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The old adage, “the right tool for the right job,” is a proven truism.

Even small construction jobs require an amazing number of tools to accomplish in an expeditious and professional manner.

You can get by with a minimal inventory of hand tools for most DIY projects, but without the proper hand and power tools the results will often be rough and ragged around the edges.

The beauty of power tools is their ability to cut cleaner, drill faster, sand quicker and nail smarter than most any pro can do with hand tools. The list of recommended power and hand tools below is based on the ones I use most often.

Recommended tools

Battery Operated Drill — This is one of the most versatile and indispensible tools because it allows you to zoom around the job without being tethered to an extension cord. Most battery-operated drills have powerful, 18-volt batteries, and astounding torque. Some are quite bulky, so when shopping for a battery-operated drill, hold each candidate in your hand (with battery attached) before making your selection.

Electric drill — Many electric drills deliver a higher RPM that a battery drill, which comes in handy when making multiple holes, especially in old wood. Hacksaw with metal cutting blade.

Reciprocating saw — With one of these you will never need a hacksaw again. I recommend Milwaukee brand Sawzall.

Pry Bar— My favorite is the Stanley Wonder Bar.

Level — A 2-foot level allows for use in tighter spaces, such as closets. But a 4-foot level also comes in handy for many projects, and serves as a great straight edge when cutting plywood sheets with a circular saw.

25-inch tape measure — Look for a tape with a firm, broad blade so you can extend the tape greater distances without it snapping down.

Utility knife (box cutter) — For safety’s sake, be sure to select one with a retractable blade.

Adjustable wrenches, 8-inch and 12-inch.

Pliers — An electrician’s combination pliers is most versatile.

Needle nose pliers — It comes in handy when working in tight spaces.

Nail punch set— Often sold in sets of three with a range of widths.

Putty knife — Choose a painter’s six-in-one putty knife, along with a flat ¾-inch and 1½-inch knife.

Chisel set — At minimum, select one with a ¾-inch, 1-inch and 1½-inch chisel.

Locking pliers — Commonly sold under the Vice Grip brand, this tool can be a knuckle savor when attempting to loosen a rusted nut or bolt.

Claw hammer — Skip the 26-ounce framing-hammer. A 16-ouncez finish hammer and a 20-ounce “waffle-head” for driving larger nails will handle any DIY task.

High-speed steel cutting drill bit assortment .

Screwdriver set — Get an assortment of Phillips and flathead. If your DIY projects are few and far between, there’s no problem purchasing an inexpensive set, but if your needs are greater, the Sears Craftsman or similar quality brand is recommended.

Speed Square, framing square and combination-square — The triangular shaped speed squares are compact and, just like the combination square, are designed for both right angle and 45 degree marks. But the speed square also has handy incremental marks between right angle and 45 degrees. A framing square comes in handy when extending a mark across a wide board or sheet of plywood.

Stud finder.

Socket wrench set.

Allen wrench set.

Two 12-inch pipe wrenches.

Crosscut handsaw.

Compound miter saw — Commonly called a “chop saw,” an ideal choice is one that can tilt to 45 degrees in addition to swinging in a 45 degree radius, as well as slide mounted that allows cutting wider material in a single pass. A compound miter saw is also ideal for making perfect crown molding cuts. I recommend the 10” Ryobi brand, about $200.

Compressor & nail guns.

Crown stapler.

Pin nailer.

Finish nailer.-Framing gun.

Two 25-foot extension cords.

Electric staple gun.

Circular saw.


Belt sander.

Random-orbit sander.

Vibrating sander.

Compact table saw — A table saw is another time savor and ensures clean linear-cuts needed for so many tasks. If your needs are infrequent, decent, affordable 10-inch saws include Ryobi brand for about $129, and Rockwell for about $169.

Safety glasses.

Work gloves.

3M brand N-95 dust masks.

Tom Wilmer has been a licensed general contractor since 1986. Contact him with questions or comments at tomwilmer@aol.com.

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