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New Homeowners - Your First First Five Tools

Updated on April 1, 2011

So You're a New Homeowner?

Whether you're still setting up your new home or discovering the joys of maintenance, check out these tools for new homeowners. These are the very basics that I think any new homeowner could use, for so many purposes that I won't even be able to mention more than a few.

The tools in this list also make great gifts for teen boys, gifts for men, and even gifts for condo housewarmings. I believe they are simple tools that anyone can use, and make use of if they had them on hand.

So let's introduce the tools!

  1. Multi-head screwdriver
  2. Hammer
  3. Tape Measure
  4. Cordless Drill (12V) & Bits
  5. Needlenose pliers

I'll outline the usefulness of each tool and buying tips for each tool, below.

Multi-head screwdrivers

Klein Tools 32477 10-in-1 Screwdriver/Nut Driver
Klein Tools 32477 10-in-1 Screwdriver/Nut Driver

Multi-head screwdriver with bits. Better for when you damage your driver bits - you can buy replacements quite easily.


The Multi-Head Screwdriver

A multi-head screwdriver is an indispensable tool. You will find many uses for a mere screwdriver, and also rapidly discover that things aren't always put together with the same kinds of screws. You may encounter flat-head screws, square-drive screws, and phillips (cross-head) screws in the same piece of furniture! If you bring a multi-head screwdriver with you, you don't have to get up and get the rest of your screwdrivers, or your whole toolbox, to undo a few screws. A flat-head screwdriver head also makes a great paint-can opener and chisel, in a pinch!

However, If you have the storage, I’d recommend a full set of regular screwdrivers, for their length, because they can often reach places that a multi-head cannot. Still, a multi-head screwdriver is very handy, because you’ll have what you need by picking up just one tool.

They are many different types of multi-head screwdrivers, some of which I show below, so pick one you think you would find most comfortable to use.


Ah, the picture-hanger and fine adjustment tool.  You thought this was for nails?  Well, yes, but that’s not the first thing you’ll be doing after you move in.  Instead, you’ll be hanging pictures and possibly putting pins back in the doors that you had to remove to get the sofa inside.  You may also have IKEA furniture that needs assembling, and getting those dowels all the way in without a hammer can be hard on your hands.

Don't buy a heavy hammer (more than 16 oz), even if you are a large man - you don't need one, and you'll just put more strain on your elbows.  The larger hammers are for driving framing nails (3" nails), and don't give you as good of a nail-puller hook at the back for smaller nail removal.

Although wood-handled hammers can be quite comfortable, they tend to develop loose heads over a long period of time, so I'd stick with a metal-handled one with a comfortable rubber grip.

Tape Measure

While not 100% necessary, it sure is handy. You’ll probably be buying new furniture for your new home, and figuring out where it will fit is a good use for a tape measure. It can also be used for picture-hanging, if you are into making all your pictures hang at the same height, and squaring-up bookshelves before you nail the back panels on.

I recommend buying at least a 25 foot long tape measure.  I've never regretted buying one of the more expensive ones either, usually because I'll end up measuring something really long, and the wider the tape measure, the easier it is to extend the tape measure before it bends under its own weight and the tip dives to the floor.

Cordless Drill, 12V, with bits

There are innumerable things you need a drill for, and I recommend buying both bits for making holes and bits for driving screws. The former is useful for installing ceiling hooks and wall plugs. The screwdriver heads just make a lot of things easier.

Buying the drill: my best advice is to get the best one you can afford that has the cheapest batteries to replace. What kills a cordless drill is that the batteries stop holding a charge, and you’ll find yourself buying another cheap drill that comes with batteries rather than buying a new battery that costs almost as much as the drill.

The reason I recommend a 12V drill is that the others are too heavy for the light work you are likely to use a drill for. If you think you might be using a drill for heavier work, such as building a deck, you might want to get a 14.4V drill instead.

Buying the bits: you don’t have to go crazy on these – buy a simple set that ranges from 3/8” down to 1/16”. Buy them on sale – you can almost always find one at your local box / discount hardware store.

Buying screwdriver heads: I recommend buying a small set at first - the exotic bits are VERY rarely used, and you'll probably never use them. Instead, buy a pack with several of the more common heads, because they tend to wear (especially as you're learning to use the drill as an automatic screwdriver), and you may lose one or two over time.

My personal favorite brand is Makita, followed by Dewalt. I've heard good things about Milwaukee, but they tend to be a lot more expensive, and usually intended for use by tradesmen.

Needlenose Pliers

While some people may recommend vice grips or tin snips (also very useful), I recommend needle nose pliers because of their versatility. You can bend metal brackets, reach into small openings where stuff has fallen, and hold objects of many different shapes and sizes while you tighten them.

Buying the pliers: Buy some with a coating on the handle that you feel comfortable holding. I recommend a smooth coating rather than a “sure grip” one, which only feels abrasive after you’ve been using them for more than 5 minutes.  If you want to spend extra money, get a small and a larger set.  I've never personally found a need for the curved-head variety, although maybe it's one of those tools you might use once in awhile if you had one.  Then again, your tool collection will be difficult enough to store without those few extra pieces for "just in case".


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    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Excellent advice for the newbie homeowner. I would also add a toolbox to store all these tools in. Voting this Up and Useful.