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When I first started out doing DIY projects 8 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t own the proper DIY tools and I wouldn’t have known how to use them if I did.
But I dove right in assuming I’d figure it out as I went along. I did figure it out eventually but it was a lot slower process than if I’d just started out right from the beginning.
For one thing, I was terrified of saws when I first started out. I looked at the miter saws at Lowe’s and could only too easily imagine one of my fingers laying on the garage floor.
It took me a while to get comfortable with using saws. But once I learned the right way to use them (thank you YouTube!) I was able to overcome my fear and really start creating some cool stuff.
And I’m happy to report that as of the writing of this post, all 10 of my fingers are still fully intact.
Whether you’re a new DIY’er or a seasoned pro, there are certain tools you need to have in your toolbox. These are the things that are going to make DIY projects go more smoothly and faster too!
40 Must-Have DIY Tools
Power DIY Tools
These are the tools that require either a battery or have a cord. I tend to prefer cordless tools over corded tools because of the flexibility. You can use a cordless anywhere but you’re limited with one that has a cord. And many of the Ryobi tools use the same battery so it’s really convenient to be able to switch out the battery as needed. Plus you don’t have to spend extra money on separate batteries!
1. Cordless Drill/Driver
My cordless drill/driver is by far the number one most used tool in my arsenal. I love it because it’s a multi-function tool. I can drill pilot holes for screws and then put in a screwdriver bit and drive the screws in. It’s so much faster than driving screws by hand and much easier on your arms!
I’ve also bought a paddle bit for my drill and used it to mix joint compound for the Great Remove Texture from Walls Project from 2016.
If you’re just at the beginning of your DIY journey and aren’t sure which tool to start with, I’d highly recommend that a cordless drill be your first purchase. Make sure your drill comes with a battery because sometimes they’re sold separately. If it doesn’t, grab a battery.
2. Drill Bit Set
Most drills will come with a basic set of bits but it’s nice to have a set on hand that has a wider variety of bits like masonry bits, spade bits, or a hole saw attachment. It’s the worst when you have to stop in the middle of a project and run out to get a bit you need to finish.
3. Cordless Nail Gun
A battery-powered nail gun is also another one of those must-have DIY tools in my book! If you’re planning to build furniture or install trim, this tool will speed things up tremendously. It’s so much easier than hauling around a noisy air compressor and dealing with a cord.
4. Miter Saw
If my cordless drill is my most used tool, my miter saw comes in second place. A miter saw can do both angled cuts and bevel cuts so it’s great for building projects and installing trim. It’s fast, easy and you’ll get a nice straight cut every time.
5. Circular Saw
Circular saws are great for quick, straight cuts on plywood or other larger materials like sheets of MDF. You could also use a circular saw for doing a straight cut on boards but I find that using my miter saw for that is faster.
A jigsaw is used when you’re not cutting in a straight line. Jigsaw blades are smaller and narrower so you can maneuver the saw to cut in a curve, for example. You could also use a jigsaw if you need to cut a hole in the middle of something. This is a handy tool but one you probably won’t use as much as a miter or circular saw.
7. Palm Sander
A palm sander will make your life so much easier when you need to sand down woodworking projects, remove finish or paint, or smooth things down in between coats of stain. I do a lot of projects with wood so my palm sander definitely gets a workout!
Here are the tools that don’t require a battery or cord. These tools are all powered by…you.
You need to have a basic hammer around for things like hanging pictures, removing nails, or getting out some aggression by banging some nails in.
9. Rubber Mallet
Rubber mallets are great for tapping things in when you don’t want to leave a mark, or you need a wider base to get the job done. They can also be used to connect PVC pipe together, or for assembling shelving units.
10. Screwdriver Set
You can use a cordless drill and driver for a lot of things but sometimes you need a regular old screwdriver to get the job done. This is one of the basic tools you should have around for DIY and home maintenance.
11. Hex Key Set
If you’ve ever put together furniture from Ikea, you’re probably wondering why I put this on this list. Most furniture that needs to be assembled already comes with the Allen wrenches. BUT, I’ve found that all those loose hex key wrenches tend to get lost. When I need to tighten something I’m out of luck because I can’t find one. It’s nice to have a set with multiple sizes all in one place.
