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18 Essential Tools for Do It Yourself (DIY) Projects

It’s not always easy to decide whether to do it yourself (DIY) or hire a contractor. However, one advantage is clear: DIY home repairs can save you a bundle. You can use DIY tricks to save money on home decorating, house maintenance, car repairs, landscaping, and more.

One of the keys to saving money on DIY is to have a well-stocked toolbox at the ready. But you don’t want to go out and buy up every tool at the hardware store just on the chance that you might need it. It makes more sense to spend your tool budget on a few really good tools that you’ll use over and over.

Fortunately, you don’t need that many tools to be prepared for home emergencies. About a dozen tools should be enough to see you through most basic repairs.

A Basic DIY Toolbox

According to experts, there are certain tools every DIYer needs. These basic tools – such as a hammer, an adjustable wrench, and a screwdriver set – come up again and again in home repair jobs. No toolbox is complete without them.

1. Hammer

Uses: A nail is no use without a hammer. Most hammers have a claw opposite the head, so you can use one end to drive in nails and the other to pry them out. You can also use a hammer for any job that requires a good whack, such as breaking up a plaster wall or banging framing lumber into place.

What to Buy: Carpentry experts say the most versatile type of hammer is a 16-ounce hammer with a smooth head and a curved claw. This size can be used for both delicate jobs, like hanging pictures, and more heavy-duty ones, like repairing a deck. The curved claw makes pulling nails easier.

A basic option with a wooden or fiberglass handle, such as this BASTEX hammer, costs less than $15. However, for an extra $10 or so, you can get a metal-handled hammer that’s all one piece, from head to base. Estwig’s B3-3LB model is highly rated. Experts say this type is nearly indestructible. Since you’ll be using this tool a lot, look for one that feels comfortable to grip and well-balanced when you swing it.

How It Can Save You Money: A good hammer makes it possible to buy inexpensive furniture that’s ready-to-assemble, rather than springing for pricier pieces in their finished form. It also saves you money on home improvement projects. Even if you decide to hire a contractor from for most of the work, you can do your own demolition with your trusty hammer. Hammers even come in handy for jobs that aren’t home-related, such as adding new heel tips to shoes.

2. Screwdrivers

Uses: A number of things in your home are attached with screws. They hold together furniture and lamps and connect cabinet doors, outlet covers, and doorknobs. So anytime you need to fix any of these things, you’ll need a screwdriver to remove the screws and put them back again. Experts say this is the one tool in your toolbox you’ll reach for most often.

What to Buy: There are two basic types of screws: flat-head, with a single slot in the top, and Philips, with a small cross in the middle. To handle each type, you need both a Philips and a flat-head screwdriver. Ideally, you should have several of each so that you can deal with screws of different sizes. You can get a basic screwdriver set, with a variety of sizes and types, for $10 to $15. Craftsman’s 8-piece screwdriver set is a great deal.

If you want to save a little space in your toolbox, you can buy a single multi-bit screwdriver instead. These tools have just one handle with an assortment of bits that you can swap in as needed. A simple six-in-one screwdriver, with two Philips, two flat-head, and two nut-driving ends, can cost as little as $5. Stanley’s all-in-one screwdriver fits the bill and the price tag.

Whether you decide on one screwdriver or several, look for ones that are sturdy and comfortable to grip. If you’re going to be using it a lot, it’s worth springing for a ratcheting screwdriver. These have special built-in gears that let you tighten and loosen screws much faster. For $20 to $30, you can get a well-made ratcheting screwdriver with all the bits you’ll ever need. Craftsman’s ratcheting magnetic screwdriver comes with a lifetime warranty.

How It Can Save You Money: Like a hammer, a screwdriver is a must for assembling flat-pack furniture. It’s also vital for other projects around the house. For instance, replacing old electrical outlets is a pretty simple job, but there’s no way to do it without a screwdriver. Even a fancy $30 ratcheting screwdriver will cost you a lot less than calling an electrician.

