What Tools are Worth the Money (and Which Ones Aren't)

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Choose your tools wisely and they'll serve you well for a lifetime. This list is just a few of the most basic home maintenance tools that every home should have readily available for quick use. Counterintuitively, some simple tools are worth spending a few extra bucks on to ensure high quality performance, while bargain versions of some more complex devices work perfectly fine.

Worth Going High End

Hammer

person hammering a nail into a thin board

Purchase the best one you can get and shy away from low cost low quality. A well constructed hammer should last longer than you. Choose a forged hammer, not a cast one, and get a model with a fiberglass handle for longevity. Although it will be slightly more expensive, it will serve your needs effectively for many years.

Pliers

Once again, choose forged pliers for strength and longevity. Pliers should have a lifetime of at least a several years with constant use. Pliers are good for holding things like nails to save your fingers when hammering them, twisting wires together, and many other things too numerous to mention. Choose a pair that fits your hand comfortably and is ergonomically correct for you.

Screwdrivers

If you do any home maintenance or repairs, you know screwdrivers play an outsized role. Get the better quality screwdrivers, possibly as a kit with various sizes and types such as flat blade, Phillips, and Torx to name a few. Modern fasteners use all these types, so be prepared. Make your ultimate selection based on your ergonomic needs—the handle should fit your hand comfortably and not cause any stress or pain.

Flashlight

person shining powerful flashlight on trees

A good flashlight is a must for home maintenance, especially in areas prone to power outages. There are many powerful, compact choices today, so choose the form factor you find most appealing. Modern LED lights are so much brighter than previous flashlights, and have a much longer battery life, plus the higher end versions are cheaper than they used to be. Buy a good one and take care of it—it will be well worth the cost.

Stud Finder

You might ask, “Is a stud finder necessary?”

The answer is “Yes” in most instances. Any homeowner attempting to hang a heavy picture or install shelving on a wall will discover a stud finder is well worth what it costs. Being able to locate a stud in a wall to more securely fasten an object to the wall without damaging the wall with repeated attempts at finding a stud by “poke and hope” will justify the cost of a stud finder, and picking one that's reliable and easy to read will make your work much easier.

Basic Models are Fine

Mirror

hexagonal mirror hanging on a blue wall

A mirror is invaluable in home maintenance, as it allows you to see behind appliances, reflect light into dark spaces, and view otherwise un-seeable objects. Cheap is okay here, as mirrors may be break while in use, necessitating replacement.

Measuring Device

Tape measures and yardsticks are a homeowner necessity to ascertain sizes and establish locations of objects in the home. Tape measures are low cost and in many markets yardsticks come free as advertising. Buy what you need but don’t overdo it. Most homes don’t need a 100’ tape. A 12’ to 25’ will work for most situations.

Level

level with bubble in measuring container

Look for a sturdy wood or metal frame and don't overthink this—a 2’ level will be sufficient for most homes. If you taken care of it, you can expect a lifetime of service. Levels are very useful when hanging pictures or installing shelving to get them “just right”.

Multimeter

A multimeter is a convenient tool to have for home electrical maintenance. With a little information and training you can soon use one like a pro. They can test electric outlets, switches, battery voltage, and conductivity of wiring just to name a few. Best of all, low cost but effective versions can be purchased from many different suppliers.