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The Ultimate Guide to Essential Hand Tools for Home Improvement

17 min read

Top Hand Tools for Home Improvement

Tool Uses
Crowbar Pulling nails, demolition work
Hammer Hitting harder removable objects
Screwdriver Driving screws
Pliers Gripping and cutting work
Socket Wrench Tightening and loosening bolts and nuts

man using a screwdriver in his home workshop

The Basics List

There are a lot of essential tools you need to have around the house for getting repairs and home improvement projects done.

A quick and easy way to brush up on your basics is to look over this table.

We’ve outlined five of the most commonly used tools for home improvement projects - a crowbar, hammer, screwdriver, pliers, and a socket wrench - along with their various uses.

This table is a great reference guide to any DIYer or weekend warrior looking to sharpen up on their home improvement tool knowledge!

Why Hand Tools

Hand tools are still a true essential in the world of home improvement despite advances in power tools.

As craftsmen know, there’s no substitute for having the proper tool for a job and many intricate projects require hand tools to achieve professional results.

Hand tools are also important for safety; machines will do the work faster but they often demand more concentration for safe operation.

Hand tools require much less maintenance than their power-driven brethren and are more tactile, making it easier to use precision when necessary.

Hand tools are preferable for reaching tight spots and there’s no need to worry about cords or batteries.

No matter what the task is, a good set of hand tools can always come in handy.

The Basics: Must-Have Tools for Every Homeowner


The hammer is an essential tool for any homeowner who wants to tackle DIY projects.

It’s a handheld tool with a rectangular head made of metal, often fitted with a square base.

It’s used for driving nails into a surface such as wood or metal.

For smaller projects, a heavier hammer isn’t necessary.

Let’s take a look at the types of hammers available: Claw hammer is great for driving and pulling nails and can be used for small demolition work.

Ball peen hammer is great for metalworking and shaping.

Club hammer is great for heavy-duty demolition work such as breaking masonry or stonework.

When choosing a hammer make sure you pick the right type and size for your needs.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hammers!


Screwdrivers are a must-have tool for every homeowner.

They come in different shapes and sizes, which makes them ideal for working on a variety of projects.

The most common types of screwdrivers are flathead, Phillips head, and star head.

No matter what kind of screw you’re working with, there’s a screwdriver that can help you get the job done.

With a screwdriver, you can work on furniture, install faucets, and repair appliances.

It’s also important to make sure you have the right tips for the job.

For example, Phillips head is usually used for small screws, while star head is for larger ones.

Keeping the right screwdriver in your toolbox is key to successful DIY projects.


Pliers are essential tools for any homeowner’s toolbox.

Slip joint pliers are an adjustable variety perfect for gripping and twisting small parts, while needle nose pliers are great for working with fine wires.

Linesman pliers are helpful when cutting and stripping electrical wire.

If precision is necessary, mini pliers are ideal for detailed work in tight spaces.

Vise Grip pliers are handy for applications where clamping and turning are needed, while Channel Lock pliers are perfect for gripping larger items.

So, no matter what project you’re working on, there’s a type of pliers for the job.

Measuring Tape

Measuring tape is essential for any project - you’ll need it to measure components, check for accuracy, and measure out cuts.

Look for a long lasting steel tape measure with large, easy-to-read numbers.

A locking mechanism and a flush hook for accurate inside and outside measurements are important features.

If you’ll be working in tight spots, look for a tape measure with a slender, slim build with a blade up to 25 feet long.

For durability and accuracy, look for strong nylon-coated blades.

A belt clip adds convenience.

Remember to consider the tape’s width design - it should be easy to grip and comfortable for extended use.

Utility Knife

A utility knife is a must-have tool for any homeowner.

It’s the perfect go-to for any type of quick cutting job around the house.

Different types of utility knives are available from craft knives to retractable blades and even box cutters.

They are all suitable for making precise cuts in various materials and can handle a wide range of jobs.

A craft knife is ideal for cutting paper, fabric and thin plastic.

For the tougher jobs, a retractable blade utility knife is the best choice.

