You can’t tackle any DIY job without the right tools. Start by buying the essential equipment needed for the most basic jobs around the home – The Must Have Tool Kit for DIY Projects – and add to your collection as your skills and requirements grow.
Specialist tools that you rarely need to use can always be rented from a tool hire place.
The Essential Tool Kits For DIY
Essential for drilling fixing holes in wood and board, and also for making holes in walls when doing jobs such as putting up shelves.
Choose between mains-powered or cordless drills, which run on rechargeable batteries and come complete with a battery charger.
Mains drills are cheaper, but cordless drills are more versatile, as they can be used anywhere without needing a mains supply, and can also be used as a power screwdriver.
For all-around convenience, choose a cordless drill with variable speed control, reverse gear, and hammer action (for making holes in walls).
Battery power starts from 7.2 volts (V). A 12 V or 14.4 V model should be powerful enough for most jobs you’ll want to tackle. Buy an extra battery, so you always have a charged-up spare available when you’re using the drill.
These fit in the jaws (called the chuck) of your drill and cut the hole you’re making.
You need three types:
- Twist drill bits for small holes in wood. Buy a set of twist drill bits made from high-speed steel (HSS) rather than the cheaper carbon steel, in sizes up to 10 mm diameter.
- Flat wood bits for larger-diameter holes. Buy flat wood bits individually or in sets – common sizes are 12 mm, 16 mm, 19 mm, 22 mm, and 25 mm.
- Masonry drill bits for holes in solid walls.Buy masonry drill bits singly as you need them, picking a size (usually 6 mm or 6.5 mm) that matches the plastic wall plug used for making screwed fixings into walls.
The best is a retractable steel tape measure. Several sizes are available, from 2 m (6 ft 6 in) upwards.
The most versatile is the 5 m (16 ft) size, which will take most room measurements as well as coping with smaller measuring needs.
Tape measures are usually marked in both metric and imperial measurements, so you can use whichever system you prefer. Use the tape measure as a handy converter between the two systems. Buy one with a lock that holds the tape in the extended position.
You need a sharp knife for a variety of DIY jobs. There’s a choice of three types:
- fixed blade,
- retractable blade,
- snap-off blade.
The snap-off blade knife has segmented blades – you snap off the blunt tip to expose a new sharp edge.
Fixed and retractable blade knives have double-ended blades. When the cutting edge gets blunt, you reverse it to use the other end, before replacing it with a new blade. The retractable blade knife has a blade carrier that can be withdrawn into the knife handle – safer for storage and carrying the knife around.
Retractable-blade knives are the most expensive, but definitely the safest and most versatile.
Screws come in all shapes and sizes, with three common head types (slotted, Phillips and Pozidriv), so you need screwdrivers to cope with all variations.
For screws with slotted heads, you need a flat-tipped screwdriver with a blade about 125 mm (5 in) long, plus a smaller electrician’s screwdriver for coping with small screws like the ones in plugs.
Add a No. 2 Phillips cross-tip screwdriver, which will cope with cross-head screws (Phillips and Pozidriv) in the most common sizes.
Sets containing a mixture of screwdriver types and sizes are often cheaper than buying tools individually, and you’ll get a plastic case to keep them in.
Essential for driving nails and pins, and for assembling and dismantling things that need a bit of brute force.
The best all-rounder is a claw hammer with a metal or glass-fiber handle rather than a wooden one, and a head weight of 16 oz or 20 oz (hammers still come in imperial sizes).
Use the claw opposite the head for pulling out old or badly driven nails.
You will need a saw for cutting wood to length (to fit a shelf, for example) and the best type to buy is a tenon saw. This has a rectangular blade about 60 cm (2 ft) long, with a folded strip of brass or steel along its top edge.
It’s designed for cutting woodworking joints but will cope with most routine sawing jobs.
Add a small or junior hacksaw and some replacement blades to your toolkit, for cutting metal and plastic – things like a rusty screw or a length of curtain track. It will also cut small pieces of wood at a pinch.
If you plan to work with man-made boards such as medium-density fibreboard (MDF), invest in a power jigsaw. This has a short blade projecting from the base (called the soleplate) of the saw and cuts on the upstroke.
It’s a very versatile tool, allowing you to make straight, curved, and angled cuts as well as internal cut-outs away from the edge of the workpiece, such as a hole in a door for a letter box.
You can fit different blades for cutting wood, board, metal, plastic, and even ceramic tiles. Buy a jigsaw with variable speed control and a dust bag or vacuum cleaner attachment.
Essential for setting things like shelves truly horizontal or vertical.
Buy one about 30 cm (1 ft) long, with a metal or plastic body, a vial in each edge for setting levels, and another in one end for checking verticals.
A pair of pliers will do all sorts of useful gripping and pulling jobs. They also function as makeshift spanners for small nuts and bolts, and their jaws will cut wire.
Buy a pair with insulated handles, as they are more comfortable. An adjustable spanner grips nuts and bolts more securely than pliers and will be invaluable for jobs such as tightening plumbing connections.
Pick a crescent-pattern type, with jaws that open to about 30 mm.
A template used for marking cutting lines on the wood square to its edges, and for checking that internal and external corners are at right angles.
The wood or metal handle (the stock) has a steel blade set at 90° to it.
The Tool Kits For Serious DIY Project
A wide-bladed steel chisel for cutting bricks and chopping out plaster, this can also be used as a lever for lifting floorboards.
It is usually driven with a club hammer, which has a stubby wooden handle and a heavy, squared-off head.
Forces fillers, mastics, and adhesive out of a tubular cartridge. Bought with the cartridge, it’s designed to fit.
A flexible-bladed tool used to press in and smooth filler when repairing damage to wood and plaster surfaces.
Several widths are available – the most useful are 25 mm (1 in) and 75 mm (3 in) wide.
A tapered steel rod about 10 cm (4 in) long, which you locate over the head of a nail and strike with a hammer.
This punches the nail head below the wood surface so it can be hidden with wood filler.
Sanding surfaces by hand is hard, time-consuming work, and a power sander will speed things up enormously. Several types are available.
One of the most useful all-around performers is the eccentric or random-orbital sander, which moves circular sanding discs in a scrubbing action.
They are attached to Sander’s base plate with a Velcro-type fastening. Holes in the discs align with holes in the baseplate so the tool can extract the sanding dust into a dust bag or, via a hose attachment, to a vacuum cleaner.
Surform Rasps, Files, and Planes
Shaping tools for wood that have toothed and pierced cutting surfaces, like kitchen graters. They cut wood and clear the shavings very efficiently.
The planer file surform is the most versatile, doubling up as a wood plane and a shaping file.
Files and rasps are used to shape rough edges, particularly in small areas. A plane smooths broad surfaces of wood.