Basic must-have tools for DIYers
As an upcycling kinda DIYer, I actually buy very few supplies.
But when we’re talking tools, it’s a whole other story!
Basic must-have tools for DIYers are a must. But it sure can get confusing on what to get, can’t it?
Do you have any tools that just sit around wishing you had others you really need?
This post will guide you on fixing that! Not only will you learn how to shop for tools, you’ll learn how to choose the ones that are right for just YOU.
Because if it means you want to use the power tool, that makes all the difference in the world.
Here’s how to shop for basic must-have tools for DIYers!
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Basic must-have tools for DIYers
How I started using tools
My love for tools started when I worked alongside an artist friend of mine. Dan had every tool imaginable in his workshop and would most often hand me a new one, tell me to plug it in and get to it!
Most of the tools I used I had never touched before, so this was all new to me.
Basic advice on how to safely use power tools is so important. But I learned the most by using them, period. Fear and all.
It’s like anything. The more you do something, the more confident you become while your skills grow.
I eventually learned which tools I liked best, which helped me start collecting my own collection of basic must-have tools for DIYers.
How to shop for power tools
How often have you walked into a hardware store only to be completely overwhelmed with the selection?
Here’s how I shop for tools so you get exactly what you need, even if you don’t know what that is yet!
- Try out other’s tools first if you can to gauge what you like and don’t.
- Get tools for just yourself if you must.
- Visit tool stores who have helpful and knowledgeable sales staff. Ask lots of questions.
- Handle each tool in your hand before purchasing. They should fit like a glove and not be too heavy.
- Unless you already know exactly what you’re looking for, bypass tools you can’t reach or open.
- Don’t purchase on price alone. Choose quality and how comfortable you are with them.
Here’s what I love!
Makita cordless drill – Find it here
Bosch cordless drill – find it here
If I could only afford ONE tool, hands down, it would be a cordless drill.
What they do
A drill will help you predrill holes so you can avoid splitting the wood, and helps you screw things together.
Cordless drills do many other things as well these days, such as mixing concrete, polishing, etc. It’s all about the attachments you purchase.
Brands I love
I have a Makita which I adore the very most. It’s smaller scale and fits a woman’s hand like a glove.
I also have a larger Panasonic which has great power, but it’s a little too heavy for my liking. I find the Makita does everything the Panasonic does. Basically put… if a tool fatigues you by simply holding it, it’s too heavy for you.
I also have Bosch. They’re a good tool, but a little heavier than Makita. Makita is still my first go to.
Chuck vs no chuck
Cordless drills come two ways… with or without a chuck.
I recommend to get a 2 pack so you have one of each. They are cheaper this way, as well as you’ll have one set up to predrill holes and the other to do the building with. MUCH quicker than changing out the bits constantly.
* a chuck requires a twisting motion to replace the bits – offers more options such as speed options and strength
* a non chuck has you changing out bits effortlessly – easier to use, not quite as powerful
Portable cordless drill tool kit
Makita drill bits – find them here
I adore my Makita cordless drill bit kit.
What I love about it is the fact that you don’t have to go digging around for what you need. It’s like a purse of sorts. Everything is intact and promise me, this kit contains everything for an average build. I’ve renovated my entire home with a kit like this. And as a few bits wear out, they can easily be replaced with no name ones.
These bit kits change over time, so what you see today will vary slightly from the picture.
Tip: The screwdriver bits come in different lengths, which is handy, but I admit to grabbing the long ones first. So if you find a kit with just the long ones, you won’t miss the short at all.
Compound miter saw
Read my own miter saw review on this beauty HERE
If I only could have one saw, a compound miter saw would be the one I choose.
What they do
Miter saws are built for simple straight cuts and angles.
I find them one of the safest saws to start with because of their stability of being on a table. You basically pull down the blade to cut, vs. holding a blade’s weight in your hand.
Brands I love
I use to have a very simple Craftsman, but have since upgraded to THIS BEAUTY, a Bosch with a Sliding extension via Axial Glide Mechanism. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s a total room saver if you are tight for space and I can safely say, it does way more than I’ll ever need it to.
