No Home Workshop Is Complete Without These Tools

Organized wall of home improvement tools

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You can accomplish many home improvement projects with just a few basic tools. If you plan to spend some time building and repairing things in the garage or need to make your house more useful and better looking, this short list of tools will get you started.

With careful shopping, you should be able to fill this list with good-quality, long-lasting tools for less than $300. That's money you will probably make back on your first project or two.

  • 01 of 11

    Power Drill

    Close up of a drill and accessories

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    A good power drill is one of the best investments most DIYers can make. It can drill holes and drive screws and bolts much faster than can be done with hand tools. If you think you will need the tool infrequently, you may want to buy a moderately priced corded drill. But nearly everyone will appreciate owning a cordless drill. Decent 12- or 14.4-volt cordless drills can be bought for $50 to $90. Look for a 3/8-inch model that either recharges quickly or comes with two batteries.

  • 02 of 11

    Circular Saw

    Man cutting wood with circular saw

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    A corded 7 1/4-inch circular saw is indispensable for cutting lumber and sheet goods like plywood. Avoid the cheapest saws, as they will be underpowered for some cutting chores. A good 15-amp saw can be purchased for a bit over $100.

  • 03 of 11


    Builders level against sky
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    A level is used to determine plumb (perfectly vertical) and level (perfectly horizontal). Levels come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges.

    The most useful level is a two- or four-foot carpenter's (or spirit) level. If you plan to do a lot of home remodeling, you will appreciate having both. The best bargains have tough aluminum frames.

    A nine-inch torpedo level is easy to store in a toolbox and is useful for checking short spans. Do not rely on the accuracy of a torpedo level over long spans.

  • 04 of 11

    Tape Measure

    Tape measure on floor

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    A 25-footer with a one-inch wide tape will handle nearly every measuring need you have.

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  • 05 of 11

    Stud Finder

    Young man with stud finder examining wall at home

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    Battery-operated Zircon stud finder models have proven to be reasonably reliable with drywall walls and ceilings. On thicker plaster walls, you can often find success using the metal-sensing setting on the stud finder, which can detect the nails used to secure wood lath to studs.

    You can also use $15 Stud 4 Sure magnetic tool, which can quickly locate the screws or nails holding drywall to studs. You can have the same success with a few rare earth magnets.

  • 06 of 11


    A beautiful Hammer
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    A curved claw hammer can drive and remove nails. Some favor a 20-ounce version with a smooth face and straight (as opposed to curled) claw. Some will prefer a lighter hammer, but we don't recommend to go below 16 ounces. Steel and fiberglass handles are best.

  • 07 of 11


    High Angle View Of Screwdrivers

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    Everyone usually has a dozen or more screwdrivers, but we recommend a four-in-one model that allows you to switch quickly between straight-slot or Phillips-head needs, in two standard sizes.

  • 08 of 11

    Utility Knife

    Close-up of a utility knife on hardwood floor

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    One of the cheapest tools you can own, yet one that will come in handy on a regular basis. Look for a model with a retractable blade—and always retract the blade before setting the knife down. Blades are inexpensive, so change them often. Dull blades are more likely to cause injuries (and poor results) than sharp ones.

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  • 09 of 11

    Socket Wrench Set

    Close-Up Of Socket Wrench On Table

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    A socket wrench set is a bit like having a power wrench. A 3/8-inch socket wrench with a couple of extenders and a set of sockets will make quick work of tightening and loosening nuts and bolts. For small, quick jobs, an 8- or 10-inch adjustable wrench is handy to have.

  • 10 of 11


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    Slip-joint pliers (often called "Channellock pliers" after the manufacturer that first produced them) are the most versatile type of pliers and belong in every toolbox.

  • 11 of 11

    Safety Glasses

    Safety goggles against white background, close-up
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    Don't even think about operating power tools or high-impact hand tools (such as a hammer) without donning eye protection. If you normally wear glasses, you can buy safety glasses that fit over them.