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What Every Woman Needs in her Toolbox

Updated on July 5, 2011

How to be your own Handy Maam

Nowadays, there are quite a number of women who have made the choice to live on their own, buy their own homes and navigate their way through the world without a man. Whether by choice or by happenstance, it turns out that women are a lot more handy than was previously thought. Do-It-Yourself programs are becoming more and more popular, both on television and in local Home Improvement stores. Whether it's building a step stool or refinishing that favorite piece of furniture, women are gathering tools and taking on the challenge.

Paige Hemmis, most famous for her work on the TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, has written a terrific book on the topic. It's called, “The Tough Chix Guide To Easy Home Improvement”. No doubt, Ms. Hemmis has found success in this arena as well. In her book, she manages to avoid the dull, dry tone of typical instruction manuals, and, instead, provide accessible and easy-to-follow instructions on every aspect of home repair, complete with illustrations and helpful "Tuff Tips." Among the many projects included are how to fix cracks of every kind, repair windows of all sizes, fix malfunctioning toilets and hang curtain rods. Easy enough, if you know how. Ms. Hemmis does a great job making the “how to” a bit less daunting.

Where to start?

But where to start? Building a proper toolbox is the very first step to taking on any project, regardless of size or skill level. A wise man (my daddy) once said, “no job is hard, if you've got the right tools”. Indeed. So, for those who are just beginning on their own road to home improvement projects, here's a list of things that every woman needs in her toolbox.

The Essentials:

Please note: Always buy good tools. Don't go to the 99 Cents store and buy the cheapest tools you can find. Not only will they not do the job, they won't last either. You'll end up with a broken tool in your hands right smack in the middle of a job. And if that job should be, say, fixing the toilet, you're going to be none too happy about it. Spend the extra money on good tools. You'll be very glad you did. Sears carries a pretty good line of tools, called Craftsman Tools, and they come with a lifetime guarantee. There are lots of options out there, but the Craftsman brand is a great place to start.

So's a little list of tools you might like to begin gathering for your toolbox. Of course, these are merely suggestions. It all depends on who you are and what you plan to do. When I left home, at the ripe old age of 18, my Dad put a toolbox together for me so I'd have the basics. Over the years, I've gathered many more as each new project presented itself. At this point, I have a pretty sizeable collection, including lots of power tools (I LOVE power tools!) and various other fancified gadgets. Again, it's all a matter of what you plan to do. Don't fuss over not being able to gather them all at once. Just get what you think will be most useful for the moment; you can gather as you go from there.

The List:

  • a hammer
  • a good set of screwdrivers (which should include both flathead and Phillips heads)
  • a wrench
  • a pair of pliers (make that 2: one needle nose, one 'regular')
  • a cordless drill (and drill bits)
  • a skill saw
  • plumbing tape
  • duct (also spelled 'duck') tape (this tape can do more things than you can even imagine. If you want to see some of the zillions of things you can do with it, visit
  • electrical tape
  • a measuring tape
  • a flashlight (you have no idea how handy they are until you need to get to something under the sink. Life savers!)

And don't forget Paige's book! There is a wealth of handy information and all the info you'll need to get the job done.

Show no fear!

Once you're a bit more comfy with the idea of doing things on your own, you can add to your collection of tools, based on what you most enjoy. If you happen to be into building things, you'll want to have a table saw, a compound miter saw, a router and a skill saw. These are wonderful power tools to have, if you like working with wood. You don't have to commit to a whole room addition, but with these tools, you'll be able to make anything from a simple piece of furniture to a built-in bookshelf. Power tools give you lots of options, and you'll be the one who gets to decide what you'll tackle next.

Restoring furniture is another wonderful project to get you in your groove. All that's required is some sandpaper, some stain and sealant (I prefer oils; some folks like polyurethane but I'm not too crazy about putting plastic on wood. Just sayin'.), a little muscle and a dose of patience. Restoring a piece of furniture is a most satisfying project. And you can get all kinds of creative too. Instead of staining, you can paint or distress the piece. Distressing is tons oft fun. All you do is sand off the current finish (you can leave some on...sort of like a half-assed sanding) then take a hammer or heavy chain or a bunch of keys on a long string and whack the bejeebers out of the wood. Makes the piece look like it's a hundred years old. If you happen to like that sort of thing. No matter what your tastes, restoration is as useful as it is meditative. Honest!

Regardless of what you intend to fix or where you'd like to start, always remember that you can. Women are fully capable of doing their own repairs, and some of them are really good at it. There's certainly no shame in trying. And, if push comes to shove, and you find you've gotten in 'over your head', you can always call the local handyman (or handy maam!) to come finish the job. But don't let fear keep you from trying!

Safety first!

It would be negligent for me to forget this part. Whenever you're working with tools, especially power tools, it's a good idea to be present and focused. Let me say that again: be present and focused! A power saw can take off a finger in a hot second. So can a hand saw. But if you keep your eyes on what you're doing, it's unlikely you're going to have to go through any of that ickiness. I've been working with power tools for more than 2 decades and I've never had an accident. I am extremely respectful of the tools and I stay absolutely focused on the task at hand.

That being said, I have had my share of mishaps. Nothing major, but a few minor cuts and such. I've also had some untimely meetings with stray objects flying into my eyes. That is, before I began wearing safety goggles. So, it's a super terrific idea to get some (goggles) and USE THEM. It's worth it to spend the extra dollars on a good pair. If you don't think this is viable, ask yourself this: how much are my eyes worth to me?

Last, but not least, get yourself a First Aid Kit. Keep it with your tool box. You just never know when you might need a quick squirt of antiseptic or a band-aid for that nick on your finger. Better safe than sorry, yes?

