Hi Remodelaholics! It’s LZ from The Summery Umbrella, and I have a question for you.
Have you ever seen a DIY project you would absolutely love to create or maybe you already have an idea, but you have absolutely no idea what tools to use or perhaps buy? Well, have no fear! I am here today to help you with your dilemma.
Tools don’t have to be scary, and with the proper guidance and practice you too can create projects you will be proud of for many years to come. So, let’s get started!
First, let me start by saying that there are so many tools and brands from a variety of stores to select from, and everyone is going to have their own preference. The tools that I will be going over today are my husband and I’s favorites to use because of their price and function capabilities. He’s an amazing woodworking expert so he’s taught me everything that I know.
Note: Please excuse the paint, glue and random bits of wood all over our tools. We use them on a daily basis!
12 Top Tools for DIY Projects
1. Standard Level
What it does: It shows you when your frame of choice is horizontal to the earth’s surface. There is an air bubble inside each of the vials of liquid (there are three in the below picture), and when it is directly in the center (between the two lines) it indicates that you are indeed level.
An example: This handy dandy tool is amazing to use when you’re putting up a shelf. Just place it on top of any of your shelves in question, and you’ll know immediately if your books will be sliding off or you’re good to go!
Our recommendation: A Task Force Standard Level from Lowe’s will definitely do the trick, and you can find them in a variety sizes depending on your project needs.
Price range: $4 – $90
2. Tape Measure
What it does: Measures! There are quite a few different lengths that you can select from so make sure to choose one that will best fit your needs.
An example: If most of the rooms in your home are 25 feet wide find a tape measurer that will accommodate this length.
Our recommendation: Any will do. We probably have 10 different brands and sizes between the two of us.
Price range: $5 – $25
3. Speed Square
What it does: It is used to make basic measurements and mark lines. The most common function is to mark square lines at 90 degrees from your board’s edge; however you can also use this tool as a protractor and a line scriber to mark out precise increments.
An example: You can use a tape measurer to draw out a line on your board that you would like cut, but will it be exactly 90 degrees? Probably not. The speed square has a “lip” (which is on each of the examples below) that is placed on your board’s edge so you can get an exact and precise 90 degree angle every time.
Our recommendation: The brand is not as important as its features. Ensure that you purchase one that has a “lip” and a scribe bar (example: the yellow one below).
Price range: $5 – $25
What it does: Delivers a powerful blow to the object your hitting, and the rip claw (the opposite end of the head) can pull out unneeded nails. They can come with several different handles i.e; wood, fiberglass and metal.
An example: In DIY projects you will most typically use it for driving nails into boards however, you can also use them for smashing through drywall for a starting point when replacing the old drywall.
Our recommendation: A 16 oz. hammer. This is a moderate weight that isn’t too heavy, but is still capable of driving in good sized nails. The handle choice is up to you!
Price range: $4 – $35
5. Quick Clamps
What it does: Is a device used to tightly join and secure objects together with pressure from both sides.
An example: You may need to glue two pieces of wood together for a shelf, table, etc. and using one (or more) clamps will help you keep your boards together for long periods of time while the glue dries, or you can also use them as an extra “hand” to hold your project together until you get a nail or two in it.
Our recommendation: It will ultimately depend on the size of your project as they range from 12″-48″ in length. Having a few different sizes on hand is always helpful.
Price range: $10 – $50
6. Cordless Drill, Driver and Bits
What it does: Initially a drill was just that, a tool for drilling holes. Now with all the bits available they can do much, much more. They can also be used as a screwdriver for all sorts of heads (phillips, slotted, allen, square).
An example: Any time you need to join two pieces of wood with screws you can pre-drill the screw hole (which prevents splitting and cracking of the wood) then swap out the drill bit for a screwdriver tip and drive the screw home. There are plenty of combos that you can purchase that now come with a drill and a driver (as shown in the images below) thus eliminating the need to swap out bits.
Our recommendation: As long as you get a cordless set that is within your price range. This Hitachi set is one that I use on a daily basis, but Mike likes his Ryobi set that came with a few other features.
Price range: $79 – $200
7. Detail Palm Sander
What it does: It smoothes down rough surfaces.
An example: There are endless possibilities! You can use it to sand down edges on a table you’ve created, or even assist you when you are going for a distressed appearance.
Our recommendation: I use the cheapest model out there. It’s a Harbor Freight Palm Sander (see image below), and I’m pretty rough on it. I use it at least 4-5 times a week, and I probably drop it that many times as well. Thankfully it can handle being mistreated! Not to mention, since this sander has a pointed end it allows me to sand down hard to reach angles that a random orbital sander would not be able to do.
Price range: $20 – 75
8. Air Compressor & Brad Nailer Set
What it does: Allows you to quickly drive in fine wire brad nails that are very common for home renovation projects. They are also very aesthetically pleasing to the eye since they are so small and nearly invisible.
An example: I absolutely do not know what I would do without these tools! I use them in almost every project or product that I create. For instance, think planter boxes, shelves, picture frames, adding trim as well as baseboards.
Our recommendation: Buy the air compressor and brad nailer as a set. You’ll not only save yourself money, but also the set will come with the recommended hose and brad nailer. I found a Bostitch set on Lowe’s with great reviews to give you an idea of what to look for.
Price range: $150 – $300
What it does: It’s a power tool that is used to cut shapes out of a variety of materials.
An example: If you ever need to cut out a specific shape (like a heart or a Christmas tree) in a piece of wood the jigsaw is the tool for you.
Our recommendation: This is a tough one! I highly suggest that you buy in your price range since they all serve the same general purpose. However, some jigsaws have great features to look for like tool-free blade changing and variable speeds.
Price range: $35 – $350
10. Circular Saw
What it does: This type of saw is very popular among DIY avengers and comes handheld with a circular blade that is used for both ripping (with the wood grain) and crosscutting (against the wood grain). It can come with a variety of blades that will allow you to cut not only wood, but also ceramic tile and steel.
An example: Since this saw is so portable it is a great tool for when you’re creating your very own deck.
Our recommendation: Once again, I would go with your price range, but I would highly suggest a battery operated circular saw. Cords are dangerous! Just think of the tripping hazardous alone.
Price range: $40 – $200
What it does: It allows you to cut quickly and accurately at a variety of angles with an mounted blade that can swivel from left to right.
An example: Think crown molding, trim, board shortening and other quick, short cuts that will be needed during any project.
Our recommendation: Purchase a compound mitre saw within your budget. You might not need to cut angles on two separate planes right now, but if you ever do you won’t have to worry about purchasing a different mitre saw since yours will already have the capability.
Price range: $120 – $800
12. Table Saw
What it does: This saw has a blade that is fixed into place within its design, and was created to make rip cuts (aka. with the wood grain) more accurately than with a circular saw.
An example: Table saws are ideal to use when you need to cut big, long pieces.
Our recommendation: A benchtop table saw. Why? They’re mobile, affordable and don’t take up as much space.
Note: This image is not a benchtop saw. We have our own woodworking shop so we decided on a table saw that could be fixed in place since it will always have a space of its own.
Price range: $150 – $1,000
Also, I would like to suggest that you can purchase quite a few of these tools as a set, and save yourself a few bucks. Furthermore, if you purchase a set and they all have the same battery you can trade them out anytime you please. For instance, when I was searching for sets I found a Ryobi 6-tool set for $299 that might be right up your alley for the price and features.
Looking for one extra tool for your wishlist? Try a rotary tool — there’s at least 10 ways to use it!
You might also like reading this old post, the top 10 tools for remodeling.
And, if you need a pep talk, try How to DIY if You’re Terrified of Power Tools.