5 Tools That’ll Take Your DIY Projects to the Next Level, According to Pros

published Jul 16, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

You’ve got the hammer, you’ve got the drill, and you’ve got all of the other basic tools for your simpler DIY projects. And now, you’re ready to move past the beginner-level stuff. Not everyone has the budget or the space to store everything you can find at your local hardware store, but the good news is, you don’t need to buy out the whole hardware store to be prepared for your next, slightly more advanced project. Here, experts divulge the versatile, cost-effective, and user-friendly items they recommend investing in (beyond a basic combination screwdriver,  a cordless drill, and a high-quality paint brush). Read on for their pro picks.

A practical pocketknife or multitool

One of the best ways to invest in new tools is to look for multi-functional items that can be used for a range of projects. That’s why Tonya Bruin, CEO of To Do-Done, a professional Ottawa-based handyman service, says that “you can never go wrong with a practical pocket knife.” She recommends one that has built-in pliers as well as a good wrench, which shouldn’t set you back more than $20 to $30.

Buy: Gerber Suspension NXT 15-N-1 Multi-Tool with Pocket Clip, $29.99 at Home Depot

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A sturdy ladder

It might sound self-explanatory, but don’t underestimate the importance of a good ladder. For everything from changing a lightbulb to painting a ceiling, a safe ladder is a must. Certified home inspector with Inspections by Bob and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want In Your Home” Welmoed Sisson (and, she notes, one of the few female home inspectors in the country!) warns that “when selecting tools, it is always a temptation to buy the cheapest available.” While this might be okay for some basics like a hammer or screwdriver, she says, for a ladder, “it’s not worth your life to save a hundred bucks.” She says that a good ladder will have a lower chance of failure, a higher weight capacity, higher-quality components, and better hardware.

Buy: Werner 12 ft. Reach Fiberglass Podium Ladder with 300 lb. Load Capacity, $235.87 at Home Depot

A random orbit sander

Whether you plan on refinishing old furniture or are feeling ambitious enough to build your own, a random orbit sander can be a really important tool. Vineta Jackson of The Handyman’s Daughter says that a good one can last you years, and can come in at a really affordable price point for well under $100, leaving you some extra cash to spend on other items.

Buy: BLACK+DECKER Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch, $57.66 at Amazon

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A stud finder

If you’ve ever found yourself having trouble hanging a picture or a coat hook from a wall, you probably realized that you could have benefitted from a stud finder. “With just a drill and a stud finder, there are thousands of projects you can do to upgrade and beautify your home,” says Kaylee Strozyk, the blogger behind the DIY blog Mama and More. This will be especially important if you’re moving into a new home and plan on hanging heavier items like a picture or television on the wall, and, Kaylee points out, is necessary for safety reasons.

Buy: Tavtool Stud Finder Sensor Wall Scanner, $49.99 at Amazon

An air compressor

An air compressor might seem like a bold or even unusual choice for expanding your basic toolbox, but Arie Van Tuikl, another female home inspector and blogger at Home Inspector Secrets, says that it’s “one of the most useful tools a homeowner can buy.” Yes, you can of course use it to fill up your tires, but its versatility goes way beyond: Van Tuikl recommends using it for everything from painting kitchen cabinets to quickly cleaning outdoor furniture or patios, removing stubborn screws, doing auto repairs, or even powering a nail gun. She particularly likes the Craftsman 6-Gallon Air Compressor because it comes with a 13-piece accessory kit and has a long run time with a quick recovery.

Buy: Craftsman 6-Gallon Air Compressor, $164 at Amazon