You might not need these tools often, but when you do--you really do. Don’t let common tool-requiring household tasks or fun DIY projects catch you by surprise.

Whether you’re a diehard DIY-er or just recreationally crafty at home, you’re guaranteed to need a toolbox brimming with at least the essentials. (A basic toolbox filled with our suggestions also makes a fantastic gift for a new college grad or first-time homeowner.) 

Here are the top 8 tools your home renovation, yard work, furniture building, and other obscure projects are likely to require. 

Screwdrivers (And Screws) 

The screwdriver is a humble--but mighty--addition to any tool arsenal. Although their sole purpose is all in the name, their usefulness should not be underestimated. You might never think about a screwdriver, but if you need one, you really need one.

The chair you’re sitting in? Probably held together by a few screws. Your bed frame? Your television console? Your sofa? Screws, screws, and screws. It’d be a shame if you needed to disassemble or repair them and didn’t have a screwdriver or two lying around! 

Screwdrivers come furnished with a lot of tip styles--some even come in kits with interchangeable tips. Since the Phillips head screw, by all appearances, cannot be toppled, having a Phillips (or “star tip”) screwdriver is a great place to start. 

That said, if you’re going to buy the one kind, you may add a flathead screwdriver to your cart as well. While you might use it as a screwdriver less frequently than its Phillips cousin, it’s a surprisingly useful prying tool.

While this article is technically about tools, it’s a wise move to grab a small “variety box” of screws to go along with your fancy new screwdriver. Screws are pesky, tiny things that tend to disappear into thin air right in the middle of a repair. Have a few replacements on hand to avoid frustration.

Closeup of 3 screwdrivers on a wood table representing tools everyone should have

Hammers    

How many times have you tried to do the job of a hammer with the bottom of a shoe, a book, or other relatively sturdy items? How effective was it? 

Not at all, you say?

From hanging picture frames to assembling furniture, the hammer is undoubtedly one of the most useful tools we’ve got, and it’s been that way for thousands of years. Of course, in that time, we’ve come up with more sophisticated versions (22 of them, in fact) of the crude instruments developed by our ancestors. 

Here are some of the most common: 

  • Claw hammer: Also known as a nail driver, this is probably the one you visualized. Claw hammerheads have two sides: one for the typical hammering function and one for prying nails out of surfaces.

  • Mallet: Unlike their claw-laden cousins, mallets are not intended for hammering. They are typically made of either rubber or wood and are used to apply pressure to wrenches and chisels.

  • Sledgehammer: This is the fun member of the hammer family. If you need to demolish something, you’ll want him around.

For most, a simple claw hammer with a rubber grip will suffice. 

Closeup of black vinyl-wrapped handle laying on rough wooden work bench represents tools everyone should have

Pliers 

Pliers may date back several millennia BCE, and they continue to be one of our most versatile tools. Without them, we’d have a hard time with jewelry making, musical instrument repair, removing nails and pins, gripping hot or sharp objects, and so much more!

They’re not one-size-fits-all, either. From electrical repair to horseshoe replacement, there are proper pliers for every job. The needle nose variety is probably the most useful workhorse for the basic toolbox, with tongue and groove coming in second. 

Closeup of pliers with bright yellow handles laying on rough wooden work bench

Wrench 

A wrench is used to provide grip and leverage to turn objects. 

If you’ve ever tried to tighten a bolt with your fingers (ouch), you are keenly aware of the practicality of the wrench. With dozens of applications and styles, it can be hard to know which to choose. If your needs are minimal, you may want to start with the adjustable, combination, or monkey wrench.

You might not need a wrench if you opted for a pair of tongue and groove pliers, since it serves much the same purpose.

Closeup of scattered box wrenches representing tools everyone should have

Level 

The level is a perfect example of simple science. Also known as a dumpy level, builder’s level, or conveyor’s level, it consists of a long tube-like casing that is filled with a combination of air and liquid. 

If you like your home neat and orderly, a crooked picture frame or off-centered TV will drive you nuts. Levels to the rescue! Place a level on top of any item you’re trying to hang or place. Tilt the item from side to side until the air bubble is suspended precisely in the middle of the liquid. Voila! Sweet, symmetrical bliss.

 

Closeup of a level, representing tools everyone should have

 

Tape Measure 

With use cases from complex carpentry (measure twice, cut once!) to estimating how much furniture you can fit into your new home, a tape measure is a vital tool. Other applications include measuring windows for drapes and blinds, building furniture from scratch, and determining how high a picture frame or other wall decoration should be hung. 

If you’ve ever found reading a tape measure to be a real head-scratcher, here are some helpful hints. A 16-foot unit should meet most of your needs. 

Closeup of yellow tape from retractable metal tape measure representing tools everyone should have

Utility Knife 

A version of the utility knife may have stepped onto the scene some 500,000 years ago, but the steel-bladed beauties we know today were developed in the 19th century and typically served brutish functions like butchering game and cutting wood. Bleh.

In the years since, we’ve found about a hundred other uses for the utility knife (sometimes referred to as an Xacto knife). You can slice open boxes, remove caulk from between tiles, and scrape dried glue off of surfaces (just make sure to use even pressure and take care not to slice into the surface). 

Odds and Ends

While not technically “tools” per se, these items are considered “must-haves” by our team. If your toolbox is going to be a collection of items you use to assemble, repair, or disassemble, these are sure to come in handy:

 

Tape

We recommend keeping three different varieties in your toolbox: duct tape (or “duck tape”) for heavy lifting, masking tape for painting projects and labeling, and electrical tape to support wires or whenever you need a tape that can stretch. 

 

Glue

Superglue to the rescue! Always have some super glue on hand, preferably a collection of small, single-use containers or applicators so you never have to worry about the container sealing itself shut after one use.

 

Zip Ties

A small container of black or white zip ties will go a long way to holding your life together...well, in a manner of speaking, anyway.

 

Rubber Bands

So simple, yet so useful in a million different scenarios. Buy a variety pack so you always have just the right size and strength.

 

Large Black Sharpie Marker

Whether you’re busting it out to scribble on moving boxes or label parts, knowing you have a sturdy marker that’s ready to go (i.e. not dried out) saves time and hassle.

Miscellaneous small tools (tape, marker, more) everyone should have

Don’t let common household tasks (or really fun DIY projects) catch you with your pants down. Stock up a box with these basics, and you’ll be set to tackle most basic chores and projects.

If you need a specialty tool, but don’t want to spend a bundle buying something you’ll use once and probably never again, join the Sparetoolz family and easily rent tools as you need them!  

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