The 10 Most Important Tools For Every Household

Published: November 26, 2013

If you own your home, there will come a time when you need to fix it. Even if you live in an apartment, sometimes you just don't want to wait for maintenance to come for a single simple repair or maybe it is your fault and you don't want to end up losing your security deposit. Regardless of the reason, construction takes both skill and tools. For easy jobs you may be able to find instructions online, and may instructional videos and articles available on websites like ehow and youtube can be useful, but even armed with the know how, you will still need a few tools. I've created a list of the 10 tools that I feel are most important for everyone to have in their box.

  1. A Good Multi Screwdriver

    A screwdriver is important for just about any kind of construction or repair work, and I've had a multi screwdriver my whole life. Since it is the tool you will use the most, it is important to get one that is durable and comfortable for you to use. In this instance, it is also important that you don't lose the ends, so forget about the kind of multi screwdriver that has the tiny ends on a strip because in addition to being less durable, the end you need will invariably be lost when you reach for it. The best kind of multi screwdriver is the kind that keeps all the ends inside and the two sided ends flip like the one in this picture. Even though it doesn't come with as many ends as the other types of multi screwdriver it is still better and still what I carry professionally. You will almost always encounter phillips or flathead #1 or #2 and these are always included in the flipable models. If you find yourself in need of a torx or hex, you can get those separately.


  2. Penetrating Catalyst

    OK, so it's not a durable tool, but that doesn't make penetrating catalyst any less important. Metal rusts and screws weaken, so you only have so many tries to break it loose before the head is stripped and you have to drill it out. Rather trying over and over, if you see rust or fail on the first couple attempts to break a screw or bolt loose, particularly with phillips, torx, hex and similar headed screws, stop, spray some penetrant and wait 15 minutes to try again. There are many brands on the market - WD-40 is the best known, but in my experience PB Blaster is the most effective penetratig catalyst on the market right now. Be sure to keep 2 cans at all time so you never run out in the middle of a job.


  3. Channel Lock Pliers

    Channel lock pliers are particularly useful for plumbing and appliance repair or installation, but can really be used any time you need to grip anything that will fit between the jaws. Since they are a type of adjustable plier, it is important to set them to the right adjustment before use and be careful if you are using them on a hex style nut or something similar as they can strip it. Even though they are adjustable, channel locks come in a variety of sizes, and my suggestion is to have a small set for tight spaces, a medium set for general repair and a large set for when you need the extra leverage.  



  4. Vice Grip Pliers

    Vice grips are another indispensible kind of pliers. They are useful anytime you need to grip something tighter than your hand can hold it, for instance when loosening a fitting from a threaded pipe and are great for removing stripped bolts if you have the access to use them. They are also good for holding things together while glue sets and a variety of other tasks. I am still discovering more uses for vice grips even after so many years in the repair field. They are available individually or small or large sets. The average homeowner will probably only use those included in the small 3 or 4 piece set, but I included a picture of a large set to show the variety of styles available in these useful pliers.


  5. A Good, Safe Razor Knife

    A razor knife can be useful for anything from opening a package to cutting sheetrock, so every household needs one. Since it is a common tool, there are many styles available and choosing the right one can be difficult. A cheap, flimsy razor knife can be unsafe, while some of the larger ones are hard to change the blades in and take up too much space in the box. I personally prefer a flip open style that looks a lot like a regular folding knife, but takes a razor blade. This style is safe and easy to change the blade and very durable so you will have a reliable cutting instrument.


  6. Multitool

    Although a multitool set is often a Christmas stocking or scout pack cliche, this tool really does come in useful when you need a a little pair of pliers, a saw, a second screwdriver, something to pry with, a multitool can be great. A lot of people find these less useful because they are improperly maintained. They need to be kept with all blade foldouts sharpened and clean so they remain free of rust and the attachments can be opened. Unlike the multi screwdriver, in this case more attachments are more tool and therefore much better, so try to find a sturdy tool from a good manufacturer with as many attachments as you can. 


  7. A Flexible Gearwrench Set in Metric

    This is where most people recommend a small socket set, and I still do think a socket set can be useful, but a set of Gearwrenches, particularly those with a flexible head on the gear side. This style will do just about anything a basic socket set will and fits in places that regular sockets just can't go. Of course if you're getting a very large variety of sockets that becomes less and less true, but for the small, homeowner tool box Gearwrenches are the most cost effective solution. Since a metric set can handle almost any standard bolt but standard skips over many metric sizes, be sure to order the metric set.


  8. Bear Claw

    A bear claw, also sometimes called a lady's foot, is a type of prybar that is good for things as small as finishing nails but still is good for adding leverage almos as well as a larger crowbar. Any time you have something stuck that is the wrong size, shape or in a bad place for another solution like the vice grips, a bear claw with or without a hammer can be a great thing to get the job done quickly. These are so durable you will have the same one for the rest of your life and of all the different types of prybars I have found this to be the one I reach for the most in residential construction.

  9. A Good Framing Hammer

    I'm sure most people knew the hammer would make the list, but there are many different types of hammers and which to choose? For constructrion and home maintenance I prefer an Estwing framing hammer. They are expensive, professional equipment but they are solidly constructed and are another tool that will last a lifetime. Cheap hammers often break, sometimes dangerously by throwing the head. As for why a framing hammer, you can always tap lightly, but you can't make your hammer heavier if you need that little extra umph, so it's better to get it up front. I prefer the 30 oz, but anything 24 oz and up should do. My second favorite hammer is my 3 lb brass hammer, so if you're in the market for another hammer, a brass is ideal because brass is softer than many other materials, which allows you to strike directly on many surfaces without causing damage.



  10. A Strong Set Of Snips

    Sometimes scissors just won't cut it with construction materials, and for metals or other thicker or more durable materials, a razor knife won't cut it no matter how high quality it is. In this case, a set of snips is indispensible. The nice thing about snips is that they can step in for scissors as well, Like my thinking on the hammer, if you buy strong you will have something reliable and durable, though you need to make sure you keep them sharpened. I have a set of aviation snips that have lasted over a decade. They are available in center and left and right offset. For the price it is often good just to get the set in the beginning soyou always have the right tool for the job.


Everyone should have a toolbox to be prepared for the possibility of making a small repair in an emergency. Even if it is just a kitchen drawer with a few tools for the simplest tasks you will be glad you have them when, for example, the batteries run out in the thermostat and you need a screwdriver to take down the cover and replace them or spend the day without heat waiting for maintenance to show up. Many of the items on this list are relatively inexpensive and these tools are a good start for any growing toolbox. Once you start repairing things, you will find out what is comfortable for you and your box will grow along with your skill and knowledge.