Before You Cross the Threshold, You’re Gonna Need These (Mostly) Essential Tools for New Homeowners
Whether you’re buying a brand new house or an existing one, you’re going to need some tools as you get settled into your new home. We have 10 of the most essential tools for new homeowners you’ll need to tackle a variety of projects around the house.
Before we get started, we’re assuming you’re moving into a home that doesn’t need any major repairs. If you’ve got a fixer-upper on your hands, you’ll need a different set of tools than what we’re recommending today.
10 (Mostly) Essential Tools for New Homeowners
#1 Tape Measure or Laser Distance Measure
You’re going to do a lot of measuring as you get settled in. From measuring windows for blinds to floor space for furniture and wall space for paint, a good tape is an essential layout tool. There are a lot of options out there and we like a 25-foot length as a good all-around choice.
Our top pick is Milwaukee’s Stud. It’s a premium tape that’s designed to hold up to the toughest jobsites and should last you a good long time.
For even quicker measurements, consider picking up a laser distance measure. Some new models are downright inexpensive. They’re great for getting longer measurements across rooms and some do calculations like area and volume for estimating. For most homes, anything that measures more than 50 feet works well.
We like Skil’s 65-foot laser measure. Its reverse contrast display is easy to read and measuring wheel lets you measure distances that don’t offer a barrier for the laser to hit.
#2 Stud Finder
Drywall anchors have come a long way, but securing a TV or a heavy antique mirror to a stud is still one of the best ways to make sure it doesn’t pull out of the wall. A magnetic stud finder is one of the essential tools for new homeowners that can help you locate studs by detecting nails or screws in the stud that hold the drywall in place.
We prefer today’s modern whole stud finders that electronically detect where the stud is and show you the entire width. It’s an upgrade that helps make sure you catch the center of the stud every time. Check out Hart’s Professional Stud Finder as an easy-to-use and accurate option.
#3 Bubble Level
If you’re a little OCD, a bubble level helps you hang things such as shelves and pictures level to the floor. If you don’t have an OCD bone in your body, do the rest of us a favor and hang things level anyway.
A torpedo level is a good place to start. With a length around 12 inches or so, they’re easy to store and use.
As you get into larger installation projects, a 24-inch or 48-inch level is great to have around. Digital levels can take even more of the guesswork out of the equation if you don’t mind spending a bit more. Empire Level has a wide range to choose from with an excellent balance of quality and price.
#4 Cross Line Laser
We might be pushing the definition of “essential” with our recommendation for a cross-line level. That said, we use ours a ton, and it’s the tool that our friends ask to borrow most frequently. These self-adjusting laser levels send out vertical and horizontal beams to help you get perfectly straight lines for anything from hanging pictures to tiling a floor.
When I recently hung some floating shelves on multiple walls of a room, a cross-line laser helped ensure they were at the exact same height even though they were 20 feet apart. You can also lock the pendulum on these lasers and get a consistent angle to hang photos along a stairway or add creative interest to other decorative pieces.
Entry-level models have red beams and use AA batteries. Upgraded models are rechargeable and can also include a green laser that’s easier to see. Using a tripod gives you the best versatility and is essential when dialing in angles. Skil has a good model to get started. It’s rechargeable, features green beams, and comes with a tripod.
At some point, you’re going to need a hammer. While composite handle, titanium head framing hammers are sexy, they’re a lot more than you probably need. A smaller 12- to 16-ounce claw hammer is great for the small nails you use to hang pictures and other lightweight items without putting a big hole in the wall.
If you really want the pride of a professional framing hammer in your tool belt, go ahead and get it. Just tap those small nails gently and go with the smooth face instead of the milled design so you don’t leave waffle patterns in your drywall.
#6 Screwdriver Set or Multi-Bit Screwdriver
One of the most basic essential tools for new homeowners is a screwdriver. At the very least, you need a set with slotted and Phillips head screwdrivers—those handle the most common screws you come across. Get a 6-piece set with several sizes of slotted and Phillips tips to cover your bases.