It can easily cut through cardboard or drywall, and has replaceable blades.

Lastly, a box cutter can cut cardboard boxes or plastic packaging without much effort.

Armed with a utility knife, no job around the house is outside your reach.

Woodworking Essentials


Chisels are essential tools for home improvement projects.

From cutting shapes to creating grooves, chisels are versatile and can get the job done.

There are several types of chisels, depending on the type of woodworking you are doing.

For example, a firmer chisel is great for cutting notches and mortises, while a skew chisel is better for creating curves.

Chisels are also effective for carving in intricate details, like engraving or creating ornate patterns.

When used correctly, a chisel is a safe and reliable tool that can help you achieve beautiful results.

Hand Saws

Hand saws are a must for any woodworking job.

They come in different types like crosscut saws, ripsaws, dovetail saws, and more.

The type you use depends on what you’re working on.

For cutting along the grain of wood, a crosscut saw is the best option.

Ripsaws are designed with thicker blades and cut with the grain of wood.

Dovetails saws are designed for making angled cuts, like those needed for dovetail joints.

All saws require careful handling to get the best cut.

Having the correct type of saw and learning how to use it right is essential for successful woodworking.


Clamps are essential for working with wood.

They come in a variety of sizes, from small clamps for a single project to larger ones for multiple tasks.

They can also be used to hold pieces of wood together for cutting, gluing, or sanding.

Clamps help you get a crisp, clean line and a tight fit when joining two pieces of wood.

They can also be used to hold other materials, like fabric or metal, together for welding or shaping.

Clamps are indispensable when undertaking any woodworking project.

Use them carefully and responsibly, and they’ll help you create strong, beautiful pieces.


Mallets are essential tools for any woodworking project.

They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials.

A wooden dead-blow mallet is great for driving wooden dowels into place without causing any damage.

Softer rubber or plastic mallets can be used to shape metal without marring it.

A claw hammer should always be used to drive nails into place since a mallet would not work for this purpose.

Really large mallets can handle heavy-duty hammering and shaping.

Mallets are multi-use tools and can be used to do a lot of different things in a woodworking project.

Electrical Work Essentials

Wire Strippers

Wire strippers are an essential tool for any electrical work.

They are used to remove insulation from electrical wires in order to make a connection.

The right stripper will depend on the size and type of wire you’re dealing with.

For most basic electrical work, a self-adjusting wire stripper is usually enough.

It can easily cut through copper and aluminum wires, as well as non-metallic sheathed cable, but it’s not the best choice for thicker, more specialized wires.

Other wire strippers include coaxial cable strippers, coaxial cable cutters, and specialty wire strippers which can be used for both rigid and flexible cables.


A multimeter is a must-have tool for any serious do-it-yourselfer.

It can measure voltage, current, and resistance.

When shopping for one, look for a meter with features like auto-ranging, a large digital display, and a backlight.

Also, make sure the meter is safety-rated; it should be UL-listed.

Portability is also important, so look for a unit with a holster or carrying case.

Finally, pay special attention to the included probes and probes tips—high-quality ones will make your job easier.

Non-Conductive Screwdrivers

Non-conductive screwdrivers are essential when doing electrical work.

They keep you safe from shocks and other electrical hazards.

Non-conductive screwdrivers are typically made of plastic or insulated material.

They also come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional straight types to star or hex-head screwdrivers, so you can find the right one for the job.

A non-conductive screwdriver is a must-have for electricians, DIYers and home-remodelers alike.

Plumbing Work Essentials

Pipe Wrench

Pipe wrenches are an essential tool for any plumbing job.

A traditional pipe wrench is an adjustable wrench with an angled jaw that grips onto different sizes of pipe.

A stillson wrench is similar but has a straight jaw; this type of wrench is used on thicker pipes.

For a tougher job, there’s the strap wrench, which has a band of cloth and can handle bigger, more stubborn pipes.

Once the pipe is secured in the wrench, it can be loosened or tightened by turning the handle.