3. Adjustable Wrench

Uses: Things not attached with nails or screws are usually connected with nuts and bolts. To tighten and loosen those bolts, you need a wrench. An adjustable wrench does the job best because it can alter its size to grasp onto nuts of many different sizes.

What to Buy: Some experts suggest buying two wrenches of different lengths. A small six-inch wrench can fit into tight spaces, while a longer 10-inch wrench gives you more leverage for loosening tight bolts. A two-piece wrench set costs less than $20. Even WORKPRO’s three-piece set is only about $20.

Others say you can make do with just one eight-inch wrench, as long as it’s a good one. Look for one with a wide jaw opening and a comfortable handle. It should also be easy to adjust and stay put once you’ve got it set to the size you want. You can get a wrench with all these features for $25. Klein Tools has a very well-reviewed adjustable 8-inch wrench for around that price.

How It Can Save You Money: This tool can save you money on a huge variety of jobs. For starters, you can use it to do simple plumbing repairs at home, rather than paying a plumber. You can also use it to repair a bicycle instead of taking it to the shop. Finally, a wrench is useful for all kinds of large-scale building jobs, from decks to playground equipment.

4. Utility Knife

Uses: Many cutting jobs, such as opening boxes or trimming wallpaper, are tricky to do with scissors. For these, the best tool is a sharp knife. A utility knife is the safest kind. The blade is stored inside the handle where it can’t cut you by accident and you can extend it as needed. A utility knife is also handy for shaving wood, marking notches on boards, and in a pinch, sharpening a pencil.

What to Buy: A good utility knife has a secure and comfortable handle. Ideally, it should also have built-in storage for extra blades. That way, you’re more likely to change the blade when needed instead of plowing along with a dull blade, which is a good way to cut yourself.

You can get a knife with all these features for around $10. Stanley makes a solid basic utility knife. For an extra $5 or so, you can buy one that opens and closes with one hand and locks into different positions. This saves time when you need to hold something with one hand and cut it with the other. A belt hook for carrying is another nice feature. Gerber’s EAB Lite Pocket Knife is a versatile option.

How It Can Save You Money: A utility knife is an essential tool for any job that involves cutting, such as installing carpet, wallpaper, or vinyl flooring. Having a good knife at the ready makes it easy to do these jobs yourself rather than calling in the pros.

5. Putty Knife

Uses: A putty knife, also known as a scraper, is useful for a variety of jobs. You can use it to apply and smooth down wood putty or spackle, scrape off peeling paint or wallpaper, or remove caulk around a tub or a window. The narrow blade is also useful for prying open a can of putty before applying it. Afterward, you can use the handle end to bang the lid closed again.

What to Buy: A putty knife with a blade 1.5 inches across is the most useful size. It’s narrow enough to fit into corners, but broad enough to fill large cracks quickly.

The best putty knives have blades of flexible stainless steel, which is easy to clean and won’t rust. The handle should be comfortable and long enough to give you sufficient leverage. You can get all this without paying more than $6 or $7. Warner’s ProGrip Full Flex Putty Knife is a suitable, affordable option.

How It Can Save You Money: Your putty knife can help you with all kinds of jobs instead of turning them over to contractors. You can use it to repair walls or “mud” the gaps in freshly installed drywall – a pricey job to have done professionally. A putty knife is also necessary for re-glazing windows.

6. Handsaw

Uses: A handsaw is simply a toothed cutting blade attached to a handle. It’s useful for making quick cuts in wood because it’s much faster and simpler to use than a power saw. It’s also ideal for building a treehouse since it’s not easy to haul a power saw up a ladder.

What to Buy: Saws come in three basic types. The traditional western saw has a two-foot blade that tapers from base to tip and cuts as you push forward through the board. A Japanese pull saw, by contrast, has a straight blade that cuts when you pull it back through the wood. Pruning saws also cut on the pull stroke, but they have a narrow blade that folds up for storage.

In tests at The Sweethome, pull saws delivered the fastest and cleanest cuts. A good one costs around $30, while a western saw costs only $10 to $15. However, spending the extra money will save you a lot of time on cutting jobs. The Tajima MG-300FB Magnum Pull Saw is a high-quality choice.

