Q&A / 

Home Repair Tools

DEAR TIM: I'm a single mom with a few young kids and need to do home repairs myself because I simply can't afford to hire professionals. I'm not lacking in energy or determination. My biggest challenge are tools. I don't have many, and constantly wonder what tools should I buy that will offer great value and versatility. Can you provide me with some guidance as to what tools I should seriously consider, and what tools to put on the back burner? Terry S., Huntsville, AL

DEAR TERRY: While I can't ever attest to being a single mom, I sure can identify with being in your situation with respect to having a small collection of tools. I clearly remember when I was just getting started in my business after graduating from college, I had to make my own drywall hawk. I took a scrap piece of particle board and screwed a cut-off piece of a broom handle to it. It was heavy and awkward, but it served the purpose. Within months, I was able to afford a real aluminum hawk, and then eventually switched to a stainless steel drywall mud pan.

I feel the best way to answer your question is to just look around your house and try to spy the projects in your home that are in the greatest need of attention. As you make that list, you may discover that some projects need the same tools.

These are just a few of the basic tools you’ll need to do home repairs around your home. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

For example, lets say you need to do minor patching on your walls and ceilings. You can get by with an inexpensive plastic drywall mud pan, a 5-inch flexible taping blade, and a 10-inch broadknife. Believe it or not, these three tools will allow you to repair 98 percent of most flaws in your walls and ceilings.

Many projects require that you fiddle with hardware and fasteners. I have two handy screwdrivers that contain interchangeable tips for flathead screws, Phillips screws and even the occasional torx screwheads. One simple tool provides what I need for over 90 percent of my jobs. You can't beat that!

Soon the day will come when you want to do some minor plumbing repairs. In that case, you'll quickly discover that an adjustable wrench is very handy. I'd get one that's about 8 or 10 inches long. You'll also discover that a ratcheting adjustable pliers is a multi-tasking plumbing tool. These come in different lengths as well, so find one that fits your hand well.

If you visit garage sales, you may find some great bargains when it comes to flat pry bars, hammers, nail sets, framing square, traditional hand saws, etc. Any hand tools that cut or sand wood you can't go wrong purchasing. A razor knife will become your best friend. I guard my quickslide pocket utility knife with my life. I love its shape and its engineering.

If family members need gift ideas, tell them you'd love a wire strippers, a needle-nose pliers, and a lineman pliers. These tools will allow you to make many simple electrical repairs around your home.

When it comes to power tools, you can't go wrong with a traditional circular saw. This tool, when combined with clamps and a straightedge, can do the job of several tools. You'll also need a simple power drill. If you can find a cordless drill and driver combo kit, give that serious consideration. A powered impact driver is a fantastic tool that will allow you to install screws and certain bolts with professional precision.

Try to avoid tools that are highly specialized, and that you'll only use once in a blue moon. Although I absolutely adore my router, I feel it's a tool the average homeowner would rarely use for repairs around the home.

A belt sander is another example. I would cry alligator tears if you took mine away, but I have to admit I could get by with smaller electric sanders if need be. Belt sanders are magical tools, but you can say that about most tools. It's all a matter of what tools offer you the biggest bang for your everyday repair buck.

Some tools are hybrid tools. They can be marketed as project tools, but they can do double duty as a wonderful tool to help you repair something. One example is a pocket-hole jig.

You'll commonly see pocket-hole jigs as tools that allow you to build all sorts of things. The pocket holes allow for extremely strong connections that don't need glue in most cases.

You could easily find yourself using this tool to repair a flat picture frame where the corners have pulled apart. This tool works wonders to fix that wobbly table leg.

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