Two years ago, sales surged at Home Depot as homeowners took it upon themselves to tackle home improvement projects during the first year of the pandemic. While not everyone was happy with how their projects turned out, this empowering move to learn how to take care of what you own was a step in the right direction.
There are two parts to having a successful home improvement project outcome. The first is gaining the needed skill and experience, which can only happen over time. The second is having the right set of tools. If you don't have what you need to get the job done, you're not going to get the job done.
Our home improvement expert, Beth Allen, founder of HIP Chicks (Home Improvement Project Chicks), has selected the best tools and tool sets to get for the handy homeowner on your shopping list.
Allen created this comprehensive list of the tools that a handy homeowner should have. Her insight gives the shopper a solid idea of what a quality tool set should include. It can be used to handpick individual tools one by one to custom build a comprehensive set. Or, it can be used as a guide to know which tools should be included in a pre-selected tool set. Either way, all of these tools make great gifts for the DIY enthusiast on your list.
"The number one item that any homeowner should have is a power drill because it will function as a drill and as a screwdriver," Allen informed. "The key here is the homeowner needs something that is light enough for them to comfortably use."
Allen said it was also important to decide if you want to gift someone a corded model or a battery powered drill. She recommended an 18 volt battery-powered model. Her favorite is the DeWalt Atomic 20-Volt Max Drill/Driver.
If drill bits do not come with your drill/driver, you will need to purchase a set separately. Allen advised getting a combination drill bit set so you can take full advantage of your drill/driver. She also suggested getting a set with both wood-boring and metalworking bits. The right combination drill bit set, such as DeWalt's combination drill bit set, can turn a drill/driver into 100 different tools.
Allen said you usually get a better hammer when you purchase one separately. She recommended looking for a model that was around 16 ounces. "If you are buying a prepackaged tool set, sometimes those hammers only weigh 8 or 12 ounces." Allen commented that this only makes them suitable for light-duty tasks. The Estwing straight-claw hammer is a solid 16-ounce model with a shock-reduction grip.
Pliers come in a wide variety of options. The most important ones to have in your tool set are a standard pair of slip-joint pliers as well as a pair of needle-nose pliers. Stanley has an excellent pliers set that includes slip-joint pliers, long-nose pliers and diagonal pliers.
When it comes to wrenches, Allen pointed out that some homeowners prefer an adjustable wrench while others want an entire set of crescent wrenches. While a Craftsman adjustable wrench can get you through a lot of projects, if you have the room for several pieces, a set of ratcheting combination wrenches is a good option.
If you've been following Beth's advice, you already have a drill/driver and a comprehensive bit set. However, she also recommends you get a stubby set of handheld screwdrivers: one flat head and one Phillips head. These screwdrivers are about 3 inches long and they let you work in tight spaces you can't reach with a power drill/driver. Klein Tools has a two-piece set with cushioned handles for increased comfort.
If you prefer to use a manual screwdriver, a ratcheting screwdriver set is a great option. These tool sets come with a number of bits that are housed in the handle, allowing you to use one tool in a variety of situations. Milwaukee has a quality high-torque ratcheting screwdriver set that can get the job done.
According to Allen, a socket set is not a must-have item. However, it can come in handy. If you want to take your skills to the next level, consider purchasing this for the handyperson on your gift list. DeWalt's 34-piece socket set is versatile enough to cover all your home needs.
"Don’t forget about Allen wrenches," Allen reminded. "It’s always good to have a set. We all probably have a pile of miscellaneous ones that came with whatever it is that we purchased. I have a little plastic bin full of Allen wrenches. One tip to make finding the right Allen wrench easier is to tape it to the product it came with. For instance, if a barstool came with an Allen wrench, tape it underneath the stool so you always know exactly where to find the right one."
Another solution is to purchase a set of folding Allen wrenches. Craftsman makes a 25-key set that keeps all your Allen wrenches neatly organized on three tools.
Another must for a handy homeowner is a measuring tape. If you get one in a pre-selected kit, it may only be 6 or 12 feet long. Allen highly recommends purchasing this item separately to get one that is 25 feet long. Stanley makes a highly rated 25-foot measuring tape that adheres to Allen's recommendations.
Even the most basic general tool set will include a utility knife. Again, to get the best, this is a tool that you'll want to purchase separately. Milwaukee's compact folding utility knife has a press-to-open feature that gives you access to the blade in an instant.
A torpedo level is a small tool that is only 6 to 9 inches long. It tells you when a surface is level. Your general tool set should include this item.
Tool sets do not include a caulking gun. However, this is an essential tool that you will use when you are doing trim work, plumbing, sealing drafts and more. You will want to purchase a quality model separately. Milwaukee makes a highly rated drip-free caulking gun that is suitable for a wide variety of applications.
Safety comes first. If the tool set you are considering does not include safety glasses, you must buy this item to protect the eyes. 3M makes one of the top models in the business. These glases are anti-fog, anti-scratch and have built-in ear plug control.
When you are first starting out, a bag or a case to carry your tools is important. However, the more tools you get, the harder it will be to fit them all into one bag. If the tool set you purchase comes with a bag, use it. However, if you are serious about becoming a handy homeowner, you'll eventually want to branch out to a tool cabinet or a workbench.
If you want to increase the versatility of projects you can easily tackle, there are five other tools that Allen recommends. You probably won't find these items in the average tool set, but they are all important to have.
This 68-piece combo kit has a lightweight, compact 20V Max drill/driver. It also comes with a hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, a wide selection of bits, a tape measure and more, making it a top choice gift for a handy homeowner.
This tool set is comparable to the Black and Decker option, but it does not feature a drill/driver. It does, however, have most of the essentials from Allen's list, including a socket set, pliers, Allen wrenches, a tape measure, a torpedo level, a hammer and a case.
The selling point of a Craftsman tool set is that it is covered by the company's impressive lifetime warranty. Purchasing this as a gift gives you peace of mind, knowing that if anything ever happens to the hammer, pliers, screwdrivers or other handheld tools, your recipient will be protected.
Sold by Amazon
This tool set carries a lower price and has a few different items that aren't in the other tool sets. For instance, it comes with spring clamps, scissors and a bottle opener. It also comes with all the expected tools, such as pliers, a hammer, a torpedo level, a utility knife and more.
For something completely different but remarkably versatile, Allen recommends this oscillating multi-tool kit from Dremel. "I cannot tell you how much I love this tool," she expressed. "It can bail you out of so many challenges."
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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.