What You Need to Put Together a Basic Household Tool Kit

tool box and peg wall

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Homeowners and apartment dwellers alike need a basic household tool kit. You may have lots of tools for particular projects that you use infrequently, and they can be kept in a garage or workroom. However, having basic tools handy in your living area makes it much more convenient to do simple home repairs.

You might keep these basic tools in a hall closet, a kitchen drawer, or in a handy toolbox or plastic box on a shelf in the entry or mudroom. It doesn't matter where you keep them, as long as they're easy to get at for quick home repairs. You'll save lots of inconvenient trips out to the garage or down to the basement. Your in-home basic tool kit should include these basic do-it-yourself items.

Tape Measure

You may not think you need one, but a 25-foot measuring tape will work for most jobs. Whether you measure for a tablecloth or window treatment, or a whole room for new flooring, choose one large enough to measure your home's spaces easily. A second smaller tape of 6 to 12 feet can be put in a pocket or purse for shopping trips or hanging pictures.

measuring tape roll
The Spruce / Margot Cavin


Two basic screwdrivers are a necessity. Choose both a good quality flat head screwdriver and a Phillips head screwdriver in a medium size. A set of tiny screwdrivers will come in handy when you need to tighten a pair of eyeglasses or fix audio or computer equipment.

variety of screwdrivers
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One set of pliers will not do. Get a small assortment of various sizes and shapes. You'll use needle-nose pliers most frequently, but have heavy, grooved pliers for removing nails or large staples. Wire cutting pliers are good for wiring and craft jobs.

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You get what you pay for here. Getting an accurate level for accurate positioning is important. A good sturdy level will last a lifetime ("torpedo levels" are compact, have tapered ends, and are handy for small projects). A level is a must for straightening-up pictures, drilling holes in a level line, checking tabletop alignment, or mounting towel bars perfectly.

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Whether you're hanging pictures or putting shelf supports up, a medium-weight hammer will cover most household jobs. Consider other sizes if you'll be doing either delicate projects or construction.

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Vise-Grip Pliers

This tool resembles standard pliers but has a locking mechanism that grips and holds things tightly. Use it to grip a screw you want to remove or use two to twist sticky things apart. It provides a slip-free hold when you need it.

vice grip
The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

An assortment of Nails and Screws

You might find prepackaged sets of basic sizes at a home center or get a small divided box and put together a custom assortment that will come in handy when you hang pictures or make minor repairs.

nails and screws
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Wire Cutters

Save your scissors with this essential tool. A wire cutter makes it easy to snip wire for crafts, electrical repairs, and other household projects.

wire cutters
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You'll probably need to mark a drill hole or record a measurement. Have pencils handy and write on Post-it notes or bits of blue painter's tape if you don't want to write on the wall.

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Blue Painter's Tape

Even professional painters use this tape to mask off areas they don't want to paint. It's available in several widths and looks like plain masking tape. However, this special tape is blue and can be removed from most surfaces without damage. You can use it for other household jobs besides painting. Mark stud locations with a small square when hanging a picture or installing molding. Tape off the edges of a door frame when painting a wall, or tape down runners of heavy kraft paper to protect floors from dirt and scratches when moving.

blue painter's tape
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Cordless Drill

You may feel this is a luxury, but there are nearly endless uses for this handy tool. The obvious use is drilling pilot holes for nails and screws, but you can also insert screwdriver bits to help insert or remove screws.

cordless drill
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Utility Blades and Holder

There are several varieties to choose from in knives. A fast, easy one has breakaway blades which are especially useful when doing a wallpaper or a delicate craft project. They are also handy when opening sealed boxes.

utility blades
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Metal Straightedge

Choose a heavy ruler, long level or angle. It can be used to measure or mark and serves as a cutting guide for heavy materials when using a utility knife.

metal rulers
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Felt, Plastic, and Carpet Dots

Keep an assortment of these sticky-backed furniture protectors on hand. Felt dots can be applied to the bottoms of vases, candle holders, boxes, or any accessory that might scratch a table surface. Plastic or rubber dots applied to the bottom back corners of a picture can help keep framed pictures level. Carpet dots are heavier and thicker and used under chair and table legs to avoid scrape marks on hardwood floors.

felt dots
The Spruce / Margot Cavin


You'll need spackle for filling nail holes in sheetrock before painting. Alternatively, you'll need to spackle to repair small scratches, holes, or dents in walls. Unless you do lots of repair jobs, we'd recommend buying a small tub. Spackle dries out even if you seal the container well, and then it will not go on smoothly.

Putty Knife

To apply spackle, you'll need a putty knife. Other uses include scraping up a bit of paint or smoothing down a corner of repaired wallpaper. Putty knives come in either metal or plastic and are very inexpensive.

putty knife
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Paint Can Key

This simple tool will come in handy when you need to open a can of paint, varnish, or stain.

paint can key
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Package Sealing Tape

Though it looks like wide Scotch tape, sealing tape is stickier and heavier weight. Use it to re-seal cardboard boxes, to tape together some slippery items (such as sticks of molding, etc.), or to prepare boxed gifts for mailing. Get a large tape dispenser which will let you apply tape with one hand if you're moving and need to seal a lot of boxes.

packing tape
The Spruce / Margot Cavin


A supply of superglue, carpenter's glue, and white glue should cover most household needs. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the best results.

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To remove scratches or sticky substances, paint smudges or tape residue, a small tube of "Goof Off" or "Goo Gone" is a good addition to a toolkit. Follow directions on the label for proper use.

bottle of goo off
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