Basic hand tools every homeowner or renter should own

Build a basic tool kit for your home with these essential hand tools, and you'll be prepared for nearly everything.

Especially for the avid DIYer, having a well-stocked toolbox with the right tools is both handy and practical. Having a basic tool kit allows you to perform a whole host of maintenance and improvement tasks around your home or apartment. There are essential hand tools and items to aid your safety and protection when you are working. Nearly every homeowner or renter benefits from having the right tools on hand. Here are some basic tools to include.

Slip-joint pliers

Select slip-joint pliers made with forged steel. Choose a style that has sharp and fine teeth in front and coarse teeth in the back. Many styles also have a useful wire cutter built into the neck of the pliers. This tool is versatile and is excellent for many projects.

Combination square

Include a combination square that locks, has measurements and has both 90 and 45 degree heads. This will provide more accuracy when transferring measurements to your project. A combination square with a built-in spirit vial offers leveling options, too. And a metal combination square is more durable.


A hammer can be used for a wide variety of uses or projects. A must-have versatile tool for your set is a hammer with a smooth-faced steel head and 16-inch wood handle with overstrike protection. This style is lighter than some of the others and lower in vibration. Select a weight and style that feels comfortable when lifted overhead. Some styles even have a built-in side puller and magnetic nail holders.

Standard level

Be sure to include a .0005''/1'' standard level to provide more accuracy and one that has a clearly visible bubble. Metal levels are more durable and there are also digital options that may improve accuracy. A level with two- or four-foot levels works best for most jobs and can be used as a straight edge or ruler as well.

Tape measure

Tape measures come in a variety of styles and are a useful basic tool to have in your set. A tape measure that has an end magnetic hook and 16ths measurements allows for the best readability. Some tape measures fully extend to a length up to 40' and have a bigger standout number that allows you to extend them without collapse. A wider tape measure is generally stronger when extended.

Adjustable wrench

Another basic hand tool to have is an adjustable wrench. A size 8 or 10 with a padded handle allows for increased strength. Select one with a strong, secure lower jaw and thumb turn for easier use.

Utility knife

Make sure to include a utility knife with an easy blade change-out and in-knife blade storage. Some styles are retractable or foldable and have hang holes for storage. Many styles of utility knives have multiple positioning and safety shields as well as nonslip rubber grips for hand protection. Another feature some knives have is a slit in the knife body to cut string. Whatever style you select, having a utility knife is a versatile tool for your set.

Cordless drill

Stocking your tool set with a cordless drill with a T-handle is a good choice. Select one with voltage (4 and up) based on power needs. Heavy duty jobs may require a higher voltage and a heavier battery. It is best to have a cordless drill that includes a forward/reverse switch and has more clutch settings (24 is a minimum). This allows for greater control.


Finally, be sure to include a manual screwdriver set and/or a ratcheting and multi-bit screwdriver. Multi-bit screwdrivers save on space in the toolbox. A manual screwdriver set lets you maneuver into tight positions.

Safety comes first

Protecting your eyes, ears and hands is important when doing any home maintenance and improvement tasks. Here are a few 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 works 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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The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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