Another difference between saws is the number of teeth per inch. Six to eight teeth per inch work best for rip cuts, made with the grain of the wood. For cross cuts made against the grain, eight to 12 teeth per inch is better. So, an eight-point saw is a good compromise for making both kinds of cuts.

A final feature to look for is a replaceable blade. That way, you don’t have to replace the whole saw if the blade gets damaged. Tajima’s JPR-265 11-inch model has a replaceable blade.

How It Can Save You Money: Your handsaw can save you money on all kinds of small-scale building and repair jobs. You can use it to replace a board on your deck or a piece of damaged trim. Cutting out these boards yourself and replacing them is much cheaper than hiring a carpenter, and faster too.

7. Pliers

Uses: Often, when you’re doing a DIY job, you need to grasp onto something so you can pull or turn it. You can try grabbing it with your fingers, but sometimes they’re not strong enough to apply the force you need.

That’s where a pair of pliers comes in handy. It has metal teeth on one end to grip onto an object, and long handles on the other end to give you leverage as you pull, bend, or twist it. You can use pliers for loosening nuts, pulling out nails, straightening bent power plugs, removing plumbing fixtures, and pinching wires together to splice them.

What to Buy: There are several types of pliers, each designed for different kinds of jobs. You can buy a basic set of pliers with three or four different pairs for around $40. Craftsman’s 5-piece pliers set should cover you for most jobs. If you want high-quality tools, it makes more sense to pick out one or two pairs of pliers you’ll use often and invest in good ones.

One type many experts recommend for DIY work is locking pliers, which are sometimes called by the brand name Vise-Grips. These have adjustable jaws that you can resize to fit a nut or other fixture. You can then press a lever to lock the jaws into place on the object, leaving both your hands free to apply pressure to the handle. This makes them ideal for jobs that require a lot of force, such as removing a rusted bolt or a stripped screw.

A good pair of locking pliers should have a firm grasp and comfortable handles. They should also be easy to lock, unlock, and adjust for size. A high-quality pair costs $20 to $25. IRWIN Tools, the creator of Vise-Grips, have a 3-piece set that should last you years.

Needle-nose pliers also show up on many experts’ must-have lists. These pliers have long, narrow tips that can get into tight spaces. They’re crucial for electrical work, but they’re also perfect for any time your fingers are too big or too weak to get a good grip. You can use them to repair jewelry, fish objects out of the drain, or hold a nail in place while hammering so you don’t risk your fingers.

The best needle-nose pliers are roughly eight inches long. Like other tools, they need comfortable handles, as well as smoothly aligned jaws that don’t wobble or twist. A good pair, such as Irwin Tools’ Long Nose Pliers, costs between $15 and $30.

How It Can Save You Money: With both locking pliers and needle-nose pliers in your tool kit, you’re equipped to handle a variety of jobs. You can work with hefty pipes and delicate wiring with equal ease. These two tools can save you numerous calls to the plumber or the electrician.

8. Tape Measure

Uses: In DIY jobs, accurate measurements are a must. You need a good tape measure to check the size of a pipe, hang a picture in the correct position, find the area of a wall to be painted, or measure the space where a new appliance needs to fit. Builder Doug Mahoney, writing for The Sweethome, says a tape measure is “the single most-used tool on a job site.”

What to Buy: For DIY jobs, you need a locking and retracting tape measure. When you put one end of it in place, you can feed out the tape steadily without having to hold it down, and it will stay fed out while you jot down measurements. When finished, you should be able to retract the tape at the touch of a button.

The cheapest retracting tape measures are 12 feet long and cost about $5. However, experts say it’s worth paying $10 to $20 for a sturdy 25-foot tape measure. This size is large enough to handle bigger DIY jobs, such as measuring large rooms. Komelon makes a well-reviewed self-locking model.

Durability is also important. The case and blade should both be sturdy, and the locking lever should be easy to use with one hand. Also, the tang (the metal hook on the end of the tape) should be large enough to grip firmly wherever you put it, but not so big that it gets caught on nearby things. A colorful case is a nice plus as it makes the tool easier to find in your tool box.