Pipe wrenches are invaluable tools that help make any plumbing job easier.


A plunger is an essential tool for any plumbing job.

It is used to dislodge any blockages from drains and toilets.

There are two types of plungers: cup and flange.

Cup plungers get their name from their round or cup shape - this lets them make a vacuum-like seal when placed over a drain or toilet.

Flange plungers may look similar, but they include a collar (a soft rubber ring) at the bottom of the cup.

Flange plungers are best for sinks and bathtubs.

To use either type of plunger, the plunger is filled with water, then placed over the opening of the drain or toilet.

Depending on the size of the blockage, the plunger may need to be used several times before the blockage is cleared.

Teflon Tape

Teflon tape is an essential tool for plumbing work.

It helps create a tight, reliable seal between metal pipes, fittings, and valves.

To use it, simply wrap it around the threads of the pipe fitting, then tighten it.

This helps prevent leaks, and makes it easy to disassemble in the future.

Make sure to wrap it in a clockwise direction.

Also, use tape that’s at least 3/32 inch in thickness, and be sure to use multiple layers if necessary.

And don’t forget to give it a final twist to ensure a strong and lasting seal.

Teflon tape is cheap and easy to use, and it’s essential for any plumbing work job.

Painting and Finishing Essentials

Paint Scrapers

Paint scrapers are essential tools for home improvement projects.

From scraping up peeling paint and wallpaper to reaching into tight corners of a room, these versatile tools have multiple functions.

There are two main types of paint scrapers: one has a sharp blade fixed to a long handle, usually made of metal, while the other has a blade attached to a plastic handle.

Many paint scrapers also come with a flexible head which is especially useful for getting into tight spaces.

They’re also great for taking up dried caulk, adhesive, and putty, as well as stripping varnish and old paint.


Sandpaper is an essential tool for any home improvement project.

Different grits of sandpaper should be used for different kinds of surfaces.

For woodworking projects, start with a coarse-grit sandpaper to remove imperfections, then progress to finer grits for a smoother finish.

For plastic or metal surfaces, a finer grit should be used from the beginning.

Additionally, you can use sandpaper with a waterproof adhesive backing for wet sanding.

Other types of sandpaper, such as emery cloth, can be used for heavy-duty sanding for a variety of surfaces.

It is important to select the right type of sandpaper for whatever surface you are working on for the best results.

Putty Knife

Putty knife is one of the essential tools for home improvement.

There are two types of putty knives: flexible and stiff.

The flexible putty knife has a curved blade that’s great for getting into tight corners, while the stiff putty knife is best for the harder tasks.

It can be used to apply and spread putty, joint compound, caulk, and adhesives.

It can also remove paint, putty, and wallpaper.

Putty knives also work great to scrape, level, and smooth surfaces.

Be sure to use the right type of putty knife for the job at hand to avoid any damage to walls, surfaces, or tools.

Outdoor and Yard Essentials

Pruning Shears

Pruning shears are essential for keeping trees and shrubs looking great.

They are used to shape and trim branches and to remove dead or damaged parts.

There are two main types of pruning shears – bypass pruners which have two blades that pass by each other to create a scissor-like action; and anvil pruners which have one sharp blade that cuts against a flat anvil surface.

Bypass pruners are usually used for precision pruning of live plant material, while anvil pruners are less precise and work best on dead or tougher branches and woody stems.

Both types of pruners should be kept sharp, as dull blades can cause tearing and damage to branches.


Gloves are an important part of your toolkit.

They protect your hands from injury and irritation.

Choose gloves made of leather, cloth, or rubber for best protection.

Leather gloves help you get a better grip on tools and help absorb shock.

Cloth gloves are breathable and keep your hands cooler.

Rubber gloves are waterproof and offer good grip with plenty of flexibility.

For a snug fit, get gloves that have adjustable wrists or cuffs.

You’ll be able to keep dirt and debris out better with a secure fit.

As you choose gloves, make sure they fit well and are comfortable so you can stay safe and productive.


A spade or shovel is an essential tool for outdoor and yard work.

