Putting Together a Basic Toolkit for DIY

So you’ve moved into your first home and things aren’t quite right. No problem, just a bit of paint here, some wallpaper there, maybe a few shelves. But if you haven’t done any of that before then you’re unlikely to have the tools, so your first job will be putting together a simple toolkit that has all you need for the usual household jobs.

We’re not talking about chisels, spokeshaves or acro props here, those items are for when you graduate to serious carpentry or rebuilding. But you do need to be careful as tool collecting can have a habit of running out of control sometimes.

Electrical Toolkit

The first thing to tackle is a small collection of tools that will be useful for electrical jobs. With changes in regulations ordinary householders are now pretty much restricted to replacing lampholders, switches and plugs, so all you will need is a couple of small flat-bladed and crosshead screwdrivers, wire cutters or pliers and wire strippers.

You can add fuses (or fuse wire) and electrical tape to this too. Keep it all as separate toolkit in a place that you can get to easily, because fuses have a habit of blowing at the most inconvenient time. A small torch might be handy too.

Tools for Painting

For painting and wallpapering the basic toolkit is pretty obvious. An assortment of paintbrushes, masking tape and brush cleaner is pretty much all you need for painting woodwork and other small areas although a paint kettle (or an old but clean saucepan) is useful.

This allows you to decant some of the paint from a can before use so that you don’t lose the lot if you spoil the container. You can also mix paint from different cans into a kettle so that you get a uniform colour throughout the job.

Painting and Papering Walls

For larger areas rollers and paint trays are the way to go although there are other methods like paint pads and pumped systems that claim to make less mess. Wallpaper hanging will need large brushes, a plumb line to get the sheets vertical and a sharp knife.

Make sure you beg steal or borrow old sheets from people to cover the areas you’re painting. Decorating sheets can be bought but why bother; at the worst you can go down to a jumble sale and pick up all the bath towels and sheets for next to nothing just before the end.

Drilling and Screwing

For fixing shelves and other brackets to walls you need an assortment of drills and bits. Cordless drills and screwdrivers have come down in price and it’s well worth buying a small one for day-to-day jobs and a heavier duty one for the drilling. Make sure the heavy duty drill has a spare battery so that you can be using one while the other is on charge.

If you have two powered drill-cum-screwdrivers then one can be the screwdriver and the other the drill. If you think of a job like boarding a loft you’ll get pretty annoyed having to switch between a drill bit and a screwdriver bit all the time. Get sets of drill bits for wood, masonry and metal in different sizes so that you always have the right one to hand.

A range of hand screwdrivers is essential because there are many places where you won’t be able to get access with a bulky cordless driver. You’ll also need them if your battery runs down and you didn’t buy a spare. Note that there are many different types of crosshead screw heads so screwdrivers with sets of interchangeable bits are a good idea.

A Cut Above the Rest

If you think you’ll be putting up shelves or doing other simple woodwork jobs then you’ll need a couple of saws. A rip or crosscut saw will cut wood across the grain and a tenon saw will cut with the grain. You can also get specialist saws for MDF and other pseudo-woods and plastics.

Jig saws and circular saws are available but if you’re not going to do too much cutting then it’s far quicker to whip out a hand saw and they’re easier to keep on the cut line too.

Hammer it Home

Finally, you’ll almost certainly need to add a hammer or two to your toolkit. A good claw hammer is worth its weight in gold as the claw side of the head can be used to pull out nails that haven’t quite gone in right.

And you might also consider a rubber or plastic mallet. This won’t be any good for nails but it can be extremely useful for ‘persuading’ items of flat-pack furniture into line without damaging the surface.

Expanding Tool Collection

You will find that as you do more and learn more that your toolkit will expand and there’s nothing wrong with that. But try to look into the future and hire tools that you might only use once. Not only is it costly to buy all your tools but you have to have somewhere to store them too.

Our rule here at DIYBasics HQ is that if you’ve had to hire a tool twice then it might be worth buying it, but for the biggest and most cumbersome tools hiring is always the way to go.