Not all of us are blessed with the ability or know-how to get in the trenches and fix minor items around the house.
BUT with these simple tips and a little bit of know-how, these common tools – most of which can be found at your local hardware store – might be able to save you some serious cash.
Before you rush out, tread carefully. If you’re wanting some longevity out of your toolkit I’d strongly suggest quality over quantity. So it might be better to drop a few bob on the items you’re going to use the most.
1. A claw hammer
A claw hammer is a genuine necessity for every home. Sometime screws that don’t come out need a tap, or when deck nails work their way loose and need to be re-fixed, the claw hammer is the go-to option. The claw at the back will help you remove nails that are protruding and a danger to anyone walking around with no shoes on.
Tip: Are your nails always bending over when you’re attempting to hammer them in? Your hammer head probably needs a bit of TLC. Get some sand paper and give him a good rub.
Price range: $22-$150+
2. Screwdriver set
Has your toilet or home entry door started to rub when you open or close it? Check the hinge screws holding it against the door frame. If they’re loose, tighten them with a Philips head screw driver (the one that looks like a plus sign). Older houses will usually require a flat-head screwdriver, as we didn’t have Philips head screws 20 years ago. Simply apply firm pressure to the screw and turn it clockwise. Remember: ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’.
Price range: $20-$100
3. Tape measure
It might surprise you that tradesmen work in millimetres, so don’t get caught out here. My tape only displays millimetres but for the sake of DIY and being able to convert larger measurements when you need, grab a tape that displays in both millimetres and centimetres. This will make conversions significantly easier for you. You’ll also need a tape when you’re trying to hang your own pictures or measure door sizes and openings.
Price range: $20+
4. Allen key set
Who hasn’t got Ikea or modular furniture in their homes these days? Do yourself a favour and check the screws on these items once every 12 months. They often loosen over time and can be the reason we end up needing to throw them out. At the end of the day most flat-pack furniture fails because of its assembly, as opposed to the product defecting. Some minor maintenance might save you a costly replacement. (Yes, that funny Z-shaped thing from Ikea is called an Allen key.)
Price range: $5+
5. Shifter (also known as a crescent)
Depending on size, these guys are a super handy tool. They’ll undo taps, tighten gates, fix bikes and will get everyone out of a pickle at some stage in their life – guaranteed.
Price range: $15+
6. Thread tape
Is your backyard hose connection or kitchen tap keep leaking? Then think of this guy as the Adam Gilchrist of your tool set. Before changing the washers, try Teflon thread tape around the male threaded end of the connection. Keep in mind you’ll likely need to isolate the main water to your dwelling before screwing off any taps that aren’t required for hoses.
7. Cordless drill
Price-wise, the cordless drill is at the higher end of the DIY tree but they’ll save you time and troubles if you’re on the handier end of looking after things around the home. Go for a model with Philips and flat head extension bits – low speed should do the trick unless you need to drill holes in timber. Fixing kitchen cupboards, removing doors, installing decking – you name it, a cordless drill is any tradie’s saviour. If your number plate is rattling use your drill with the Philips extension bit to tighten it up.
Price range: $60-$450
8. Drill bit set
These are obviously no good to you if you don’t have a power/cordless drill, but if you’re looking to hang pictures around your home you’re certainly going to need these. Drill bits come in handy for almost any DIY project and if you have the space these are a no brainer.
Tip: You can’t use regular timber drill bits in masonry walls as they’ll go blunt in about 20 seconds. Make sure you buy masonry drill bits; you can tell them apart from normal drill bits as they have the funny diamond-shaped head on top.
Price range: $15-$150
Preparation prevents poor performance – or so my old footy coach used to say. I’m sure all of us have put our hand up at some stage and decided to repaint something we regretted. Sanding a surface back to remove any lumps or bumps before painting is usually one of the most important preparation items left out of any DIYers attempt at repurposing an old rocking horse, door or gate, for example.
Do yourself a favour and take 30 minutes and hit whatever you’re painting with some elbow grease before you start. You’ll thank yourself down the track as it’ll give you the professional finish you’re after.
Tip: The higher the grit, the finer the sandpaper. If you’re trying to get through heavy paint you’ll need a lower grit; if you’re sanding an antique tall boy you’re going to want something very fine so you don’t damage the grain of the timber or finish of the timber, existing paint or stain.
Once you’re done sanding, wipe the item down with a damp cloth and paint. Always sand with the grain of the timber not across it.
Price range: $2+
10. Paint brush
There are more paint brushes on the market now than I’ve had hot dinners. Get yourself a solid all-round synthetic brush, about 50mm-wide. These are typically better with water-based paints, which makes clean-up and storage significantly easier. If you’re painting larger areas, you’ll have to diversify in the brush department and also add a roller set.
Price range: $5+
11. Stanley knife
These really come in handy and would have to be one of my most-used tools. Whether I’m sharpening pencils or trying to clean up stickers or paint from a clean window, my Stanley knife will usually do the trick. Keep yours around to help you with painting, timber work and cutting open boxes – the uses for these guys are endless. Please keep in mind you don’t want the kids to be able to access the blades, so keep them out of reach of children. I’d highly recommend picking yourself up a small carry-all to keep your items together. This will all fit neatly under the sink in any apartment or home.
Price range: $3+