It’s safe to say that with homeownership generally comes home repair. No matter how together your house or condo is on the surface, chances are better than good that you’re going to need a little fix-it know-how at some point. Whether you have the “handy” gene or not, you have to be ready to stop that squeak, leak, rattle or buzz. Hanging a picture, tightening a hinge, refitting a washer hose or patching a hole, there’s no getting out of the job of being your own handyman. So on top of your basic hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, nails and screws, duct tape and WD-40, here are 10 other toolbox essentials to also keep within easy reach.
1. Cordless drill and drill bits
Let’s get the noisiest one out of the way first. There’s no need to be scared of a simple drill, one of the best investments you can make for your kit. Once you get the hang of fitting in the bits, you’ll find yourself using a drill more often than you’d thought, because it’s really a drill and a screwdriver. And no cord means you can use it anywhere and everywhere. Make sure you find one that’s light yet powerful, with variable speed control.
2. Crescent wrench
Dad called this a monkey wrench. It’s great when you don’t happen to have a tool that’s the right size, because the jaw quickly adjusts to whatever size you need with the flick of the thumb. Perfect for novices, the adjustable crescent wrench saves you both time and money, because you only need one tool to do many jobs. It’s a bit bulkier than normal spanner wrenches, but incredibly convenient—particularly if your nuts and bolts aren’t a standard size.
3. Utility knife
A favourite multipurpose tool if there ever was one. The utility knife is handy because there’s always something that needs cutting, be it cardboard, twine, tape, linoleum, and what have you. It’s also great for marking or scoring things like drywall and for trimming off excess plastic, wood or foam. Find them in folding, fixed or retracting styles, all durable and sturdy enough to add a level of safety to your chores, so you are less likely to hurt yourself. Dad might have called these box cutters. You can, too.
4. Socket set
Tighten and loosen nuts and bolts faster and easier than a spanner wrench with a tidy socket set. If you have a full set, you will have all the sizes you need to do a variety of jobs. The socket wrench leaves you better positioned for the task at hand, reaching difficult-to-access bolts with ease. And being six-sided rather than two-sided like the spanners takes the pressure off the bolt, so there’s less risk of damaging it.
This jack-of-all-trades fine-tooth saw, while designed primarily for cutting metal, can also cut wood and plastic, making it a versatile addition to your toolkit. They’re convenient, light, easy to transport and way less scary and cumbersome than a plain, wooden-handled crosscut saw. Using a handsaw of any kind is slower work, so you have more control, yielding less risk of injury. Hacksaw blades are disposable, but nowadays seem to last forever.
6. The trifecta of pliers
Get serious about your work by working a trio of handy pliers into your repertoire. The common lineman pliers are used for holding, cutting, straightening, gripping, bending, twisting, you name it. Needle-nose pliers are perfect for cutting or bending small wires and for gripping in tight spots, when other tools are too bulky. Tongue and groove pliers are a type of slip-joint plier, working well for grasping larger nuts and pipes, adjusting to the size you need, and for gripping and bending irregular-shaped objects and hardware.
7. Vise grips
Let’s take the holding and straightening a step further with the very useful vise grips. These work by adjusting the jaws onto something and then squeezing the handles together to lock the jaws in place. Whatever you’re working on then stays put while you’re repairing it. These are great for loosening frozen nuts, pulling out nails and broken screws, and simply clamping things solidly. A word of caution: These can and will damage whatever you’re clamping, so go easy.
8. Spirit level
Sometimes just eye-balling it isn’t the best idea. You need a level in your life to get the horizontal and vertical planes perfect every time, for carpentry, woodworking, picture-hanging and more. Get a small one that fits in your toolbox—then keep your eye on the bubble.
9. Spackle and putty knife
Sometimes it seems like you just need to look at drywall sideways to damage it. For dents in the wall, unsightly nail holes, cracks in the ceiling joint, peeling wallpaper—you name it, you can tackle it with the handy duo of spackle and a small metal or plastic knife. Spackle dries quickly, doesn’t shrink—and is cheap and cheerful.
10. Safety glasses, gloves, and headlamp
Whatever you’re doing, look the part by tending to the most important thing about home repairs—your safety. Safety glasses are light, inexpensive and can save your sight, no matter how experienced a handyperson you are. Gloves go without saying; they may not save a hammered fingernail, but they sure can protect hands from rips and tears, not to mention general gunk. A headlamp is one of the best items in the toolkit, a guiding light for every corner, from the basement to the attic.