How It Can Save You Money: A good tape measure is a must for any home remodeling project. For instance, when you’re redoing a kitchen, you need to check the size of all kinds of things: counters, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, and the distance between electrical outlets. If you can’t handle this on your own, you’ll have to leave all remodeling work to the pros.

9. Flashlight

Uses: You can’t always count on having good lighting for DIY jobs. Often, you have to work in a dimly lit basement or peer into dark crevasses. Also, you sometimes need to find your way around when the power is out. In cases like these, you need a flashlight to see what you’re doing.

What to Buy: The only thing a flashlight has to do is provide enough light to see. Even the cheapest models at your local drugstore will work in a pinch. However, if you pay a little extra for a flashlight with LED bulbs, your batteries will last a lot longer. For about $25, you can get a bright LED flashlight made of sturdy aluminum, complete with batteries. Provset makes a trusty model.

There are a couple of other features that can make a flashlight easier to use. For instance, around $40 will buy you an electric headlamp, which mounts on your forehead and leaves both hands free to work. Black Diamond’s Storm headlamp is the industry standard.

Another useful alternative is a $40 rechargeable flashlight. If you leave it plugged in at all times, it will always be fully charged and ready to go when the power goes out. This means you’ll never have to worry about keeping spare batteries on hand. Black Diamond’s ReVolt model is a reliable option.

How It Can Save You Money: A good flashlight lets you work in dark spaces, like the cabinet under the sink or the basement breaker box. That makes it easy to check out a problem up close and see if it’s one you can handle yourself. You’ll never have to call in a pro for a simple problem just because you couldn’t see to fix it.

10. Hardware

Uses: Just as a nail is no good without a hammer, a hammer is useless without nails. If you keep a variety of nails and screws on hand, you won’t have to dash out to the hardware store every time something in your house needs a fastener.

What to Buy: Nails come in a wide range of sizes, from tiny finishing nails to spikes several inches long. Nail sizes are often listed in “pennies,” abbreviated as “d”: 8d, 10d, and so on. However, a penny isn’t an actual unit of length. Instead, the term refers to what nails of different sizes used to cost.

Screws vary not just in size, but in type as well. Some are meant for fastening wood, others for attaching items to drywall. They can also be made of different materials.

If you’re building a toolkit from scratch, just buy a packaged assortment of nails and screws. These often come with other handy bits of hardware as well, such as picture hooks or wall anchors. GS Tool makes a low-cost 347-piece hardware set. However, if you want to build your own collection, here are a few types to include:

  • Finishing Nails. Small 3d nails, 1.25 inches in length, are handy for small repairs. You can also use them to hang pictures.
  • Vinyl Sinkers. These have a vinyl coating that makes them easier to hammer in and harder to pull out. Large 16d vinyl sinkers are good for big construction jobs that you want to hold together. Medium-sized 8d sinkers are good for smaller jobs.
  • Galvanized Nails. These nails have a rust-resistant finish that makes them suitable for outdoor jobs. You can use 8d galvanized nails for small outdoor building projects and 16d nails for deck repairs.
  • Drywall Screws. These screws are coated with black phosphate. They’re designed for attaching drywall to studs, but you can use them for nearly any indoor job. Experts suggest keeping several screw sizes on hand: 0.75-inch, 1.25-inch, 2-inch, and 3-inch.
  • Outdoor Screws. You also need rust-resistant wood screws for building decks and other outdoor projects. These can be coated or made of stainless steel. Useful sizes include 1.25 inches, 1.75 inches, 2.5 inches, and 3 inches.

How It Can Save You Money: With plenty of nails and screws to work with, you can handle all kinds of repairs instead of calling in a pro. For instance, you can replace a damaged patch of drywall or a missing board in your deck.

11. Tape

Uses: Some homes are practically held together with duct tape. While it’s not a good idea to rely on it for all your repair jobs, there’s no denying it comes in handy for all sorts of quick fixes. In addition to this all-purpose tape, there are various kinds of special tape that are important for specific DIY jobs.

