The 14 essential DIY tools every home improver should have in their toolbox

Behind every successful home improvement project is a top toolkit – these are the 14 essential DIY tools that you should never be without

Various DIY tools arranged on the wall
(Image credit: Taiyou Nomachi via Getty Images)

There are a lot of DIY tools out there you could spend your dollars on but what you need are some solid basics in your garage. Here I’ve put together a list of the must-have tools that will help make your home improvement projects a success.

Without the right equipment, everything will be just that little bit harder to achieve, something I’ve learned from years of experience. Don’t cut back on getting the right tools, it's definitely worth the investment. 

Investing in the right tools for a DIY project  goes a long way to making sure that you'll get a great finish. But you don't need to spend big to get every tool on the shelves. Start with our recommended essentials and grow your collection as you take on new home improvements.

The 14 DIY tools you need for home renovation success

Remember, building a collection of tools will take time, you don't need to rush out and purchase each item on this list immediately. 

1. Toolbox

A stock image of a toolbox on a yellow background

(Image credit: MirageC via Getty Images)

Before starting your tool collection, you’ll need somewhere to store your tools and make it easy to take them to your next DIY project. What size you need will depend on how many tools you have. You could invest in a single toolbox if that’s all you need or a set like this HART Stack System from Walmart. This comes with three different-sized toolboxes, wheels, and a handle for easy transportation. 

Whatever your needs, get a strong, sturdy toolbox that will last. Spend the extra dollar or two to get a good one.

2. A Cordless drill

If there's one must-have tool for a DIYer it has to be a cordless drill like this CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill from Amazon. It’s a multi-talented tool that can be called into action for a host of jobs. You can drill holes into wood, metal, and masonry for simple home DIY tasks like putting up shelves, or you can tackle more heavy-duty home improvement projects such as building porches, stud walls, and decking.  

Aside from drill bits, there is the option to use screwdriver bits so it doubles up as a cordless screwdriver which can be used to drive in screws for stud walls, drywall, doors, build furniture, and fit electrical outlets. 

3. A Tape measure

Ideal for measuring lengths of timber, helping position pictures, and measuring spaces to make sure furniture fits, a tape measure like this HART 25' Auto-Lock Tape Measure from Walmart is another must-have tool for the DIYer.

Look out for a tape measure with a good grip, a lock button, an impact resistance shell, a good standout (how far it can go without bending), and a hook with a hole to grab nails.

4. Electric sander

Sanding by hand is OK for small DIY projects but an electric sander like this DEWALT Orbital Sander from Amazon is a much better choice if you have a lot of flat wooden doors, shelves, or walls to sand down and you want the job done quickly.

A sheet sander or detail sander are alternatives if you need to get into square corners. A sheet sander has a square pad, while a detail sander has a pointed pad for getting into corners and other difficult-to-reach areas.  

5. Saw

There are many saws to choose from, but at the very least, you need a handsaw like this HART 20-inch Hand Saw from Walmart for general woodwork such as cutting decking or wooden fence posts. For more precise work, such as cutting baseboards, a miter saw is a good choice. This is also good for a project that has a lot of straight crosscuts, such as decking.

Other saws you might need include a jigsaw, which is useful for cutting wooden boards and worktops where curves and odd shapes are needed, i.e., pipes, door frames, and electrical outlets. A circular saw like this DEWALT 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw from Amazon is a great option for cutting straight edges on long lengths of timber, and crosscuts. 

6. Paint brushes and rollers

Someone painting strips of paint samples on a wall

(Image credit: triocean via Getty Images)

Paint projects are popular with DIYers as they are often easy to get to grips with, especially if you have the right tools. So what do you need? A selection of brushes from 0.5 - 4 inches will cover most parts of a project. Invest in a set like this Magimate Paint Brushes Set from Walmart which has 5 brushes, ideal for most paint work.

