The Tools Every First-Time Homeowner Should Have on Hand

With a little bit of preparation, simple home repair is much less intimidating than it seems

August 10, 2022 11:25 am
A sampling of the tools every first-time homeowner should have on hand
Consider this a starter guide on a journey towards sensible maintenance and upkeep.
Courtesy of brands

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My fiancée and I are about a month away from moving into our first purchased home.  Our city, much like almost every other metropolitan area across the country, is in the experiencing a red-hot real estate market. So we decided to go the new construction route instead of competing for an existing home on the open market. 

As we’ve watched our home rise from the ground up (literally), I thought about our newfound responsibility to do our own maintenance. I grew up in an apartment through seventh grade, and when we finally had our own home, maintenance was either neglected or got bad enough that my dad hired someone to fix the problem. 

Part of me thinks that if we had even a small set of essential tools at home, we probably would have been more capable of trying to tackle a leaky faucet on our own. So as we and so many others enter homeownership for the first time, it feels like the right time to finally understand which tools are appropriate to have at home, and the problems they’re meant to tackle. 

Consider this a starter guide on a journey towards sensible maintenance and upkeep. Below we’ve listed our favorite tools from Bosch, DeWalt, Makita, Stanley and much more.

Swapping out a light fixture

The tools: Phillips & flathead screwdrivers, wire cutter, electricity current tester, electrical tape

Whether you want to switch out that dated sconce or are trying to put the finishing touches on a space renovation and no further electrical work is required, you can likely change out light fixtures on your own.

“Lighting is honestly pretty straightforward,” says Kohler Lighting marketing manager Dawn Jastrow.

She says that as long as the change is an aesthetic one, you just need to ensure the electricity is off for that specific area (using the tester will double-check this) and have the right screwdriver for your specific fixture. If you think you might struggle with the screwdriver, power options are available to make the installation much quicker. If you think you need to move the junction box to support where the wires are going, that’s when it’s time to call an electrician. 

Door installation/replacement, furniture assembly and so much more

The tool: a 12V power drill

“Power tools don’t have to be intimidating,” says Alison Haefele, Group Product Manager, Tools at BLACK+DECKER

According to Haefele, if you want to do anything beyond light picture frame hanging, it’s best to go for a 12-volt model as opposed to an 8-volt. 

“If your DIY ambitions step up into hanging large, heavy decorations, television mounts, outdoor fence or deck repairs, or maybe even smaller woodworking projects or crafts, your power needs will step up,” she says. 

Anything more powerful will likely be too much for household maintenance. A solid drill bit kit will ensure you have the right screw adapter when you need it (any drill kit worth its salt should have you covered). While you’re at it, be sure to have proper eye protection and gloves. 

Sanding cabinets and other wood paneling

The tool: orbit sander

These days, there is no reason to be sanding cabinets by hand. A good sander can save a ton of time, and create a truly even surface that just isn’t possible when doing it manually. Many sanders also have a dust bag attachment, which collects all of those bits that come off during the sanding process. Consider this an investment in expediting your next painting project.

Changing locks before moving in and small door modifications

The tools: brushless planer, power screwdriver

It’s common practice to swap out locks or upgrade to keypads or smart systems if you’re moving into a previously occupied home. In most cases, installation of the new locks is the easy part. The tougher part is finding an old door that has either warped or arrived from the factory slightly off from the original measurements. 

A planer shaves off little layers of wood at a time, so you can get your door in place without the wait for a handy-person. Once you’ve done that project, you can use the planer to get further into woodworking or shave off old wood off of furniture or other larger pieces to freshen up an item’s appearance. 

Basic plumbing issues such as a leaky faucet, running toilet or dripping hose fixture

The tool: slip-joint pliers

Ace Hardware marketing director Matt Flentge suggests having a pair of these pliers around to get that extra grip for loosening or tightening fasteners. 

“Understanding the list of projects you intend to tackle will help make purchasing decisions based on how much you will be using the tools,” he adds. 

These types of pliers, with an adjustable “slip” pivot point are built to handle a wide range of grips, and can help get that extra dexterity on troublesome pipes underneath your sink or behind a toilet. (That dexterity comes in handy for a variety of other needs around the house, too.) Beyond plumbing, many slip-joint pliers have wire cutters built into the middle portion of the plier behind the joint – and a tool that pulls double-duty makes it even more essential. 

Essential Tools for First-Time Homebuyers

Tools for First-Time Homeowners

Bosch 18V Brushless 5 in. Random Orbit Sander

Tools for First-Time Homeowners
Home Depot

DeWalt 8 in. Slip-Joint Plier

Tools for First-Time Homeowners

BLACK+DECKER 12V MAX Cordless Drill/Driver with 42-piece Bit Set

Tools for First-Time Homeowners

Stanley 10-piece Screwdriver Set


Bosch 2.2-in 12V Handheld Brushless Planer


Makita DF001DW 3.6V Lithium-Ion 1/4″ Hex Screwdriver Kit


IDEAL 50-to-600-Volt Single Range Non-Contact Voltage Detector


3M Scotch #35 Electrical Tape Multi-Color Value Pack

Home Depot

Stanley 25 ft. PowerLock Tape Measure

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