The 3 Most Essential Tools for Beginner DIYers, According to Pros

published May 13, 2020
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Whether you’re hoping to be more self-sufficient or you’re hoping to tackle a few DIY projects with your extra time at home, it can be overwhelming to figure out what tools you need, why, and—of course—how much to spend. But don’t fret! You don’t need to fill an entire closet with tools, or even make room for a whole toolbox. In fact, industry experts say that if you’re looking to build a beginner toolkit, you can start small. First: a claw hammer, which comes in clutch for hanging pictures for a gallery wall. After that, they offered some surprising picks, mining their know-how for tools that offer tons of versatility and the biggest bang for your buck. These three offer a great starting point for anyone dipping their toe into the DIY world—and you’re sure to use them again and again.

Credit: Home Depot

A combination screwdriver

The consensus was clear: the humble screwdriver is one of the most necessary items in any toolkit. The ideal one to buy is a combination screwdriver—“one that has a magnetic socket on the end, with the different heads usually stored in the handle,” says Dan Bailey, President of WikiLawn, a provider of on-demand lawn care and maintenance service. He recommends a screwdriver with at least six heads, so that you’re prepared for a variety of screw heads and sizes. 

Renew Crew franchisee and handyman expert Chris Miller agrees, and points out that you can do everything from tightening up drawers that have gotten loose to building flat-pack furniture to moving wall hooks with your screwdriver. “A simple screwdriver can handle various tasks in your home,” he says.

Buy: Dewalt MAXFIT Telescoping Ratcheting Multi-Bit Screwdriver, $14.97 at Home Depot

A cordless drill

Next up on experts’ list is a cordless drill. Mark Soto, owner of San Ant Roofing in San Antonio, Texas, says that cordless drills are “great for everyday use and can be used in just about most types of home improvement projects like installing new floors, doors, and ceiling fans.” You might not be ready for a project quite that big, but a cordless drill will also help with installing heavy-duty items on your walls, such as shelves, since they’ll need pilot holes. Be on the lookout for a cordless drill that gives you a long battery life and where it’s easy to change the speed settings according to the type of project you’re working on, he suggests. Jen Zabaloaoui, a YouTube content producer about affordable DIYs for the home, says that she invested in some drills that have lasted more than 10 years—“it’s all about how you use them,” she explains. A casual DIYer who doesn’t use their drill often will certainly see a longer lifespan.

Vineta Jackson of The Handyman’s Daughter, a website full of DIY and woodworking project ideas, notes that “entry-level models shouldn’t set you back more than $50 and should last the average homeowner at least a few years.” And, she says, they’ll end up paying for themselves after just a few home improvement projects like making outdoor furniture or hanging storage shelves. For her own work, she notes that a cordless drill is particularly helpful when you’re trying to hide screws with pocket holes, for example, for a polished and professional look.

Buy: Black and Decker 20V Max Cordless Drill/Driver, $46.40 at Amazon

Credit: Home Depot

A high-quality paint brush

To round out the beginner’s toolbox, experts suggested investing in good paint brushes and rollers. “A high-quality 2-inch paintbrush is something everyone should have in their home,” says Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches vetted general contractors to each project. “That size is great for touch-ups and painting trim or baseboards.” Miller agrees, adding that it’s suitable for painting a piece of furniture, too.

But make sure you’re investing in high-quality brushes and rollers that will let you achieve smooth, precise coverage. Jean notes that “a nice brush will cost about $15 to $20, but if you maintain it well, it should last a long time.” Look for ones that have slightly split, “flagged” bristles that hold more paint and where the bristles are shorter on the outside than they are towards the center. Also, make sure you keep paint out of the metal part of the brush for easy cleaning.

Buy: Wooster 2 in. Pro Nylon/Polyester Angle Sash Brush, $12.47 at Home Depot

Itching to expand your toolkit beyond these three items? Experts suggest a palm sander (useful for refinishing furniture); a utility knife; and a nailer and circular saw (for tackling projects like installing board-and-batten wainscoting). Oh, and don’t forget the duct tape—Bailey says that it’s “one of the most versatile tools by far,” and that he’s used it for everything from patching hoses and pipes, to removing splinters, and more.