DIY and home renovation projects are fun, and they can save you money! But to get the job done, you need the right tools for the job. Check out the list below to see if you are missing any of these must-have tools. This list isn’t only about power tools – hand tools are just as important.
Let’s get started!
Must-Have Tools For Every DIYer
(Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more information see my disclosure, here.)
Tool #1: Utility Knife
A utility knife with replaceable blades will save your pocket knife, or kitchen knives from unnecessary wear and tear. Don’t use the wrong tool for the job! Make sure you have a quality utility knife on hand.
Best Deal: Sheffield Ultimate Lock Back Utility Knife
The ‘Sheffield Ultimate Lock Back Utility Knife’ is a high quality, folding, replaceable blade utility knife. The knife is made with a high quality aluminum handle. It also has a patented blade lock system that makes swapping out dull blades easy. The blade lock system also securely holds blades in place during use.
You might be surprised how cheap the Sheffield Ultimate Lock Back Utility Knife is on Amazon (it’s less than $10).
Replacement Blades: 100 Utility Knife Blades
Don’t forget the extra blades! The best part about having a nice utility knife is the ease of swapping out dull, used blades for brand new, razor sharp blades. Its quick, easy, and the best part is they usually only cost around $0.10 each (Yes, that’s TEN CENTS). For that price, it’s there’s no reason to ever tolerate using a dull blade again.
Tool #2: Speed Square
A speed square is an extremely handy tool to keep in your toolbox. You’ll use it more often than you might think.
Many people only use a speed square, as the name suggests, to make 90 degree square marks. But don’t sell the speed square short – it has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Check out how I used a speed square to make perfect 15 degree angle cuts in this blog post: How To Make An Easy DIY Blanket Ladder (For Under $15!)
Best Deal: Swanson Speedlite Square
The Swanson Speedlite Square layout tool is made of ‘high impact polystyrene’ (which is just a fancy way of saying super durable plastic). I’ve personally owned this speed square for years. It’s survived numerous drops, being stepped on, and bouncing around in a tool box, so durability is not a concern.
These speed square’s are usually around $5 on Amazon, and for that price, you can’t afford to not have one! Checkout today’s price on the Swanson Speedlite Square Layout Tool listing on Amazon.
Mike’s Favorite: Swanson Big 12 Speed Square Layout Tool
For jobs that require a bigger speed square, the Swanson Big 12 Speed Square Layout Tool (Amazon) is always my first choice. This tool is quite a bit larger at 12″, so it gives you more flexibility to mark out larger lumber.
See how I used this tool in another blog post: How To Build Easy DIY Raised Garden Beds.
Tool #3: Carpenter Pencil
This tool is simple, but you won’t make it very far on most DIY or home improvement projects without a trusty pencil. Whether you’re marking cut lines, jotting down project notes, or any number of other uses, a good carpenter pencil is your best friend.
Top Pick: Swanson ‘Always Sharp’ Refillable Pencil
I love the Swanson Tool CP216 Always Sharp Refillable Carpenter Pencils (Amazon) because they’re cheap, and they’re always sharp! Sharpening a regular wood carpenter pencils is a pain, and it can be messy. A Swanson Always Sharp pencil never have to be sharpened – when the tip is getting worn down you just swap it out for a new one!
Tool #4: Oscillating Multi Tool
This might be one of the lesser known tools on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less important! This tool is your secret weapon when it comes to making fine, precise cuts in wood, composites, or polymer type materials (like plastic).
In addition to precision cuts, oscillating muti-tools can also be used for powered scraping (like removing a glued down vinyl tile), sanding, cleaning and polishing with various available attachments.
Best Deal: Avid Power 3.5-Amp Oscillating Multi Tool
This budget friendly kit comes with basic, no frills 3.5A multi-tool plus: cutting, scraping, and sanding attachments. The kit also includes a tool bag to keep everything organized. Checkout the price of this Avid Power Oscillating Multi-Tool with 13 piece accessory kit (ADMT146) on Amazon – its affordable priced under $50!
