The 15 tools you need for basic home repairs
If lockdown has given you a taste for DIY, here are the tools you will need to carry on
There is no point in firing everything into a big box in a jumble.
The Covid-19 lockdown has seen a lot of minds turn to DIY. But people shouldn’t embark on any project, however small, without making sure they have the tools to do the job. Here are 15 items every self-respecting DIYer should have to hand.
A tape measures is an absolute essential for the majority of home DIY jobs – whether it’s measuring a window for curtains, a floor for carpet, or an alcove for shelving or indeed the timber for the shelves. It’s best to get one long enough to cover most uses so an 8 metre tape is advisable. And remember, when it comes to timber – measure twice, cut once.
Don’t even attempt to put up shelves or towel rails or hang pictures without a spirit level. Even a basic model costing just a few euro will tell you if you’ve got it right and save you a fortune in untold grief later. Remember, you can’t easily undrill a hole.
A good quality hammer is a staple of any home toolkit. But not every hammer is the same. The advice from the trade is to choose a medium-weight hammer for most household jobs. That’s a head weight of about 500g to you and me. That will be good enough for hanging pictures or tapping nails into timber. You’ll need something a bit heavier if you are doing more heavy-duty masonry work and something smaller and lighter for delicate projects such as picture framing. The other aspect to take into consideration is the handle, and a wooden model is not necessarily best. They break and the grip can get slippery. The best handles are made of steel or fibreglass. While steel is more durable, fibreglass is lighter and transmits less vibration to the user.
If you’re planning on doing some plumbing or any jobs that require metal cutting, you’re going to need a hacksaw. They are also useful for cutting plastic and smaller pieces of wood.
Never use a household scissors for cutting wire. Get a proper wire cutter to snip and strip wires when replacing plugs, wiring lights and sockets, and other house and garden projects.
Most good toolkits contain at least one set of pliers. You’ll need them for removing nails, staples, embedded wire and much else besides.
And when it comes to cutting, an investment in a good quality handsaw will repay itself many times over. A good grip is essential for control so choose one with a handle that matches your hand size. Also, cheaper saws tend to have thinner blades which can be a little bit too flexible and a lot of energy is wasted in the wobbles. Keep a good model well maintained and it will serve you well for a long time.
When carrying out plumbing or other jobs where sustained pressure is required to tighten or loosen nuts or to hold something in place a vice grip is pretty much essential. It has an adjustable locking mechanism that grips and holds things tightly for as long as you need it to.
The other essential piece of kit for a plumbing job is a spanner. DIYers are better off buying an adjustable type rather than going to the expense of buying a set in different sizes they may never require.
Before you take on one of those electrical projects you need to arm yourself with a phase-testing screwdriver. These handy devices allow you to check if a plug or wire is live with a small light in the handle. No sensible safety-conscious home DIYer should be without one.
The cordless drill and screwdriver acts as both an electric drill and a power screwdriver, making it an indispensable tool in every toolkit, particularly when assembling flatpack furniture with dozens of screws. Powered by a rechargeable battery they are highly portable and can be used just about anywhere in the home or garden. Consider the range of uses you need it for before making a purchase though. The higher voltage models are more powerful and more expensive. So, if you’re not going to be drilling holes in solid walls a cheaper version might do. Make sure you get a good selection of drill bits and screwdriver heads with it as they can be expensive to add separately.
Sometimes a cordless screwdriver isn’t suited to a job, particularly in tight spaces. You should always have two good quality basic screwdrivers in your kit – a standard flat-head model and a medium sized Phillips head screwdriver.
Allen keys, also known as hex keys, are used to drive screws with hexagonal heads. Cheaper versions usually come with flat pack furniture kits and most people have a few of them lying around in drawers. It’s a good idea to get a set of keys in various sizes which come in a handy keyring. This can be especially useful when it comes to disassembling furniture for disposal or if you’re moving home.
If you’ve ever had to repaint interior doors or skirtings, you’ll appreciate just what a muscle-achingly tough job sanding is. Unsurprisingly, it’s the part of painting you never see in the ads. This is where an orbital sander comes into its own. It’s a compact power tool designed for small household sanding jobs and is particularly useful for floors, skirting boards and furniture. It can also be used for doors with a little patience.
And finally, the box to hold all these items. There is no point in firing everything into a big box in a jumble which almost ensures they’ll never be seen or used again. There are some excellent toolboxes with multiple sections to keep your tools organised available on the market in sturdy plastic which makes them easy to clean. And they needn’t cost the earth – keep an eye out in your local DIY store or even in Lidl and Aldi and you’ll find a model to suit almost any budget.