Tips and Advice

10 essential tools you should have in your toolbox

Enhance your home improvement game with this list of the top 10 tools to have in your arsenal – whether you’re a budding builder or DIY dab hand

1. Toolbox

A quality toolbox is the first port of call for any budding DIYer. A decent toolbox can cost as little as $13, depending on your size requirements and the brand. Look for something tough enough to stand on – you’ll find it handy when you need a bit of extra reach.

2. Small tools

Fill your toolbox with basics such as a set of Allen keys, a measuring tape, electrical and duct tape, a builder’s knife and the all-important builder’s pencil (or a few if yours often go walkabout). You’ll also need a spirit level, because no one wants wonky shelves; a decent set of pliers – great for gripping and holding objects firmly, especially those in tricky positions; and an adjustable wrench or spanner to tighten and loosen a range of nuts and bolts.

3. Screwdrivers

Make sure you buy a decent screwdriver set with a variety of sizes in both Phillips and flathead shapes. Screwdrivers are often used for more than just tightening screws – they are useful for opening paint tins, levering small items, scraping, picking and more.

4. Hammer

No toolbox is complete without a classic builder’s claw hammer. Try holding a few different brands – you’ll find they all have a different feel. Pick the one that feels right for you and fits your budget. The handle should fit in your hand comfortably and the weight should be easy for you to handle. A 12oz hammer is the standard size but, depending on your strength, you may opt for a 10oz.

Specialized tools

Beyond these first four basic DIY tools, renovation equipment starts to get more expensive and specialised. It’s only worth investing in the tools numbered five to 10 if you are confident you will be regularly maintaining and updating your home. Take time to consider how often you’ll use them, the skill level required, the time investment needed, the space needed to use them safely, and the expense. You may find it’s more cost-effective to rent tools or get tradies in to complete one-off jobs.

5. Drill

A cordless drill should be next on your list. It will make DIY projects so much easier than fiddling around with hand drills and screwdrivers. As well as drilling holes and driving screws, you can use purpose drill bits for specialist jobs such as cutting large holes and sanding. Most cordless drills come with two rechargeable batteries, so you can keep one on charge and swap it out when the one you’re using gets low.

6. Sander

For painting projects, it’s almost certain the surface will need to be sanded down beforehand. Save time and effort by investing in a handheld sander to create a perfectly smooth surface for applying paint and lacquer. For bigger jobs such as flooring and decking, you’re better off renting a floor sander or getting a professional in to do the job.

7. Saw

The type of saw you need will depend on the type of work you’ll be carrying out. Bow, coping and toolbox saws are great for small jobs, but if you need something with a bit more power, a good place to start would be a jigsaw. These are great for following line work, especially curved patterns and shapes. If you’re looking for something to tackle larger tasks around the house, such as new decking or flooring perhaps, opt for a circular saw or mitre saw.

8. Safety gear

Make sure you’ve got the appropriate safety gear for all your DIY needs: a sturdy pair of work gloves to protect your hands, a decent pair of safety goggles to look after your eyes, high decibel-rated ear protection, an appropriate mask for the job you’re undertaking (check the rating to ensure the mask is suitable for the level of dust, fumes or paint you’ll be working with) and a pair of steel-toe footwear.

9. Painting tools

For DIY painters, a set of paint brushes, rollers, a paint tray and a roller handle extension is a great place to start. A paint spray gun will give a superior finish, but it requires specialist application techniques to prevent running and other issues. For large one-off jobs and any significant exterior house painting I recommend getting a tradie in to ensure a professional finish without the stress.

10. Angle grinder

If you’re planning a lot of DIY including metal work, an angle grinder is worth investing in. Tradies from nearly every industry rely on these so it makes sense for a passionate and active DIYer to make the investment, too. Like cordless drills, many attachments can be purchased for a range of jobs. They can be used for removing paint and rust, cleaning, polishing and cutting metal. They can also be used to sand, shape and carve wood, and sharpen garden tools. Be aware that safe use of this tool requires direction from an experienced operator, and full safety gear is essential.

Reno specialist

Jeremy Wyn-Harris has come up with the ultimate toolkit for us, from the basic items necessary for tightening, fixing, attaching, assembling, hanging and completing other simple maintenance jobs around the home, to more advanced tools for specialised jobs. Jeremy is the CEO of, an online service which connects tradespeople with property owners.

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Words by: Jeremy Wyn-Harris. Photography by: Derek Swalwell/

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