The shelf hanging kit had me at a loss. Not because I didn’t understand the instructions – my father’s a carpenter and we had grown up playing in his workshop – but because I didn’t have any tools of my own! How had I let that happen?
It was my first apartment, and of all the things I had remembered to buy, I hadn’t bought a set of home improvement and maintenance tools. My father and his workshop were two hours away and we had a set of shelves that needed to go up, preferably before I left for work.
My boyfriend at the time wasn’t a lot of help, either.
“What’s a level? It says you need a level and a … Philips screwdriver? There isn’t one in the kit.”
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Do you think of home repairs as something only husbands and boyfriends take care of?
I suppose that would be great if we always had a handy man around who owned his own tools, knew how to use them and was at our beck and call … and if we really wanted to be that dependent on, well, anyone!
Whether you’re moving into your first apartment, buying a house, planning to hold down the fort solo while hubby’s on a business trip or just straight out need to what he isn’t inclined to do … the time has come to have your own set of home improvement tools.
Hey, if you already have your own full sets of tools that you use all the time, or you are the handyperson around the house while your partner can’t put in a nail, this isn’t for you! 😀 You probably knows someone who needs this list, though. Some of the best DIYers I know are women. But the rest of you – you know who you are!
A fold-up step ladder looks like a clunky, cumbersome thing that should be avoided if at all possible.
But really, they’re lightweight and easy to move from room to room and up and down stairs – even if you’re a short woman like me. I don’t like waiting for ‘the tall person’ to get home so that I can deal with high up messes. I have a small step stool that my dad made for me (thanks, Dad!) for reaching things in the 6-7′ range, but if it’s higher than that, I need a step ladder.
One day last summer, a little friend of ours dropped his cup of blueberry milkshake. Equal and opposite reaction – the cup hit the floor and the contents of the cup hit our 8 1/2′ ceiling! He got pretty covered in blue as it went up.
The ceiling looked worse. I stared at it for a moment, wondering if it would stain by the time EJ got home, and then my dad (who was visiting) reminded me that we had recently bought a multi-fold ladder – and this was the perfect time to try it out!
What do you think of my oh-so-retro kitchen floor covering, by the way?
Most people don’t have to reach quite that high, but make sure you can reach your highest ceilings. Light bulbs need changing, blueberry milkshake needs wiping, clocks need new batteries. And then there are the outside chores like hanging lights or flower baskets.
You could balance carefully on that lawn chair and try, try, try to reach without falling on your butt, but wouldn’t a ladder work better?
Besides, you know you wouldn’t land on your butt! You’d go sideways, knock all the flowerpots over on your way down, land on your right shoulder, twisted in a painful pile, and then have to make an emergency call to the physiotherapist.
Just get a multi-fold ladder. It’s far cheaper than the physiotherapist.
Hammer and nails
Before you go shopping for hammers, let me make it really clear – you don’t need a pretty pink one. In fact, I usually find that the pretty pink tools are so lightweight that they’re better suited for adolescents.
My ten year old just looked over my shoulder and wants you all to know that even he uses a proper hammer. So there’s that.
I like hammers. I love the way they feel in my hand, and I like that almost any problem can be solved with a hammer and a nail. Okay, maybe not solved well, but …. solved.
You really need your own hammer or even a set of hammers.
Get one with a wooden or rubber end for a good grip. And definitely pick up a collection of nails. You might be shocked at the variety of nails out there. Just like you wouldn’t want to have ONE size needle for sewing everything, you also want to have different nails for different jobs.
I’m lucky that my father was a carpenter so we grew up learning how to hammer nails safely and accurately, but if that isn’t your background, a short time on Youtube will give you all the instruction you need. Watch your thumb – EJ broke his thumb with a hammer a few years ago, and it was definitely not a pleasant experience.
Compared to everything else you tackle in your days, learning to hammer a nail is going to be easy.
One screwdriver is not enough. And if you’re still using a butter knife anytime you have a screw to turn …. please stop wrecking your butter knives.
You’ll need a set of maybe four or five basic screwdrivers. At the very least, you need one to replace the batteries on all those toys that talk, walk, beep and buzz …
or …. well, maybe not …
Okay, you need screwdrivers to change the batteries in the wall clock, tighten the legs on your coffee table and fix the door hinges when the children swing off them and loosen the screws.
Honest to goodness, any mom needs her own set of screwdrivers.
Robertson screws have a square slot in them.
Phillips screws have a cross-shaped slot in them.
I am not talking about those giant wire cutters that you see criminals use in movies. These little wire snippers are kind of cute, and you’ll use the same one for crafting, gardening and home decorating. They take care of those miserable plastic ties that are on all toys, too.
Picture hanging hooks of different sizes
When those Command strips first came out, I used them to hang a precious photograph of my great-grandfather. The package promised that it would hold.
That’s when I learned that nothing replaces good old-fashioned picture hanging hooks.
You have your own hammer now. Go hang pictures properly so Gramps doesn’t come crashing to the floor.
Again, this is something you’ll use for hanging pictures — and for putting up shelves and racks, ensuring that the oven and stove are balanced, and all sorts of jobs.
Your children will also have a blast playing with the level and its fascinating little windows and tubes of water.
It’s amazing how often I reach for a tape measure.
From measuring your children’s feet to figuring out if that fridge is going to fit in that spot (it didn’t!) to planning out garden beds and maximizing shelf space in your deep pantry, measuring tapes are really important.
Wrenches tighten and loosen things that human hands can’t quite handle. You probably won’t use your wrench collection much, or at least let’s hope not. But it will be comforting to know that if a fitting ever comes loose or a pipe under the sink begins leaking, you’ll have your wrench handy to make easy work of the task.
Industrial sized stapler
What if the back of your (cheap) shelves comes off?
There are a lot of quick little repairs that are best done with a staple gun. Since we’re not replacing the old windows in our house until next spring, we used our staple gun to fasten a double layer of 6mm plastic on all the windows. No, it’s not pretty, but it’s keeping the heat in the house until we can get together $18,000 to replace all of these custom-built-in-1887 windows!
If Nothing Else
If you don’t do ANYTHING else, this is the tool set that I started with.
When EJ and I first met, all of his tools were in storage, so we used this set for quite a while. Even after we got his tools, this simple all-in-one kit met most of our needs. It’s easy to carry around and has pretty much every tool you’ll need on a regular basis. Add a staple gun and a multi-fold ladder, and you’re good for a while.