Stocking the ultimate toolbox: every tool a homeowner will ever need

Stocking the ultimate toolbox: every tool a homeowner will ever need
Tools are the kinds of things you don't really know you're missing until you really need them. The best thing a homeowner can have at his or her disposal is a good set of tools for about everything that doesn't really need the attention of a professional. If you have a cordless drill, for example, why call a handyman to bolt your new bookcase to the wall?

The Adam Savage sculpture above is a bit of an exaggeration, but to be modest I've set out to build the ultimate tool box here at Curbly, and I've made a list of every tool you'll need to build it yourself. This is a basic list of tools you'll need for about all your home maintenance, as well as the occasional side project.


First, you'll need a bag to carry all your tools. I would say box, but those are a little obsolete these days. This type of bag, made by Husky, is my favorite. It's completely open and has pockets all around the sides. There's a sturdy handle to carry it with, and everything will stay relatively organized.

The most basic tool known to man, except for the club that I'm pretty sure predated it. I like ripping hammers with a straight claw like this one. Unless you're going to pull a lot of nails, this kind of hammer is the one you'll use. 

These channellock pliers are the most useful pliers you'll ever have. The bent head makes them able to grip and access things that are much more difficult to manage with regular pliers. Arguably the tool you'll find the most uses for.

I don't know the wisdom of getting an expensive screwdriver set. I use this kind of 6-in-1 because it has all the heads I usually use, and when I pull the heads out I have a nut driver for hose clamps without busting out the bulky drill. Easy. 

If you don't have a good measuring tape, what kind of DIYer are you? Construction work isn't an exact art, but tradesmen look down on those who use the eyeball alone. This Fat Max is about as good a tape as you'll ever need.

You will use a cordless drill, and you will use it often. Assembling that new IKEA furniture takes no time at all with this cordless, so long as you keep it charged. This Ryobi drill and saw set is a killer deal. I've used 18-volt Ryobi drills for a while now, and though they are not that expensive they are durable and do the job. 

If you're going to get a cordless drill, you might as well get a good set of bits. This kit looks like it comes with all the drill bits you'll use, but also paddle bits for clean holes, and nut drivers for hex-headed nuts and lag bolts.

Chisels are great, especially if you're working with wood. If you want to install a deadbolt on your front door, you'd better have a sharp set of chisels to cut out that mortise. Woodwork is not as complicated as it seems, and you can do most jobs right on the first try--if you have a sharp set of chisels.

If you're going to do any kind of plumbing, you'll need some crescent wrenches. Everyday maintenance items, like a water stop or faucet, is tons easier to install with crescent wrenches rather than simple pliers.

These pliers make bending wire around a screw in a new electrical outlet easy as can be. Definitely a must-have tool.


This miter saw is great for your basic woodworking side projects. Not only can you cut trim with it, you can cut wood for that birdhouse project, or a new planter in the backyard. One smooth cut with a good miter saw and you'll never use a hand saw again.

Nothing can replace a pipe wrench when working with threaded pipe. But don't buy one pipe wrench, buy two. They are always to be used in twos when working with threaded pipes--one pipe to hold the fitting, and the other to turn the pipe.

If you're doing demolition of any kind, you'll use a pry bar. You can even use it in the garden for moving stone work. Anything that needs to be forced will move with a pry bar. And if it doesn't... 

Cut the whole thing out completely. Though it's mainly for demolition, this is probably the most useful power tool I use next to a cordless drill. I suppose most homeowners don't really need one. But then again, I suppose nobody really needs a Camaro. It's one of those splurges that's nice to have just in case. 

I don't care what anybody says, get a small sledge hammer and you will feel right in the world. It's simple math. Hitting something with a 12-ounce hammer 10 times is equivalent to hitting something with a 4-pound sledgehammer once. I don't know about the algorithm there, but I've seen it many times with my own eyes.

A utility knife is very useful, but until recently I didn't know they were so advanced. This model changes blades with the push of a button. And to think all this time I've been busting out the screwdriver to open it up...

These hex wrenches are just the type of thing you never think you'll need until you realize you don't have them. There are a lot of things around the house that you can only work on with a hex wrench. A tub spout, for example. There's also no way to assemble most futons without hex wrenches.

Consider vice grips the ultimate pliers. You lock the vice grip pliers onto a screw, for example, and then you can get your hacksaw and go nuts. I suppose that means you'll also need a hacksaw for your ultimate toolbox, and a table vice would be useful if you want to cut a screw. Then there's a grinder to soften the edge, a die and tapper set...

It never really ends. Not when you get started with any zest behind you. Post some comments on the tools you think I missed. What tool do you think is the most important thing to have around the house? Which of my tools do you think is utterly useless? It is Christmas time, and tools do make the perfect stocking stuffer. Except for the baby sledgehammer, I guess.

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robert on Mar 25, 2012:

A dedicated screw driver set is better. What about electrical Test Pen, it is a must. A wire cutter is useful and also a set of box spanner.Since you have an electrical drill, why not throw in a riveter, very useful for small projects. i have all those and also a disc grinder, very useful for cutting or grinding those small metal parts. A couple of aluminium ladder should be sufficient.

funder on Feb 19, 2012:

I'd put a hacksaw ahead of a Sawzall!  It takes longer to hacksaw, but it's a much cheaper investment, it makes neater cuts, and you can use it on everything - wood, metal and plastic pipes, screws, nails, tree branches you can't get at with a big saw... 

neil on Feb 14, 2011:

Duct tape + Wd-40.  Lol, today is my birthday :)

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