Most woodworkers are homeowners, but not all homeowners are woodworkers. This article is more for the latter group; an introduction of sorts to the essential tools every homeowner should have access to. If you’re looking for woodworking tools specifically, this is the list for you. Each tool below features both an essential and advanced recommendation, depending on your level of DIY ambition and budget.
In all honesty, you’ll probably want to buy a tape measure before you even buy a house. Bring one along on the walkthrough so you can make sure all your furniture will fit or to confirm the size of a room. I keep an inexpensive magnetic-backed one on my fridge at all times so I don’t have to dig in my toolbox when the need arises.
This one is fairly self-explanatory- your spouse is going to be incredibly unimpressed when they catch you using a steak knife to break down moving boxes, and the utility knife is going to do a better job anyway. I own probably close to a dozen, and have one stashed away in every toolbox and junk drawer in the house.
Nearly every appliance or piece of furniture in your house will feature screws of some sort. Having a single Phillips and flathead isn’t going to cut it- at minimum you’ll want a few different sizes of each, and ideally you’ll have some specialty bits as well for more complex or detailed jobs.
Unless your name is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, at some point in time that screwdriver isn’t going to cut it. That’s where a drill steps in. If you don’t know how to use a drill, this is probably a good place to stop reading- it only gets more advanced from here.
Possibly more than any item on this list, a wet/dry vac might be the biggest lifesaver. I had a friend, upon noticing an unpleasant smell as he was heading to bed, discovered the storm sewer drain backing up into his basement. Only minutes away from the filth reaching his recently refinished rec room, he grabbed his wet/dry vac and went to work, keeping the water at bay until a plumber could arrive and remove the blockage. Outside of plumbing emergencies, it’s also perfect for any type of mess you don’t want to clean up with your nice fancy Dyson.
I’m going to make some woodworkers angry here, but I’m going to say it: if you’re only going to own one saw, it should probably be a reciprocating saw. There’s no shortage of uses- demolition, trimming branches, cutting wood, sawing through metal, and stump removal, just to name a few. One time, when I was a flat-broke recent college grad and new homeowner, I even used a reciprocating saw to rip and crosscut pieces of laminate flooring.
If you decide you’re going to need more finesse than what a reciprocating saw has to offer, a circular saw is the next logical step. It can easily crosscut and rip, and can it’s quite accurate when paired with the correct jigs and guides.
While a miter saw can’t do quite as many things as a circular saw, it crosscuts much quicker and more accurately, which is a godsend when tackling larger projects like installing laminate floors or doing trim work. If you plan on getting into woodworking at all, a higher-end model is a very worthwhile investment.
An oscillating tool isn’t the type of thing you’re going to use every day, but when you need one, there really isn’t a substitute. The ability to cut a variety of materials, sand in corners, and plunge cut can really come in handy.
If your home has drywall, and let’s face it, it probably does, at some point you’re going to need to fix a dent or hole. Enter the putty knife, a simple tool that can’t really be replaced by anything else. In addition to sheetrock repair, it’s also great for scraping paint, prying open small access panels, and getting whatever that gunk is off of the garage floor.
The humble hammer: perfect for hanging pictures, demolishing your rotting deck, building your new deck, making a treehouse for the kids, then rebuilding the deck when the treehouse tree falls over in a windstorm. Happy homeowning!