This past year was a real make-lemonade-out-of-lemons situation for me. The lemon: a global pandemic that forced us to spend all our time indoors and make peace with our homes being our entire worlds. The lemonade: making the 500-square-foot apartment I share with my husband feel bigger than it is.
I’ve bought more tools and done more home DIY projects in the last year than in the six years I’ve lived on my own. And I’m not the only one! A friend that once sat through a wine-and-paint event like she was having her teeth pulled out at the dentist now calls me regularly to discuss her DIY projects.
The question I get asked most, as a repeat DIY-er, is “What tools should I buy?” I usually counter with two questions of my own: Are you shopping for a one-and-done project or are you looking to invest in tools for a lot of future projects? If it’s the former, I would tell you to borrow the tools you need from a friend since it’s not worth the investment. If it’s the latter, I would recommend starting with the following items.
1. Cordless Drill/Driver
The first power tool I ever bought and the one I use the most! This versatile tool can do everything from putting furniture together to cleaning the grout lines in your bathroom. I recommend getting a 12-volt cordless drill/driver. It’s powerful enough for home use without being heavy and unwieldy.
2. Drill/Driver Bit Set
You’ve got the drill, now you need the accessories! A drill/driver bit set has an assortment of bits that help you make holes of different sizes and drive in different screw heads.
3. Basic Tool Kit
A collection of hand tools is a staple in every home. There are a lot of configurations to choose from but this one has all the basic tools you are likely to need. It also includes a measuring tape and level that will come in handy for home décor projects.
4. Stud Finder
As much as my husband likes to joke that I don’t need a stud finder as I’ve already found one (join me as I roll my eyes), it’s a valuable tool to have when mounting anything heavy on a wall. You’ll need it to help you find the wood studs in your wall to drill into, as well as avoid live wires or an HVAC line.
6. Hand Saw & Mitre Box
Before graduating to power saws, invest in a hand saw with a mitre box that can make simple, accurate cuts in dowels and narrow pieces of wood.
7. Staple Gun
Next to my drill, this is my most used tool. It’s a must-have for upholstery projects and also for building picture frames. You can choose between an electric or manual staple gun. The electric is less effort, but the manual is cordless and more portable.
On to sticky things! The two types of glue I keep on hand and use often are wood glue for all manner of wood projects (wood glue creates an extremely strong hold between two piece of wood once dry) and one-part epoxy E6000, which dries slightly flexible, which makes it actually very strong.
9. Sander or Sandpaper
Sanding is a necessary step in a lot of DIY projects and it’s good to have different grits of sandpaper on hand. Investing in an electric sander can save you time, effort, and a trip to the doctor for Carpal Tunnel.
10. Safety Equipment
There is truly no end to the number of tools you can buy, but I try to follow the cost-per-use rule: If I buy a $100 tool and I use it only once, it cost me $100; if I use it a hundred times, it cost me just $1 per use. Moral of the story? If you think you’ll use it often, it’s worth investing in.