How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time. Or, at least, that’s how the saying goes. I’m not advocating eating elephants. Fairly certain you shouldn’t put Dumbo’s mom on your dinner menu.
But the old adage holds true when it comes to tackling tasks of seemingly elephant-like proportions — like starting your tool collection.
When you’re just starting out — first apartment, first house, first project — you have a mile-long list of home improvement must-do’s and want-to-do’s, and you have a mile-long list of supplies to match. You — and your budget — may feel a bit panicky. Where do you even begin?
Luckily, just like with any other collection — spices, cleaning supplies, cooking instruments — you start with the basics and build your collection from there on an as-needed basis.
So what should your ground level tool collection look like? If you’re looking to take the first step toward home improvement, start by investing in these 10 basics:
A claw hammer — you know, pound nails in with one side, pull them out with the other — is a versatile tool. It can create and destroy. Smash through drywall or set a wall anchor. Pry up outdated materials or break your thumb. It’s good for a bit of everything.
Whether it’s changing switch plate covers or putting together furniture from a big box store, you’re bound to run up against tasks that require a screwdriver.
A basic set of flat and Phillips head screwdrivers are a good place to start. However, if you have the funds and an optimistic to-do list, you may want to lump a tried-and-true cordless drill into this category as well. If you’re planning on doing a lot of fixing-up around your home with said drill, be warned that hand cramps will abound. An air-powered drill will create a clean hole in less time, so it’s more than worth the investment if you’re in the fixer-upper business.
My dad always says, “measure twice, cut once.” Really, though, that philosophy holds true for any measuring-related task, be that cutting boards for a plank wall or picking out a new living room set.
Do you struggle to turn your measurements into actionable plans? Don’t worry — there are apps for that.
Nothing ruins a hard day’s work like taking a step back and hearing a sad “womp, womp” sound as you realize your beloved project is more than slightly slanted. A simple level helps you avoid such woes.
A utility knife, a.k.a. box cutter, is good for more than just cutting boxes. Of course, box cutting will come in handy when you inevitably need a flattened box to protect a workspace or to provide a shield when spray painting.
You may know this tool by its more technical name: scraper. Use it to spread wood filler or spackle. You can also use it to scrape up excess paint or other unwanted materials.
If there is even one guy in your life, prepare yourself for the requisite, “But I’m right here” quips when using a stud finder.
Bypass the dinky dollar variety stud finders and invest in a do-it-all stud sensor that will not only find studs, but will also help you look out for pipes and cables, too. Nothing ruins a good project like a trip to the emergency room or a busted pipe
You could buy a roll of duct tape and call yourself set, but adding a few other tape types to your toolkit wouldn’t go amiss. Plumbing and electrical tape are great to have on-hand for big projects and unexpected repairs alike.
Painter’s tape is great for — you guessed it — painting projects, but it also comes in handy for other tasks as well. Since it’s easily removable, painter’s tape is great for marking drill holes, planning picture hanging or holding protective sheets up (or down).
Unless you’re a giant, chances are you’ll have a few projects where a little vertical assistance is required.
For run-of-the-mill, indoor projects, a painter’s ladder will likely suffice. They’re easy to carry, but they are still tall enough to help you reach the ceiling. As a bonus, most have a tray to hold paint, brushes or other tools while you work. Some trays even have a magnetic section for keeping loose screws, nails, etc. in check.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be a tool box, either. It can be a bag, a bin or a cart — there’s no right answer. Just pick a portable storage option for your growing tool set. A dedicated piece of storage will help keep things all in one place, easy to find and easy to transport to the day’s project.
Honorable mentions go out to caulk guns, paintbrushes, sandpaper and basic protective gear.
While the tools listed above would probably fall under “basic necessity” for most DIYers, your MVP tool will differ depending on your style, skill set and to-do list. What tool would your box (bin, cart, cardboard box) be incomplete without?