Our Favorite & Essential Tools For DIY

Our Favorite & Essential Tools For DIY

Sarah Rae Smith
Feb 1, 2010

It doesn't matter if you have a large floor plan or a small one, there's bound to be a few tools hiding in there somewhere. We're big fans of DIY and have narrowed down our tool lust for 10 of our favorites that we don't know how we ever lived without. Make sure to add your must-have, after the jump!

We know that many of you have small spaces that don't always allow for larger tools to be stored. It's ok, we don't have room for a band saw or table saw either, but we have paired down other things we keep hidden away (clothes, decorations) so we can keep a small collection of important tools.

We think it's well worth our time and space to have these items on hand as it not only enables us to create something (even if it means we're working from the roof or the alleyway for all to see), but empowers us to think in a DIY manner. A new table or picture frame isn't that out of reach budget wise if you are armed and ready for action.

We shop big box sales to find great deals, but quite often, you can find us at Harbor Freight Tools for many of our needs. We'll assume you at least have a hammer, if not, we hear a meat mallet or brass duck works well instead.

Here's a few of our favorite tool picks that have seen more than their fair share of use:

First Row, Left To Right
Hammer Drill: For anyone who needs to drill into concrete or masonry, this is hands down, one of the best purchases you can make. Exposed brick and sealed concrete floors are only awesome until you have to hang artwork and anchor furniture pieces. They usually start around $60 and go up from there.
Cordless Drill: We'd be lost without our drill and although a screw driver does the same thing (and takes up less space), with a little more effort, this makes any DIY project a quick one instead of a full out afternoon. We prefer 18volt models, but there's a wide array to choose from and usually one within any budget.
24" Level: Truth be told, we have a short 6" level for little things like picture hanging, but for larger projects our 24" level is always our trusty stand-by. We're not big on lasers, but do like ones with vertical and horizontal vials to keep everything squared up.
Tape Measure: There's more tape measures in the world than there are pairs of shoes and just like shoes, each one is personal to the user. We prefer a hard metal case, which is also more slim to fit in our toolbox. This one from Stanley also has a true zero clip, helping avoid mis-measurements caused by the thickness of the hook on the end. Bonus!
Hex Wrenches: Although most "assemble yourself" furniture will come with the right tool to put things together, we always turn to our own set. The're invaluable for disassembling thrift store finds (so they'll fit in your car and not on it) and putting together purchases from that big blue and yellow retailer. We have a set for home use and one for the car, we really love them that much. It could be a problem.

Second Row, Left To Right
Screwdriver Set: Though we have several screwdrivers of different shapes and sizes for more specific products, we get the most use out of our interchangeable bit drivers. As long as we remember to put the bits back in their holder, all is well and easily accessible. There's a kit and bit set for almost every level of diy use, so look for one that will fit your needs.
Step Ladder: We can't even tell you how valuable our ladder is to us and we know most of you are thinking, "I don't even have room for a Crock-Pot, where am I going to put a ladder?!" We get that, but we can also attest to the value and safety you will get from finding a pace to hide one. They fit well in cosets, some under beds, others hanging from the ceiling, but no matter where you keep it, they make any tall job easier without standing on that stack of books, on top of a chair, on top of a step stool... not that we've ever done that. Find one graded for your weight and for the job at hand.
Socket Set: Sockets are a funny thing. They aren't something you really desire until you really need their help. Ditch the extra large hard shell cases many sets come in and opt for a smaller case instead to keep the amount of space they take up down to a minimum.
Hand Saw: Although those who have space have probably invested in a radial or circular saw, we still love this trusty hand model. It's especially handy since our diy bug doesn't kick in until 11pm, usually too late to run something electric in an apartment or loft building, but the hand saw gets the job done every time!
Jigsaw: We love our jig saw. We really do. It's allows for a great deal of construction and creativity without the higher overhead costs of larger saws and equipment. We do warn against purchasing off brands and loss leader jigsaws (we've burned through several of them) as their motors can't usually take a long duration of use.

Even though there's probably more tools on our list, this is a great set of basics. If you don't have room for a whole socket set, try an adjustable wrench instead. It might require more work, but should do the trick if you're in a tight spot. Any way to save space when it's at a premium is a bonus!

What's your favorite tool? Is there one in your arsenal that you just can't live without?

(Images: Lowes and Home Depot)

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