Best Cordless Option: DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Oscillating Tool Kit
The DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Oscillating Tool Kit (Amazon) gets rid of the cord, and instead uses battery power. This lets you take the tool wherever you need, without the hassle of finding an outlet to plug into. It’s also a professional quality, name brand tool – so you can expect a super high quality tool, top notch performance, and extreme durability.
Tool #5: Screw Drivers
You can use a cordless drill, or an impact driver for many jobs but this doesn’t mean screw drivers are obsolete. There’s tons of jobs that still require a bit more finesse than a power tool can offer. This is where having a good set of screw drivers is important.
Mike’s Favorite: Klein 11-in-1 Multi Tool
This screw driver multi tool made by Klein Tool Company is hands down my favorite screw driver. I love being able to take only one tool to a job, and knowing that it will work with almost any type of small screw.
I use this tool ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously, I cannot recommend it enough. And for under $15 on Amazon, it’s more than worth it. To see the current price on Amazon, checkout the listing: Klein 11-in-1 Multi Tool Screw Driver (Amazon).
The Klein 11-in-1 multi tool includes all the most popular screw driver bits, and even includes 3 common nut driver sizes for a little added versatility (3/8″ – 5/16″ – 1/4″). You’ll be surprised how many jobs you can conquer with this multi-tool!
Best Set: Craftsman 8 Piece Set (CMHT65075)
Sometimes having the exact right size of screw driver can be a life saver. You’ll thank yourself later for getting this 8 piece set when you need a little extra leverage from a large driver, or a stubby driver to fit into a tight area.
The Craftsman brand has been a trusted name in tools since 1927. Craftsman as earned a great reputation because of their famous lifetime warranty. To see today’s price on this screwdriver set, see the Amazon listing: Craftsman 8 Piece Set (CMHT65075).
Tool #6: Hammer
No tool kit is complete without a hammer! While there are several types of specialty hammers, a basic general purpose claw hammer will work great for the majority of DIY and home improvement jobs.
This 16oz general purpose hammer made by IRWIN Tools is a quality tool at a great price. It has a forged steel head for superior durability, a rubberized grip for comfort, and a fiberglass handle to absorb vibrations and reduce fatigue.
The list price on this hammer is $16.17 but it’s usually on sale for cheaper – checkout the price on Amazon: Irwin Tools (1954889) Fiberglass General Purpose Claw Hammer 16 oz.
Tool #7: Cordless Drill
Owning a battery powered cordless drill is a necessity for any DIY’r, homeowner, or handyman (handygirl). Nearly every DIY or home renovation project requires the use of a cordless drill!
In the past, corded drills were the only option. But now days, battery advancements have made cordless drills super powerful with impressive battery life. Today’s battery powered tools have more than enough of juice to complete a project without having to recharge, or swap batteries.
The following 3 cordless drills are my recommendations based on the criteria of: #1 the best deal, #2 Mike’s favorite, and #3 a professional quality option.
Best Deal: DeWALT 20V Max Drill
The DeWALT 20V Max DCD711C2 kit is perfect for any DIYer or homeowner looking to add a budget friendly cordless drill to their tool bag. Coming in at just under $100 for the 2 battery kit, this drill kit is an unbeatable value.
If you aren’t looking to spend a fortune, and just want a good quality, basic drill that will get the job done, then I recommend choosing this DeWALT 20V Max DCD771C2 drill kit from Amazon. The kit comes with a drill, two batteries, a charger, and a DeWALT tool bag.
Mike’s Favorite: Milwaukee M12 Fuel Compact Drill
My favorite cordless drill is the Milwaukee M12 2504 Compact drill. It’s the first drill I reach for to accomplish most jobs. Milwaukee M12 tools have an amazing combination of ergonomics and compact size without sacrificing very much ‘horsepower’.
In the photo above, I’m using my Milwaukee 2402-20 M12 Fuel Screwdriver. This tool is cool because it’s a drill with a quick connect hex key instead of a standard chuck. It might just be the #1 favorite power tool I own! It’s perfect for using with hex-shank (quick connect) drill bits.
