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home : special sections : special sections February 06, 2016

3/22/2013 7:13:00 AM
6 Essential Tools for Fixing, Installing, Removing, Replacing or Otherwise
Improving the Home
CTW Features

When Jonathan McIntosh's daughter graduated from college and moved into her own home, she asked a common question: What tools do I need?

McIntosh knew the answer. "There are so many people who feel lost when it comes to tools," he says. As founder and CEO of Omaha, Neb.-based CoMc, a company that produces a locking-tile system known as SnapStone, he's familiar with the traditional barriers to doing some serious home improvement.

"You can do a lot with a small group of important tools. Those are the tools that I tell homeowners to get," he says.

If you're not fortunate enough to be related to a home-improvement expert, here is a look at some of the essential tools that everyone, homeowners and renters alike, need in their toolboxes.

The Screwdriver

Marie Leonard, a Boston-based home improvement expert and author of the book "Marie's Home Improvement Guide" (Seal Press, 2009), recommends everyone to have at least four screwdrivers, two each of the flat-head and Phillips-head varieties. It's the most basic and frequently used tool, for everything from opening the battery case on children's toys to putting together furniture to tightening loose light switches.

Specifically, Amy Matthews, the home improvement expert for consumer home-improvement website HomeAdvisor, recommends the seven-in-one or five-in-one screwdriver. This tool includes just one handle but holds several different screwdriver heads inside its body, so consumers can save money and space in the toolbox.

The Drill

Leonard calls the cordless drill one of the most essential tools that a homeowner can have. With both drill and screwdriver bits, it actually functions as two tools in one, a drill and a high-powered screwdriver.

The cordless drill is indispensable when hanging pictures, tightening loose screws in that wobbly living room floor, hanging drapes and shelves and assembling furniture.

Matthews recommends the 12-volt variety for people who anticipate average use for their drills. While 12 volts used to be too weak for regular use, Matthews says the new versions are both lightweight and still pack enough power in their relatively small frames.

The Tape Measure

The humble tape measure is an extraordinarily useful tool, McIntosh says, and it will save a lot of time traveling to and from the home improvement store.

It's important for simple tasks, like measuring a doorway to make sure a new chair will fit through it, and more complex tasks, such as building bookshelves or hanging drapes.

The Wrenches and Pliers

Every homeowner's toolbox should contain a variety of wrenches and pliers, McIntosh says. He recommends buying a set that will include the most frequently used varieties of these tools, including a combination wrench, adjustable wrench, socket wrench, needle-nose pliers, tongue-and-groove pliers and flat-nose pliers.

The Saw

Unless you plan to finish the basement yourself, be frugal when it comes to saws, McIntosh advises. A simple, inexpensive handsaw will suffice for people who will only cut a limited amount of wood throughout their lifetimes.

Those who plan on doing larger home-improvement projects that require more cutting can upgrade to a smallish circular saw. Leonard recommends the 6-inch variety.

If you plan on doing a decent amount of woodworking, consider investing in a kit that comes with a battery-operated drill, circular saw, handsaw and sander.

The Caulking Gun

Leonard says that homeowners can save thousands of dollars by learning how to use a caulking gun. Spreading caulk or sealant around the edges of sinks and tubs prevents water from seeping into the walls around them. Otherwise, the water can cause mold and rot quickly.

It's a small investment to save yourself the trouble years down the line.

Some of these tools may seem daunting, but home-improvement pros have some advice: The best way to learn how to use cordless drills or caulking guns is to practice on scrap material before using these tools for real applications. Scrap metal and wood is readily available at the local hardware store.

"I always recommend that people buy some extra wood and screws or practice on their garage walls or some other place they don't care about to get familiar with the tools," Leonard says. "You can read about using tools all you want, but until you practice with them, you won't feel comfortable."

© CTW Features

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