There are thousands of tools out there, each with a thousand jobs associated with them. The further one slips into the rabbit hole of home improvement — or, in most cases, home maintenance — the more tasks are revealed.
But we’ve arrived at a point now where tools are inventing the tasks — new tools are often strictly mono-functional, and therefore less valuable on the whole. To remedy this tools-before-tasks inflation, we’ve rounded up the 25 most necessary, multifunctional, generally useful tools out there. Some are obvious, some less so, but they all deserve a spot in the toolbox.
You’ll need them for everything from removing the vent on your wall to changing the batteries on your nephew’s Tonka trucks to fixing a home full of Ikea furniture. You’ll probably need these simple stalwarts more for day-to-day duties than any other tool in the metaphorical shed. This one is a Phillips and flathead combined for $4.
Call it trashy all you want, there will be a time you wished you had Duct tape nearby. Invented by a mother who wanted to make sure ammo boxes in WWII stayed together during combat, the fabric-based tape is traditionally covered in an aluminum powder, giving it the classic gray color.
If the safety of your eyes isn’t worth $5, a real argument could be made that you don’t deserve eyes.
Gerber is a good company that makes good products — like this utility knife. Use it to open boxes, clean your finger nails, whatever… just use it. You won’t find a better value for $6.
These little guys are less than 10 cents a piece and are bound only by your ability to find more and more applications for them. Need something to temporarily hold a pipe in place? Done. A way to keep your luggage slightly more secure on vacation? Check. The list is as long as you make it.
What needs to be said that hasn’t already been said about a good adjustable wrench? Nothing, so just get one.
Confusingly, the 25-foot variety of the best and most classic tape measure out there is more affordable than its smaller variants. All the same, there’s no work to be done without a few seconds of sizing things up. Measuring tape is as necessary as it gets.
Stanley’s tools follow three rules — simple, cheap and effective. This trio of pliers is good for most run-of-the-mill plier tasks like cutting, holding or twisting wires, cutting thin metals or get a grip on a particularly slippery bolt.
The amount of small tasks a painter’s tools is game to accomplish is only limited by the user’s creativity. Paint scraper, putty knife, caulk evener, beer opener and more, it’s about as useful as they come.
In the age of all-digital everything, wireless is king. But, the things that haven’t yet solved that riddle will inevitably need cable mending. Electrical tape is the easiest solution to a cracked or frayed cable, and it’s dirt cheap.
Have you ever felt that urge to slap yourself in the face for touching a live socket when you thought it wasn’t? This tool stops that from happening, and it may help your kid or neighbor down the street win the science fair. Plus, it’s all of $9.
The savior of creaky doors everywhere is good for more than 2,000 other jobs as well, per its own website. As the product description reads, it’s “SAFE FOR ALMOST ANYTHING” and allows you to “BE READY FOR ANYTHING.”
The number of these hexagonal tightening bastards that have been lost for all time is likely innumerable. Get Stanley’s handy fold-out set that keeps them all in one spot.
At 35 cents a foot, AmazonBasics’ extension cord is the best value extension cord out there. And unless you’re in need of some super-rugged cord for your very extreme life, it’ll handle the everyday “I need more slack” issues just fine.
What right-thinking person lacks a collection of sockets and socket wrenches? Add this set to the list of things you need to salvage minor car issues.
Drill Bit Set
This drill-bit set comes well-reviewed with 21 pieces of hardwearing Titanium. Titanium isn’t just for durability, though; it also reduces friction between the bit and the material that’s being drilled, granting the bit a longer useful lifespan.
Simply the simplest, most-compact and thoughfully-designed level out there. Sola’s two easy-to-read vials that glow in the dark, which, while also being pretty fun, helps with dark closets and corners.
Where many ratchet drivers fail is in long-term durability or turning smoothness. This one fails in neither. Most notably, the tool is able to turn screws without having to remove the bit after each turn.
Is it controversial to say headlamps are generally more useful than flashlights for home improvement? Free up your off-hand and use a headlamp that turns off, on and switches modes with a simple tap.
The hammer’s dominance is complete. There is no tool so necessary, so iconic and so fun to use as a well-balanced hammer. The claw in its name simply indicates it’s possible to remove nails from their wooden tombs.
The only qualifying factor for having a set of jumper cables in your home is having a car, having many friends who have cars or just being a kind citizen. It doesn’t matter how reliable your vehicle is, you will need jumper cables, and there’s nothing more frustrating than not having them when that time comes. These from Coleman do the trick and are a bit longer on average, so you don’t need to get right on top of the other car when jumping.
A Frankenstein’s Monster invention of the adjustable wrench and your typical plier, locking pliers act as a sort of mini vise to keep something in place for you to work with it (or, more likely, remove it).
Hand Orbital Sander
For when you’ve found the perfect coffee table at a thrift store that just needs a quick cleanup. Scuff any furniture? Find the proper grit attachment and go to town. Take it to the surface of your Lodge skillet and give yourself a nigh-nonstick cooking surface, too.
This is a very heavy, very durable toolbox. Its 18-inch frame and wrinkled brown finish are callbacks (some might argue theft) to Kennedy Manufacturing’s all-time-great hand toolboxes. There’s enough storage, nooks and pockets in here to satisfy the vast majority of the tools on this list.
Not having a cordless drill is the home-maintenance equivalent of not having a proper chef’s knife — it is the tool with the greatest improvment over manual alternatives, wrapping up what would be difficult tasks with the push of a button.