The Milwaukee M12 2504-20 1/2″ cordless drill is the exact same tool, except for the standard 1/2″ chuck for holding bits (instead of a quick connect hex bit holder). These Milwaukee M12 tools are classified as a sub-compact tools and operate on “only” 12 volts.
Don’t let the size fool you – these little drills are powerhouses! They have plenty of power and capability for 99% of home improvement, DIY, and general use needs.
Check out the price on Amazon for a kit with two batteries, a charger, and the drill. If you’ve already bought into the Milwaukee M12 system and own a M12 battery and charger, this drill can be purchased as a bare tool and usually costs less than $75. To see the current price on Amazon, checkout the “Milwaukee M12 2504-20 Bare Tool” listing (Amazon) or checkout this listing if you’re interested in the drill with the quick connect hex bit holder (Amazon).
A Professional Quality Drill: DeWALT 20V Max XR (DCD991B)
When I need more power, the Dewalt DCD991B always has me covered! Checkout the photo above. To learn more, you can see how I used the DeWalt 20V Max Drill to install soft close hinges in this blog post.
The DeWalt 20V Max XR (DCD991B) cordless drill is a drill that I personally own, and use frequently. Although I usually reach for my Milwaukee M12 compact drill first because of its ergonomic size and weight, the smaller 12 volt drill just doesn’t have enough power for ultra heavy-duty tasks.
The DeWalt 20V Max XR drill is my my go-to drill for heavy duty drilling or fastening tasks like drilling through metal, or fastening large lag bolts. Checkout the DeWalt DCD991 listing on Amazon to see today’s price on this drill kit.
This drill is more expensive than the other two options, but it is truly a professional quality tool which makes it worth the higher price tag. You can feel the build quality, when you hold and use the tool. In addition, the super powerful brushless motor, all-mental chuck and 3-speed transmission make easy work of the toughest drilling or fastening jobs.
If you already own DeWalt 20V Max batteries, this drill is much more affordable as a bare tool (Amazon).
Tool #8: Socket Set
Best Deal: AmazonBasics 40 Piece Socket Set With Case
Socket sets come in a variety of sizes, and range in price from super cheap, to insanely expensive. Unless you’re an aspiring professional mechanic or use your sockets every day, I’d recommend sticking to the cheaper, basic sets.
You don’t have to pay a ton to get a good quality set with all the sizes you’ll need. I recommend this AmazonBasics 40 piece socket set. You can checkout this deal on the Amazon listing: AmazonBasics Socket Tool Kit With Case (40 Piece set with case).
Tool #9: Miter Saw
It’s possible to make accurate cuts with a SKIL saw depending on user skill (SKIL saw is Tool #12 on this list). However, things get trickier when using a SKILL saw to make angle and bevel cuts – it’s much easier to make clean, accurate, repeatable cuts with a miter saw.
I never knew what I was missing out on until I bought my first Miter saw. I was astonished at how easy it is to make perfect cuts every time with a miter saw.
Best Deal: Metabo 10″ Compound Miter Saw
This Metabo 10″ miter saw is a prefect entry level tool that makes it easy to purchase a miter saw without breaking the bank. The saw has a 15-Amp motor that delivers tons of power, and can be adjusted to make miter angle cuts from 0° to 52° and 0° – 45˚ for bevel cuts. Checkout how affordable the Metabo 10″ Compound Miter Saw is on Amazon (it’s under $100!).
Mike’s Favorite: Bosch Dual-Bevel Glide Miter Saw (GCM12SD)
Check out the picture above to see how I used my Bosch miter saw to make perfect 45 degree cuts. This picture is from our blog post titled: How To Add a Wood Frame To a Bathroom Mirror, go check it out if you’re interested!
Let’s just get this out of the way first – the Bosch Dual-Bevel Miter Saw is expensive. However, it is absolutely the best miter saw on planet earth. If you’re the kind of DIYer or professional that is going to use a miter saw frequently, I highly recommend it! The Amazon listing for this Bosch Dual-Bevel Miter Saw can be found here.
