Buying or renting a new home is an exciting event, no matter how many times you do it. And no matter the extent the improvements or esthetic changes you intend to make, every homeowner should possess some basic, reliable tools in order to do so safely and effectively.

Before we get into the actual list of what you should buy, a few words about where not to spend your money:

Most people want to rush off to the depot and buy a cordless kit. Kits are tempting because you get ‘the big five’ and they come in a fancy case labelled BIG STRONG MAN on the side and ofcourse magically go on sale around Father’s day and Christmas. But the fact is, unless you can really justify going top of the line, (and most likely you can’t), not only is it going to collect dust and use up valuable garage/basement space, when it comes time to needing it, the batteries will be dead and the project that you have finally summoned the get-up-and-go for will be delayed until tomorrow (wherein the weather will undoubtedly be far too beautiful to waste of household projects). So rather than spending money on a recip saw that you will likely never use, stick to the tools that will actually come in handy.

  1. Corded Drill
    1. Yes, there is an argument to be made for the hassle of carrying around an extension cord, but generally when using a drill there isn’t very much travelling time to worry about. Also, a corded drill is usually more powerful, lighter in weight and less expensive. Also, it works. Every time.
  2. Hammer.
    1. Do not waste your money on a cheap, generic hammer. A $10 hammer will break or bend and can actually strain or aggravate tendons and joints. Spend at least 30$ on any hammer – after a few nails, your wrist will thank you.
  3. An exacto knife with replacement blades.
    1. My preference is an Olfa LB. Just remember that the exacto is the cause of most of my trips to the Emergency room (true story involving underpants, a retired air force pilot and a brief episode of unconsciousness).
  4. A flat bar.
    1. Similar to a crow-bar, but much smaller and more versatile; Perfect for pulling off mouldings, scraping wood, pulling nails, lifting panels, and prying in tight spaces. Fuller makes the best one I have used, and when I see them I buy a bunch. they are about $7 a piece.

  1. A good Set of screwdrivers.
    1. Do NOT get one of those interchangeable or retractable screwdrivers. These things rust up, they lose components, and most importantly do not give you the torque that you need. A 6 to 8 piece set with a couple Robertson, (the square one) a couple Phillips, (the star one), and a couple slot (flat) heads is the basic set. Make sure they have a lifetime warranty, and have hardened heads. Frank will drone on at length about how screwdrivers aren’t used for scraping paint off thinks or prying open paint cans, but I’ll let you make that judgement call.
  2. Two tape measures.
    1. One for the car and one for the home. Again, don’t go cheap. A good tape measure will hold its form when extended to at least 10 feet.
  3. Step-ladder
    1. Far too many homeowners or renters don’t own a CSA-approved, solid step-ladder, resulting in thousands of falls from tables, chairs, milk crates and overturned buckets.

Once you have mastered these items and feel you are ready for the next steps, things like electric saws, compressors and guns and hammer drills may become part of your arsenal, but not without the essential purchase (and consistent USE of), protective eye-wear. If you’re worried about looking foolish, consider the alternative;

Lastly, all the tools in the world and all the expertise to use them won’t matter a lick if they aren’t put back in their clean, dry, holding spot after each and every use – for some, that’s the trickiest part!