Top 10 DIY Tools for Beginners

A set of screwdrivers against a blue background.

We all have to start somewhere. I started my tool collection once we'd bought our first home. Now, I have a fairly wide selection of tools for many different purposes, so trying to work out those 10 most vital and useful on a regular basis is a bit of a challenge. In these days when an electric drill is only used for drilling and the electric driver is used for screwing, we can have the most perfectly designed tool for the job. However, it is possible to cover most household DIY jobs with just a few tools.

1. Li-Ion Cordless Drill

A cordless drill.

This is at the top of my list and my most used piece of kit. Li-Ion battery technology has revolutionized battery capacity and charge time as well as making the drill easier to handle with a better weight distribution. Cost-wise, these vary considerably depending on spec and battery capacity. The cheaper ones tend to have sealed plastic mechanisms, whereas the higher priced items are completely serviceable by a specialist. In addition, the interior components will be harder-wearing metal items.

If you can't stretch to having a separate driver, then simply use the cordless drill for drilling and driving. It's not much of a compromise other than having to swap out the drill bit for the driver bit. You just need to be careful not to get carried away and strip the head of the screw. I managed for 15 years without the separate driver without any trouble.

2. Drills and Screw Head Set

A drill / driver isn't much use without the drills and screwdrivers. The cheaper end of the market tends to offer items made of softer metal, which are likely to wear or break more quickly. I tend to use drill sizes 6 and 8 mostly, both wood and masonry. If you're lucky, when you buy a box of screws you'll also get the screw head bit that fits perfectly.

3. Hammer

You can't nail a picture hook into the wall without a hammer. As this is probably the first job to be done when moving homes, I'd put it towards the top of the list. A house isn't a home without some pictures.

4. Spirit Level

A man looking at a spirit level.

Unless you're very good with the eye, then I'd use a spirit level. I use one to ensure that the pictures I've hung are straight. I really wouldn't recommend an app on the phone as a replacement.

5. Screwdriver Set

Screws come in all shapes and sizes, with different heads. Therefore, a screwdriver set will cover the basis. The stumpy ones are always useful in those tight confines where the cordless won't fit.

6. Paintbrush Set

My most used paintbrush is one that has the bristles cut at about 30 degrees, which makes it ideal for cutting in. The only time I need to use another bush is when painting the ceiling a different color to the walls and doing the woodwork (using a different paint). Three brushes will get you through most eventualities. Size-wise, 2 1/2 inches is about perfect.

7. Pencil

A hand marking on a piece of lumber with a pencil.

Where do they all go? This is the item that I loose the most, both short-term during a project and overall. A sharpened pencil will ensure that markings on timber are clear and accurate. A Sharpie just isn't the same.

8. Tape Measure

Use a sturdy tape measure that doesn't flex too much to make sure that measurements are accurate. This is the tool that I carry around with me the most. Don't forget to take it to the store as well so that you can double-check the dimensions on the lumber before purchase. The labels on the racks aren't always correct!

9. Scraper / Filling Knife

Nothing annoys me more than badly filled holes in the wall. Do the job properly by using a flexible filling knife. Ensure that if there used to be a rawl plug in the hole first, then it's been removed. Otherwise, the finish might be compromised.

10. Electric Miter Saw

A miter saw cutting lumber.

This literally changed my life. I've saved so much time since purchasing a miter saw. Cuts are pretty much guaranteed to be square or angled correctly, and with a clean, splinter-free finish. It's also so much easier to finely trim the lumber by just shaving a bit of length off bit by bit. Cutting wood has never been so accurate!