11 Tools to Give Someone Who’s Moving Into Their First Apartment

published Dec 10, 2020
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Moving into a first apartment is exciting—and a little scary and overwhelming. And while you can’t prep your friend or loved one for everything they might experience as a newly minted apartment-dweller, you can certainly give them a head start.

The essential first-apartment toolkit should be able to cover tasks that range from hanging a gallery wall to installing floating shelves, changing burnt lightbulbs, or inspecting suspicious plumbing. These are the 11 must-have tool picks that pros say everyone should have when they move into their first apartment.

1. A comfortable hammer

A simple hammer is very useful for making your apartment feel like home, says George Brisker, franchisee and owner of Handyman Connection of Mountain View. “You can use it to mount picture hooks for hanging your favorite family photos and art,” he says.

And you know all of those IKEA purchases a first apartment dweller’s bound to make? A hammer can also be used as a rubber mallet for gently moving pieces of furniture into place during assembly, says Brisker.

A simple wood or fiberglass hammer will set you back no more than $10, but spend a little more and you can give one with a comfier shock-absorbing grip.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

2. A cordless power drill

“The most convenient, easy-to-use tool out there is the power drill,” says Kevin Busch, vice president of operations at Mr. Handyman, a Neighborly Company. “While screwdrivers are important to have, manually putting together furniture or tightening multiple screws with a screwdriver will have your hand throbbing. Also, it’s nearly impossible to hang a shelf with a manual screwdriver, so the power drill is a must-have.”

Cordless is a must. Your drill might not come with the necessary bits; in that case, it’s worth springing for a multi-piece kit with an assortment of bits that work to drive multiple types of screws and drill many sizes of holes.

3. A screwdriver set

Everyone should have at least two screwdrivers for assembly needs and small DIY repairs, says Brisker: one Phillips P2 and one flat. “Almost all screws and bolts can be tightened using these screwdrivers,” he says.

A space-saving option? One screwdriver with multiple heads, which takes up barely any space in a drawer.

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4. An adjustable wrench

Adjustable wrenches are good for tightening nuts, bolts, and plumbing fittings, so there’s no need to call the landlord every time there’s a leaky faucet, says Busch.

5. A simple level

There’s nothing worse than a tilted picture, mirror or shelf, so a level comes in handy to ensure the job’s done right. If you’re renting, it’s important to drill as few holes as possible, so a level ensures you do the job right the first time, says Busch.

6. A sturdy tape measure

This tool is very important—especially when first moving in, as it helps determine how to best arrange furniture, how high to hang pictures and mirrors, and whether or not furniture will fit through doors, says Brisker.

This 25-foot tape measure is a solid pick. It has an 11-foot blade standout, which means that the tape will stay straight—and not flop over—for up to 11 feet. That makes it way easier to measure large furniture pieces with just one person.

7. A utility knife

Moving in means lots of cardboard boxes that need to be broken down, and a utility knife helps make quick work of the task, says Brisker. “Other uses include opening packages, cutting off a length of rope, removing excess caulk, and many more tasks that will come up in years to come,” he adds.

Credit: Leatherman

8. A compact multi-tool

A multi-tool serves multiple purposes, and typically comes equipped to serve as pliers, a utility knife, an Allen wrench, small scissors, a mini screwdriver, a corkscrew, and more. It’s a great item to have as you start your tool collection and begin to invest in the real deal version of each tool, says Busch.

9. An LED flashlight

A quality flashlight can help with anything from looking for things in storage to looking down into your piping and plumbing, but it’s also an imperative safety tool, says Brisker, since you’ll need one if you experience a power outage. 

10. An extension cord

“Your apartment’s outlets may not always be placed where you want them, so extension cords allow you to move the power source to where you need it,” says Busch. One that features a power strip also enables you to plug in more devices, which is especially helpful in kitchens, home offices, and in your living room, he explains. 

Credit: Nataliealien/Shutterstock

11. A sturdy step stool 

“When living in an apartment, you’re likely not responsible for taking care of the exterior of the building, so a full ladder isn’t necessary,” says Busch. A step stool, however, will come in handy for a variety of tasks, including hanging shelves, pictures, and mirrors, changing light bulbs, and accessing any items stored just out of reach. Look for a two- or three-stepper that’s rated for at least 200 to 300 pounds.