If you want to go more comprehensive, Torx (also called star), square, and hex or Allen tips are other common types you might use.
To save space, look for a multi-bit screwdriver with the basic tip types you need. Good ones store all of the bits right on, or in the driver, so you don’t need to worry about losing them in the back of the kitchen drawer where you keep all of that random stuff. Some use 1/4-inch driver bits while others use a nesting system that has driver bits and nut drivers.
Southwire has a nice selection of options, including a line of Made in the USA screwdrivers.
#7 Power Up Your World With a Drill and Impact Driver Combo
Okay, so this combo is technically two tools, but we’re counting it as one since you can use a drill and impact driver together as a system. The drill works best for, well, drilling holes. Most modern drills are technically drill drivers and include a clutch for driving screws with better control.
Take it one step further and look for a combo that has a hammer drill. It’s a drill with an extra mechanism that drills much more quickly in concrete using a chipping action. If you’re going to install shelves in the garage or a hose hanger on an exterior block wall, it’s the way to go!
The impact driver part of the combo is a screwdriving specialist that makes the job easier when you’re setting screws into wood or concrete. Even though a drill can be faster, the impacting action gives you tons of torque without transferring that strain to your hands. It’s also typically better at keeping the bit engaged with the fastener so you don’t tear up as many screws heads.
Together, you can drill holes with your hammer drill and then set the screw with your impact driver and not have to switch out bits every time. For most homeowners, a 12-volt kit works great. Grab an 18V or 20V Max combo if you have ambitions of doing heavier DIY projects down the road.
Ryobi’s HP Compact combo is a great all-around set for homeowners. If you have more ambitious projects in mind, move up to Ryobi’s HP brushless combo.
#8 Get a Grip with a Pliers Set
A good hand tool set with a selection of pliers and wrenches is a lifesaver for a variety of repairs and installations. They can help you get stuck fasteners and connectors moving, connect wiring on new fans or lighting fixtures, and much more.
Look for a set that includes needle-nose pliers, slip joint pliers, and Channellock-style tongue and groove pliers at the very least. Locking pliers, diagonal cutting pliers, lineman’s pliers, and adjustable wrenches are all great bonuses in more comprehensive sets. Really, these are all really useful tools for any homeowner to have.
#9 Elevate Your Homeownership with a Ladder
While a lot of homeowners can get by with a simple step stool, a good ladder is something you really should have. You need enough reach to replace burned out can lights in the ceiling or get to your roof to install those Christmas lights. A 6-foot A-frame ladder is a good all-around choice.
If you want to take it a step further, a multi-position ladder adds even more options. These snap into place as an A-frame ladder and can also flip all the way around to become an extension ladder. With just one tool, you can reach the ceiling in the middle of the room and then go outside and climb up to the roof.
Check out Little Giant’s King Kombo for a multi-purpose ladder that’s flexible and isn’t too heavy.
#10 Light Up the Night with a Flashlight
Sooner or later, you’re going to be stuck trying to see into a dark corner and that makes a flashlight one of the most essential tools for new homeowners. Your cell phone can get the job done, but it’s not all that convenient, and it’s really not that good at it. You can grab a cheap AAA flashlight for just a few dollars.
However, most cordless tool brands also make lights. Getting one that works with the drill and impact driver combo you already have is a nice way to get a rechargeable model. We really like Makita’s DML12 as a comfortable, bright flashlight.
You can take things up a notch with a rechargeable headlamp. Not only do you not have to worry about keeping extra batteries on hand, but it also leaves both of your hands free to tackle the job. Southwire’s 120-lumen model does the job well for less than $40.
We limited ourselves to the top 10 tools we think you’ll need. There’s certainly more that you’ll need over the journey of homeownership, though. What essential tools for new homeowners would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!