Before you cross the threshold, you'll need these (mostly) essential tools for new homeowners
Whether you're buying a brand new home or an existing one, there are a few tools you'll need as you settle into your new home. We've rounded up 10 of the most important tools for new homeowners you need to tackle a variety of projects around the house.
Before we get started, let's assume you're moving into a house that doesn't require any major repairs. If you have retainers on hand, you're going to need a different set of tools than the ones we recommend today.
#1 Tape Measure or Laser Distance Finder
When you're settled, you'll need to take a lot of measurements. From measuring windows for shutters to measuring floor space for furniture and wall space for painting, a good tape is an essential layout tool. There are plenty of options out there, and we like the 25-foot length as a good all-around option.
Our top pick is Milwaukee's Stud. This is a premium tape designed to withstand the toughest job sites and should last you a long time.
For faster measurements, consider a laser range finder. Some new models are very cheap. They're great for taking longer measurements across rooms, and some can do calculations like area and volume for estimation purposes. For most homes, any size over 50 feet will work.
We love Skil's 65-foot laser gauge. Its contrast display is easy to read, and the measuring wheel lets you measure distances that don't provide obstacles for the laser to hit.
#2 Stud Finder
Drywall anchors have come a long way, but securing a TV or heavy antique mirror to a stud is still one of the best ways to ensure it doesn't pull out of the wall. One of the must-have tools for new homeowners, a magnetic stud finder can help you find studs by detecting nails or screws in the studs holding drywall.
We prefer today's modern full stud finders, which electronically detect where the stud is and show you the entire width. This is an upgrade that helps ensure you grab the center of the stud every time. Check out Hart's Professional Stud Finder for an easy-to-use and accurate option.
#3 Bubble Level
If you're a little OCD, a bubble level can help you hang items like shelves and pictures off the floor. If your body doesn't have OCD bones, do the rest of us a favor and hang things up anyway.
Torpedo levels are a good place to start. They are approximately 12 inches long and are easy to store and use.
The 24-inch or 48-inch spirit levels are great when you get into larger installation projects. If you don't mind spending a little more, a digital level takes even more guesswork out of it. Empire Level comes in a variety of options and the balance between quality and price is excellent.
#4 Crosshair Laser
We may push the definition of "basic" through our proposals for cross-line levels. That said, we use our tools a lot, and it's the ones our friends most often ask to borrow. These self-adjusting laser levels emit vertical and horizontal beams to help you achieve perfect straight lines, whether you're hanging pictures or laying floors.
When I was hanging some floating shelves on multiple walls in a room recently, the crosshair laser helped ensure they were at the exact same height, even if they were 20 feet apart. You can also lock pendulums to these lasers and get a consistent angle to hang photos along stairs or add creative interest to other decorative pieces.
The entry-level model has a red beam and runs on AA batteries. Upgraded models are rechargeable and can also include an easier-to-see green laser. Using a tripod gives you the best versatility and is essential when adjusting angles. Skil has a great starter model. It's rechargeable, has a green beam, and comes with a tripod.
At some point, you're going to need a hammer. While composite-handled, titanium-head-frame hammers are sexy, they're a lot more than you're likely to need. Smaller 12- to 16-ounce claw hammers are great for the little nails you'll use to hang pictures and other light items without making a big hole in the wall.
If you really want to have a professional framing hammer in your tool belt, go for it. Just tap those little nails lightly, and choose a smooth surface rather than a milled design so you don't end up with a waffle pattern on the drywall.
#6 screwdriver set or multi-blade screwdriver
One of the most basic must-have tools for a new homeowner is a screwdriver. At the very least, you'll need a set with a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips-head screwdriver — these can handle the most common screws you'll come across. Get a set of 6 that includes various sizes of slotted and crossheads to cover your bases.
Torx (also known as a star), square, and hex or hex point are other common types you might use if you want something more rounded.
To save space, look for a multi-bladed screwdriver with the basic tip type you want. Ok store all the bits on or in the drive so you don't need to worry about losing them in the back of a kitchen drawer where you can store all your random stuff. Some use 1/4-inch bit, while others use a nesting system with bit and nut driver.
Southwire has a wide selection including a range of American made screwdrivers.
#7 Power Your World With a Drill and Impact Driver Combo
Well, this combo is technically two tools, but we're counting it as one because you can use the drill and impact driver together as one system. Drill bits are best for drilling holes. Most modern drills are technically drills and include a clutch for driving the screw, allowing for better control.
To take it a step further, look for a combination with a hammer drill. This is a drill with an extra mechanism that uses a cutting action to drill holes faster in concrete. If you're installing shelving in your garage or hose hangers on an exterior wall, this is the right choice!
The impact driver part of the combo is a screwdriver specialist that makes the job easier when you're driving screws into wood or concrete. Although the drill can go faster, the impact action gives you a lot of torque without transferring the stress to your hands. It's also generally better at keeping the bit engaged with the fastener so you don't tear off as many screw heads.
You can use a hammer together to drill the holes, then use an impact driver to secure the screws instead of having to change the drill bit every time. For most homeowners, a 12-volt kit works just fine. If you're interested in taking on heavier DIY projects on the road, choose the 18V or 20V Max combo.
Ryobi's HP Compact combo is the all-in-one package for the homeowner. If you have more ambitious projects, step up to Ryobi's HP brushless combo.
#8 Clamp with pliers
A quality set of hand tools, including an assortment of pliers and wrenches, is a lifesaver for all kinds of repairs and installations. They can help you snap fasteners and move connectors, connect wires on a new fan or lighting fixture, and more.
Look for a set that includes at least needle nose pliers, slip joint pliers, and Channellock style tongue and groove pliers. Locking pliers, diagonal pliers, lineman's pliers, and adjustable wrenches are all great bonuses in a more comprehensive kit. Really, these are very useful tools any homeowner can have.
#9 Upgrade your homeownership with a ladder
While many homeowners can do with a simple step stool, a good ladder is really all you should have. You need enough reach to replace a burnt-out can light on the ceiling or reach the roof to install those Christmas lights. A 6-foot A-frame ladder is a good all-around choice.
If you want to go a step further, a multi-position ladder adds even more options. They snap into place like an A-frame ladder, or can be flipped all the way around to become an extension ladder. With just one tool, you can reach the ceiling in the middle of the room, then step out and climb the roof.
Check out Little Giant's King Kombo for a versatile ladder that's nimble and not too heavy.
#10 Light up the night with a flashlight
Sooner or later, you'll be stuck in a dark corner, which makes a flashlight one of the most important tools a new homeowner has. Your phone can do the job, but it's not all that convenient, and it's really not that good at it. For just a few dollars, you can get an inexpensive AAA flashlight.
However, most cordless tool brands also make lights. Getting one that works with the drill and impact driver combo you already have is a great way to get a rechargeable model. We really like Makita's DML12 because it's a comfortable, bright flashlight.
You can take things to the next level with a rechargeable headlight. Not only do you not have to worry about having extra batteries on hand, but you also have both hands free for work. Southwire's 120-lumen model does the job well for less than $40.
We've limited ourselves to the top 10 tools we think you'll need. In the process of owning a home, though, you'll definitely want more. What must-have tools for new homeowners would you add to your list? Let us know in the comments below!