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Home Improvement Guide 2007
Get ready
Before starting any home improvement project, research and planning is the key to successful results.
Fill your tool kit for less than $200

If you don't have a handyman in your family and don't have a clue where to begin when it comes to assembling a proper home-repair tool kit, there's good news: For $200, you can buy 90 percent of all the tools you'll ever need to repair and maintain your home.

Good tools purchased early in life can be a smart investment, says David Tenenbaum, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Repair and Maintenance."

"You can spend a little money on a tool or two with each job," he says. "That way, you gather the tools you'll need slowly and less painfully."

Of course, the sooner you purchase the basics, the longer you'll use them, hence the more cost-effective they become. The key is to buy only good tools from reputable name-brand manufacturers.

"Quality matters," says Tenenbaum. "Good tools work and bad tools don't. It's basically as simple as that."

Not just for men
And ladies, listen up: Having the right tool at the right time is equally important for women. Deb Zarek, co-owner of Mr. Handyman home services, in Austin, Texas, assembled her own tool kit while living as a single adult.

"I think most women are really intimidated by power tools," she says. "They just don't know what to do with them or how they're supposed to work. That whole power thing is kind of scary."

That said, Zarek insists sometimes a "handywoman" beats any available handyman when it comes to home repair.

"I think women are more aware of their surroundings and take a little bit more care to not damage things," she says.

The secret to a great tool kit? Selection. Of the thousands of tools available at your local hardware store, it only takes about a dozen to tackle most home repair jobs, and only one of them plugs in.

Here are the tools our experts suggest as absolute musts for a lifetime of home improvements and repair. The first 15 items make up the absolute basics for a serviceable tool kit to last a lifetime -- all for just under $200. That said, your handyman life can be made much easier with a few additions. Buy the last half-dozen items as needed.

All prices reflect the-least expensive good-quality products available at Lowe's home improvement stores.

Essential tools for every household  

Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Austin, Texas.

-- Posted: March 17, 2008
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