Must-have tools for homeowners (£250 BUDGET)
Buying your own home, maybe after renting or living with parents, is usually one of our main ambitions, a rite of passage that can be taken as a sign of independence and success, as well as a place to live. But when you’ve got your own property as opposed to sharing or renting someone else’s, there’s often a moment of realisation about responsibilities.
It’s not just about paying the mortgage and the council tax, onerous as those two regular payments may be. There are usually DIY jobs to be done, too! Where once your Dad might have fixed a broken floorboard, or your landlord re-washered a leaking tap, now you probably have to face lots of DIY challenges yourself!
As a homeowner, a dependable set of tools will prove invaluable to you. Attending to small jobs yourself rather than calling out professionals will save you a small fortune. The trick is to know what you can safely handle yourself, and what really does require professional help. None of us can guarantee precisely what jobs will crop up – although some of them, like plumbing in the washing machine and hanging curtains, are fairly predictable.
With a decent set of tools, you will be armed for a wide range of jobs in and around the home. Here’s Wonkee Donkee’s guide to the must-have tools for homeowners that won’t set you back more than £250!
If you need to drill into concrete block or brick (and unless you’ve bought a log cabin, you probably will), a hammer drill is a must. It has a mechanism that delivers thousands of bpm (blows per minute) to help push the drill bit into hard materials. You’ll be glad of it if, for instance, you’re putting up curtain rails and hit a very hard patch when drilling your pilot holes. A cordless drill with a lithium ion (Li-ion) battery is the most versatile for use both inside and outside, away from the mains supply. If you get a combi drill, you can use it as a screwdriver, too.
Although your drill may function as a screwdriver, there are situations in which there’s really no substitute for a hand-driven screwdriver. One probably isn’t enough – at a minimum, you’ll need a flat-bladed and a star-shaped (Phillips) type, or a screwdriver set with changeable bits that includes both types, and maybe a few more.
A toolbox isn’t complete without a solid claw hammer. One end of the head is used to drive nails in, the other to pull them out – but that’s an oversimplification of the uses of a hammer. It’s also great for helping to fit parts, shaping metal objects and breaking ice to go in celebratory drinks after a successful DIY job (although you may prefer a smaller, dedicated hammer for the latter). A hammer with a 16-inch handle weighing about one pound is ideal.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a workbench and a garage or shed to locate it, a small, portable workbench is a must for holding materials when cutting them to size or shaping them. Two sturdy wooden jaws serve as a vice, and pegs that fit into the top allow irregular-shaped objects to be held firmly. The bench folds up for neat storage.
Sooner or later (and probably sooner) you’ll need to cut some wood, or maybe wood-based sheet material such as plywood or MDF, to size. A powered circular saw would take a very large proportion of your budget, so unless you regularly have large amounts of sawing to do, a handsaw that can cut hardwood and softwood is more appropriate. It should cope well with wood-based sheet materials, too.
Here’s the twist – a trio of pliers sets you up for lots of fiddly jobs like twisting wire together, cutting cable, and sometimes even tightening nuts and bolts when you don’t have a spanner that fits (although Wonkee’s next recommendation should solve that problem). When it comes to holding small items while they’re being worked on or positioned, pliers have no equal, so get a grip and find yourself a suitable set today.
It’s quite possible to have a set of spanners but still not have one that fits the particular nut or bolt you want to turn! Although it has its limitations, an adjustable spanner should mean you usually have at least one spanner that fits – and it’s a lot cheaper than buying every fixed size possible. Whether it’s a metric or imperial nut or bolt, an adjustable spanner is usually up to the job.
Ruler and Square
We’ve grouped these three together as they are quite closely related – all used for ensuring your work is accurately measured, marked and leveled. You’ve probably heard the old saying – measure twice, cut once. Or maybe your partner has encouragingly intoned: “Get this wrong and there’ll be big trouble!” The following three tools should help ensure your measuring and marking is spot on every time, and that the partnership survives.
Apart from using it to measure your materials when cutting and shaping, it’s a good idea to take a tape measure with you when furniture shopping so you can check if an item is going to fit the intended space. You can also use it for measuring floors for carpet and other coverings, and walls for wallpaper and paint quantities.
After investing in a set of tools, you’ll want to keep them in good condition and protect them from damage and possible corrosion. A bag keeps them in one place so they’re easy to find, and makes it more convenient to take your tools from one job to another around the house. But don’t try to fit the workmate in this!