A Guide to Tools Everyone Should Own

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. You should invest in both a Philips and flathead screwdriver in the two most common sizes. This will cover most screws and help avoid the frustration of slippage.
  2. A tape measure is fundamental to good DIY. Remember the adage ‘measure twice, cut once.’
  3. A well balanced hammer with a durable synthetic handle is another essential piece of kit.
  4. If you don’t want to splash out on a whole set, get an adjustable crescent wrench. Remember to ‘lead’ with the adjustable side when loosening or tightening.
  5. Allen keys are amazingly useful, not least of all for assembling flat pack furniture. You can get a set in a Swiss army knife configuration if you're worried about losing them.
  6. A ladder is helpful in any number of situations. If you’re short on space, go for a telescoping folding model.
  7. If you’re going to buy a power tool, an adjustable drill is the one to have. If you go cordless, be aware that, whilst a bigger battery means more power, it also means more weight.

Being in possession of a well stocked toolbox can save you no end of hassle and a fair bit of money too. Even if you’re not a full blown DIY enthusiast, being able to take on basic tasks without having to turn elsewhere for help can make you a household hero. Here’s a look at the pieces of kit you should prioritise investing in.

A Set of Screwdrivers

Though most people can see why they might need a screwdriver around, many fail to appreciate that, with this particular tool, one size does not fit all. If you’ve ever tried to remove a stubborn screw with the wrong type of screwdriver, you’ll have experienced the frustration of having the head slip through the grooves as you twist, gouging them and making it even harder to achieve your goal. Whilst there are a range of sizes out there, for the most part you’ll be fine with the two most common, #2 and #3.

As well as having more than one size, you’ll also need more than just one type of head. Be sure to have both a flathead and Philips. A flathead just features a single edge and, as well as fastening and loosening, they’re great for prying, scrapping and rudimentary chiseling. A Philips screwdriver has a four pointed, cross shaped end. Philips screws are now more commonplace than flatheads, so you will likely get a fair bit of use out of this screwdriver. And remember: righty-tighty, left-loosey!

A Tape Measure

It might not be the most glamorous of tools, but it’s definitely essential. You won’t get too far in even the most humble of DIY projects without accurate measurements. Even something as simple as painting a wall requires you to figure out the area you’re going to cover and the amount of paint you’ll need to buy. If you’re doing something a little more intensive, a good tape measure can help prevent you wasting materials (‘measure twice, cut once’ as they say).

Invest in a retractable 25’ model. It’ll definitely come in handy, and even when you don’t need to use it, it’s always fun to watch it reel in and pretend you’re holding a lightsabre.

A Claw Hammer

If nails are involved, whether they’re going in or coming out, you’ll need to arm yourself with a claw hammer. Of course, hammers are pretty versatile as there’s a surprising number of occasions when you just need to give something a bit of a knock.

Unless you’ve got some special purpose in mind, you don’t need anything too heavy. 450g should be fine. Make sure it’s well balanced (not top heavy) and go for a durable synthetic handle.

An Adjustable Crescent Wrench

It’s not a bad idea to arm yourself with a full set of wrenches, but, if you feel that might be overkill, you can take on nuts and bolts with an adjustable crescent wrench.

You can fit the wrench to the nut/bolt you’re working on by tightening it accordingly. (Luckily you do not need a wrench to do this!) It’s important to get as tight a fit as possible, otherwise, as with an ill-fitting screwdriver, there’ll be slippage, which will smooth out the edges of the bolt, rendering it impossible to work with.

When using an adjustable wrench, make sure that that the adjustable side is ‘leading’ as you turn, with the solid side backing it.

A Stanley Knife

If you want to make a decent job of cutting something with ease and precision, be it a sheet of linoleum or some cardboard, you’ll need a Stanley knife. It’s ultra-sharp blade can be used to slice, whittle and score all sorts of materials.


There are few varieties of plier it can be handy to be in possession of. Vice grip pliers can be used for locking on to objects and clamping them in place, or as a substitute wrench, whilst needle nose pliers (which can usually double as wire cutters) are needed for more delicate operations such as those that involve getting into small cavities.

Allen Keys

Allen keys can work their L-shaped magic on all sorts of things you might have around the home, including bicycles, guitars and skateboards and are an absolute must for taking on flat pack furniture.

Just as there are a number of different screws that come with hexagonal depressions, you can get allen keys in a number of sizes. You can avail yourself of a Swiss army knife-like arrangement that’ll help you avoid losing any of your set.

A Spirit Level

If you want a straight line, you’ll need a spirit level. A spirit level couldn’t be easier to use. If the bubble is between the lines, you’re good. Of course, there are smartphone apps that can do the same job, but it’s always nice to have the real thing.

A Ladder

From changing a light bulb, to decorating your Christmas tree, it’s always useful to have a ladder. It certainly beats standing on a chair and praying it doesn’t give out from under you.

A Drill and Bits

If you’re going to invest in one power tool, it’s probably best to go for a good adaptable drill. Cordless options offer added convenience, but the bigger the battery the weightier the drill will be, which can be a factor on a long job.

Further Reading


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