3 posts / 0 new
Last post
The Essential Toolbox

It is always helpful to have the right tool for the job, but for the new homeowner and the first time do-it-yourselfer, the right tools aren't always available.

What would you (especially you who've done it all) consider absolute necessities for every homeowner? What would you put in The Essential Toolbox?

Here's a few rules:

  1. All tools listed must be hand tools.
  2. Tools should be selected for basic maintenance and repair use.
  3. All the tools must fit into a medium toolbox, about 18" long.
  4. Total cost should not exceed $200.

Here's my Essential Toolbox:

  • 16 oz. smooth-face curved-claw hammer
  • 6" and 8" adjustable wrenches (Crescent-style)
  • 6-in-1 screwdriver with interchangeable bits: #1 & #2 Phillips, 3/16" and 1/4" slotted, and 1/4" and 5/16" nut drivers
  • Small, toolbox-sized handsaw
  • 10" adjustable, tongue-and-groove plier (ChannelLock Style)
  • Utility knife
  • Long-nose pliers (needlenose)
  • Flashlight
  • 25-foot measuring tape
  • Torpedo level
  • Roll of black electrical tape
  • Roll of Teflon pipe thread tape

I can't stress enough the necessity of buying quality tools. Cheap tools do not last and will not perform well, even with occasional use. As a wise man once told me, "a poor man cannot afford cheap tools."

Slip-joint pliers, while ubiquitous, are evil. The joints always seem to slip when you don't want them to, and you end up bashing your knuckles. The other evil tool is the dual standard/metric tape measure. The rule you want is always on the wrong side!

So let us all know what YOU would put in your Essential Toolbox. What do you think I've left out that you'd consider essential? What do you think I've included that isn't necessary?

(NOTE: This is question is not posted by the This Old House staff. You won't get your name in print, and you won't win the $100,000 linen closet makeover.)

A. Spruce
Re: The Essential Toolbox
Fencepost wrote:

(NOTE: This is question is not posted by the This Old House staff. You won't get your name in print, and you won't win the $100,000 linen closet makeover.)

DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! :mad:


  1. Good quality screwdriver set. Something along the lines of a Stanley with the rounded handles, not the cheapy squarish handles (black and yellow ).
  2. Flat bar - will deal with a multitude of tasks and sins.
  3. 16 ounce hammer or larger, whatever is comfortable to your hand/arm. I personally like the Estwing with the metal head and shank with the rubberized handle because it's a beast that will give a punishment and take a punishment and never give in. Not a big fan of the "curved claw" because it limits the amount of destruction that can be had. Go for the straight claw and when the pulling gets tough, get a block to put under the head for extra leverage. At the very least it should have a fiberglass handle. Leave the wood handles to the framers because they are useless to the average homeowner.
  4. Pliers - regular, needle nose, vise grip (small and large ), and channel lock style. While Fencepost may not like the channel lock style, a good quality brand such as Channel Lock will hold together and provide many years of good service. Off brands such as Master Mechanic and others will slip and crack knuckles.
  5. Cats Paw style pry bar. I like this style because you can beat on it with a hammer from either end and it will do it's job.
  6. An adjustable end wrench, better known as a crescent wrench. While this can get you into trouble if used inappropriately, it does take the place of an entire end wrench set for most household issues.
  7. Allen wrench. Again, I prefer an "all in one" set rather than an individual set because invariably you never have the single wrench you need. With an all in one, you will always have the size you need at hand. They come in both SAE and metric, and the great thing is that they are all captive on a single handle so you can't confuse the two together (SAE vs metric )
  8. Measuring tape. If you live in an SAE world, then get a tape that is ONLY SAE, if you live in a metric world, then get a tape that is ONLY metric. Don't get a "dual read" tape that has both because you'll only confuse yourself.
  9. A 5-in-1 tool This is a multi-purpose tool that works in a number of situations that others don't or can't.
  10. Crap chisel set. This is the one and only time that I'll recommend a cheap tool. The reason for this is that with a cheap set of wood chisels (again, Stanley low end ) is that they will do a vast variety of jobs from scraping to chiseling and can be sharpened as necessary for more intricate work. As time and money allow, get a second set of EXCELLENT wood chisels that are ONLY used on wood and fine cutting. Until then, the cheap set will suffice.
  11. Nail sets. These little babies work as both a nail set and a punch.
  12. Eye glass repair kit. Sounds weird maybe, but you'll be surprised how often you need that micro screw driver or the screws provided for some minimal task.
  13. Outlet tester with a built in GFIC tester. This is good for a number of things, from testing for a dead outlet to figuring out why an outlet isn't working properly. It has a few other uses too, but I won't divulge that to those not familiar with elecumtrickity.;)
  14. Utility knife and a box knife. Both have their place, both have replaceable knives.
  15. Tool Box - You need something that will not only hold this basic set of tools, but be able to hold at least a dozen more as your needs and collection increases. This tool box should be kept in a handy location so that you have it at hand when necessary for your typical home improvement needs.
  16. A second or third tool box in other areas so that you always have what you need where you need it. For instance, tool box one should be inside the house where most household needs are (laundry room or mud room is a good choice ). The second tool box should be in the garage so that exterior needs can be attended to. If you've got hobbies that require similar tools, get another tool box filled with the tools of that need, so that you don't steal tools from one location to another, then not have them when needed where they should be.
  17. Your contractor of choice on speed dial when your internet connection to the TOH host of regulars is not at your fingertips to help you through your predicament. :p Ok, this last one isn't mandatory, but it is a good idea when you get in over your head.
Re: The Essential Toolbox

I think if we combine all the tools mentioned you will have one great DIY toolbox. One item for a homeowner DIY'er that wasn't mentioned is a "basin wrench" for the next to impossible sink tasks that kreep up.

Calcats ;)

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.