What tools do I need for basic DIY?

Putting together a basic or starter tool kit

start with what you have tool wise

Start with what you have

Your tool kit will evolve over time depending on the types of DIY you tackle, but to get you started here is a table taken from my book which explains all the different tools you might need.

The list starts off with some basic tools and progresses through into the more specialised tools which you might need, again depending on what you’re about to work on. Power tools are nice but also a luxury, many jobs can be done perfectly well using hand tools only. Fitting laminate flooring for example, the cuts are not even seen (called face cuts) as they are underneath the trim or skirting boards, making a handsaw a viable choice.

Right, here we go, and don’t for get you can get started with a couple of screwdrivers to tackle some basic maintenance around your home…

If your starting out and don’t have anything at all, start with this list…

  • A selection pack of different screwdrivers.
  • A claw hammer.
  • A club or lump hammer.
  • Chisels (timber chisels plus cold chisels for masonry).
  • A sharp saw for timber.
  • A hacksaw (for metal).
  • A pair of pliers.
  • A craft knife.
  • A small nail punch
  • A carpenters square.
  • A bunch of pencils.

Oh, and something sturdy to store them all in (tools box or a large ‘trug’ type bucket). Add to these a cordless drill plus a folding workbench and you’re in pretty good shape to make a start (as always stick to the big brands for best quality).

Here is the full list in alphabetical order….

Hand Tools

Allen key set Get a set that fold out like a penknife, or at least a set that stores easily.
Bar ‘quick’ clamps Used to be ‘G’ clamps, but now are quick adjusting, single handed bar type. Get a pair of 150mm (6”) ones to start with.
Carpenters square Combination type of setsquare for setting out and marking 90 and 45-degree angles prior to cutting.
Centre punch Centre punch makes starting holes in metal a cinch.
Cold Chisels ¼”, ½”, ¾” and 3”, 4” bolsters Used for chopping out masonry, (brick and blocks etc.) Cheap ones are fine although branded ones are not too expensive.
Claw hammer Don’t go too heavy. I would start off with a 16oz one. 20oz if you are a big un’…..
Club hammer Also called ‘lump’ hammer in the UK. 2.5lb (appx 1.1kg) ok. The bigger 4lb (appx 1.8kg) is for heavy work and big un’s.
Craft knife or utility knife Stanley knife is a common choice with a retractable blade. Get lots and lots of spare blades. Change the blade often.
Drywall saw A small ‘padsaw’ style handsaw especially for cutting and trimming plasterboards (drywall or sheetrock in the USA)
Hacksaw For cutting metal. Junior and regular size are both useful. Get a spare blade or two, as they do chip and occasionally break.
Hand saw or hardpoint saw Cheap and cheerful hardpoint disposable saws are super sharp and last well if not abused on nails and masonry.
Hole marker (deep hole) Very useful marker for marking where to drill your fixing holes on the wall through the item to be fixed, i.e. through a timber batten or shelf bracket.
Magnifying glass This might be my age but often you need to examine something really close up to see details or damage.
Nail punch For punching nails below the surface of the timber ready for filling.
Pair of ‘monkey’ wrenches Useful for lots of plumbing related tasks, like compression pipe fittings. Often called pipe wrenches or gas wrenches or even just Stillsons after one of the original manufacturers.
Pincers Occasionally great for getting a fixing out that’s not protruding enough to use a claw hammer.
Plastic tubs Thick flexible plastic and better than regular buckets for just about everything. Look for Gorilla tubs, trugs or rubber buckets.  Very handy to store working or day-to-day tools in, rather than taking your whole tool kit out and about.
PliersSide cuttersNeedle nose pliers Handy for sorts of jobs and probably one of the first things on your shopping list. Pliers to hold stuff, needle nose for accessing fiddly stuff and side cutters for cutting wire etc.
Screwdriver set Minimum will be the five common types, which are Pozidrive 1 and 2, plus a small, medium and large slotted/ flat screwdrivers.Other useful types are Philips 1 and 2 plus short or ‘stubby’ variations of Pozidrive 1 + 2 and medium slotted.
Set of files Flat, half round and round type are the most useful.
Set of line pins and building line Great for anywhere that needs a straight line.  Setting out walls, laying bricks or landscaping etc. NB: Cheap pins bend easily.
Socket set Set from around 5mm up to around 24mm or so. Imperial sizes are sometimes useful too. ?” drive generally with ¼” for small sizes and ½” for heavier work or ¾” drive for tractors, trains and tanks etc…
Special screwdriver bits Set of small screwdriver bits in small or special drive styles. Common on electrical items.
Spirit levels One small and a largish one, say 30cm and 120cm (1’ and 4’ or so)
‘T’, star or ‘TORX’ drives. Star drivers, T20 very common on fridges and much more. Can be screwdriver style, fold out or individual (pictured)
Tape measure Worn on the belt at all times, along with a pencil stub behind your ear…….Buy one with a wide blade for easy measuring of longer lengths. Oh, the end hook is supposed to move by the way.
Tool belt with pockets and hanging points If you’re getting serious about all this… Choose one with the softest material for best comfort. Hammer loop is essential.
Torque wrench. Useful if working on vehicles. Helps get all your nuts and bolts the correct tightness. Essential for some jobs like tightening wheel nuts and cylinder head bolts etc. Somewhere in the 20-150f/lb. range is ideal. ? or ½ drives are common.
Trowels Brick trowel, gauging trowel, pointing trowel and a ‘bucket handle’ (half-round type) jointing tool and possibly a plastering trowel if you’re feeling very brave!
Various sized scrapers From 1” filler knives to a 3” heavy scraper, all are useful to have in the toolbox. Not just for scraping away old paint but a myriad of small tasks.
Voltstick A clever tool for finding live wires. Handy for finding simple failures like broken wires.
Wire strippers Better than pliers for stripping plastic sheathing from electrical wire. Changing plugs, wiring lamps etc. automatic type (pictured) easiest.