For walls and ceilings purchase a 9-inch roller with a medium pile sleeve - and matching tray. Get a set of smaller 4-inch rollers for painting kitchen cabinets and doors. Use foam rollers to get a smoother finish.

7. Screwdrivers

A set of flathead and Phillips screwdrivers like this Hyper Tough Heavy-Duty 6-Piece Full Size Steel Philip and Slotted Screwdriver Set from Walmart will suffice for almost every DIY job you are likely to encounter including fitting or removing door handles, building furniture, installing electrical outlets and wiring a plug. 

Look for screwdrivers with magnetic tips to stop losing screws or insulated screwdrivers for electrical work.  

8. Utility knife

The classic utility knife with its ultra sharp blades is the perfect companion for opening the box of your latest power tool, slicing through linoleum, getting crisp clean edges on wallpaper and cutting through carpet. 

The WORKPRO Premium Utility Knife from Amazon is a fine example, and comes with an adjustable retractable blade, an ergonomic easy to grip design and a quick release button for fast blade changes.  

9. Claw hammer

A claw hammer is another staple for a DIYer. Perfect for banging in nails, removing nails, small scale demolition and helping your woodworking joints fit perfectly. A16 or 20oz model like this IRWIN Hammer from Amazon with a steel head and strong grip is ideal for most DIY projects. 

10. Level

Imagine putting up a shelf or stud wall and guessing if it is level or not. I can tell you there’s a whole heap of trouble just around the corner if you don’t use a level in your home construction projects. Out-of-whack worktops, sloping shelves, and dodgy door openings are just some of the problems coming your way.

Invest in a traditional spirit level set like this WORKPRO 3-Piece Spirit Level Set from Amazon, so you have a selection of sizes for different DIY jobs. 

11. Pliers

Pliers come in many guises but a classic pair like these CRAFTSMAN Linesman Pliers from Amazon are perfect for general-purpose DIY tasks. The jaws at the top of the tool are perfect for pulling out rusty nails and snapped screws and grabbing thin metal sheets. 

The teeth's wider stance makes them good for gripping larger screws and nuts and bolts. The cutters are typically used for cutting and stripping electrical wire. 

12. Bar clamps

There will be times when you are working with materials that are too long or large for you to hold steady, like cutting long planks to size when building a deck. A couple of bar clamps like this Hyper Tough 12-Inch Trigger Ratcheting Bar Clamp from Walmart are a quick and secure option to help keep materials in place and leave your hands free to complete a job. 

13. Workwear

To stay safe and clean when completing a DIY project, you will need the right workwear. A set of overalls will keep your clothes free from dust, debris, and paint. If doing a lot of construction, you’ll also need a pair of heavy-duty boots. Alternatively, pick a pair with steel toe caps if doing a lot of heavy lifting.  

To protect your hands, invest in a pair of heavy-duty gloves – like these Women's Heavy Duty Leather Palm Work Gloves from Amazon – if lifting or working with heavy construction materials. For painting, use lightweight disposable gloves. 

To protect your eyes a pair of safety glasses are a must and if working on a project that is creating a lot of dust a disposable dust mask will help stop breathing in any unwanted and unpleasant debris. 

14. Ladder

It doesn't matter how tall you are, you won’t be able to reach ceilings for painting, fitting lighting or drilling holes. Any internal DIY jobs above six feet will need the help of a step ladder like this HBTower Folding Step Stool from Amazon to make sure that the job is done safely and finished properly. 

It has a max load of 330 pounds, four steps, and, more conveniently, a tool platform to place paint or tools. For outdoor DIY jobs, you’ll need a full-length ladder to reach roofs, gutters, and windows.  

With your tool collection complete, why not put them to good use with these DIY projects that will elevate your home

Steve Jenkins
DIY specialist

Steve has been a homes writer and editor for two decades, regularly contributing to brands like Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience transforming and renovating homes. He specializes in painting and decorating but has strong all-around building skills, having worked in the industry for ten years.