The HomeRenoTips tool shop

"If there's one thing I've learned over the years it's this: to do quality work you need quality tools. Here are some suggestions."


Before looking at tools, you might want to check-out our illuminating article on Lithium-ion batteries for cordless tools

What should a basic toolbox contain?

Most amateurs would probably answer: a hammer and nails, a saw, a bunch of screwdrivers, and ?? That's what you usually think of first when you think of a carpenter.
Well, I'll put those things in my toolbox eventually, but they're not my first choice.
As a professional I have to buy expensive tools because, after all, they are my bread and butter, so to speak. But for the occasional handyperson, the averaged-priced tool that you find at your local renovation big-box store will do just fine. But, here's a tip, stay away from those absolute bottom-price bargain outlets; in the long run it'll cost you more because the tools are usually not that good.
For the usual d-i-y jobs, a $50 cordless drill will do just as well as the $250 piece.

Here is what I'd buy, somewhat in order of importance.
#1: A cordless drill. I find that I use screws to stick things together a lot more often than I use nails. I suggest an 18V drill because it usually has plenty of torque and will easily put a 3" screw through two 2x4s.
If you're going to be doing jobs that run over several hours, such as putting up drywall, get the kit with a spare battery. You can go on working while your spare is recharging.
The drill often comes with a complete kit of screwdriver and drill bits. If it doesn't , buy a kit. You don't have to get the $200 bit package - they often have them on special for around $20.
ratchet_screwdriver #2: For small jobs where the cordless drill is overkill, get a small ratchet screwdriver with removable bits. Would you believe that my favorite has been in my toolbox for 25 years! I love it because it's got a ball handle that provides a very good grip and a magnetized tip to hold the bits and screws in place. I doubt that it's still sold anywhere but, if you find one at a rummage sale, buy it!
#3: For all-around cutting, chopping and demolishing you can't beat a reciprocating saw. A demolition blade will cut through wood and nails like butter. DeWalt reciprocating_saw
If you're tearing down a wall you can just cut through the studs, nails and all. The elongated blade is great for reaching under things like shingles or sills, for example. Get one with at least a 10 amp motor. I use the corded version because it has more power but there are cordless versions too.
This tool is so versatile that I even use it in the yard to prune the bottom branches of trees.
These have come down in price over the past few years. You can now buy a good one for around $100 where you used to have to pay $300.

tape_measure #4: A good tape measure. There are all kinds: the fat ones, skinny ones, auto-extend, manual, etc. I use two - a small one in my tool apron and a big one, 1" wide, on the jobsite. The advantage of the 1" tape is that you can extend it in the air for 8 or 9 feet and it won't bend. That's useful when you have to measure to a far wall, for example. And remember, you'll be using it twice as much as the saw because, here's a tip, in carpentry you measure twice, cut once!
#5: A good tool apron is a must! And it makes a great gift, too. The standard leather apron with plenty of pockets will serve you well. It really helps to have everything at hand when you're in the middle of a job. toolbelt

Toolbox content ....part 2 >