But you don’t have to start there unless you plan to cut some really deep planks. A simple 10″ without a slider function will get the job done. I used mine for 10 years until it bit the dust, so I decided to upgrade.
Bosch GCM12SD <— read reviews and features on Amazon
What they do
A jigsaw is a lighter hand-held saw that can be carried around to wherever you need it. It’s perfect for smaller cuts that can’t be accomplished on a miter saw, or when rounded cuts are desired.
Brands I love
I have an older Bosch barrel style however you can also get jigsaws that have handles so your hands are well away from the blades. A jigsaw with a handle above the blade will likely be my next choice.
Hand held palm sander
Bosch variable speed palm sander – my current fav
What they do
A palm sander is built to sand something quickly and efficiently! With different grits of sandpaper available, you can achieve most any type of finish desired.
There are different sanders available that spin different ways and with different shaped heads.
Brands I love
I’m head over heels in love with my Bosch variable speed. You can control the speed of your sanding, which is better than having a sander go crazy on you when you want slow and easy.
I also have a Bosch without the speed options, and I rarely grab it these days.
Regardless of which sander you choose, buy the best quality you can afford. And a bonus is if you can hold one in a store and feel it out while plugged in.
Lightweight weed trimmer / edger with battery
Black + Decker 20V Trimmer / Edger LST201
What they do
A weed trimmer is super handy to trim down grass edges or overgrown weeds in tight areas without you bending over. They either come gas run, battery operated or can plug in using a cord.
Brands I love
I currently use a battery operated light duty weed trimmer that swivels to become an edger too. See my full review HERE
It’s never an issue to start, doesn’t spray grass all over you, it’s super light, one battery charge does my entire yard. It’s fabulous!
But it’s also light duty. If you live on average or don’t keep up with what you cut down on a super regular basis, I would recommend a gas-run variety.
I use to have a Featherlite Weedeater and loved it! I just didn’t want to own a gas run motor any longer.
Learn how to use a Kreg Jig HERE
What they do
A Kreg Pocket Hole Jig is a special tool that helps creates angled pocket holes, making wood joins strong and super easy with a professional looking outcome.
Brands I love
Kreg Jig is the only brand I’ve ever used, and I think I chose well. It’s a quality product with loads of accessories you can build on.
I have THIS Kreg Jig 4K which is geared to work with wood from ½” to 1.5″ thick which I highly recommend. I love the wood clamp that holds everything in place while you drill.
Click above to watch a short video on how to use a Kreg Jig!
And read my own post: How to use a Kreg Jig HERE
Toolbox for just screws
How to build this toolbox HERE
I really love building my own toolboxes out of reclaimed wood. It’s nice to scale them to your desired size.
Storing screws in mason jars is preferred as well. I can be sized, and easily carried around.
As you can see, you really don’t need anything too fancy. Just serviceable.
View my 2022 workshop revamp HERE
You obviously need a place to work. But honestly, you don’t need nearly as much as you may think.
My workshop is inside a single car garage that’s decked out with reclaimed finds. Yep, I built my workshop for free!
I’ve found everything from my tables, to storage units, and made things like the pallet tool shelf. The key is to simply organize it in such a way that gives you enough table space to cut and create, and have a few storage solutions around.
Portable overhang table outdoors HERE
Being that I work out of a garage, I utilize this small overhang outside of my garage every time I work.Two sawhorses and a few planks are all that’s needed.
The two sawhorses shown were from Ikea. They are light duty, good enough for the task shown. If you’re doing heavy work, I’d suggest getting something more sturdy.
Sanding outdoors is preferable, plus there’s nothing like good lighting for photography!
And who doesn’t love working outdoors?
Worktable with wood storage underneath HERE
I also have a few worktables indoors. Each one was found on the curb!
The table above is worth noting. It had fold up legs, which I collapsed, and instead, built farm table legs instead.
The reclaimed wood is sitting on a rollable shelf. This enables me to push the table towards me without the weight, if I wish to have my workspace closer to me.
This little portable work table was found at a thrift store. Super handy when I wish to work in the backyard or take it on the road.
