After 10 years of experience in the DIY life, I can confidently present this tried and true list of the 10+ essential tools for the DIYer. You don't have to have all of them, but they certainly make any and all DIY jobs easier and are worth the investment.
- A Little Back Story How I Became A Handy Woman
- What Are Some Good Tools To Have?
- Essential Power Tools for the DIYer
- Staple Gun | Best Staple Gun for DIY Users
- Essential Hand Tools for the DIYer
- Essential Hand Tools for the DIYer
- Measuring Tape
- Caulk Gun
- Stud Finder
- Utility Knife
- 10+ Essential Tools For the DIYer | Q&A
- Tools You Need As A Beginner
- 10 Hand Tools You Will Place In Your Tool Box
- Power Tools That Are Most Useful
- Tools That You Can Use At Home
A Little Back Story How I Became A Handy Woman
I grew up a daughter of a general contractor so you'd think that would mean I had a ton of experience using power tools. Well, if you assume that you'd be wrong! You see, I was his little girl and power tools can maim you, so they were off-limits. Therefore I didn't start my journey into that realm until I was almost in my 30's!
10 years ago I had zero tools and zero skills to fall back on when it came to fixing. I had to master the skill of fixing despite being intimidated, scared, and apprehensive. Now I am confident and gaining skills daily with building, repairing furniture, & DIYing home projects because of learning to use these tools. Therefore I believe wholeheartedly that you can gain confidence and skills too, with one tool at a time and one project at a time.
What Are Some Good Tools To Have?
There are essential hand tools and essential power tools that I consider to be absolutely essential to do almost any project if only because of sheer time-saving. While you can use just hand tools for a few projects, on their own they will make your life miserable if you're working on a time crunch, have kids in the house, and aren't working with the ease of a workshop, etc.
To start, I would say this could depend solely on what type of projects you will be working on. But generally speaking, a few of the absolutes would be a *hammer, *measuring tape, *carpenter's square, *caulk gun, *screwdriver, *orbital sander, and a *jigsaw.
With that assortment of tools, you can do many beginner projects. They won't be perfect, especially if you're cutting wood, but you can hide many things with *caulk. If you aren't painting the project I would recommend also having some *stainable wood filler.
Essential Power Tools for the DIYer
Jigsaw | What is a Jigsaw Used For?
Without a doubt, the least intimidating power saw you can handle. I started with a corded jigsaw and upgraded it last year to a *Ryobi Cordless Jigsaw which is amazing. My 7-year-old was gifted my old *Ryobi Jigsaw (with no blade) and he likes to pull it out while I'm using mine to fix with me.
They are lightweight, which makes them easy to carry and work with. Also, jigsaws are ideal for maneuvering around curves.
They aren't super powerful but are versatile being useful for small DIY tasks you'd do at home. Moreover, every jigsaw has the ability to use many *different types of blades which are mostly detachable, making it a pretty handy tool to have in your arsenal.
I used my *corded jigsaw for almost 7 years straight and it is a good solid tool. I used it almost exclusively for 2 years for cutting most wood pieces until I finally invested in a miter saw.
Miter Saw | What is the Best DIY Miter Saw?
My Ryobi 12" Compound Miter saw (*This is my dream saw) has been my favorite for 5 years now and in general, I've had great success with Ryobi as a brand. They are a brand I recommend based on a few factors like price, selection of tools, and longevity of use.
At first, I started with a much cheaper miter saw from Harbor Freight which I purchased for about $85 on sale. I can say it worked, but not very well. Within the first month, a piece of it broke off while I was using it, which might have been a user error but it really scared me. I used that for about two years until I decided it was in my best interest (of keeping my fingers) to invest in a good solid saw.
What Are Miter Saws Used For?
Miter saws are one of the most popular tools for woodworkers, carpenters, and craftsmen because of their sheer versatility and easy-to-use handiness. They make every project that requires a saw that much easier. Bonus points if you get a *Miter Saw Stand with it as well, as I have.
It is mainly used for accurate crosscuts and precise angle cuts. Both accuracy, as well as angles, are made even simpler when your miter saw has a laser. Which then ensures that even after I measure and mark my spot using a *carpenter's square I cut accurately.
