11 Tools Every New Homeowner Needs
It's a series of feelings familiar to more than one new homeowner: joy, freedom, pride....and a growing sense of impending doom. First time homeowners are often overwhelmed with the new freedoms and responsibilities that come with owning a property. Suddenly there are so many things to worry about that weren't your concern while you were renting. If you or someone you know is about to become a new homeowner, here are 11 of the most useful tools (assuming you or they already have a hammer and Phillips and straight-slot screwdrivers) to help get home ownership under control and off to a great DIY start!
After you’ve completed a few projects around your home you’ll quickly realize how crucial a reliable tool tote is. The ability to keep your most frequently used tools close at hand as you move from project to project is invaluable.
Look for a tool bag, bucket sleeve, or box that has a padded bottom so that you aren’t in danger of damaging the flooring as you work. Take note of the tools you use most often, and always keep them in your tool bag, and you’ll save countless hours that would otherwise be spent wandering around looking for the tool you need. Here are five very different variations on the classic tool bag.
This is a classic work horse for the DIY enthusiast and new homeowner alike. Even if you’re on a budget, a low-end model is better than not having one. Look for a drill/driver with a keyless chuck and variable speed. You want to have the flexibility to drill holes in firm materials, but also the light touch to make small adjustments.
If you were renting before becoming a new homeowner, chances are you didn’t have to deal with lawn maintenance. Well, it’s time to bite the bullet and get used to working in the yard! Your exact yard care tools will depend on the climate where you live, and might include everything from pruning shears and rakes to shovels. But, if you have a yard and you’re a DIYer, one thing you’re guaranteed to need is a lawnmower.
Without a landlord or lawn service to come around and maintain the grass, you’ll need something reliable with which to mow. Consider all of the options, gas, electric or battery-operated, and get a mower that suites your budget and your yard. And, it’s not time to put away the lawnmower when the leaves start falling! Use the mower to help mulch up fallen leaves and avoid snow mold.
And after winter, when it’s time to break out the lawnmower once again you’ll be happy to know that Family Handyman‘s guide to small engine maintenance is available to help you get everything up and running with as little fuss as possible.
Never sharpened a lawnmower blade? Watch this video!
No-Touch Voltage Tester
As a new homeowner, there’s a good chance you’ll suddenly find yourself dealing with the occasional wonky light fixture or electrical outlet. It’s best practice to always turn off the power at the main electrical panel before working on anything that has to do with your home’s electricity, but unfortunately breakers are rarely labeled, and the labels they do have are often not reliable. If you have fuses rather than breakers, never make this dangerous mistake.
Use a no-touch voltage tester (aka a “current wand”) to verify the power has been shut off before working on electrical issues. You can even use it to trace electrical wiring without having to open up the wall. Here’s a great resource on how to use voltage testers.
It’s only a matter of time before you have to work in a cramped, hard-to-reach spot in your attic, basement or under your porch. But no matter the situation, we can practically guarantee that it will be dark and you will need two hands to complete the job. This is where a headlamp comes to the rescue.
Modern LED headlamps are lightweight, don’t produce excess heat, and can be tilted to shine their light in the most useful direction. Many even have “emergency features” such as a blinking light to attract attention.
And if there’s a Harbor Freight store near you, they’re often free with any purchase! While you’re picking one up, make the most of your trip to that popular discount store with these 15 Things Harbor Freight Employees Won’t Tell You.
Quality Tape Measure
It’s vital to understand how to make accurate and fast measurements when working on your DIY home improvement projects. A common new homeowner mistake is to rely on cheaply made tape measures that simply aren’t reliable enough for accurate and speedy measures. Choose a tape measure that can take a beating and has a wide enough tape to bend and twist without cracking or splitting. Also, look for a lip at the end of the tape with a little bit of give—that slight push and pull is there to accommodate for the width of the lip, allowing you to measure an object’s inside or outside dimensions. Here’s a video with Family Handyman Senior Editor Travis Larson demonstrating how to properly use a tape measure.
Squares and Levels
A Speed square is an immense help when laying out grid lines on the floor, making cuts with a circular saw, or checking to ensure two objects are truly perpendicular. Spirit levels excel at guaranteeing your work is even, and do double duty as a reliable straight edge. Different size levels will come in handy for different size projects, and a string level will give you even more freedom. Plumb bobs, laser levels, and water levels are all specialty devices that can be immensely useful, but for a new homeowner a quality square and level is a great starting point. For more ways that a square can save you time, check out these Ten Speed square hacks.
A garden hose is a surprisingly versatile tool. Sure, you can use it to water the lawn and flowers, but it can do so much more! Hook it up to your water heater when it’s time to drain the tank and remove sediment (and extend the life of your water heater in the process). Connect a hose to a dehumidifier and run it to a floor drain or sump pit to help keep your home’s moisture down. Use the garden hose for a DIY car wash. And, if you’re working on landscaping and planning new flower beds, the easiest way to get a visual representation is to lay out a garden hose in the shape of the bed. When you’re ready to dig just edge with a shovel or spray paint a line along the hose, and you’ve got a template all set out!
That last trick’s not just for flower beds! This Family Handyman article suggests using a garden hose to lay out the boundaries of a new stone or brick patio.
Pliers are another tool that you’ll find yourself using a lot more now that you own a home. Vice grips, channel locks, and needle nose all have very specific uses, and the right tool can take an aggravating job and can make it child’s play. Pick up a few cheap pliers to find out if you use these different variations, and if you use them often enough to wear them out, consider upgrading when you get replacements. (Higher-quality pliers come with a slightly higher price but their extended lifespan usually more than justifies the cost.)
For an example of how versatile pliers can be, see this article: How to use Vise Grips to Pull Nails.
When it comes to temporarily holding material in place, it’s hard to beat an assortment of clamps. C-clamps, spring clamps and quick-release clamps allow the DIYer to hold materials in place during cuts or while glue or other adhesive sets up. You’ll want to have several clamps on hand for even a relatively small project in order to guarantee consistent pressure. Luckily this tool is available at a number of different price points, and good clamps can be found even at bargain outlets.
And of course, what list would be complete without mentioning the trusty circular saw! Most new homeowners will want a power saw of some kind, and a circular saw is a good starting point— can handle far more cuts than you’d think. Here’s our advice for choosing a circular saw.
Not sure which blade to use in your circular saw? Watch this video and find out!
If you’ll be doing demolition work, consider a reciprocating saw or an inexpensive, secondary circular saw. Many DIYers take a tiered approach to their power tools that’s easily adapted for new homeowners. As a tool gets worn and picks up scratches and dings, it can be moved to use on less precise work. This strategy lets you downgrade your tools as you bring in new equipment. And let’s face it: it’s always fun to find a reason to pick up a new tool!
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