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A while back we asked you to help us — and our other readers — what makes up the perfect car toolkit.  You responded with a tour-de-force of awesome suggestions, many of which even made their way into my own car kits.  Now we’re asking you to help us assemble the perfect toolkit for home use.

As usual, I’ll kick things off:

In general, I perfer a tool caddy (read: open-top hard-side tote) for home kits.  Size isn’t nearly as important as it is in a car kit, and it’s nice to be able to grab the caddy and cart it around to whatever job you’re taking on at the moment.  I’d start my home kit off pretty much the way I start my car kit, but I’d add a few other home-only tools like:

  • a drywall saw
  • a fish tape
  • a small tack hammer
  • a set of micro-screwdrivers

There’s lots more — and as before I’ll contribute more once I get the chance to take a look in my own kit at home — but if you would, jump in and share with everyone what you keep in the home kit.

(And you’ll have to excuse the CC-licensed photo — thanks, plindberg!  I couldn’t resist.)


22 Responses to Reader Question: What Should One Keep In A Home Toolkit?

  1. nrChris says:

    Small 1/4″ ratchet set, magnetic bubble style stud finder. Drawing blanks other than that for right now. Oh yeah, tape tape tape.

  2. Waylan says:

    nrChris beat me to it, but I’ll list the different kinds of tape; Duct/gaphers, masking/painters, electrical, double-sided and Teflon to name the most important.

  3. Stuey says:

    Are we talking about a basic handtool kit or all-encompassing kit that includes stepladders and shopvacs?

    At the very least, since tapes were already mentioned, there’s Elmer’s glue, crazy glue, gorilla glue (I used this stuff to plug up leaks in a window when nothing else worked late night on a Sunday) – anything else can be purchased as needed. A good flashlight or headlamp is good to have, as is a caged/fluorescent hang light.

  4. Lew says:

    Like most of us, I have an small army of tools. I have 5 gallon buckets devoted to project area like electrical or plumbing which contain all sorts of specialty tools and spare parts. But I have my tool box which contains my first line of offense for all projects. In it I have what I consider to be my core tools to handle triage and quick repairs:

    1] 16oz Hammer
    2] Screwdrivers, Standard, Phillips and Jewelers
    3] Tape Measure, 24′ and 10′
    4] 6″ Rule
    5] Levels, 24″ and Torpedo
    6] Box Cutter (with extra blades) and Knife
    7] Scissors
    8] Pencils and Pens
    9] 7″ Speed Square
    10] Stud Finder
    11] Flashlight
    12] Spare batteries

    13] Needle Nose Pliers
    14] Linesman Pliers
    15] Wire Cutters/Strippers
    16] Electrical Meter
    17] Outlet Tester
    18] Electrical Tape

    19] Channel Lock Wrench
    20] Cresent Wrench
    21] Vice Grips
    22] Pipe Tape

    23] Paint Brush
    24] Putty Knife
    25] 5 in 1 Paint Tool
    26] Drywall saw
    27] Masking Tape

  5. Mark says:

    I think the kit should be simple:

    1. Duct tape
    2. Regular and needle-nose vice grips
    3. driver set – I’ve got a fairly generic Craftsman set with most common driver heads
    4. utility knife
    5. Zip-ties
    6. crescent wrench (1 small and 1 large)
    7. Hammer
    8. 16′ tape measure
    9. pencil

    For jobs that demand more, I’ll just go and get the necessary tool from my workbench.

  6. Lew says:

    Mark, good call on the zip ties. They are handy.

    Not to get off topic too far… For all of the hype it gets, I don’t think I have ever used Duct Tape to seriously repair something that was broken.

  7. Eric G. says:

    along with the afore mentioned tape, and Lew’s list (which would exactly mirror my own) I would add epoxy to the list. i keep 3 kinds around: JB weld, the generic 5 minute variety, and PC-11 or equivalent (long working time, sticks to wet/oily surfaces, really strong)

  8. Douglas Kwan says:

    a good headlamp is essential. no need to hold a light while working

  9. Leslie says:

    I can’t really improve on what’s already been mentioned in terms of a “first grab” toolkit.

    But may I take a moment to bitch about folks (not you guys, but referring to the picture) who create this flimsy collections of crap that they market to women as “home tool kits”? Not only have I never seen one that was anything other than pink, I’ve also never seen one that wasn’t horrible quality. And what happens is that women who really didn’t have the privilege, as I did, to grow up being taught how to use tools and to believe that I could and should do anything I wanted, get something like this with hopes of learning how to do things themselves.

