Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to [email protected].
from Lidia in FL: How
are you doing Brian? I’ve owned my home for two years but still haven’t picked
up a hammer. I do own a hammer and a screwdriver but those are the only tools
in my catchall drawer. So, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m new to DIY projects
but it’s clear to me that this is the best way to get more projects done
inexpensively. And to do some of the maintenance. So please help me begin at the
beginning. Instead of a hardware salesman selling me a bunch of expensive tools
that I probably don’t need, what are the basics for simple DIY projects?
Hello Lidia. Your
homeowner’s toolbox begins with a few basic tools that you’ll add to over time
as you take on different and more complex projects. For years, I’ve given gifts
of small basic toolkits for birthdays, Christmas, and high school graduation for
young adults (you can even find these in the color pink for young women). These
are toolkits that come in a plastic tote and are often advertised to contain
about 50 or 60 tools at a cost under $50. I think these are useful for a young
person heading off to college or a first apartment where the tools will mostly
be used to put together IKEA furniture. But there are drawbacks. These low cost
tools are manufactured inexpensively. You can’t expect them to last very long
and they’ll probably break when you’re in the middle of a critical project.
Also, the advertised claim that these kits contain 50 to 60 tools can be
misleading. They do contain this many parts but they are counting every socket
and wrench as a separate tool. What you are really getting is a basic socket
set, a hammer, a basic wrench set, a tape measure, and one or two pairs of
pliers. One thing I do like about these toolkits is that they have screwdrivers
with interchangeable tips. Every one of the tips is counted as a separate tool
but range from flat tips, to phillip tips, star shapes, different sized
hexagons, and others. These come in handy when you come across a screw with an
But let’s consider some more
durable basic tools that will last a homeowner a lifetime.
A hammer is about as basic as you can get. A 16-ounce s claw hammer is where to start. You will use it to drive nails to hang pictures, to pull nails that get bent, to tap together that self-assembled IKEA furniture, and you’ll still be using it when you build a yard fence. This hammer is used for just about everything.
Many homeowners start out doing some basic carpentry work. This requires an adjustable combination square. A combination square has a 12” rule, marks off 90 and 45-degree angles, as well as has a small level. You’ll eventually need larger versions of these tools but this is a good place to start.
25 to 35-foot tape measure. You can start with a smaller 10 or 12-foot tape but it won’t be long before you need a longer tape measure.
Screwdriver set. If you have that basic toolkit mentioned earlier, you’ll get by with that for a while. But soon, you’ll want a decent set of screwdrivers. Even your most basic flathead and phillips come with different tip sizes and in different lengths to fit into confined spaces. A decent set of screwdrivers will have six to eight different sizes.
Standard and metric socket sets. You don’t need these too much for basic carpentry work but you will use them for maintenance that can include anything from changing furnace and water filters to changing the oil in the lawnmower. If you’re on a budget, you can start with only the standard sizes up to a 3/4” size. For the time being, you can use an adjustable wrench for any metric sizes that you come across.
A handsaw is less intimidating than a power saw and has many uses. It’s fast to set up when you only need to make a single cut. It can be used to cut almost all lumber and many other materials but it takes a lot of arm power. The first time you get into a job needing a lot of cuts, you’ll want to upgrade to a power circular saw. The basic circular saw has a 7-1/4-inch-diameter blade. It’s a powerful and efficient tool but absolutely requires safety precautions.
Electric drill. You can start with what is called a 3/8” chuck that accepts drill bit sizes up to 3/8”. When you get into larger projects, you’ll want to upgrade to a more powerful 1/2” chuck drill. Old style drills use a special key to tighten the drill bit into the chuck. Most new drills use a keyless chuck that requires only the grip of your hand to tighten it.
I almost forgot a basic toolbox. This is what makes these tools different from the basic toolkit. What you want is a large-capacity plastic toolbox with a metal latch that closes securely. Preferably a toolbox with a lift-out tray. Larger tools go under the tray and the tray is used to store smaller and more frequently used tools as well as assorted screws and fasteners.
There are several small very inexpensive tools that you’ll want in your toolbox like a putty knife, box cutter knife, an inexpensive magnetic stud finder, and a flashlight. There are also things that you’ll find around the house like a pencil, duct tape, string, and a piece of chalk.
Lidia, when you’re ready to begin
expanding beyond your basic tool collection, these are some tools to consider
or Torpedo Level
or bar clamps
table and miter saws
much more as you progress from beginner to moderate to more experienced.
you recommend for a basic DIY toolbox? Please leave your comments.
Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].