IMG_3987Don’t buy me Prada, just buy me some DeWalt!  I know, it’s crazy; but I would much rather add to my tool box than I would my closet. Previous generations were raised to be handy around the house through necessity. Fortunately, DIY  television shows have brought do-it-yourself projects front and center in many homes today.

I think my journey in tearing down walls and replacing flooring did start through the state of necessity; however, throughout the years it has become the source of great satisfaction and reward. When I owned some retail stores, it truly came in handy to be able to make my own renovations happen. And we’ve never lived in a brand new house. In fact, in St. Thomas, we actually rented a house that had been foreclosed on and vacant for several years. In that tropic environment, that meant it was in rough shape. Knowing how to replace rotted steps and get rid of bats came in handy.

It is a little sad when you see how little many people really know about repairing things. Having a Phillips-head and flat-head screw driver should be a must have for EVERYBODY. Yes, it’s true that there are way too many things that are manufactured today that are not designed to be repaired, but replaced. Like when our outdoor fixture had a motion detector that went bad, it was literally impossible to just replace the malfunctioning motion sensor… had to replace the entire light fixture.

Just about any project you can imagine has a DIY show or YouTube video to walk you through the steps. Need some help on what should be in a well-equipped Starter Tool Box?

Starter Tool Box with 10 essential tools:


tool box

My Tool Box (this is only one. I have three.)

(and the Rule regarding tools – you buy well or you buy often)

  1. Screwdriver set: From prying the lids off of paint cans to opening child-proof battery compartments, screwdrivers are must-have tools. Aim for flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers in various sizes; you can often buy these in kits. Look for magnetic tips and comfortable grips to make screwing or unscrewing easier.

  2. Claw Hammer: No toolbox would be complete without a solid hammer. One end is used to drive nails in, the other side to pull (usually bent) nails out of wood or a wall. You need a one pound hammer and the best way to know which one feels best is to go to the lumber store and try them out! Rubber, plastic, or vinyl handles offer shock absorption and a better grip.

  3. Pliers: Locking, adjustable pliers also known as plier wrenches, lever-wrench pliers, and vise grips are very versatile. Because they lock in place, they can be used as a clamp, or, as mentioned above, in lieu of a wrench, wire cutter, or more. I recommend a standard 5-10W size for this plier.

  4. Adjustable Wrench: An adjustable, crescent wrench is like having multiple wrenches in one. You’ll need one to tighten nuts and bolts and loosen plumbing fixtures.

  5. Tape Measure: You might have heard the saying “measure twice, cut once.” Well, you need a tape measure for that and to do other things like make sure furniture will fit in a room and measuring windows for blinds. Tape measures come in varying widths (from ½ inch to 1-inch), with the wider widths easier to support with one hand when extended. According to Vila, a ¾-inch wide, 16-foot long tape measure is a good size for most jobs.

  6. Level: No more crookedly-hung photos! A level ensures you don’t hang or install anything (including your flat-screen TV and shelves) less than horizontally perfect. In a pinch you could use one of many mobile apps that serve as a virtual level, but a longer 3- to 4-foot metal level (which can double as a straight edge) will go a long way. For hands-free leveling, a laser level is your friend.

  7. Utility Knife: For opening boxes, sharpening pencils, and more, the utility knife is a toolbox workhorse. Always buy one with built-in blade storage and rubber-covered handles for comfort.

  8. Work Light or Flashlight: You’ll need a flashlight for your emergency kit anyway; but you could get a dedicated LED light, head lamp, or work lamp to make sure you’re sawing/screwing/nailing or otherwise DIYing correctly in low or no light.

  9. Electric Drill:  You can go without a drill for a while or resort to borrowing one when needed, sooner or later, most handy people will need a drill—and after getting one, find it indispensable. Cordless drills are convenient for working anywhere, but the corded kinds cost less and don’t require expensive battery replacements. Whichever type you get, an electric drill not only drills holes and drives screws, but, with different bits, also sands and grinds materials.

  10. Hacksaw: A hacksaw cuts through wood and even metal and plastic pipes. Look for the kind you can easily replace with new blades.

Which brands?  I like Makita and DeWalt. Porter Cable used to be good, but now their quality is pretty bad. BUT, if you aren’t quite sure that you are really going to get into DIY as a major investment, buying some of the tools on special you can find by Craftsmen (Sears), Porter Cable and such can be the way to go. Buying a $30 drill that you use for one project and say, “I’m done with this” is a lot smarter than investing $100 on one that is used once and then goes in the back of the closet.

I need to quit writing and start working. I have so many projects going right now, I could stay busy 24/7 for about 3 months before I finish.

YOUR TURN: What’s in your Tool Box?