Why Not Buy The Best Equipment Available Right Away?
Unless you're going to be a professional contractor, you don't typically need to invest in professional tools which come with a much higher price tag. But there's nothing to stop you from upgrading after a few years.
Nail Gun | What is the Best DIY Nail Gun?
I've owned my *Ryobi Cordless 18 Gauge Brad Nailer for about 8 years. And I'm happy to say it is still going strong after regular use.
I have used my nail gun for hundreds of projects such as handmaking all of my wooden shelf brackets. If you want to know more about that project check out How to Build the Best Shelf Brackets.
There are many projects where using screws either aren't an option or aren't the best solution. Therefore having a cordless brad nailer saves your life. I have installed four shiplap walls in under an hour each because I had a nail gun. Likewise, I've also been replacing all of the baseboard trim in my home using it.
Why Do You Recommend Cordless Over Pneumatic?
I have a compressor, but I prefer cordless. One reason is that I work mostly indoors and another is, sometimes I work at night. Anyone who has ever used a compressor knows how loud they are when they need to suck in air. And that is the last thing you want to hear if you have a sleeping baby. Or if it's the middle of the night, or in an enclosed space.
Cordless Drill | What is the Best Cordless Drill Under $100
Let me point out there are actually two drills I would recommend you have in your toolbox. First, *Ryobi Cordless Drill and second, *Ryobi Impact Drill (or you can purchase them in a *bundle, as I did). Both of them are essential and they both play slightly different roles.
The difference between an impact driver and a drill is that an impact driver delivers the sequential bursts of power users often try to get with drills more effectively. It delivers those bursts automatically, without the user having to do anything.
An impact driver also drills at a constant speed as needed and draws upon the bursting action when the driver senses resistance in the work material.The Spruce
What Does This Mean As A Beginner Deciding Which One To Use?
In other words, a drill is great for easy projects where you're simply putting things together. Or using screws in predrilled holes where little resistance will happen. An impact driver will drive a screw into a thick piece of wood without much fuss.
If you're tightening the screws of hardware on a dresser or cabinet, you'd want to use a drill. If you're building a deck with screws you probably want to use an impact driver.
Sander | Best Sander For DIY Projects
In the last 10 years, I have gone through 3 different Random Orbital Sanders. And I can say without a doubt that my current *DeWalt Random Orbital Sander is the best sander for DIY Projects.
I have owned it for over 2 years without a single hitch. It has earned the right to be in the best of the best 10+ essential tools for the DIYer list. And maybe even win an award.
Random orbital sanders are workhorses for the DIY furniture restorer, or even things like restoring wood floors, or home projects. Basically, anything where you need to get smooth wood, it's your most versatile tool.
What Makes An Orbital Sander the Best Choice for DIY?
Chiefly, it prevents leaving swirl marks. Also, the direction of the graining is not much of an issue when you sand with it. No matter the direction of wood grain is, the random orbital sander will give a smooth finishing for sure. That's why it is easily possible to sand two pieces of wood with different directions at the same time.
Did you know that a random orbital sander merges a belt sander and the speed of an orbital sander; in fact, an orbital sander has even more momentum to produce more beautiful finishes.
There are three types of random orbital sander; air-powered, electric-powered, and orbital floor sander. The electric-powered and air-powered sanders can be categorized as handheld sanders. The floor sander, on the other hand, is a large machine that will roll.Tools Pro Kit
Circular Saw | Best Circular Saw For Small Projects
This *Skil 7 ¼" Corded Circular Saw was the last saw I purchased. But it definitely has made my odd DIY situation easier! I had a *Ryobi 7 ¼" Cordless Circular Saw (still do). But unless you get a powerful one it gets stuck often in the middle of cuts which is not ideal. So I actually switched over to a corded higher quality saw (paid less!) and love it so much more.
I used my circular saw to avoid having to go in and out to my miter saw outside in the middle of the night while building my Master Bedroom Closet. Sat down right in the middle of my walk-in closet and cut the wood I needed. Easy peasy solution.
Table Saw | Great Beginner Table Saw For Home DIY
Don't let this tool intimidate you. Even if it is extremely intimidating. This was one of the last tools I actually took the plunge to buy. Simply because I could not do what I wanted to do without it. Having a table saw available to you is seriously indispensable. For the longest time, I relied on my Dad taking wood and ripping it with the table saw for me. He was more than happy to help, but I really needed to be able to do it on my time.
