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26 essential tools for new homeowners

By: Mitch Mitchell
October 1, 2020

Congratulations on getting that new home. You're now both the owner — and the head of maintenance! 

Watching a few YouTube videos will give you the confidence to take on small home repairs and maintenance around the house, potentially saving you hundreds — maybe thousands — of dollars on handyman and contractor costs. Now, all you need is a well-stocked homeowner toolkit.


First-time homeowner DIY tool checklist

From small stuff like a basic nail and hammer to bigger-ticket items like lawn mowers and power tools, here's the essential new homeowner tool checklist. 


Allen Keys. If you own anything from IKEA, you probably already have a few of these lying around. If you want every size imaginable, get a set. A 9-piece tool that looks like a Swiss Army knife will set you back under $10, or spring for a 36-piece pro set for under $20. Worth it for those times when you have to put together a piece of furniture or a kid's toy. 

Brooms. A typical housewarming gift meant to ward off evil spirits from a new home, brooms come in all shapes and sizes. We'd go for an angled one for tight-corners indoors, a smaller whisk broom for little messes, and a heavy-duty one for the driveway. 

Cordless Drill. If you ever tried to use a manual screwdriver for a tough job, you'll instantly love a cordless drill. Get one that's battery-powered so you can use it anywhere. And buy a pack of drill bits in a variety sizes so you'll be ready for any repair jobs that crop up. 

Extension Cord. It's good to have one or two indoor electrical extension cords on hand. Just remember, indoor cords don't require extra insulation as they are typically used for things like computer equipment, TV's, lamps, etc. If you think you'll need an extension cord for outdoor projects, get one that's specifically designed for outdoor use. It'll have insulation to protect it from the elements. 

Flashlight. If your electricity goes out unexpectedly or you need to focus on a project where the light is awful (like in an attic or under a sink, an LED flashlight is the way to go. Get a few in different sizes and leave them in various rooms. As prep for emergencies, make sure everyone in the house knows where the flashlights and the batteries are kept. 

Gloves and Goggles. Get yourself a good pair of work gloves for dirty outside chores, like cleaning gutters and gardening. If you're working with corrosive solutions or glass of any kind, get some eye-protecting goggles. Don't forget ear protection if you're using power tools like mowers and leaf blowers, and dust masks so you don't breathe in all that stuff. 

Hacksaw. You may never need the thing, but if you do, you'll be glad you have one on hand. Indoors, they're great for cutting plastic and metal pipes, tubing, conduit, and, of course, wood. Outdoors, they're helpful when you want to get rid of a pesky branch that's growing too close to the house. 

Hammer. From hanging pictures to securing a loose patio railing to building a bookcase, a hammer will probably be your go-to tool. We suggest getting two: a lightweight pin hammer for small jobs and a heavy claw hammer for pulling nails, outdoor projects and demolition work. Get at least one with a padded grip for shock absorption. 

Hardware. You never know what kind of project will pop up, so it's always good to have a selection of general-purpose nails and screws on hand. They come prepackaged in sets of the most common sizes needed. 

Ice-melt. To be effective against snow build-up, ice-melt needs to be applied to the ground before a storm arrives. You're just wasting your time if you sprinkle it on accumulated snow. There may still be a thin layer of ice after shoveling, so spread ice melt there, too. Just try to go green and not use the “salt” — it burns pet's paws. 

Lawnmower. Depending on your lawn's size and the grade of your property, you may need a lawnmower. Will you choose electric or gas-fueled? Do you want to ride or gently push one? If you want to combine a workout with your landscaping, you can even opt for an old-fashioned manual push mower. They're quiet and inexpensive! 

Level. Whether you opt for a high tech laser level or, our favorite, a low-tech, less expensive model with a floating bubble in the viewer, never attempt to install kitchen cabinets, pantry shelving, or hang picture frames without a level. 

Pliers. There are so many different types of pliers. Rather than buy each separately as you need it, by a set and get it over with. Look for locking pliers with a good grip, small needle-nose pliers for tight spaces, and electrician's pliers for stripping and cutting wires. 

Plunger. Not just handy for a bathroom emergency, a plunger can be helpful in the case of clearing clogs from showers and kitchen sinks and limiting costly damage from basement flooding. Plus, they're also useful for taking small dents out of your car's side door panels. 

Pruning shears. Perfect for cutting back overgrowth of one plant if it's hogging the sun from the rest of your garden. Also suitable for cleanly cutting flowers and snipping tomatoes without damaging the plant. 

Putty Knife. Typically used for applying spackle, putty knives are also a simple solution for removing old paint or scraping down loose, flaky surfaces to prep before painting. In a pinch, you can even use them to apply grout to tile floors and splashbacks. 

Rake. Even if you don't have trees on your property, a rake will make easy work out of gathering grass clippings, smoothing out mulch and spreading gravel. 

Screwdriver. You'll need a screwdriver for quick tasks like tightening a doorknob or changing out a dimmer switch. Get a set with different types — flat-head, Phillips-head, Robertson, Pozidriv and Torx. Or get a ratcheting screwdriver with interchangeable heads. 

Snow removal. These days, it pays to have a snow shovel in at least 75% of the USA (cause you never know!) And if you live where snow can be a big nuisance and have a big space that needs clearing, budget for a snowblower. Just don't wait till it snows to get these items (or get them serviced if they're already part of your arsenal) as the hardware stores run out after the first snowfall. 

Step Stool. Get one. Because whether you're hanging curtains, changing lightbulbs or replacing batteries in your smoke detector, you're way too old to be standing on a chair. 

Stud-finder. Before installing your flat-screen TV on the wall, you'll want a pro-tool to guide you. Easy-to-use stud-finders scan the wall and keep you from creating unnecessary holes or drilling where nails already exist, so you get the project right the first time. 

Tape Measure. A retractable, lockable tape measure is heaven. Use it indoors to measure rugs, window blinds and shelving. Outdoors, it's excellent for accurately spacing pavers and plantings. Get one that's at least 25 feet long, and get another for the car that's pocket-size, so you can measure items at a store, like furniture or appliances that need to be a specific size to get through your front door. 

Tarp. Home repairs can get messy. You don't want paint, grout, joint compound, and stain to splatter onto furniture and flooring. You also don't want to spend hours cleaning dust and debris. A good tarp can also keep lumber and building supplies dry and protect shrubs if you're painting the house or doing roof work. Get a tarp and be done with it.

Utility Knife. These are always handy. You'll want a utility knife for everything from breaking down moving, to scraping splattered paint off a window, to cutting rope, to precisely trimming wall-to-wall carpet. 

Weed-whacker. Consider a weed-whacker if you have a big lawn with lots of garden spaces that a mower can't get to or if you have a hilly, rocky or small property where it makes more sense than owning a full-sized lawnmower. 

Wrench. Since the jaws of an adjustable crescent wrench can be adjusted to fit nuts and bolts of different sizes, you probably only need the one. Go for a self-ratcheting model so you won't have to remove it from the bolt while tightening.

black and white photo of Mitch Mitchell
Author: Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell is a freelance contributor to Movement's marketing department. He also writes about tech, online security, the digital education community, travel, and living with dogs. He’d like to live somewhere warm.