You can find the plans to build this table from Remodelaholic HERE.
I’ve also created my own storage, such as this pallet wood tool holder.
This metal storage rack storing reclaimed wood was found in front of a dumpster.
Good hearing protection
Hearing protection – I ADORE THESE!
What they do
Hearing protection protects your hears from super loud power tool noise which can harm your ears. You can get them styled as ear plugs or like headphones.
I also recommend getting the best quality you can afford as they tend to block out more noise.
Brands I love
Hearing protection – I ADORE THESE!
Don’t scrimp on good hearing protection. I have a cheap pair and a better pair. I will go out of my way to hunt down the better ones each and every time!
The better quality blocks out nearly all the noise, while I can still hear it with the cheap ones.
Mine were $45 in Canada, but the link above found on Amazon is a much better buy. Make sure they are comfortable too.
Other good basic must-have tools for DIYers
Hammers. (I like having a few on hand because I keep losing them!)
Tablesaw – for long cuts on big stuff
Tape measures – love the Stanley brand
Good eye protection – purchase more than one. It’s a pain looking through hazy glasses… they get scratched and cloudy with time.
A decent dust mask – you get what you pay for here. Better ones offer more protection and a better fit.
Good hand protection – when I work with reclaimed wood, I wear those rubber dipped gloves.
Clamps – holds wood in place.
Worktables – I love this one, but I currently use wooden worktables found on the curb!
Workmate – portable / collapsible worktable that is geared for easy clamping. Fabulous piece!
Working with tools safely:
When purchasing new tools, hold them in your hands in the store first, so you can check out their weight.
Wear tighter fitting clothing when working with tools to avoid getting caught in the blades or spinning apparatus.
Tie long hair back.
Request guidance if you don’t know how to use a tool.
Practice before doing the actual work.
Work outside when you can so you breathe in less dust.
If you don’t know which brands of tools to get, I suggest to borrow from a friend to get a feel for what you might like.
Do you have any of your own basic must-have tools for DIYers tips? I’d love to hear them!
41 thoughts on “Basic must-have tools for DIYers”
loved your post on tools! laughed when you said you keep losing hammers since I couldn’t find one yesterday that was right in front of me. Thought you might do like I’m doing and paint the handle of all hammers bright pink or orange so I can find them in the clutter of the project.
GREAT idea! It’s a little ridiculous how I loose stuff. Maybe if I just put something back where it belongs that would help… ya think?! haha
I don’t think you know how talented you are? But you’re bravery and stories have inspired me to quit saying…oh, I can’t do that. To doing tons of stuff around my house! I doubt if I’ll EVER use a table saw, but keep your projects and great stories coming. You’re the best! Mimi
Aw Mimi, thanks for the kudos! So glad that my messes have encouraged you so! Rock on! 🙂
Check, Check, and Check! I agree with your “must have’s”…and now, I MUST HAVE a cordless drill bit kit! I’ll bet that there’s a “father’s day” sale going on at my local hardware store….just in time!
The only additions that I’d make are a pry bar (cat’s paw) and a small square. Thanks for sharing! xo
Oh yeah, the crow bar! (as I call it) LOVE those! (for ripping apart my messes haha) Yes, put that bit kit on your list pronto! No… just go get one. No list needed! You’ll be so thankful you did.
Good post with good infor…my question is how would I keep a hubby and sons out of “my stuff.” Thanks for sharing.
I used to have that prob ’til I started buying pink stuff: hammers, workbelt, even put flower stickers on some stuff…LOL. Now NOTHING goes missing!
Haha, love the pink fix! Perfection!
Very cool! I’ve got the toolbox but no table….. but i am working on it!:)
A table is so easy! You can either make one or just go pick up a Costco fold out for a quick fix. My ‘quick’ fixes have lasted 8 years and counting. 🙂 Nice to drag outside on a whim too!
You read my mind! This weekend’s project: to unload my entire garage and get the tools and reclaimed work bench organized.
Love the nails/screws jar suggestion! firstname.lastname@example.org
When my Mother’s husband passed away, she invited me over to her house..to help myself to tools in their work shop and take any tools I didn’t have already! Squeal!!!
