Must-Have Tools Every Handyman Needs

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You haven’t retired—you’ve been “repurposed.” Let it slip that you’re handy, and you’ll never be lonely or bored. Handy people are in demand everywhere: if you’re the one who gets the call to come and fix things that are broken, hang shelves that need hanging, or frame things that need framing, here are must-have tools every handyman needs:

Tool Bag, Belt, or Box

They called you because they’re confident you know what you’re doing, so reward their trust by looking the part. A well-organized toolbox or bag will keep your most essential tools close by and easy to find.

Adjustable Wrench

A full set of wrenches is cool, but it’s also heavy and takes up a lot of toolbox space. You never know what size thing needs loosening or tightening, so an adjustable wrench is a must-have.

Cordless Drill

It doesn’t just drill holes. A cordless drill converts into a power screwdriver, and with some jazzy attachments it will even mix paint or concrete.

Stud Finder

Plaster walls with metal lath or studs that are close together can be hard to read. New construction may have steel framing. Get a stud finder that will work in various environments and give you a more accurate notion of where the studs—that way, you don’t have to keep banging on the wall.

Staple Gun

Fixing upholstery or attaching wire mesh to a deck to keep critters out requires a good staple gun. If you’re getting into bigger jobs, like framing walls or replacing subfloors, you might need a nail gun—make sure you know exactly how a pneumatic nail gun works.

Level

Eyeballing the cabinet, picture, or shelf doesn’t do the trick when you’re doing it for someone else. Get a level—carpenter’s levels will check for plumb when framing a wall; levels now even come in laser versions or apps on a smartphone.

Claw Hammer

It pounds nails in, but it also pulls them out. It’s useful for demo work, too. Having a claw hammer in your arsenal is a must.

Wire-Strippers and Electrical Tester

If you do electrical work or you’re setting up a cable TV, a wire-stripper is a must-have tool every handyman needs. The electrical tester will determine whether an outlet is working or not.

Tape Measure

Measure twice, cut once, right? A retractable, locking tape measure is fine. If you want to be impressively high-tech, you could go with a laser version.

Manual Screwdriver Set and Allen Wrenches

The power drill won’t be necessary for a lot of smaller fixes, so have both Phillips and straight screwdrivers. Many homeowners are ordering furniture online, and even if they successfully assembled it with the Allen wrenches included in the box, they will certainly have lost them by the time the piece needs tightening up or adjustment.

Needle-Nose and Vise-Grip Pliers

These can get into smaller places than conventional pliers and are useful for grabbing, cutting, or bending wire. Vise-grip pliers lock, so if it’s only you trying to loosen or tighten something, you can lock it and use both hands. It doubles as an adjustable wrench or clamp.