Here's to your tool box...and all the wonderful things you can do all on your own!


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    • Reprieve26 profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon Coast

      It's an old wooden house with wood siding. The "nooks and crannies" are what I call all of the hard to reach places up near the roof line. There's this wooden overhang between the house and the roof-- with wood that needs to be painted inside those small spaces. I'm sure that there are proper terms for all of these places on my house, but I have no clue what they are! LOL Either way, trust me when I say that old house have lots and lots or hard to reach places to be painted!

    • camsolivia profile imageAUTHOR

      Camille Olivia Strate 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      Reprieve~ Happy to hear you didn't fall off (even once!). Do tell, why were you painting the 'nooks and crannies'? Just curious. (grin). Looking forward to your Hubs. No doubt they'll be a hoot to read.

    • Reprieve26 profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Thanks! To be completely honest, I usually "enjoy the process" more in hindsight-- like this weekend. I spend 2 days crawling around on my roof trying to paint the nooks and crannies while not sliding off the roof or bumping into the electrical cables attached to that side of the house. Yikes! It was scary at the time, but in hindsight the thought of me up there doing that work is pretty funny. But, I survived (and I didn't fall off the roof even once)! ;)

      I'm definitely going to have to write some hubs about my experiences with this project this summer! LOL

    • camsolivia profile imageAUTHOR

      Camille Olivia Strate 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      Big grin on this one, Reprieve! Can't wait to hear all about it (and maybe see some pics?!) Remember: ENJOY THE PROCESS! That's half the fun, if you let it be. Bravo to you!

    • Reprieve26 profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Great hub! As a woman that is working hard to scrape 80+ years of paint off of my house this summer and re-paint, I agree completely that women can do ANYTHING. It's a big task (and I'm exhausted), but in the end I'm going to have a beautiful house and the satisfaction of knowing that I DID IT. I'm going to have to write a hub about my experience one of these days... ;)

      Voted up and awesome! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love this. As we are off to Mexico with only our suitcases, there's scarcely room for a toolbox but the duct tape will travel and we'll replenish when we get there. Hopefully not to many remodeling projects in our place there (we'll rent furnished) but you never know. I can't begin to tell you how useful duct tape has been in the past!!! Great thoughts and, as always, eloquence defines them. Keep writing my friend.

    • camsolivia profile imageAUTHOR

      Camille Olivia Strate 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      Thank you, Katharella! It has always been a dream of mine to buy and restore an old house. They just don't make 'em like that anymore, you know? I was once hired to create a "faux marble" floor in an old farmhouse. I struggled with accepting the job at first, because I didn't want to paint those gorgeous wood floors. But in the end, the homeowner had me do the faux marble in one room and then restore the floors in all others. Talk about a fun job! Anyway, feel free to ask all you like. I'm more than happy to help, if I can. Hugs, Bella!

    • Katharella profile image


      7 years ago from Lost in America

      I love this hub! I bought a house over 100 yrs old, and knew I would have to work on it. I bought all the things you listed right off! Great hub! I won't ask the million questions I need answered LOL! But I'm off to see the ducktapeclub!! (Duck-FUNNY):D Congrats too!

    • camsolivia profile imageAUTHOR

      Camille Olivia Strate 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      To "my girls" ~ y'all ROCK! Thanks for coming over and doing your part. Great big hugs!

      "Ripple...", thanks for the giggles. Glad you enjoyed the piece. Big grins over here.

      Thanks, Dale. I do appreciate the vote...and your commentary.

    • Inspired to write profile image

      Dale J Ovenstone 

      7 years ago from Wales UK

      Great hub well written, it's always handy to have correct bare essential tools in the home whether a woman or a man.

      Thanks for the share, a vote up from me.

      Regards Dale

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Be a Handy Maam ...tee hee I like that!

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination! For voting and other details, head this way:

    • profile image

      Mary Ellington 

      7 years ago

      What you quoted your daddy, but didn't mention anything about measuring? My Dad was a firm believer in measure twice, cut once (as opposed to the Merry ME school of just whack it off where it looks about right. He was also a man who had a flashlight for every occasion. Some girls have shoes, others (because of my inheritance) have flashlights.

    • profile image

      Joanne S. 

      7 years ago

      I used to have most of these tools...then each one kept quietly disappearing...ending up in my son's car, my son's bedroom, my son's...Now, whenever possible, I purchase tools that are pink or purple. That stopped the "pilferer" dead in his tracks! Thanks, C, for the GREAT info!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love it!! Years back, I bought myself a set of power screw drivers. I kept them charged up and believe me, they came in VERY handy when I needed them! A tool kit is essential even for everyday kinds of fixits. And nice to have things handy instead of rushing out to buy them in an emergency! Great blog, girl!!

    • camsolivia profile imageAUTHOR

      Camille Olivia Strate 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      You're a HOOT, Simone! Happy to hear you've got "several". Bravo!!! The power saw and drill are invaluable (to me). I use them all the time. Beats the hell out of doing things "by hand"; especially the sawing part. I could go on and on...but let's just say YOU GO, GIRL!

      Thanks for reading!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      I am very proud to have several toolboxes in my apartment, but they don't contain all of the tools you've listed. Off to get a saw and power drill!

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      7 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Sounds good to me. You build about anything with the tools you recommend. Welcome to HUB writing. I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. I must give this an “Up ONE and Useful.” I'm now your fan! RJ

      Based upon this HUB, you might enjoy…

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      My husband has gotten in the habit of buying tools for our daughter and two daughters in law as Christmas stocking stuffers. With or without a husband, boyfriend or significant other, a girl has to do a lot for herself these days.


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