What to Buy: There are four main types of tape you need in your DIY kit:

  • Duct Tape. This extra-sticky tape has a thick, woven backing and is easy to tear to the length you want. You can use it for anything from patching a torn tarp to re-attaching the handle to a broken bucket. The one thing it can’t fix, ironically, is ducts, since it doesn’t stand up well to heat. Most duct tape is silver, but it also comes in bright colors that are easy to spot. It costs around $4 per roll. Duck Brand’s Duct Tape is a high-quality option.
  • Painter’s Tape. Lightly sticky painter’s tape is easy to remove from a surface without damaging it. Its primary purpose is to cover moldings or the edges of ceilings before you paint a wall, so paint doesn’t spill over. You can also apply it to pipes to keep your pliers’ teeth from scratching them. A roll of inch-wide painter’s tape costs about $5. Scotch safe-release tape should do the trick. Refer to this guide from Painters Care before applying to avoid common mistakes.
  • Electrical Tape. This tape is designed to insulate electrical wires. It’s usually made of vinyl, which stretches well and provides good insulation. You can use this tape to repair damaged wires or to cover pipes in winter, so they don’t freeze. It comes in several colors and costs about $4 a roll. Tape Brothers’ vinyl tape makes for a quality, low-cost option.
  • Plumber’s Tape. This is a thin, light tape made of PTFE (Teflon). When you apply it to the threaded end of a pipe, it helps form a tighter seal. Other names for it include Teflon tape and thread sealing tape. It costs around a dollar a roll. TOOGOO offers PTFE tape at a fair price.

How It Can Save You Money: Having tape in your tool kit saves you money in several ways. For instance, you can use duct tape to repair a damaged tent instead of running out and spending $50 on a new one. Using plumber’s tape on pipes can prevent costly leaks. Taping off your molding with painter’s tape before painting protects it from damage, so you don’t need to repaint later.

12. Toolbox

Uses: Once you’ve put together a comprehensive collection of tools, you need something to store them. A sturdy, well-organized toolbox will help you find your tools when you need them. It can also protect them from damage between uses.

What to Buy: A good toolbox should be large enough to hold all the tools you use regularly. It should also be sturdy and easy to carry. The lid and latch should be secure so the box doesn’t come open and spill your tools out.

Many toolboxes have compartments inside to sort your tools, so it’s easy to lay hands on the one you want. A lift-out tray for small items, such as hardware, is especially useful. However, having too many compartments limits the ways you can use the box.

Experts say a vertical tool bin is the easiest kind to use. It stores your tools vertically so you can easily see all of them. It’s also easier to carry than an unwieldy horizontal box.

You can get a sturdy “work box” with plenty of organizers inside for around $30. Stanley’s one-latch toolbox is a reliable choice. Or, you can buy a bucket liner tool organizer for around $25. This is a sleeve of sturdy canvas that fits over an inexpensive five-gallon bucket. Larger tools can go inside the bucket and smaller ones in pockets around the outside. Bucket Boss has a 10030 model that is proven and durable.

How It Can Save You Money: A good toolbox doesn’t necessarily save you money, but it does save you time. When you have a repair to do, it’s a big hassle to go fumbling through a cluttered bin looking for the right tool. A good toolbox keeps all your tools at hand so that you can get on with the job.

More Advanced Tools

With the tools listed above, you should be able to handle most basic repairs around your home. However, if you add a few extra tools to this basic kit, you can take on more advanced DIY projects and save even more money. For instance, you can build furniture from scratch that’s perfectly sized to fit your space – and cheaper than it would cost to buy ready-made.

13. Drill

An electric drill is possibly the most useful power tool you can own. It’s really two tools in one: a drill and a power driver. You can use the drill function to make holes of all sizes. For instance, you can drill pilot holes for starting screws or larger holes for running wires through the back of a TV cabinet.

Replace the drill bit with a screwdriver bit, and you can drive screws much faster than you could with any hand-held screwdriver. This is useful when you have to put in a lot of screws in a short time. You’ll reach for your drill/driver when you need to replace a light fixture, repair drywall, or build anything from a bookcase to a doghouse.