12. Needle nose pliers
Needle nose pliers are great for pulling out staples and nails or grabbing small things.
13. Vise-Grip Pliers and Wrenches
If you’re planning on doing any kind of plumbing projects you’ll want to have pliers and wrenches on hand. Vise-grip pliers are also handy for loosening stubborn screws.
14. Metal Snips
I use metal snips for a lot of things around the house and in the garden. I’ve cut wire fencing, picture wire, and even used them for craft projects to cut floral picks and accessories.
15. Speed square
Speed squares are a necessity when you’re doing a building project that you need to keep square (like table legs or the apron of a table). I also use my speed square to mark the line when I’m cutting dimensional lumber. It keeps my line straight so I don’t end up with a crooked cut that I can’t use! You can also use them to mark 45-degree cuts.
16. Adjustable Clamps
I use adjustable clamps to hold materials in place while I work on them. They’re handy when I’m using the circular saw because I can secure the material while I’m cutting. Another great use for clamps is to hold wood together while the glue dries.
17. Hand Saw
Hand saws are great to keep around for the times when you just need to cut something small like PVC pipe or a thin piece of molding. And I’ve been known to take my hand saw to annoying branches a time or two as well.
18. Utility Knife
You really do need to keep at least one utility knife around. I have at least 4 stashed in the garage, the basement, the junk drawer, and my utility closet. If you need to cut something and scissors won’t do it, a utility knife is what you need.
19. Miter box
My miter box is near and dear to my heart. The first time I attempted crown molding I didn’t have a miter saw yet and a miter box seemed way easier to figure out than a saw at that point. Now that I own a miter saw, the box doesn’t get much use anymore but I keep it around for old times sake. You can find the post about crown molding here.
Levels are good for one thing – leveling. But I find that I need to level things more than I realize. Hanging shelves, instance. Or laying patio stones. There are different lengths of levels you can buy but I’ve found that a 48″ level is good for almost any project.
21. Laser Level
I cannot hang a picture without my laser level. This little gem makes hanging anything on the wall easy. You just hold it next to the wall and you’ll see the laser line. Adjust until it’s level and that line is where you’ll want to mark. Easy!
22. Tape Measure
I’m shocked at how often I drag out the tape measure. Not that long ago, I misplaced it and I thought I was going to lose my mind! How can I measure spaces for future projects with no tape measure??
23. Kreg Jig
A Kreg Jig is a must-have if you’re planning any woodworking projects. The Kreg Jig makes drilling pocket holes fast and easy! And if you’re wondering what a pocket hole is, it’s an angled hole that’s drilled into a piece of wood. You then join it to the second piece of wood using a screw. Pocket hole joints are strong and sturdy which make them popular for projects like tables and chairs that need to be really secure.
Painting Tools and Accessories
Painting is a DIY fact of life. Whether it’s walls, furniture, or another type of project you’re going to paint at some point. These are the DIY tools for painting I keep on hand at all times so I’m covered whenever I have the inspiration to paint, which is a lot.
24. Paint Roller Frame
I paint. A lot. I know the guys in the paint department at Lowe’s by name. I’ve painted every room in this house at least once, and some more than that. The one thing I absolutely always have on hand is a paint roller frame.
Also, I keep a mini one on hand for cabinets or smaller projects.
25. Reusable paint tray
Another painting item that’s nice to keep around is a reusable painting tray. I used to buy the cheap ones every time I painted but they’re cheap for a reason. After one time they were ready to get thrown out. And it’s less messy to use a sturdier tray too which is always a bonus when you’re dealing with paint.
And for easier cleanup, I use tray liners. They’re less than a dollar each and fit right into my tray. When I’m done I pull out the liner and throw it away.
26. Short Angled Paintbrush
I love a good short angled paintbrush. They are the best thing I’ve found for cutting in around doors, windows, and trim. I don’t even tape off anymore when I paint because of the precision I get with this brush. If you only buy one paintbrush, this is the one you should get!