Tool #10: Tape Measure
Every home improvement guru or ‘weekend-warrior DIY specialist’ needs a good tape measure in their tool box. You won’t make it very far on most projects without a good tape measure. If you could only have one tape measure, a 25FT tape is the perfect all around size.
Best Deal: Craftsman 25FT Chrome Classic Tape Measure
This Craftsman 25ft classic tape measure (Amazon) is long enough to handle most jobs without being too large or bulky. Larger 35FT tape measures offer a little bit of extra versatility, but it comes at the expense of extra size and weight – which just is not worth it in my opinion.
Mike’s Favorite: Craftsman 16FT Chrome Classic Tape Measure
For many jobs, my 16FT tape measure is the first tool I reach for. The small, compact size of this 16FT Craftsman Classic Chrome Tape Measure (Amazon) makes it easier and more convenient to get accurate measurements on smaller jobs. For anything under 16 feet, this tape measure is the perfect choice.
Tool #11: Pliers
Best Deal: AmazonBasics 4 Plier Set
There’s several styles of pliers, each with their own unique design. Each design is well suited for different jobs. No matter which job you are trying to accomplish, this AmazonBasics 4 Piece Plier Set will have you covered (Amazon).
The set is super affordable (under $20 for the set), and comes with 8″ slip joint pliers, 8″ needle nose (long nose) pliers, 8″ lineman pliers, and 7″ diagonal cutting pliers.
Mike’s Favorite: Knipex Pliers
If you appreciate super high quality, precision tools, then you might want to checkout Knipex pliers on Amazon. There’s a difference in quality that you can feel. Just by holding and using the pliers, you’ll notice immediately. They are manufactured with higher quality tool steel, have nicer handles, and use much tighter tolerances for the hinges.
Knipex tools are significantly more expensive, but for a tool you plan on using a lot, it’s worth the extra money.
Tool #12: SKIL Saw
Wood working projects always require some type of saw to make cuts. There are lots of different saws for different types of cuts, but a circular saw is the most versatile. My circular saw gets used more than all my other saws combined.
I normally recommend using battery powered tools whenever possible, but sometimes it isn’t worth the extra money to ‘cut the cord’. Corded circular saws are cheap, durable, and get the job done (as long as you’re near a power outlet).
A circular saw requires a huge amount of power to cut through wood effectively. Most cheap, and midrange battery powered saws are underpowered and do not work as well as corded, despite being more expensive! This is why I advise avoiding low end, and midrange cordless circular saws.
However, if it makes sense for you to splurge on a professional quality tool, then it’s definitely worth it. The best battery powered saws have more power than their corded rivals, and plenty of runtime to finish any job.
Best Deal: Corded SKIL Saw (5280-01)
The brand “SKIL” popularized this style of saw. The brand name is so ubiquitous that many people refer to all circular saws as a ‘SKIL saw’, even if it’s a different brand (much like other brand names that are used as generic terms like: Band-Aid, ChapStick, Kleenex, and Scotch Tape).
Sometimes you just can’t bet the original, so for corded circular saws my recommendation is the tried and true SKIL saw. Checkout the Amazon listing for the SKIL 5280-01 15-Amp Circular Saw to see the current price. If you’re looking for a reliable saw that won’t break the bank, this is my top pick. It’s a good all-around saw, and even includes a laser guide to help you make accurate cuts.
Professional Quality: DeWALT FlexVolt 7 1/4″ Circular Saw
If you scroll through posts in the DIY Category here on Joyfully Growing Blog, you will find tons of pictures (like one above) of me using this DeWALT cordless circular saw.
The Dewalt FlexVolt Circular saw is the only circular saw that I own, and it never lets me down. I highly recommend it! This DeWalt saw gets its power from a massive 60V battery, and it’s backwards compatible with all the other 20V Max tools, so that’s an added bonus!
The saw has tons of power, and zips through lumber, plywood, and really anything else you put in front of it. DeWalt says that the saw can cut up to 339 boards on one battery charge. While I’ve never tested this marking claim, I believe it because the battery lasts seemingly forever.
