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10 tools every new homeowner should own - and 3 they shouldn't

By: Daniel Bortz, The Washington Post
April 7, 2018 Updated: April 7, 2018 at 8:43 am
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photo - Must-have tools for every new homeowner. MUST CREDIT: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
Must-have tools for every new homeowner. MUST CREDIT: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) 

Ahh, the joys - and burdens - of becoming a homeowner.

Buying a home is an exciting milestone, but then you're responsible for maintenance.

With a few essentials in your toolbox, though, you can make some common repairs yourself. That will save you money, as repair people typically charge $60 to $65 an hour, according to HomeAdvisor.

But don't cheap out on tools, says home improvement expert Bob Vila.

"It's best to avoid the bargain bin at the big-box stores in favor of a good hardware store that can point you to the better brands," Vila says.

Says Bruce Irving, a renovation consultant and real estate agent, "There's nothing more expensive than a cheap tool."

Here are 10 tools every homeowner should have - and three that are better left to professionals.

1. Claw hammer: You likely already own one. One side of the hammerhead is flat and used for pounding, while the other has a V-shaped notch that can extract nails from wood without damaging the nails or surface. Vila recommends Estwing's 16-ounce Straight-Claw Hammer With Shock Reduction Grip ($20.97 at Home Depot).

2. Manual screwdriver set: A manual screwdriver is one of the most frequently used tools in any household. Buy a package with multiple blade tips and sizes.

3. Cordless drill: A cordless drill will be the "most-used tool in your tool kit," says Brian Kelsey, a contractor and host of the online video series "Kelsey on the House." Using a battery-powered drill means you don't have to worry about finding an outlet or snaking a cord into tight spaces.

4. Level: When hanging artwork, mirrors or shelves, use a laser level to ensure everything is straight. Home improvement and design website the Spruce recommends the MICMI A80 ($10.49 on amazon.com). If you can splurge, go for the Hammerhead Compact Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser With Clamp ($49.99 on amazon.com), which can produce a bright horizontal, vertical or cross line on any surface up to 30 feet away.

5-6. Needle-nose and tongue-and-groove pliers: Irving recommends having both. Use needle-nose pliers to bend and grip nails and wires where bulkier tools or fingers can't reach. The tongue-and-groove pliers are good for fastening and crimping.

7. Allen wrench set: A hex key, also known as an Allen wrench, is a small, L-shaped wrench used to drive bolts and screws with hexagonal sockets. An Allen wrench is often included in build-it-yourself furniture, but it also can be used for basic plumbing repairs, Vila says.

8. Putty knife: Whether you're filling cracks, scraping dry paint or applying caulk, Irving recommends using a putty or spackle knife with a stiff, metal 2-inch blade.

9. Staple gun: Great for retacking carpet, securing fabric and installing sheets of insulation, a staple gun is the perfect tool for quick fastening jobs. Manual staple guns are the tool of choice for most homeowners because they're easier to use and less expensive than electric and pneumatic staple guns.

10. Digital tape measure: A digital tape measure makes it easier to quickly and accurately record and convert measurements. The popular eTape16 Digital Tape Measure ($28 at Home Depot) extends up to 16 feet and has a memory function to store measurements.

Three tools you don't need: Although a table saw, circular saw and hacksaw are all useful, they must be handled with caution. Each year, emergency rooms treat more than 36,000 injuries from table saws, reports the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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