Most experts say cordless drills are most useful. They’re not as powerful as their corded cousins, but they’re a lot easier to use. For example, if you’re building a treehouse, it’s much easier to haul your drill up the tree without dragging a long extension cord behind it.

A 12-volt cordless drill with lithium-ion batteries is most versatile. It’s small and light, but powerful enough for most DIY tasks. However, if you do a lot of big jobs, such as building a deck, it’s worth upgrading to larger 18-volt drill. It has more power and can run longer on a battery charge. Black+Decker even makes a reliable 20-volt MAX model that work for most jobs.

Aside from power, the best drill/driver should have a sturdy build, a comfortable handle, and a good warranty. You can buy a drill with all these features for $75 to $100. This includes two batteries and a charger, so you can swap in a fresh battery if you run out of juice.

14. Level

Suppose you’re trying to build a bookcase. You need to make sure the shelves are level so the books don’t slide off. The easiest way to check this is to use a level.

A bubble level is a small, flat tool that has a tiny, clear vial of liquid built into the center. This vial is only partly full, leaving a bubble of air at the top. When you place the level flat upon a surface, the bubble rises to the top. If it ends up centered between two lines marked on the glass, that tells you the surface is level.

Most levels also contain a vertical vial. That way, you can use them to see whether vertical lines are accurate. With these two vials, you can use your level to make sure any carpentry project comes out straight and even. You can also use it for hanging pictures, installing cabinets, or laying a patio.

You can buy a mini-level with two vials of liquid for less than $10. A vial this size fits neatly in a toolbox. For bigger jobs, you can get a four-foot level to test longer surfaces. A metal level, which is sturdier than a plastic one, costs about $25. Stanley’s 48-inch level should work for a variety of jobs.

For hardcore DIYers, there’s a more advanced tool called a laser level. It’s like a laser pointer that projects level lines with the touch of a button. These can cost anywhere from $20 to $100. Qooltek’s multi-purpose laser level is a bargain.

15. Stud Finder

When you’re hanging cabinets or other heavy objects, you need to make sure they stay put. If you just hang them on a piece of drywall with nothing behind it, they’ll pull right out, taking the wall with them. To mount them securely, you need to fasten them into the wooden wall studs.

The problem is, these studs are hidden behind the drywall, where you can’t see them. With practice, you can learn to knock on the wall and locate the stud by sound. However, it’s much easier to use a stud finder.

The simplest stud finders have a magnet inside. Instead of finding the stud itself, they locate the metal screws that secure the stud to the drywall. You can buy a sturdy stud finder with two built-in magnets for only $10. CH Robinson makes a basic, but reliable magnetic stud finder.

For $40 or $50, you can upgrade to an electronic stud finder. These battery-powered tools can show the exact location of the stud itself, not just the screws in it. This makes mapping out the positions of studs a much quicker job. Aom makes a four-in-one version that has sound alerts to help you avoid wires and metal.

The fanciest stud finders can also locate copper pipes and electrical wires. However, these tools cost at least $200. For most homeowners, they’re not worth the money.

16. Adjustable Pliers

Adjustable pliers – sometimes called by the brand name Channellocks – have extra-wide jaws. A 10-inch pair of pliers can open up to more than two inches. However, no matter how wide you set them, their jaws always remain parallel, giving them a firm grip on nuts, bolts, or pipes. They can grasp nearly anything and can bend and turn in many different ways.

These special pliers have a wide variety of uses. They’re ideal for tightening up plumbing, installing a new toilet, or adjusting garage doors. They can also loosen and tighten the small nuts on shut-off valves in places where a large pipe wrench might not fit.

Experts say 10-inch pliers are the most convenient size to own. They offer good leverage, but they’re small enough to be portable. The best ones have padded handles and v-shaped jaws that can easily grip round, flat, or hex-shaped objects.

Finally, the pliers should be easy to adjust. Many newer models can adjust with the push of a button, which makes them much simpler to use than older tongue-and-groove pliers. A good set of adjustable pliers with all these features, such as a V-Jaw set by IRWIN Tools, costs only $10 to $20.