How Can You Use A Tablesaw To Save Money?
A few things made easier by owning a table saw are:
- Ripping down plywood for creating shiplap walls
- Ripping 1x4's into 1x2's for my shelf brackets, and
- Taking the rounded edge off 1x4 common lumber to make my own farmhouse trim.
Those are just a few of the examples of ways I've used it to save me money and enable me to accomplish projects in my home. Instead of having to pay a premium to purchase wood that is precut, I am able to buy common lumber and cut it to my needs for a fraction of the cost.
And all of the projects I use it for would be impossible for me to do otherwise. I'll admit it took me some time to feel suitably comfortable using it. But now that I've been using it for a few years I feel a great sense of accomplishment and confidence in my ability to learn how to use other tools. You can do it, too.
Staple Gun | Best Staple Gun for DIY Users
A staple gun is one of those tools which might be easily forgotten but is absolutely essential for many DIY projects. I have used staple guns for years to reupholster dining chairs, but it has many uses including in the garden as shown in the photo above.
They don't cost very much, but they make life so much easier. I've tried a few over the years and own a stapler that uses a compressor as well as a simple hand stapler. While I use and love both I would recommend using a specific type for each.
Surebonder is a brand that has been recommended over and over by professionals. So, you can feel very confident they have a more comfortable trigger (hard on your palm otherwise) than some. I also own the pneumatic version. Both are great options for DIY projects. Though consider, please a pneumatic requires an *air compressor.
Essential Hand Tools for the DIYer
Kreg Jig Pocket Hole | Is A Pocket Hole Jig Worth it?
Is a Pocket Hole Jig worth it? It is100%. In fact, the only thing I knew when I purchased my first Kreg Jig Pocket Hole System was Ana White used them to build beautiful furniture DIY style. And I wanted to do it, too. This tool is literally one of the best investments I've ever made. The applications are limitless, basically, whenever you want to join one piece of wood to another there is likely a way to use a pocket hole. Which makes the joint stronger.
At first, I purchased the *Kreg Jig K-5 Pocket Hole System, I loved it but as I have no workbench it is really not ideal unless you can screw it down. Eventually, I got their smaller but more versatile *Kreg Jig R3 Starter Kit which you can use literally anywhere you are. Since I often work wherever I can in my house or on my deck this is my #1 choice.
What is a Pocket hole Jig and What Does It Do?
Pocket hole jigs allow the user to drill a hole at an accurate angle to get a good joint. Using a pocket hole jig also makes for a cleaner and neater appearance as opposed to creating a pocket hole without the help of a jig.Wikipedia
There are DIY videos on how to make your own, but honestly, Kreg Jig makes affordable tools. I gifted them to myself for my birthday and Christmas consecutively. No regrets. I used the Kreg Jig when building my shelf brackets also.
Painting Supplies | Essential Paint Supplies For Beginner DIYers
For the home DIYer these are the pretty basic #1 thing you will want to invest in. Good paint supplies will make your life and paint projects much less daunting. Everyone loves painting at first, but it can quickly become frustrating if you are using the cheapest of everything.
There are a couple of brands which are known for their quality in paint, Purdy is my favorite. I was very sad to learn Home Depot no longer carries them, or Minwax, which are two of my favorite brands. However, Home Depot does carry Wooster which is also made in the USA and is of decent quality.
A few paint supplies you might want to keep on hand include:
- *Wooster 2" Brush
- *Extendable Roller , *Extension Pole , & *Roller Pads
- *Painter's Tray
- *Paint Cup
- *Edger Tool
- *Drop Cloth
- *Painter's Tape
Essential Hand Tools for the DIYer
I feel like clamps are something that people overlook before they actually start DIY projects. Whether it's furniture refinishing, building furniture, or just home projects. You don't realize just how much these little tools can mean in the way of getting that quality you want out of something and making projects actually possible.
There are so many projects big and small that just aren't possible without clamps. I don't know about you, but my kids break a lot of stuff! Maybe you don't have children so you don't run into this as much as I do, but I seriously find myself needing clamps way more often than I ever imagined.