    But then they find that they can’t do much with the seriously underweight and poorly balanced hammer, the pliers and other tools aren’t good enough quality to give them any real control, the chintzy screwdrivers get messed up with the first semi-stubborn screw, and not knowing any better, they blame it on their own incompetence instead of cheap-ass undersized poorly designed tools, and they give up trying.

    Please guys, teach the women and girls in your life (and the boys as well, of course) how to use REAL tools, manual and basic handheld power. Make sure that they’re capable of doing a lot of basic everyday maintenance (including basic electric, which seems to cause great fear in too many folks I know, including guys) around the house – if they later choose not to, fine, but this is just as important as it is for every kid should know how to change a tire and check and add fluids before they’re given a driver’s license and allowed on the road by themselves.

    OK, end soapbox rant.

    p.s. I’ve always said that almost anything in the world can be at least temporarily fixed with vice grips and a roll of duct tape.

  10. jamesBrauer66 says:

    In my ‘first response’ tool kit stored in a small red metal toolbox I keep:

    crescent wrench
    vice grips
    phillips, flat, and bit holder screwdrivers
    small pry bar
    small tape measure
    6″ metal rule
    nail set
    small ball peen hammer
    hex key sets
    1/4″ drive sockets
    set of drill bits
    box cutter
    needle nose and standard pliers
    wire strippers
    pritchel chisel
    small LED flashlight

    pill bottle of fasteners
    electrical tape

    It was getting hard to close the lid recently, so I traded the wrenches and sockets for a crescent wrench, and haven’t regretted it. For the most part, these are my best quality mechanical (not woodworking) tools. This kit will handle most machine tool setup, simple automotive work, household repairs, and appliances. In most cases I can get far enough into a project to see what tools I need from the big tool boxes.

  11. Chris S. says:

    Just because the quality of the tools in those ‘home kits’ is usually garbage, doesnt mean the selection is wrong.

    Hand tools:

    tape measure
    6pc screwdriver set
    Speed level
    Adjustable wrench (small and big)
    Utility Knife
    Hack saw
    Hand saw
    Plier set (standard, channel lock, needle nose, snip. maybe some vice grips if you really want)
    Allen Keys

    Power tools:
    Cordless drill
    drill bit set

    The list could go on forever, depends on how much work the person needs to do.

    Apartment tool set:
    6-in-1 screwdriver
    tape measure
    hex key set (furniture assembly)

  12. Lew says:

    After I checked my toolbox, I forgot to mention; Band Aids adhesive bandages, work gloves and safety glasses. I also found a toothbrush (which is very handy to clean things) and chopsticks (to mix glue or small cans of paint).

  13. Ian says:

    If you look around for a cheap deal on socket sets, you can get a decent price on some super-cheap sets (I’ve seen them as low as $5-10) that makes a good occasional-use item and don’t take up tons of room. Although, in a pinch, the vice grips can substitute as well.

  14. Teacher says:

    I made a basic kit for my sister a couple years ago. I put in a utility knife, 6 in 1 screwdriver, 16 foot tape measure, torpedo level, Allen wrenches, 8 ounce hammer, 6″ adjustable wrench, needle nose pliers with wire cutter, slip joint pliers, zip ties, duct tape, super glue, stud finder, an assortment of picture hangers and disposable flash light. I think that was all. The tools were a mix of Task Force and Companion….plenty good for occassional use.

    It’s worked fine for her. Also I wanted to keep it limited to prevent her from trying to do too much. With her: Hang a picture=ok. Replace a heating element on the water heater=Ambulance.

  15. Kaden says:

    This is for fixing stuff, right?


    Vise grips, hammer, needle nose pliers, multi bit screwdriver, utility knife, 6″ junior hacksaw, adjustable wrench, putty knife, tape measure, level, soldering iron, multimeter, file, head lamp


    Electrical tape, teflon tape, marrettes, mollies, mirror clips, Goop, cyanoacrylate, plaster, resin core solder picture hangers, zip ties, pipe clamps, replacement electrical plugs, RG 6 terminators, 3 in 1 oil, graphite dry lubricant.

    mixed assortment of each of the following: washers, wood screws, machine screws, machine bolts ‘n nuts, nails, abrasives, batteries.

    Multivoltage wall wart.

    Flask of scotch.

  16. Nate’s rule of tool quality: Any tool or tool kit that comes in a blow-molded case is probably crap.

    I’ll second everything Leslie said, especially about tire-changing. I’m still pissed that my driver’s training wouldn’t teach me stick-shift! Fire extinguishers and first aid training should be covered in middle school, too. Learn CPR, please.

