A home toolbox is essential for every household. But knowing what tools are important enough to put in there can be a challenge -- you might not know what you need until you're deep into a project. Home improvement experts have suggestions for what should cover your most pressing needs.
Need to measure a piece of wood, a length of wire or a window? Handyman Kamani Sicard, of NYC Handyman in Manhattan, N.Y., believes every household needs a tape measure. Tape measures come in many lengths, but for around-the-house jobs, Sicard recommends a medium-sized one. "If you're working on a large project, you'll have enough length, and if you're working on a smaller project, you'll have more increments for accuracy. It also won't be too cumbersome to hold," said Sicard.
Despite the range of power tools on the market, Sicard appreciates a hand saw's functionality. "A hand saw is useful for smalls cutting projects that don't require major equipment and for cutting in areas where a larger saw wouldn't fit," he said. As with any tool, safety is a factor. "Always wear safety glasses, and keep your hands as far away from the blade as possible. Wear gloves to protect hands from splinters and particles," cautioned Sicard.
Andy Viault, who owns HAS Construction in Culver City, California, advised stocking a pair of Channellock pliers in your toolbox. "Channellock pliers work because the jaw opens much wider and have a much better grip [than other pliers]," he said. "If you're trying to loosen something and you're pulling, it just grips the material better."
Related: HAS Construction
Phillips Screwdriver and Screws
Viault suggested packing a standard, or slotted, screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver in your toolkit, as well as accompanying screws. "Phillips screws are better to use than a slotted screw because driving one of them gives a much more positive [more exact] drive," he said. "My favorite screw is a ¾-inch, No. 8 Phillips pan head screw. You can do anything with that."
No, duct tape isn't just for prom outfits and craft projects. Viault said the thick tape is also essential for stopping leaks, repairing car parts, binding wires and more. He feels vindicated that the History Channel mentioned it in a special called "101 Gadgets that Changed the World." If you must know, his favorite color of duct tape is blue.
Viault swears by the familiar blue can and yellow logo of WD-40 for house and automobile repair. The lubricating spray can loosen sticky joints, clean tools and remove dirt and residue from car and bike tires. It's also strong enough to clean silver, untangle jewelry and, yes, even remove duct tape residue.
While there are many breeds of hammers, Sicard maintains that the claw hammer may be the carpenter's most essential tool. "A claw hammer is an all-purpose hammer that's great for any hammering projects around the house," he said. It's also useful "for removing nails and screws, and for ripping up old material."
From fixing roofs and installing carpeting and insulation to hanging posters and reupholstering furniture, a high-power staple gun can get a lot of use around a home. "For longer projects that require a lot of stapling and accuracy, I recommend the electric stapler. For stapling projects that require no accuracy, you can get the hammer stapler," said Sicard.
No one wants to explore a dark crawl space or hard-to-see part of the house, tasks that always seem to come up during power outages. Viault advised investing in a strong flashlight like a Maglite (and the batteries that go with it) for these situations. You can also use it to tell ghost stories until the electricity comes back on.
Viault says that C-clamps are great for fitting two pieces of material together because they have a "much better grip on material" than other clamps. Tighten the lever on the C-clamp until it holds the two pieces firmly in place before drilling or hammering. These clamps also can keep pieces joined while glue dries.
Anyone who has tried to fix something when the extension cord doesn't reach will understand why Viault recommended a battery-powered drill with rechargeable lithium batteries. Cordless drills are more expensive than corded versions, Vila acknowledged, but "if the price doesn't seem prohibitive, the gain in flexibility is probably worth the extra investment."