The days of the fully stocked garage or woodshed are bygone.
Tim Taylor-style masculinity has been supplanted by digital-age pragmatism: you buy tools only when needed, and call up a TaskRabbit to handle more complex repairs.
Which is fine … if you want your tool set to become a hodgepodge of second-rate gadgets. But if you want to make your DIY dreams a reality, you need better.
So we asked 10 home-improving pros to recommend their number-one most essential tool. From your favorite YouTube makers to ASE-certified technicians to real-estate rehabbers, you can be sure they’ve put them through the paces.
“My favorite tool is my Makita 9032 handheld belt sander. I love it so much because it allows me to sculpt small pieces of wood and even metal very quickly. It is much more flexible than a fixed-mounted belt sander, so I can make pretty much anything from a small piece of wood 10 times faster than printing it with a 3D printer. I used a Black & Decker product previously, which also works well, but is much less durable than the Makita.”
“My go-to tool is my Gerber Crucial multitool. It’s like having a whole toolbox in your pocket. As a maker, I work on a lot of different projects across many mediums, so a quality multitool is a must. Whether I need to open a paint can, break off 3D-printing supports, pry nails out of barn wood or clip wires off a motherboard, my multitool can do them all.”
“The Milwaukee oscillating multitool is a necessity for any DIYer. Having a precision tool gives a finished look that can't be matched by similar hand tools. Not only will this give you a better product, but you will save time so you can get more done. It's great when you want to surgically demo a bathroom for new tile, cutting back installed trim for a new vanity, removing rotted wood on an exterior bay window or cutting PVC when you're adding a new toilet flange. It's that perfect in-between tool when you need more than a handsaw but less than a Sawzall.”
“Many households own an impact driver since it is one of the most essential tools in any handyman's toolbox, but few understand how important it is to carry proper impact bits. These bits, like the ones manufactured by DeWalt, are designed to handle the torque of driving screws into wood, drywall or whatever material you're working with. Normal bits will strip out, leaving you constantly replacing them. By spending the money up front on the correct impact bits, you'll save both time and money when it comes time to get things done.”
“Because I help people realize the potential of their entryway and front door using glass inserts, the most essential tool to me is a Bosch Cordless Jigsaw to create the cutout for a decorative glass panel. It’s easy to use and gives you greater freedom. But I also know that design inspiration is a powerful tool for DIYers and homeowners, so I’m also a big advocate of style boards and before-and-after projects, like the inspiration galleries on Zabitat and Pinterest. These can help create peace of mind before a project even begins.”
6. The DeWalt 20V Cordless Combo Kit (Drill, Impact Driver, Light)
Richard Hoffman, ASE & GM Certified Automotive Technician
“These are the three tools I look for every day, whether I’m in the shop or my own garage. They all take the same battery — it’s got a ½-inch drive on it, and the impact has a ¼-inch that goes all the way up to one inch. I use them every day.”
“One of the best tools to have in your garage is a torque wrench. This gives expert mechanics and even a novice DIYer the ability to know they have tightened a fastener to the required, safe specification so the fastener won't break (too tight) or vibrate (not tight enough). I also like using torque wrenches because in my videos, how else can you explain how tight a fastener should be? The word ‘tight’ or ‘snug’ is different for everyone, so a torque specification is the best way to accurately convey how tight something should be.”
“For the cheap stuff, a step drill or spring punch. For the expensive, a TIG welder. And for the exotic, a CNC plasma cutter."
“Even if you prefer to call a professional in when you have a plumbing problem, you should keep some tools in your home if you ever need to perform an emergency repair and cannot wait for a professional. If you are changing your shower head, for example, plumbing tape can provide a temporary hold while you install joints and other parts for the new head. Plumbing tape is also helpful if any pipe in your home begins leaking and you need a temporary fix until you can make a more permanent repair. If you were not able to catch a clog with your toilet or cup plunger and it has already moved lower in your pipes, a pipe wrench is a necessity. You can separate the pipes and take out the clog by hand. But do make sure to turn off the water before attempting to take apart any plumbing pipes.”
“My favorite and most versatile tool is a regular flathead screwdriver with a magnetic button on the top. Always found in my shirt pocket for easy access any time. Matter of fact, when not working and a situation presented itself, I’d find myself impulsively reaching for it when it wasn’t there. Why? It could do almost anything, such as: remove wiper blades, jump electrical circuits, retrieve dropped screws and nuts from tight places with the magnet, use the magnet to fish out washers after bolts have been taken off, remove and install the plastic buttons that hold many panels in place, release connector locking clips, check for fuel pressure, probe in tight spots, test door latches, use it as a mini-prying tool, fluid sampler, small chisel, marking tool, alignment tool, scraper, fingernail cleaner, back scratcher — and use as an actual slotted and on some Phillips-type screws to tighten and loosen as needed! I am sure there are more. Best of all, they are free!” [Ed. note: The one linked to above is, obviously, not free.]
Nota bene: If you buy through these links, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits