Basic Tools for Home Repair

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Home repairs require the right tools and materials to get the job done efficiently. Knowing the basics is crucial for long-term success.

Essential Tools: A basic toolbox should include commonly used repair tools such as:

  • A 14- or 16-ounce hammer
  • Standard and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • An adjustable wrench
  • A basin wrench
  • A 2-inch paintbrush
  • A handsaw or power saw
  • A hand drill or power drill
  • Assorted fasteners
  • Glues and adhesives for wood and plastic

To get started, it’s important to know which tools you’ll need. In the following article, you will learn about various tools that measure, cut, drill, nail, tighten and loosen, hold, clamp, test, paint, and more. You’ll also learn which tools are essential and how to use them safely.

Quality is key when it comes to buying tools. It’s essential to buy high-quality tools, as they are not only safer to use but will also last a lifetime with proper care. Quality tools have smooth and shiny metal parts, are well-balanced, and fit comfortably in your hand. On the other hand, inferior tools have rough metal and defects, and crude machining. It’s important to note that good tools are safer to use, and cheap tools can break and cause accidents.

It’s better to pay an average of 25 percent more for high-quality equipment than to opt for cheap tools that will need frequent replacements. The money saved on the first DIY repair may pay for the necessary tools, which will be yours to keep. Useful tools include measuring tools, saws, drills, fastener tools, and tools for electrical and plumbing repairs. We’ll take a closer look at all of them.

Measuring Tools

Accurate measurements are crucial for every home-improvement project. You must know the precise measurements involved and ensure everything comes out plumb, level, and square. These are the basic tools for measuring and marking:

Tape measure: Flexible tape measures are available in lengths of up to 50 feet. It’s best to buy a tape that is 12 to 25 feet long and at least 5/8-inch wide so that it stays rigid when extended. Most tapes come with an automatic power return that is useful but not necessary.

Power and Work Tools Image Gallery

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These are common measuring tools.
See more pictures of power and work tools.

Carpenters’ squares are typically 18-24 inches in length for the body and 12-18 inches for the tongue. The size is important for cutting straight edges on plywood and hardboard. However, for smaller jobs, a combination square may be easier to use as it is typically only 12 inches long. The body of the square slides along the blade and can be set at any point with a thumbscrew. This type of square can also be used as a depth gauge, a miter square, and a straightedge ruler.

A try square is used to test the squareness of edges in planing and sawing work and can also be used to check right-angle layouts. Its tongue is typically 12 inches long and can be used as a straightedge, ruler, and depth gauge.

Two- and three-bubble levels are standard for most leveling needs, with lengths ranging up to 6 feet. They can also be used as a straightedge when laid flat against a vertical surface and are often used when hanging pictures.

For marking long distances, a chalk line is used to create a straight line, such as for replacing wallpaper or flooring tiles. A stud finder can also come in handy when trying to find studs behind walls to hang heavier items.

When it comes time to start cutting, a wide selection of handsaws are available to match various cutting needs. One such saw is the crosscut saw, which is used for cutting across the grain of wood and typically has five to ten or more teeth per inch to produce a smooth cut.

“Ripsaw” is a type of saw that cuts along the grain of wood. Its teeth are spread three to five teeth per inch, making it suitable for slicing through wood like a chisel. However, the final cut of a ripsaw is rough, so sanding is required to achieve the final measurement. A “backsaw” has a reinforced back that stiffens the blade. Its teeth are closely spaced, making the cut smooth. It is used for making angle cuts and trimming molding. A “keyhole saw” is used to cut openings for pipes, electrical boxes, and any straight or curved internal cuts that are too large for other tools. A “coping saw” has a thin blade that is secured with two pins at the ends. A “hacksaw” is used to cut metal, plastic, and pipe.

When a handsaw is not enough, power saws come into play. Power saws can be intimidating at first, so safety precautions should be observed. A “circular saw” is a portable electric tool that is the power version of a crosscut saw or ripsaw. The guide on the saw can be adjusted to cut miters and pockets in most building materials. A “saber saw,” also known as a jigsaw, consists of a 4-inch blade driven in an up-and-down motion. This portable power tool uses different blade designs for various materials, including wood, metal, plastic, masonry, ceramic, and high-pressure laminate.

When it comes to drills and fasteners, there are many options available. Power drills come in three sizes of chuck to hold drill bits: 1⁄4-inch, 3⁄8-inch, and 1⁄2-inch capacity. The two most popular sizes are 1⁄4 and 3⁄8 inch. The 1⁄4-inch chuck has a capacity of 1⁄4-inch drills in metal and 1⁄2-inch drills in wood. It’s the least expensive type of electric drill, but it can only handle a limited range of drilling operations.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Handheld and electric drills are essential tools for home repairs.

A 3/8-inch drill can create 3/8-inch holes in metal and 3/4-inch holes in wood. It can also be used with a hole saw to cut holes up to 3 inches in diameter. Some 3/8-inch drills come with a hammer function for drilling in concrete and a reverse feature for screw removal. A variable-speed drill is also useful since the rotation speed can be adjusted. There are various attachments and accessories available, such as wire brushes, paint mixers, and a circular saw attachment.

Power drills are available in corded and cordless models. Cordless drills, which include a recharger and an onboard battery, are increasingly popular.

How to Select the Right Drill BitThe type of drill bit to use depends on the drill you have. The table below will assist you in selecting the appropriate drill bit.

Drill Bit Drill Type Use
Twist Handheld, electric, or drill press Small-diameter holes
in wood and metal
Spade Electric or drill press Holes up to 11/2 inches
in wood
Auger Braces Holes up to 11/2 inches
in wood
Expansion Brace Holes up to 3 inches
in wood
Fly cutter Drill press Holes up to 6 inches in wood; smaller holes in other materials
Hole saw Electric or drill press Holes up to 3 inches in wood

There are two main types of hand drills: the push drill and the hand brace. Push drills are ideal for making pilot holes and setting hinges, while hand braces are suitable for working in tight spaces due to their ratcheting mechanism.

Fastener tools are often the first tools selected for a handyman’s toolbox. They are used to apply fasteners such as nails, bolts, and adhesives. Hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, and clamps are all examples of fastener tools.

The most commonly used hammer is the carpenters’ curved-claw nail hammer. It is available in 16 ounces for men and 14 ounces for women and is made of steel and wood or steel. A rubber mallet is useful for unsticking painted windows or for light hammering on surfaces that could be damaged. A ball-peen hammer is used for metalwork, and a mason’s hammer is used for brick and concrete work.

Every toolbox should have a set of high-quality screwdrivers that are only used for tightening and loosening screws. There are various types of screwdrivers, each designed to fit a specific screw head. Standard, Phillips, and Torx heads are the most common.

A wrench is used to turn a bolt head or nut. Depending on the fastener’s design and size, the appropriate wrench should be selected. Open-end, box-end, adjustable, and Allen wrenches are all types of wrenches. It’s always preferable to pull a wrench towards you rather than pushing it away, as this gives you more control and reduces the risk of injury if the wrench slips.

When working on home-repair projects, it is important to have the right tools for the job. Wrenches, pliers, and clamps are all essential tools to have in your toolbox. Wrenches come in a variety of types, including adjustable, socket, and Allen wrenches. It is important to use the correct size wrench to avoid damaging the fastener. Pliers are used to grasp and hold parts, but should not be used as wrenches. Common types of pliers include slip-joint, groove-joint, needle-nose, and locking. Clamps are useful for holding parts together while glue dries. Spring clamps and C-clamps are both useful and come in a range of sizes.

type of electrical connection is complete or not. When the two probes of the tester are touched together, the circuit is complete and the tester will emit a tone or light up. This tool is essential for testing switches, outlets, and fuses.

Volt-ohm-milliammeter (VOM): This tool is a combination of a voltmeter, ohmmeter, and ammeter. It can measure voltage, resistance, and current in a circuit. It is used to troubleshoot complex electrical problems and is a must-have for professional electricians.

Plumbing Tools

Plumbing repairs can be messy, but having the right tools can make the job easier. Here are some of the most common plumbing tools:

Pipe wrench: A pipe wrench is a heavy-duty wrench used to tighten and loosen threaded pipes and fittings. It has serrated jaws that grip the pipe securely without damaging it.

Plunger: A plunger is a simple tool that uses suction to clear clogged drains and toilets. It works best on small clogs and should be used before resorting to harsh chemicals.

Pipe cutter: A pipe cutter is used to cut pipes cleanly and evenly. It is essential for making precise cuts when installing new pipes or replacing damaged ones.

Tongue-and-groove pliers: Also known as channel-lock pliers, these are adjustable pliers with long handles and serrated jaws that grip pipes and fittings securely. They are essential for tightening and loosening nuts and bolts on pipes.

Knowing how to use these tools and having them on hand can save you time and money when it comes to electrical and plumbing repairs.

An electrical part carries electric current and helps to identify the source of an issue. The image shows a continuity tester and VOM, or multitester, which can be used for this purpose.

but they also swivel to fit at odd angles. You can also use a basin wrench to tighten or loosen faucet nuts.

Pipe cutter: A pipe cutter is a tool used to cut metal pipes. It consists of a cutting wheel and two adjustable rollers that hold the pipe in place. To use a pipe cutter, tighten the rollers around the pipe, rotate the cutter around the pipe, and tighten the cutter’s wheel. Then, rotate the cutter around the pipe several times until the pipe is cut through.

Plunger: A plunger is a tool used to clear clogged drains and pipes. It consists of a rubber cup attached to a wooden handle. To use a plunger, place the rubber cup over the drain or pipe opening and push and pull the handle up and down rapidly. This creates a vacuum that can dislodge the clog.

Teflon tape: Teflon tape is a thin, white tape used to seal pipe threads. It is applied to the threaded end of pipes and fittings before they are screwed together to create a watertight seal. You can purchase Teflon tape at hardware stores and plumbing-supply houses.

Plumbing snake: A plumbing snake is a flexible, coiled wire with a corkscrew end that is used to clear clogs in pipes. To use a plumbing snake, insert the corkscrew end into the drain or pipe opening and turn the handle clockwise to feed the snake into the pipe. When you feel resistance, turn the handle counterclockwise to dislodge the clog.

The wrench tool can be flipped over to the opposite side, allowing for continuous turning without removal. A socket wrench set is helpful for removing recessed packing nuts and is suitable for various household repairs like tub and shower fixtures. For replacing a toilet seat, you may need a wrench or a deep socket wrench. To remove an older toilet, a spud wrench is necessary to remove the slip nuts that connect the tank to the bowl. Plumbers’ snakes or drain-and-trap augers come in different lengths, with a short snake being sufficient for most repairs. A closet auger is specifically designed for clearing clogs in toilets, and it is shorter than a regular snake. In contrast, painting is an easy task compared to plumbing. To achieve a professional-quality paint job, it is vital to select the right tools. Paintbrushes are available in either natural bristle brushes made of animal hair or synthetic bristle brushes made of nylon. Synthetic brushes are suitable for water-based latex paints, which make up the majority of paints used today.

When it comes to painting, investing in good quality brushes is essential. While it may cost a bit more, top quality brushes will make painting tasks easier and quicker, and can be easily cleaned for future use. High-quality brushes will last for many years with proper care.

When choosing brushes, inspect them closely at the store. Look for brushes with split ends, also called flags, as they spread paint better. Give the brush a tap on the counter – a good brush may lose a few bristles, but a bad one will shed many. Long tapered bristles are ideal, especially for narrow brushes, with the bristle length being one and a half times the width of the brush. Finally, choose brushes with comfortable handles made of wood or plastic.

Different types of brushes are available for different tasks. Wall brushes, which spread the most paint, are ideal for larger surfaces, while trim brushes are suitable for woodwork and cutting in around windows, doors, and corners. Sash brushes are angled and make close work easier when painting around windows. Disposable foam brushes are also available and are great for smaller tasks.

For large, flat surfaces such as walls and ceilings, paint rollers are a great option and can cut painting time in half. Rollers come in varying widths, but the most common sizes for interior jobs are 7 and 9 inches wide. When choosing a roller, look for a metal-rib version, also known as a bird cage or spring-metal frame, as it’s easier to clean and less likely to stick to the inside of the roller cover.

The painting toolkit consists of various tools that are essential for a DIY project. The type of roller cover to purchase depends on the type of paint you are using. Roller covers are fiber or urethane-foam-covered cylinders that absorb paint from a tray and release it when rolled over a flat surface. The paint is removed from the roller due to the vacuum created by the rolling action. Most roller covers are made of lamb’s wool, mohair, Dynel, acetate, or polyurethane foam and are intended for a specific type of paint. The length of the roller cover’s nap, which can range from 1/16 inch to 1 1/2 inches, is also specified on the roller package. Use long naps for rough surfaces and short ones for smooth ones. The pile is attached to a tube that slips over the roller’s plastic or cardboard frame. Paint trays are available in aluminum or plastic and are available in 7-inch and 9-inch sizes. The 9-inch size is more popular because it can accommodate both the 7- and 9-inch rollers. Some trays have hooks that can be used to attach them directly to a ladder. The trays are washable and long-lasting, but using disposable plastic tray liners or lining the tray with aluminum foil can make cleaning even easier. With all of the tools discussed in this article and some hard work, you can make your home look brand new.


1. What are some essential home-repair tools every homeowner should have?

Every homeowner should have a basic toolkit that includes a hammer, screwdrivers (both Phillips and flathead), pliers, adjustable wrench, tape measure, level, utility knife, and a set of Allen wrenches. Having a power drill and a set of drill bits can also be helpful for more advanced projects.

2. How do I choose the right tool for a specific job?

Choosing the right tool for a specific job can depend on a variety of factors, including the type of material you’re working with and the specific task you need to accomplish. It’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines before starting any project, as they will often provide guidance on which tool is best suited for the job. Additionally, asking for advice from a hardware store professional or a handy friend can also be helpful in selecting the right tool.

3. How do I properly maintain my home-repair tools?

Properly maintaining your home-repair tools is essential to ensuring they last and perform effectively. After each use, wipe down your tools with a clean, dry cloth to remove any dust or debris. Store them in a dry, cool location to prevent rusting. Sharpen blades and replace worn-out parts as needed.

4. Can I use power tools if I’m not experienced?

It’s generally not recommended to use power tools if you’re not experienced or comfortable with them. Power tools can be dangerous if not used properly, so it’s important to take precautions and follow safety guidelines when using them. Consider taking a class or workshop to learn how to use power tools safely if you’re interested in using them for home-repair projects.

5. How do I fix a leaky faucet?

Fixing a leaky faucet can be a simple DIY project. First, turn off the water supply to the faucet. Then, remove the handle and the cartridge or valve stem. Clean any buildup or debris from the parts and replace any worn-out washers or O-rings. Reassemble the faucet and turn the water supply back on to check for leaks.

6. What should I do if I encounter a problem during a home-repair project?

If you encounter a problem during a home-repair project, it’s important to stay calm and assess the situation. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and any online resources or tutorials for guidance. Consider asking for help from a friend or professional if needed.

7. How do I know when it’s time to call a professional for a home-repair project?

If a home-repair project seems beyond your level of expertise or if you’re not comfortable with the tools or techniques involved, it’s best to call a professional for help. Additionally, if a project involves electrical or plumbing work, it’s important to hire a licensed professional to ensure safety and compliance with building codes.

8. What should I do if I don’t have the right tool for a home-repair project?

If you don’t have the right tool for a home-repair project, consider renting or borrowing the tool from a hardware store or a friend. Alternatively, you can hire a professional who will have the necessary tools for the job. Avoid trying to use a tool that is not meant for the specific task, as this can be dangerous and potentially cause damage.

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