There are a variety of spades to choose from depending on what project you are working on.

For gardening or prepping land, use a round-point shovel.

It can easily dig a bed for plants or break up soil.

A square-point shovel is good for loading and moving heavy materials such as mulch or gravel.

A digging shovel has a pointed blade, great for deep holes, while a trenching shovel has a flat blade designed for cutting trenches.

To move large amounts of snow easily, use a snow shovel.

No matter what type you choose, a spade or shovel will help you get the job done.

Safety Gear

Safety Goggles

Safety goggles are a must-have when doing any type of home improvement project.

Protecting your eyes from debris, particles and chemicals is essential.

There are two types of safety goggles available; full-seal and indirect vented.

Full-seal goggles provide the most protection, as they completely encase the eyes and protect them from fluid splashes and dust.

Indirect vented goggles are designed with vents to allow air to circulate around the eyes, but provide enough protection to guard against dust and debris.

Some features to look for when buying goggles include an adjustable elastic strap, shatter-resistant lenses, and an anti-fog coating.

Remember to choose goggles that properly fit your face to ensure maximum protection and comfort.

Work Gloves

Work gloves are an absolute must for any home improvement project.

Choose gloves made out of durable material, like leather or an advanced synthetic.

Make sure the gloves fit snugly to your hands and wrists.

If you can feel a slight breeze when you move your fingers, the fit is too loose.

Also make sure you can grip objects securely and can perform your task with precision.

If the fit isn’t right, you risk hand fatigue and even injury.

Look for gloves with a textured or reinforced palm for extra grip, and reinforced at the knuckles, fingers, and wrists for added protection and better fit.

Ear Protection

It’s important to use ear protection when using hand tools at home.

Hearing loss can happen from prolonged exposure to loud noises.

Ear plugs, foam inserts, and ear muffs are all types of hearing protection.

Ear plugs are small and easy to store but might be uncomfortable for a long period of time.

Foam ear inserts are a bit bigger and will have to fit in the ear canal but are a bit more comfortable.

Ear muffs fit around the ears and will block the most amount of noise.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to protect your ears while working at home.

Storage Solutions


Toolboxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

They can be made from plastic, metal, or wood, and may have drawers or adjustable compartments.

They’re great for keeping your tools organized and easy to access.

Some come with wheels, making it easy to take them around with you.

Others come with a lock so only you can get to your tools.

For workshops, look for ones with drawers that slide out, and those with extra lids for added storage.

Look for ones with dividers in the drawers to keep your tools separate.

Get the right size for your space—bigger boxes are great if you have a lot of tools, while smaller boxes are better for a few.


A pegboard makes it easy to keep your tools organized and easily accessible.

Install one in your garage, shed or workshop to store all your essential tools.

You will need to buy or make mounting brackets to make sure the board is installed securely to the wall.

Once it’s in place, start sorting through your tools and decide how they’ll work best on your new pegboard.

For added convenience, mount tool holders and baskets on the wall as well.

This will help keep small items from getting lost or misplaced.

After everything is organized, simply hang your hand tools on the board where you’ll be able to easily find and access them.

Tool Belts

Tool Belts are a must-have if you’re carrying multiple hand tools for a home improvement project.

Look for tool belts made from heavy-duty canvas or nylon, which offer plenty of storage compartments for your tools.

Make sure the compartments are adjustable so they can fit a variety of tools.

Add a hammer loop at the hip for easy access and extra pockets for a cell phone and tape measure.

Finally, be sure to get a tool belt that has a comfortable, adjustable fit.

That way you can focus on the job and not your aching back!



Home improvement tasks require essential hand tools.

Have a hammer ready to put up wall decorations or hang pictures.

Nail an electric outlet in place with a screwdriver.

A pair of pliers can be used to twist or hold wires in place.

Keep a wrench around for fixing up plumbing.

Finally, use your saw to trim pieces of wood and other materials.

Taken together, these are the essential hand tools for home improvement projects.

Take good care of these tools and they will last for a long time.

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