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Labor costs are usually a pricey — sometimes even the priciest — part of a home improvement project. They’re the reason many people decide to go the DIY route when it comes to renovation or repair jobs.
Unfortunately, many novice DIYers embark on projects without the proper tools, and having to to rent or buy equipment at the last minute can be a real budget-buster, mitigating the money-saving aspect of the whole endeavor.
If you plan on completing more than one project around your home, buying your own gear ahead of time is just the smart move. While assembling a collection of power and specialized tools is a bit of an investment, it’s cost-effective in the long run.
Here are 9 essential items for DIYers to have in their home tool kit — likely to be useful in a multitude of remodeling projects and repair jobs.
1. Basic toolbox
Before you embark on any DIY project, you want to make sure you have the basics on hand. We’re talking screwdrivers (Phillips-head and flat), a hammer, screws, nails, wrenches, a set of pliers and measuring tape. You’ll also want a level on hand; this ruler-like tool, with a bubble inside a liquid-filled vial, helps make sure you’re cutting and hanging materials in a straight line. Most home improvement stores carry multi-piece toolbox kits containing these basics, all pre-assembled for you.
Price range: You can get a case of basic tool essentials for $20-$30.
A dedicated workbench is more useful than you might realize. That card table you’ve been working from won’t be sturdy enough for use with many of your power tools or large enough to provide a stable base for clamps. Many workbenches can be converted to a sawhorse, and they may even have steel grooves that can fit a circular saw.
Price range: The cost of a workbench tends to fall between $120-$1,000.
3. Circular saw
A hand-held circular saw is vital for fast, efficient cutting. It allows you to cut through a piece of wood — or concrete, metal, or plastic — all the way, or score it part way through. You will find a circular saw invaluable if you ever want to make furniture from scratch or cut boards to size for flooring or framework.
Price range: Most circular saws run between $100-$400.
Equipped with a smaller blade than other handheld saws, jigsaws cut with more precision, so one comes in handy when you have a very detailed vision for a woodworking project. For instance, you might use a jigsaw to create a curved shape along the edge of a wood shelf or to cut a shape out of the middle of a headboard.
Price range: Most jigsaws cost between $70-$250, but some models can cost more than $500.
Professional clamps are absolutely essential for any project that requires a circular saw or jigsaw: You’ll need to secure wooden planks to your workbench before you begin cutting anything. G- or C-clamps and bar clamps, the most common types, also come in handy when you want to create holes in a piece of wood, metal, or plastic as a part of a DIY project.
Price range: Clamps run about $10 to $40 and may come in sets.
6. Orbital sander
Sanding something by hand can take hours and make an arm so sore you can’t even lift a fork. Relieve the stress with an orbital sander, a round handheld device that rotates and oscillates prefabricated sandpaper disks; you can change out the sandpaper you’re using depending on your project needs. You’ll use an orbital sander on everything from resurfacing kitchen cabinets to finishing crown molding to smoothing down floors so you can re-stain them.
Price range: Sanders start at about $140 but can cost upwards of $1,200 on the high end.
7. Cordless screwdriver
While you’ve got a good old’ manual screwdriver in the basic toolbox, it’s not redundant to possess its power cousin too. Running on batteries, a cordless screwdriver uses short bursts of power and rotational force to install screws and tighten them into place much faster than you could on your own. Light and portable, it can fit into tight spaces, providing a clear view of the screw without your hand getting in the way. And it saves a lot of wear and tear on the wrist — as anyone who’s done a job that involves twisting a lot of screws can tell you. Cordless power screwdrivers excel at tightening hinges, hanging pictures or removing outlet covers. However, if you are framing a deck, building a big piece of furniture, or doing any other task that involves fastening large pieces of timber or metal, you might want to bump up your game with an actual power drill (a high-speed way to drive bolts and screws into place) or an impact driver, which relies on a heavy amount of torque to efficiently handle large fasteners (especially hex-headed screws).
Price range: Cordless screwdrivers generally range from $25-70. Most drills and impact drivers will set you back $100-$200.
8. Stud finder
When your DIY duties involve hanging something on a wall, you should definitely have a stud finder in your home tool kit. This tool helps you locate the framing studs (support beams) behind your drywall — which is crucial for mounting a picture, mirror, bookshelf or television; such heavy objects need to be hung directly into a beam, as drywall may not be strong enough to support them permanently. Resembling a remote control, contemporary electronic stud finders use sensors to locate not just studs, but cords, wires and metal pipes.
Price range: You can find many stud finders for under $20.
9. Nail gun
You will have a much easier time nailing together two pieces of wood when you use a nail gun, aka a nailer. True to its name, this tool shoots out nails with the pull of a trigger, quickly and precisely. It’s ideal for projects like installing baseboard near your floorboards, attaching shoe molding to the middle of the wall, or when creating a softwood bookcase.
Price range: The average cost of a nail gun runs about $30-$200.