Today I was at my local True Value Hardware in search of a new Shop Vac. Our old one was going on eight years and suddenly died on me last weekend for no obvious reason and mid clean up job. No matter what we tried to do to fix it (cleaning the motor, checking the circuits), nothing brought it back to life. So today, in the back of my car sits a brand new Shop Vac and tomorrow I have a date with my sawdust covered garage floor.
On my way home I remembered every year I write about DIY tools I consider essential and what better time than before the holiday rush to revisit the topic. Some of you new DIYers may be thinking of adding a few tools to your toolbox, so here’s a list of twenty-five I consider essential. This list is not exhaustive since it’s limited to only twenty-five, but these are my personal favorites and the tools I’ve found myself using the most over the past year.
#1: Cordless Drill/Driver & Drill Bit Set
I have a 12 Volt DeWalt, but recently just acquired an 18 Volt Black & Decker with more torque. I use my power screwdriver just about every week for everything from removing seat cushions to assembling furniture to drilling pilot holes with drill bits.
#2 and #3: Measuring Tape and Level
Essential for everything you build or install in your home like molding, trim, or wainscoting. Look for mini versions too at your home improvement store for smaller projects like hanging artwork on the wall.
#4 and #5: Set of Phillips + Flat head screwdrivers & set of non-slip pliers.
Basic screwdrivers are a must have, but you can also buy an all in one. Three kinds of pliers (needle nose, side cutting, tongue and groove and/or flat head) come in handy for removing nails, staples, and upholstery tacks, among other basic DIY household tasks.
#6 and #7: Hammer and Mallet
The hammer is obvious, but the mallet is a great tool for working with nailhead trim and pounding paint cans closed without damaging the metal rim.
#8 Shop Vac
Shop vacs are fabulous to have for pickup of debris in a workshop or on a project site, but also great for vacuuming out your car. They can remove water in a basement or a toilet too.
I’m vertically challenged, so I’m always scurrying up my step ladder to paint walls, caulk crown or trim, change light fixtures, or decorate in high places. Occasionally I use it in place of a tripod to stabilize my camera when taking pictures, no joke!
#10 and #11 Particulate Respirator & Safety Goggles
The respirator is essential when you’re using any projects with chemicals or if sawdust is flying through the air. Safety goggles are important to protect your eyes when sanding, drilling, cutting or spray painting. Simple answer: if particles are flying around or fumes are present, then wear ‘em.
#12 and #13: Heavy Duty Staple Gun or Light Tacker Staple Gun & Hot Glue Gun
Staple guns are one of my best friends, perfect for all kinds of small upholstery projects. You can solve so many of the world’s problems with a little hot glue, and a hot glue gun is a crafter’s BFF.
#14 and #15: Retractable Blade Utility Knife & 6-in-1 Tool
I use my utility knife for so many things, making stencils, or cutting through vinyl or thin plastic. The six-in-one is a painter’s best friend, it opens paint cans and keeps the rim from filling up with paint, but it’s also useful for stripping wallpaper, wedging into tight spaces (like to pull of baseboard) or for spackling holes.
#16: Wrenches: Adjustable and Allen
Universally useful, everyone needs adjustable wrenches for loosening and tightening bolts (think plumbing or furniture assembly). Allen wrenches are another useful tool for assembly or disassembly of many household items.
#17 Folding Sawhorses
Throw a piece of plywood on top and you have an instant work surface with two sawhorses. Great when you need a long work surface for refinishing cabinet doors or painting trim before it’s installed.
#18 Good Paintbrushes
For staining wood or painting furniture or walls, it goes without saying everyone should have a few good paintbrushes in their toolbox. I find myself using the angled ‘sash and trim’ versions more and more, especially for touchups or for cutting a straight line by hand.
#19 Spray Paint Can Adaptor
A snap on adaptor, or ‘spray paint gun’ is essential for quick priming and paint jobs achieved with spray paint. For just a few dollars, it helps with smoother application and saves your fingers from cramping.
#20 Orbital Sander and/or Detail Sander
For getting down to the nitty-gritty and smoothing out those wood surfaces. I have an orbital and often use it in combination with sanding wedges. This little 3M version is a great tool too, the little handle makes a big difference and you can easily switch out the various grits of sandpaper.
#21 Rotary and/or Oscillating Tools
Dremel’s rotary tool and MultiMax are some of my favorites in my toolbox. With tiny sanders, scrapers, and blades, these tools know how to multitask! The rotary can grind, scrape, or polish and is useful in small tight spaces. The interchangeable blades on the oscillating MultiMax are perfect for small cuts or removing grout or for cutting baseboard or drywall.
#22 Finish Nailer & Compressor Kit
Another favorite tool for hanging trim quickly and also upholstery too if you buy the versions that let you use staples. Nail guns come in all shapes and sizes so do your research, some fire larger 2” nails, some fire smaller 1” nails, and some do or do not come with a compressor. Mine came in handy earlier this year when we installed board and batten in my boy’s room.
#23 and #24 SkilSaw and Jigsaw
A SkilSaw circular saw is fantastic for building stuff around the house or cutting long thick pieces of wood in a straight line. The jigsaw is perfect for cutting designs in ½ inch to 2 inch wood (whether straight or curved lines) and for making things like upholstered headboards or for cutting through wine barrels or plywood steps.
#25 Compound Miter Saw
The most expensive tool on my list, but essential for straight and angled cuts if you plan to do a lot of trim or woodwork around your house.
What about all of you savvy DIYers out there? Got a favorite tool you can’t live without? Or a special tool you’re putting on your wish list? I’d love to hear it!
True Value Blog Squad legalese: “I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY projects. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”