Power tools

You get what you pay for with power tools. Try to stick to brands you might have heard of. Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order and there are other good brands out there. Makita, Bosch, DeWALT, Black and Decker, Metabo, Dremel, Bostitch, Hitachi, Ryobi, Trend, Milwaukee, Festool and many other niche manufacturers especially in the USA. Side note, Bosch tools for professionals have blue cases but they also have a cheaper DIY range with green cases.

Combination mitre saw Perfect carpentry cutting, from skirting boards to fitting kitchens. Best to stick with the well-known brands for ease of use, quality of cuts and reliability.
Drill driver/cordless screwdriver A necessity. Buy a holder and different screwdriver bits. I like the flip over type holder with a drill bit in one end and the screwdriver bit in the other. Don’t go too big for comfort, I like 9 to 12V range.
Jigsaw Ideal for cutting many different materials. Especially good for curves in sheet materials. Can also be used for general woodworking duties, like framing with good quality fast cut blades.
Mini grinder Useful for cutting, grinding metal and brick/stone/mortar and wire brushing metal. 115mm is common size.
SDS drill(pneumatic type) Don’t be tempted to buy a ‘hammer’ drill, as they are useless for harder materials. SDS type is the ONLY way to go. Bits have special mounting system and last ages and ages.
Set of drill bits HSS set for timber, plastic and metal (1mm to 10mm). Flat spade bits for timber, (6mm to 25mm). SDS set for masonry, or 6mm and 7mm sizes minimum.

Advanced Power Tools

Bench saw or larger table saw A saw for ripping down timber into whatever size you need. Bench saws are easily portable or a larger table saw for the shed or workshop if you are not going to be moving it often. Legs are essential.
Circular saw Useful for cutting up sheet materials. Plunge saw with rails are a more expensive option.Can be used to rip down timber until you can afford a table saw!
Compressor Useful for lots of jobs around the home from blowing up tyres to powering nail guns and staplers.  Also great for cleaning dust out of stuff.
Electric planer From small 1mm per pass up to monster professional 3mm per pass ones. Cheap ones perform pretty poorly and are best avoided.
Nail guns Small pinners for trims like architraves etc. up to huge framing nailers that can fire 90mm nails for the big stuff.Can be air or gas powered (paslode) or even battery powered, (pictured).
Pillar Drill Cheap and useful tool for drilling accurately. Especially good for drilling metal or blind holes (holes that don’t go all the way through). Needs to be bolted down to a workbench
Router Handy for cutting grooves and profiling edges. Get a ½-inch drive if you intend to cut kitchen countertops with it, otherwise a ¼-inch one is light and useful.
Reciprocating saw Useful for general rough cutting of timber, in the home or garden.

Hope that helps, let me know in the comments if you get stuck.

Stay well 

By Ian Anderson

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