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Essential Tools for the Not-So-Handy Homeowner (Part 1)

Not all homeowners spend their Saturday mornings up a ladder or under a sink channeling their inner Bob Villa or Tim Allen (depending on your generation).  Yet there will come a time when your house will need you to pick up some tools and get to work. Think about it: do you really want to pay someone to hang a picture, string Christmas lights or install a garden hose?  Even basic tasks like opening packages or leveling a piece of furniture would require a trip to the hardware store IF you haven’t assembled the Essential Tools For the Not-So-Handy-Homeowner.  Let TBH&H guide you so you are prepped when duty calls…


A hammer has to pack just the right amount of punch but it can’t drag you down either.  Finding right weight hammer for you will take a little testing in the hardware store. Try out a 12oz version first.  It’s just about right weight for most people.  Make sure to choose a claw hammer with a slip-resistant handle.  My personal favorite is a 12oz. Stanley Anti-Vibe claw hammer.  Anti-vibe means there’s less vibration of the hammer which puts more power where you want it, behind the nail.

Measuring Tape

Not all measuring tapes are built alike. You’ll never go wrong with the Stanley 26' LeverLock.  It’s just the right weight for clipping to your jeans and long enough to measure almost anything.  It is the most ergonomic locking measuring tape because it self-locks and you just squeeze your fingers to release the lock. The tape is easy to read and holds its shape for long distances when thinner tapes collapse after 10 or so feet.  It also takes a beating. I’ve dropped it from roofs, off ladders, into water, twisted and stepped on it.

Utility Knife

A well-designed Utility Knife can make a job much easier.   Whether you are just opening an Amazon package or scoring sheetrock, you want a knife that will make a sharp plunge cut (that’s when you first sink the blade into whatever material you are cutting.  The shape of the handle can really help put some muscle behind that plunge. The Stanley FATMAX Swivel Locking Retractable Utility Knife is among the best out there.  It has a hidden blade storage and is easy to reload, so you can change a blade in seconds - no screwdriver required!  Its ergonomic shape positions the blade at an optimal angle for effective cutting without hand fatigue.


You will need two levels.  The first, is called a torpedo level.  It is plastic with a magnetic edge and only 12inches long, making it the perfect size for hanging a small picture or installing a curtain rod (that’s really where the magnet comes in handy).  You will also want a slightly larger beam level – useful for lining up multiple pictures on a wall or leveling large furniture.  I recommend a lightweight, aluminum 24” level with a top read window so you can see the leveling bubble from multiple angles. 


You probably thought clamps were for hard-core DIYers.  Not so! Something is bound to break - a chair, a toy, the teapot your Nana gave your daughter for all those tea parties.  If you have Gorilla Glue and a good clamp, you can be an instant hero.  You don’t need a whole set of clamps, just two really good ones.  I suggest the Irwin Quik Grip 12” One-handed Mini Bar clamps.

Allen Wrench

Even the least handy homeowner will have a moment of bravado where he or she will tell themselves that assembling IKEA furniture is a no-brainer.  If find yourself heading down that road, you should have your own allen or hex wrench sets.  Because furniture comes from all around the globe you will want to have two sets of allen wrenches - one in metric units and one in standard.  A folding set is very convenient to store and easier to grip than individual hex wrenches. Gorilla Wrench sets are inexpensive and durable so you can assemble as many SVLENKAs or RIBBUTs as you have the patience to put together.