27. Paint Paddle
I’m the gal who always asks for extra paint stirrer sticks when I buy paint because I KNOW I’m going to need them. And I if don’t use them, I stash them with my paint for a future project. But what happens when you’re all out of them and you want to paint? This paint paddle is awesome because it has holes in it to help aerate your paint. And it’s reusable so you can clean it when you’re done!
28. Spackle Knife
Where there’s paint, there’s spackle. The two go together like PB&J. Grab a set of different sizes and keep them on hand for filling in those small holes before you paint.
For small repairs like filling nail holes in walls, the 4-in-1 Patch Plus Primer is awesome!
29. Paint and Stain Rags
I always keep rags around for cleaning up when I paint and also for staining projects. Ideally, I should be using old t-shirts but I never seem to have any that I want to part with (*cough cough* hoarder *cough cough). These are the next best thing since they are made from cotton t-shirt material.
30. Caulk Gun
A caulk gun is another item I use a lot. Caulk gives projects a nice clean finish and can cover any minor imperfections.
31. Disposable Gloves
Another item I like to keep a supply of are disposable gloves. There’s nothing that irritates me more than starting a staining project and realizing I don’t have any.
These are the DIY tools and supplies that are nice to keep around your workspace for staying safe, clean, and organized.
32. Safety Glasses
Gotta keep your peepers safe when working with power tools. I misplace and break mine so I like to buy the multi-pack so I’m always covered.
33. Dust Masks/Respirators
It’s not good for you to breathe in dust from sanding or dust in general. Wear a mask to protect your lungs from harsh chemicals too!
Use sawhorses to hold material like plywood or MDF while you’re working with it. Or if you’re in need of some extra workspace, a sheet of plywood on sawhorses can double as a workbench.
DIY is messy. There’s always dust and bits of wood. A nice clean workspace can look like a tornado went through it after just one project. A Shop-Vac will help keep your space clear of debris or spills.
36. Pegboard Organizer
The one thing I did that helped the most with keeping my tools organized was getting pegboard and hooks for my garage. BP (before pegboard) I was constantly misplacing screws, screwdrivers, and everything else. AP (after pegboard) I have a place for everything and it’s made my life so much better.
And don’t forget the hooks!
37. Staple Gun
Staple guns are good for upholstery or hanging up your vintage NKOTB poster.
38. Sanding Blocks
Sanding blocks are great for smoothing out spackle on walls, sanding small paint or stain projects between coats, or smoothing out a rough edge here and there.
39. Wood Screw Assortment
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve underestimated the number of screws I need for a project and had to drop everything to run out for more. Now I keep a small assortment of screws on hand so I can (hopefully) finish the job.
And it’s good to keep an assortment of nails around too!
40. Wood Glue
I use wood glue for woodworking projects and to repair things like wobbly antique chairs. Gorilla glue is about the best I’ve found. It’s super strong so you know your project isn’t going to collapse on you! I’ve had that happen when I didn’t use glue and it’s…not good.
Be Prepared With the Right Tools And You’ll Be a DIY Master
DIY projects can seem scary if you’ve never worked with power tools or built anything before.
My best advice if you’re just starting out is to go slowly. Try projects that don’t require power tools and gain some confidence in your skills before you move on to more advanced stuff.
When you’re ready to tackle more challenging projects, find project plans that lay everything out in a lot of detail. Ana White is a badass woodworker who shares tons of project plans on her site Ana White.com. She gives you complete lists of tools, supplies, and cuts you’ll need to do the project on your own. And she shows you step-by-step what to do (and what it should look like at every stage).
Always understand what’s needed for a project before you start. If you need certain tools, don’t try to make do with what you have on hand. I’ve done that and it’s never worked out.
This list of DIY tools is meant as a reference list for you to start building out your own workspace. I’m not suggesting you have to run and buy everything on here at once. That would be hella expensive!
Go slowly, refine your skills, add to your arsenal of DIY tools and before you know it, you’ll be a master DIY’er!
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