I already had a cordless Dremel with some attachments that is often used to clean up found/junk objects. I did take the corded Dremel and a ginormous kit of attachments for it. Your list reminded me to go pick up that extra set of ear protection that is in Mom’s shop…
How lucky are you! Handed down tools are the best! I have quite the assortment of nuts and bolts from my mom’s collection. Things I would never have purchased myself… makes for some fun playing!
Excellent!! I have a very handy hubby who has a garage/shop full of every tool out there, I think, but I’ve yet to use many of them. This encourages me to learn rather than wait for him to do something for me. And to find tools that fit my hands and needs – thank you!
Good going, Barbara! Working tools is not a difficult thing… go for it!
Love your setup. I use my covered patio and have to be sure to cover all my tools up if weather is coming. Plus, it’s miseable in the winter, so mostly work on indoor stuff.
Oh yeah, covered patios are the best! Awesome for photography too as it’s in diffused sunshine. Mine that runs right off the kitchen is used all the time too, for things that will get too heavy to carry upstairs after the build. Building close to where your project resides can really be a big win.
And the screw tote is an excellent idea! Been using my reclaimed fencing to make flower boxes… so will just make a screw tote too. Thanks, I LOVE your website.
I actually made that toolbox for decorating… but a mason jar happened to be in the garage and that was the end of that! Who knew toolboxes would be so handy for TOOLS? Ha! I highly recommend make one for your most used littles. You’ll be in LOVE.
Well Donna, I would totally get all that stuff if you would only come down to WA and teach me how to use it all…LOL….Great post!
Christine from Little Brags
This could indeed be arranged…. I’d LOVE a good Washington trip! 🙂
Holy smokes. I have all of that, minus the awesome ear protection. Oh yeah and the miter saw is still in the box. WHOOPS! Blame the hubs, twas a gift to him. So how lazy am I that I’m not making all of the awesome stuff you do? La-haaayy-zeee!!! Have a great weekend Donna!
Open that miter saw box pronto, saw something yourself (ask for help for the first try) and I guarantee you, you’ll claim it as yours! You won’t need to ask for help ever again! Just do it!
Thanks for this list, Donna! It’s good to see what we have versus what we need to get. (I say the royal “we” as I borrow tools from my husband. I just bought my very own hand sander last week, and it felt like Christmas Day!)
Yes yes and YES!!! Getting your OWN tools puts a whole new spin on them. You’ll be so much more inclined to create. What’s next?! 🙂
Thanks for the great tool tips! I have a Mikita drill and it is great! The other tool tips are good to know, I’d like my very own! Now, if only you were my neighbor so I could get hands on experience from the expert 🙂
I had long planned to shoot videos on how to work with tools… I need to do that! Trust me, it’s as easy as working your washer and dryer! And you’ll be addicted to creating. WIN!
Excellent list! I’m glad you included the safety stuff. I always wear gloves and ear protection.
I agree with Kimberly, the next must-have is that drill bit kit!!! I’d love a table saw, but can always use Dad’s. Love the screw jar holder!
Once you have that baby, you’ll be running around like you won the lottery! Make sure you take pictures of it when it’s pretty and new… because it’ll be used OFTEN (and maybe even left in the rain by mistake in which everything rusts… oops!)
Noi italiane guardiamo con stupore voi ameicane per come sapete utilizzare gli utensili: è straordinario!
E tu fai sempre dei bellissimi lavori: complimenti! Ciao
Excellent post! Thank you for all the GREAT advice!
I love to see a beautiful woman with TOOLS !!!!! I am 62 years old and a widow. I spent years trying to get my husband to see that women CAN use TOOLS !!! He was never convinced !!! Even after I built a coffee table, and a few cool bookcases, he just couldn’t say “GOOD JOB!” to me !!! I kinda resent him still for it !! LOL I went on anyways !! I love my Drill/Driver !! That’s one of my most used tools ! I also love a miter saw as you have. Hammer, sander… check. Straight edge… check. Lotsa screws of different sizes….. check. SEWING MACHINE ….. check !!! LOL
Keep up the great work, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do it !!!