Tool #13: Adjustable Wrench (Crescent Wrench)
This is another tool where a brand name became a generic term for a tool (like #4 on this list: SKIL Saw). The brand Crescent made the first adjustable wrench in 1907. Years later, their patent expired and other brands started making adjustable wrenches, but the name “Crescent wrench” stuck.
Adjustable wrenches are super versatile because – as the name implies – they are adjustable! A single wrench can be used to tighten or loosen a wide variety of bolt sizes. Another added bonus is that with an adjustable wrench, it doesn’t matter whether you’re working with a metric or standard sized nut. Either way, you can adjust the wrench down to size, and get to work.
Top Pick: Crescent 10-Inch Adjustable Wrench
You can’t beat the original, that’s why I recommend the Crescent 10 – Inch Adjustable wrench. It’s a great deal on Amazon! If you’re only going to have one adjustable wrench, 10″ is a nice size that’s right in the middle – not too large, and not too small.
You’ll be able to use this wrench with a use variety of fastener sizes, and it can handle a max size of 1-5/16″ or 34mm.
There isn’t really a minim size because the wrench can go all the way essentially zero. However, using a 10″ adjustable wrench for a 1/8″ bolt will be a little overkill, and awkward.
If you’ll be using your adjustable wrench for lots of small fasteners, then I would recommend a Crescent 6 – Inch Adjustable wrench from Amazon.
Mike’s Favorite: Knipex Plier Wrench
The Knipex Plier Wrench is a lesser known tool that is amazingly useful. The plier wrench retains all the functionally of an adjustable wrench (aka Crescent Wrench), but accomplishes it in with a quicker, easier to use, more convenient, and more compact tool. In short: it’s just better than a Crescent wrench in every way.
The only downside is that it is a fairly expensive tool. However, it can be worth the extra cost – it just depends on how much you’ll use the tool. But be warned… if you purchase this tool it WILL make you an adjustable wrench snob for life. It’s a superior design, and it makes using an ‘old school’ crescent wrench feel clumsy, awkward, and inefficient.
Tool #14: Level
Best Deal: Johnson Level & Tool 9-Inch Torpedo Level
A torpedo level is a small 9″ tool that works perfect for basic leveling tasks. This level is ideal for small DIY jobs like leveling picture frames or hanging shelves.
And the best part is – this Johnson Level & Tool 9-Inch Torpedo Level is super cheap on Amazon – like, less than $3 cheap. If you don’t have a torpedo level, you need one!
A Bigger Option: Swanson Tool 24″ Aluminum I-Beam Level
Sometimes, bigger jobs require bigger tools. To properly level a larger framing project, or for hanging long shelves (and many other jobs) a 24″ inch level will work much better than a small torpedo level.
This Swanson Tool Aluminum 24″ I-Beam level (Amazon) is durable, and big enough for most jobs. Swanson also makes a large format 48″ level. The Swanson four footer level is also available on Amazon. Like the 24″ model, it also is constructed from a durable aluminum I-beam.
Tool #15: Ball-End Allen Wrenches
Whenever I’m assembling furniture, toys, or anything else that requires assembly, the first thing I do is throw away the cheap flimsy Allen wrench included in the packaging. Using ‘real’ tools makes the job go quicker, and easier. The second thing I do is grab my trusty cordless drill (#7 on this list!).
I recommend purchasing the “Ball-End” style of Allen Wrenches. As the name implies, the wrenches are made with a rounded, ball-like end. The ball-end is designed to help with off angle tightening. I can’t tell you how many times this has been a life saver!
Sometimes you just can’t bet AmazonBasics items! We have tons of different AmazonBasics items, and they are always a super good value. Checkout today’s price on the AmazonBasics Hex Hey Allen wrench set (Ball End).
Mike’s Favorite: Neico Extra Long Ball End Hex Bit Socket Set
Hex bit sockets are essentially just an Allen wrench, in socket form. Hex bit sockets are my favorite because I love using a socket adapter (Amazon) so that I can use my drill or impact wrench for fastening Allen / Hex bolts! This is a trick that can save you tons of time.