17. Circular Saw

A handsaw is fine for small cutting jobs, but if you need to cut large amounts of wood, a power saw will do the work much faster. Pros say this tool is essential for big DIY jobs like adding a deck, replacing windows, or building shelves.

The most basic, all-purpose power saw is a circular saw. It has a round blade that spins and powers its way through wood fast. Of course, that fast-spinning blade is dangerous, so you have to take extra care when using it. But for speed and flexibility, it’s the best cutting tool you can buy.

Circular saws come in two types. Sidewinders, which have the motor mounted on the side, are lighter and cheaper – between $100 and $150. Most users find this saw easy to maneuver. SKILSAW makes a reliable 15-amp option.

Worm-drive saws, with the motor behind the blade, weigh more and cost more – from $140 to $200. However, they also pack more power and can cut through heavier materials. They’re useful for pros, but for a typical DIYer, they’re just too much saw. If you’re still convinced, check out SKILSAW’s 15-amp word-drive model.

You can get cordless circular saws, but most experts say they can’t match the power of corded versions. Also, they can only run for a limited time before you need to recharge the battery. Finally, they usually cost more with the batteries and charger added into the price. All in all, experts say a corded sidewinder saw is best for most homeowners.

18. Safety Gear

Advanced DIY jobs can be risky. Fumes, dust, and flying splinters can all cause injury – especially to your eyes. To protect yourself, you need a few essential pieces of safety gear.


A sturdy pair of work gloves protects your hands from all kinds of damage. Well-made gloves stop splinters and keep rough bricks from scraping your skin. They also protect you from heat, cold, and electric shock. They won’t prevent you from hitting your thumb with a hammer, but they’ll at least soften the blow.

A good pair of gloves provides protection while still letting you keep a firm grip on your tools. Expect to pay around $20 for a well-made pair. Ironclad’s general utility gloves are a classic option. You should also keep some cheap disposable gloves on hand for working with chemicals, such as paint stripper.


Safety goggles protect your eyes from sawdust and flying debris. They also keep you from splashing drops of stain or other chemicals into your eyes. And if a wire ever pops loose and hits you in the face, goggles can keep it from taking out your eye.

Goggles should be lightweight, sturdy, and secure. If you wear glasses, the goggles should fit right over them. They should also have padding for comfort and enough ventilation to keep them from fogging up. A basic pair costs around $5. Dewalt’s anti-fog goggles are all you need.


A dust mask protects you from inhaling dust or particles while you work. It’s important while sawing, sanding, or putting up fiberglass insulation. Disposable dust masks are sold in multi-packs for about $1 each. You can pick up a low-cost pack of 50 from SAS Safety.

For keeping out harmful vapors, you need a more elaborate type of mask called a respirator. These seal tightly around the edges to block out fumes. They have a built-in filter cartridge that absorbs harmful gasses before they can reach your lungs. Different types of filters work against various chemicals, such as acids or ammonia.

You need a respirator whenever you’re spraying paint or other chemicals. They’re also useful for dealing with harmful substances like lead paint or mold. A reusable respirator for DIY work costs around $25. MSA Safety Works makes a highly-respected respirator model.

Final Word

As you expand your DIY skills, you can expand your toolkit as well. For instance, if you plan to do a lot of painting, you can add brushes and rollers to your workshop. For woodworking, you might need a miter saw, a square, a nail gun, clamps, or an orbital sander. You could add a volt meter for electrical work and a ladder and extension cords to expand the range where you can work.

However, any tool beyond the basics is only worth buying if you’re going to use it regularly. For instance, if you need to tile a bathroom, see if you can borrow or rent a wet saw rather than buying one. It’s not worth spending money on a tool that will be used once and then sit around the shop gathering dust.

Finally, remember that it’s not enough just have a good set of tools. You also have to know how to use them. So as you build your toolkit, build your DIY skills as well.

Which tools do you use most often for DIY?

Amy Livingston
Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, "And from that you make a living?" She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including,, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

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