Love ya for it !!!
Joline, Burlington, VERMONT
This is a great list Donna and I totally agree with your first suggestion. Impact drivers are AWESOME!! Anything that can drill screws through cement board and into studs is a keeper.
Another great tool is a torpedo level. It’s amazing how many times you just need a small level for hanging pictures, tile, etc.
Hope you’re having a great day
I’m a real big fan of the toolbox exclusively for screws. I think we’ve all had that problem of trying to keep nuts and screws in order. I know what I’ll be making this weekend.
What brand and size of miter saw do you recommend? I have used my brothers and I cannot remember what size it was. I just love to see all of the projects you do. You are so talented and inspiring!
Hey Anna! I recommend you walk into a tool store and check them out. I prefer bigger over smaller so they cut more myself. I also like the ones that cut towards you, not just in one spot. When I upgrade one day, I’ll be getting the largest I can find! 🙂 I don’t know all the sizes they come in so this is why I’m suggesting to go check them out.
Brand… not sure. Just go for a well known brand name for certain is my suggestion. Checking online reviews could be a good idea as well. Or just ask the tool place which appears to be the best seller and why.
GREAT driver assortment, especially as its Makita and NOT “Fred’s bargain tools that break in 10 seconds”. I hate cheap tools. Super workbench list and I covet your B&D workmate. One day, one day…. You obviously have better skills than I because I would add a few tools that make up for flubs and miscuts – files, chisels, a hand plane, a rubber mallet with a white head (they don’t mar like the black ones do) and my fave, the rubber adjustable strap wrench . I live in the Bahamas and well, junk abounds. We call it beachcombing! Love your site! Thanks!
I’m new here – just ran into you on Pinterest. Loved the post on tools. I have some basic hand tools, a Craftsman multi tool & scored a great rolling tool box @ Value Village for $24. Have been thinking about what to buy, so stumbling upon this post was serindipitous. I’m planning to add a level, a Dremel, a stripped screw remover & a jig (like Kreg) for drilling pockets to hide screws. Also, a nail gun seems like a handy tool to have. And eventually a paint sprayer.
About losing tools… I’m thinking of dipping the handles in that rubberish goop. Comes in several colors. And should provide a good grip. Another thought is a pegboard wall, painted a fun color, with hooks to hang tools. Trace around the tools with a Sharpie so that when the tool is in use, you can see where to return it.
I really like the idea of a separate screw/fastener box. I have one of those divided plastic boxes, but they’re a pain to get stuff out of.
Thanks for the great info!
Nancy in Kent, WA
Your tool set makes me drool. I like to the drill and the bit kit.
I keep losing my screwdrivers. Lol.
Donna…Great list. If I had the $$ and space, I’d love to have a radial arm saw, but I do love my 10′ miter saw. It’s not a fancy compound model, but I don’t often need to be cutting crown molding, so it does what I need it to do. I also have a table saw that I use for longer cuts. I totally agree about needing to have a cordless drill/driver. My tool of choice is a dewalt that I bought when I gutted the kitchen. I also like the Rigid brand products because of the lifetime battery warranty. I think I might need to go get myself some new toys. 😉
one of my favorite tool accessories: https://www.google.com/shopping/product/17503960072237339280?q=magnetic+drive+guide&safe=off&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS611US611&biw=1680&bih=925&prds=hsec:online,paur:ClkAsKraX47YSTiE0_oFD_PRr5lnAgfQbW_xQkFM7wskxO_Ge5FuyT8680eiXKP3JmqLCzoRJPFZkrKUJpVg1kfYZHJ4ZmKEkKVFR67XxRtg-oKZhqaL5NHOrxIZAFPVH73moEvD2jdYqKicNRPMXsYmMsCYwg&ved=0ahUKEwikls_DzvvOAhUB3CYKHbFSAQoQ2SsISg
It magnetically holds your short bits and the screw you’re driving. You slide the little sleeve down over the screw and it keeps everything from getting wobbly or the bit from jumping off the screw head while you are driving it. My dad gave me one in a set and when it broke, I went out and bought a new one. 🙂