They enable me to fix things instead of just throwing them out. And that is valuable to me as someone who's trying to be intentional about taking care of things and spending minimally.
A good measuring tape is a commodity. I've owned several different types, varying sizes, and brands. And I can safely say it is extremely inconvenient when you use a cheap one that doesn't work well. It's one of those things you realize with repeated use. They aren't very expensive, but they're absolutely essential, so pay the extra money to get a good brand that's solid, has good reviews, and has at least 25' of tape to expand.
There's not much you need to say about a caulk gun. If you want to caulk you need to have one of these. Most home improvement projects will require you to use some type of caulk at one point or another, so go ahead and invest in a good solid choice. The one I recommend is a composite gun instead of metal. I have used both and find my composite gun is solid, but light so you don't deal with as much arm exhaustion.
You may need more than one level. Depending on the project you're doing a small one may work great, or you may need a longer 3' level. I own and have used both. The smaller one is the one you will use more often, but every now and then you will do a project like my 12' long dining room shelves, which requires having a longer level to properly install the shelves and ensure they're plumb. There is an option for a set of levels, the one below comes with three different size options.
There are multiple options for a stud finder. One option is the one shown above and another option is simply a strong magnet that grabs hold of the nails in the studs to help you find them. I use the magnet stud finder really often because it's magnetic and just sticks to my impact drill, so it's easy for me to use and keep track of. But the one above is well known to be more reliable. Or, you could just own both as I do! Then your bases are covered.
Finding a stud when you're trying to install anything. You can use drywall anchors, or other types of anchors depending on what your wall is made out of, but tapping into a stud will be your most solid option. When I'm installing something particularly heavy I will rearrange whatever I need to to ensure I can get into multiple studs so I know that heavy object will never be falling off of my wall.
I feel like a hammer should kind of need no introduction. Anyone who is alive likely knows exactly why you need a hammer and what you do with a hammer. Obviously, there are many different types for all kinds of uses and specific needs, but the one linked above is the general use that you can use for pretty much all the DIY needs.
A hammer comes in handy for many things including hanging pictures and other decor items onto walls, using it paired with a chisel to install any doors hinges (to hang a door), or even DIY craft projects like using a stamp and hammer to create metal art. There's also the use of hammering in nails or pulling nails out when doing DIY home projects.
This is not simply for opening amazon packages, though it can be used for that quite efficiently. No, a utility knife and its blades are extremely versatile. I like to have one available for things like scraping paint off glass or mirrors, scraping things off my tile floor, cutting things, scoring the caulk line to make it easier to uninstall anything that's been caulked.
If you like this post you will definitely like How to Build the Best Wooden Shelf Brackets.
10+ Essential Tools For the DIYer | Q&A
Tools You Need As A Beginner
As a new beginner just stepping into DIY I would recommend you get the absolute basics. Just stick to things like:
1. measuring tape
2. stud finder
5. caulk gun
6. paint tools
You can do a large range of beginner DIY projects with just that handful of tools in your box. However, there will be supplies needed to use all of that equipment as well like screws, basic caulk, jigsaw blades, and drill bits. But once you get those few elemental items you can DIY to your little heart's content. At least until you get a real thirst for it and decide to break into the power tool category. Then the real fun begins!
10 Hand Tools You Will Place In Your Tool Box
Power Tools That Are Most Useful
The top 5 power tools I most use in all of my home and furniture projects are
1. Miter Saw
2. Table Saw
3. Impact Driver
4. Orbital Sander
5. Cordless Brad Nailer
All five of those I keep ready and able to use whenever I start any project of any size because they are the most useful and needed.
Tools That You Can Use At Home
In my home, I use a lot of tools. However, the average home probably doesn't need as many. To get by you really just need the basics, unless you're planning on doing home renovations DIY style. The absolute basics would be something you'd find in a pre-compiled tool kit which usually has items like
4. Measuring Tape
5. Carpenter's Square
6. Screwdrivers (Flathead and Phillips)
7. Rachet & Sockets
8. Utility Knife
9. Hex Keys
10. Bits for an interchangeable Screw Driver
If you're interested in keeping a minimal basic kit this Craftsman 57 piece tool kit would work out great.