Checkout today’s Amazon price on the Nico Extra Long Ball End Hex Bit Socket Set. It’s available in both Metric & Standard sets, so choose wisely (or better yet, splurge on both!)
Tool #16: Wrench Set
The last item on this list of DIY tools is combination wrenches. They are called combination wrenches because the front side is an open ended wrench that’s easy to slide over limited access bolts, while the back side is a 12 point box end wrench that offers better holding power on bolts when you can get the wrench all the way around a bolt.
An adjustable wrench (aka Crescent Wrench #13 on this list) is great for many applications, however the wrench head is bulky and just doesn’t fit around many fasteners with limited access around them. Combination wrenches are much smaller, and slimmer – in most cases they will work on bolts that don’t have enough room around them to use an adjustable wrench.
Best Deal: 24-Piece Master Combination Wrench Set
This 24-Piece Wrench set includes both Standard (SAE) and Metric sizes ranging from 1/4″ to 1″ for Standard, and 8mm to 24mm for metric. The set also comes with a roll-up storage pouch for convenient organization.
Mike’s Favorite: GearWrench 13-Piece SAE Ratcheting Wrench Set
You might have picked up on a theme by now – I tend to splurge on a little bit higher quality tools. These GearWrench ratcheting wrenches are no exception.
The advantage of these wrenches is that on the back side (box end) they have a ratcheting mechanism. This makes tightening or loosening bolts significantly faster because you don’t have to remove the wrench to ‘reset’. Just move the wrench back and forth like a ratchet.
The ratcheting mechanism does make the box end of the wrench SLIGHTLY more bulky thank a standard wrench. Every once in a while, you’ll run into a bolt with limited access where a ratcheting wrench will not quite fit. In these cases, you can usually make a standard socket work (#8 on this list), or sometimes a Crowfoot Wrench can get the job done when nothing else will work.
Tool #17: Orbital Sander
Depending on the type of DIY projects that you like to do, an orbital sander could be one of your most used tools! Orbital sanders work well for most types of sanding and materials.
This Black + Decker random orbital sander will get the job done without breaking the bank. It’s a basic, entry level option that should work excellent for the majority of DIYers.
It accepts 5″ round velcro backed sandpaper, which is a standard size, and widely available in nearly any type ranging from: ‘super fine finish‘ (360 and higher grit), to ‘coarse’ (60 and lower grit).
Mike’s Favorite: DeWalt Random Orbital 5″ Sander
My personal favorite sander is this corded 5 inch random orbital sander made by DeWALT. I’ve logged countless hours of sanding with this sander, and it’s always worked like a champ!
The list price for this tool is $64, but it’s often times on sale for less than sixty bucks! Check out the listing on Amazon to see if it’s on sale today.
Tips For Choosing The Best Tools
- These are tools that you will be using, so make sure to buy the tools that you like.
- If you’ve had good luck with certain brands, or have brand loyalty toward DeWalt, Milwaukee, Bosch, Makita, Craftsman, Amazon, or really any other brand, then by all means, go for that brand!
- All the top tool brands make very competitive products, so it’s hard to go wrong with most of the major brands. Don’t spend too much time deliberating over which tool is the absolute best.
- Buy tools that have a good warranty.
- I love all my tools to be “matching” (the same brand), but if I can get a grate deal on a tool, I’ll usually go for it, even when it isn’t my brand.
- Try to find a good balance between price and quality. Getting the absolute cheapest tools possible is usually a bad idea. They are going to be low quality, and either will not work well at all, or will not last a long time. On the other end of the spectrum, splurging for ultra high end tools like Snap-On or Mac Tools is mostly a waste of money (unless maybe you are a professional and will be using that tool every single day)
- Spend a little extra money on the tools you will use most. You’ll appreciate the quality if it’s a tool that you use frequently.
- Remember: if you take care of your tools, high quality tools can last you a life time (or more). BUT, for a tool that you’re only going to use once, don’t feel like a cheapskate for buying the cheapest option!
Thanks for reading! If you have any more tools that you think should have made this list, let me know in the comments below.