model will hold most of this stuff plus a few of your own favorites. This is a great option and won’t break the bank.
  17. Putty Knife. A putty knife is great for scraping dry glues and paints and for spreading putty, paste and spackle. Having a 1½-inch size for scraping and a 5- or 6-inch one for spreading is helpful. It’s an often overlooked tool. Don’t get it and you’ll regret as cleaning the mess with something else, like a regular knife, isn’t easy or fun… at all.
  18. 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 a ladder.
  19. Electrical Cord. A rugged, well-insulated indoor-outdoor power cord for high-amp tools will help you extend the limited cord of your tools to your job site — and it’s suitable for yard work too.
  20. Staple Gun. OK, this one maybe not 100% must-have, but it’s so much fun to use it. Find a little project, like re-upholstering that old armchair, to find an excuse to just go crazy with it.