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8 must-have tools every homeowner or renter should own

Build a tool set that includes the basics, and you’ll be prepared for nearly everything.

Essential tools

8 tools everyone needs
 
Renter, homeowner, DIY expert, construction newbie: Whether you’re hanging a picture or tearing down a wall, you need these foundation elements of a toolbox. Start with eight suggested basics (and five extras), and you’ll be able to perform a whole host of maintenance and improvement tasks around your home or apartment. And because safety should always remain paramount, invest in three must-haves to help keep you protected while working, too.
 
1. Slip-joint pliers
Look for: Forged steel and sharp teeth, with fine teeth in front and coarse teeth in the back. Add a tool: A pair of locking pliers is a great way to grab things or hold them in place.
 
2. Combination square
Look for: Measurements, or heads, of both 90 and 45 degrees; locks to ensure accuracy when transferring measurement. Secondary spirit vial offers leveling. Metal is more durable. 
 
3. Hammer
Look for: A smooth-faced steel head and 16-inch wood handle with overstrike protection; it’s lighter and low in vibration. Weight should feel good when lifted overhead. Also nice: a built-in side puller and magnetic nail holder.
 
4. Standard level
Look for: .0005 ''/1'' accuracy; clearly visible bubble; metal for durability. Digital may improve accuracy. Two- or four-foot levels work best for most jobs and can be used as a straight edge or ruler. 
 
5. Tape measure
Look for: An end magnetic hook. 16ths measurements for readability. A fully extended length up to 40'. A bigger standout number means you can extend it without collapse. A wider tape equals stiffness. Add a tool: a lightweight 6' or 8' ladder for working above head height.
 
6. Adjustable wrench
A size 8 or 10 with a padded handle for increased strength. A strong, secure lower jaw. Thumb turn should be easy to use. Add a tool: An Allen keys set lets you drive bolts and screws with a hex head.
 
7. Utility knife
Look for: Easy blade change-out and in-knife blade storage. Retractable or foldable and hang holes for storage. Lock with multiple positioning and safety shield and nonslip rubber grip for hand protection. Slit in knife body to cut string. Add a tool: A putty knife lets you scrape walls and apply putty. 
 
8. Cordless drill
Look for: A T handle for comfort. Choose voltage (4 and up) based on power needs; higher equals heavier duty jobs but a heavier battery. Musts include a forward/reverse switch. More clutch settings (24 is a minimum) equal greater control. Add a tool: A manual screwdriver set lets you maneuver into tight positions.
 
Safety comes first 
Eyes, ears and hands (as well as your muscles) are important to any home maintenance and improvement task 
you might take on—and protecting them is essential. Here are three protective pieces to keep in your toolbox:
 
Safety glasses or goggles 
Investigate the lens material and coating for impact resistance and ensure they’re comfortable to wear.
 
Ear plugs 
Foam work well for one-time use, but earmuffs may be worth it if you complete lots of loud tasks.
 
Gloves 
Choose ones that protect your hands from the materials you will work with.
 

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