    Back on topic: Before you can fix anything, you need to know what’s wrong. A broken chair is pretty obvious, but when the chandelier is on the fritz, some diagnostic tools are essential. An outlet tester and multimeter are good, but a non-contact voltage sensor also comes in handy. You should know what every setting on the multimeter does and how to use it; if you don’t, there are plenty of resources online. Also consider some phone line testers: Both a red/green wiring checker (I like the BG Micro TOL1020) and a line cord with alligator clips. If you’re a cordless-only house, keep a corded phone somewhere for diagnostics and power failures.

    Personally, I don’t keep a home tool kit. Everything’s in the garage, sorted into cubbies under the giant bench. Moving a subset into a toolbag is a per-activity exercise, because otherwise it’s not in the bench when someone goes looking for it. If I cant fix something with the Swisstech on my keychain, it’s worth grabbing the *right* tool.

  17. Brau says:

    I am required to keep certain tools in my kitchen for my wife. She doesn’t want to use mine because they are too “dirty” (I disagree). What she wants is: a small (4ft)tape measure, a multibit screwdriver, pliers, needlenose, mini maglite, jeweller’s screwdrivers, small hammer, white glue, tape, and an assortment of nails & screws.

    For a small portable “fixit kit” I find these basic items are a must to carry in a small pouch: an adjustable wrench, vise grips, multidriver*, small socket set*, needlenose/Linesman’s pliers, dropjaw pliers, electrical tape, knife, hammer, mini maglite. (*often are included together in cheapass kits) … and BandAids – I’m a notorious bloodletter!

  18. Mel says:

    Two esentials I’ve not seen mentioned are a small hacksaw and a Stanley toolbox saw – small enough to fit in a toolbox and sharper than all git-out. The toolbox saw also has 45 and 90 degree squares incorporated into the handle design.

  19. H says:

    Besides all the basics already described, I like to have a few extras such as:

    A few pads of 0000 steel wool. They seem to get used up fairly regularly on all kinds of things around my house, mainly for cleaning durable surfaces and refurbishing the appearance (where appropriate) of the stuff I get from thrift stores. Works great with Krud Kutter.

    I make sure that at least one of the wrenches in my kit can turn off my gas and water, so I know where it is if I’m in a hurry.

    And I LOVE the relatively new “liquid bandage” stuff that is essentially super glue for skin. I always seem to get a cut in the middle of a project (when I don’t have time for extended first aid), but now I just clean the wound w/ some alcohol and drop the liquid bandage on it and dry it quick by blowing on it. Sometimes it takes two or three applications to stop active bleeding, but it will stop it, it’s waterproof, and I’m right back to work within 2-3 minutes max!

    Right next to my liquid bandage is a set of precision tweezers, suitable for very tiny splinters, or ticks, or whatever.

    A small bottle of Liquid Wrench for dripping on old fasteners before trying to remove them has come in handy as well (I don’t get the spray can version, too big for the smalll toolbox).

    No one said WD-40 yet? I guess I just did, and would like to add that my hinges don’t squeak.

    A decent-sized magnet (mine is just a large refrigerator magnet stuck on top of my toolbox) so I don’t lose small screws or parts.

    A few sets of gloves (latex, nitrile, whatever) for repairs when you don’t want messy hands (like right before the guests arrive for the party).

    Not in my toolbox but kept handy are a large (12X20 foot) tarp with plenty of rope for covering an unanticipated hole in my roof, along with a gallon of roof patch cement (that can be applied in the rain) for smaller holes. I live where hurricanes and tornadoes are fairly common- try buying a tarp AFTER the storm hits… not likely!

  20. James says:

    Yes, the quality of the tools in the “homeowner” sets are crap.

    However, that does not mean they are not worth getting. If you don’t already have a large collection of tools, they’re a quick and cheap way to get up to speed. Using the right poor-quality tool is better than misusing the wrong high-quality tool.

    There are some tools in those kits that many people are only going to use a few times. Why spend a ton of money on them? Sure, the ones you use frequently are going to break, but that only helps you identify what you should spend your money on. Replace them with the best you can afford.

  21. TL says:

    My “in the house” toolkit (as opposed to the garage tool emporium) consists of:

    6 in 1 magnetic screwdriver
    Leatherman PST
    6″ Adjustable wrench
    16′ tape measure
    6″ torpedo level
    box cutter
    stud finder
    Small jar of finishing nails
    Digital multimeter

  22. cc says:

    duct tape, jb weld, hammer

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