Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Tools of the Trade

Tools. Can't live without 'em. Can't have enough of 'em.

It's certainly not news to anybody, but being a homeowner often means doing repairs yourself because it's stupid expensive to have someone else do them. Anyone can enjoy owning and using tools, but most renters have the distinct advantage of an on-call serviceman who comes with his own tools. (One of the things we loved about apartment living, especially when we found mold creeping out from behind our medicine cabinet. "Um, hello, Building Repair Man? Come help us!) On the other hand, I have the distinct advantage of being able to convince my wife that I need more tools, you know, "for the house", so yeah.

Either way, we've been home owners for close to a year now, so I feel like this is a good time to talk about some tools that have come in handy for us, some tools that I believe I'll need for future work and the reasons for both. Then I might do a little poll to find out what your favorite tools are, or what you find most useful to own. So, without further ado, and in the order they occur to me, here are the tools I've found useful to own:

  • A Hatchet and/or Machete - $10-20 each

This hatchet in particular is more like $40, but it's soooo pretty.

These two might seem odd to some, and indeed might not be useful to everyone, but we have this:

I have used these both for their intended purposes and also found other uses for them. For instance, I've used the hatchet to chop down bamboo but I've also used the machete to pry big pieces of slate out of the ground. Sure that seems like the job for a shovel but I didn't have one at the time and the slate wasn't totally buried. If you're looking at a house with some out of control underbrush these two will come in handy and neither is that expensive.

  • A Hammer and Screwdrivers - $10-30 and $1-20 respectively

These two are pretty self-explanatory and probably don't warrant much time or explanation.  If you want to hang any pictures in your house, you need a hammer. You don't need anything big or fancy, just an inexpensive claw hammer (as opposed to his slightly less useful brother: the ball-peen hammer.) If you plan on changing your doorknobs, you'll need a screwdriver and if you want to paint it's much neater to remove switch plates than to tape them. You don't need a large assortment, I'd suggest a small and large in both Phillips head and flat head (which you can buy individually or in a set) or even an all in one like the one pictured.

Also, I feel like these aren't strictly necessary so they won't get their own section, but if you're hanging things, a tape measure and a level are always useful.

  • A Saw - $10-25

I have a circular saw, a coping saw, a standard handsaw, and a convertible hack/bow saw. All were gifts, which was incredibly fortunate.  Just having a basic hand saw is probably fine, it's pretty versatile.  I've used them on the boards for the mulch beds against the front of the house, the closet shelves, branches/trees, our board & batten, and various other small projects.

  • Painting Supplies - $10-20 (depending how you buy it)

Obvious. If you're like us, then painting is essential to making a house feel like a home. Not being able to paint our apartment aggravated Meredith to no end and so, naturally, as soon as we bought our house, painting was immediately one of the top priorities. So far we've painted everything except the master closet. Yep, that's right. We don't waste time when it comes to painting. (Though why we've neglected that closet is a mystery. )

  • Lawnmower - $140-?

If you have any yard at all this is essential. We went a while before getting one and boy was it difficult to reclaim the yard. Of course we waited because we knew my uncle was getting a new lawnmower and he said we could have his old one, so waiting and fighting the lawn was definitely worth it for a free lawnmower. Also, the difficulty was mostly due to the fact that our yard is full of more than just grass. I'd love to be able to try one of those reel lawn mowers but I don't think it would cut it in our yard.

  • A Cordless Drill - $70-?


I went far too long without this. I think I just kept borrowing one. Now that I have one I'm like, wait how did I survive without this? And, honestly, I'm not sure. There are plenty of things you can accomplish without a drill but, seriously, just get one. You will feel so much more capable. 

  • A Shovel - $6-40


This is another one that I kept borrowing but have finally acquired for myself. If you plan on doing any type of landscaping you have to have a shovel. They have all kinds of different types but personally I subscribe to the thinking that the only difference is if it's short or long. I guess if I had to choose I'd prefer a round edge but seriously, I don't care if it's a "transfer shovel", a "digging shovel", a "spade", fiberglass or wood handled, with or without a rubber grip, etc. And how the heck can you have a "square point" shovel anyway? Seriously, read the tags at the store. They're ridiculously specific. 

  • Rakes - $7-25


I like leaf rakes and bow rakes. They're both very useful. I've been borrowing some since my father-in-law has extras and these have been lower on the "fun tools" list. Well, let's be honest, they're not really on the "fun tools" list at all. Either way they have still been absolutely necessary for our yard (but will hopefully be less so now that we have significantly fewer trees). 

I think that ended up being long enough that I might make the list of tools I think would be fun useful to own a separate post. So, what tools have you found to be absolutely essential to surviving the rigors of home ownership? Have I forgotten something incredibly important?

(Most of these pictures were borrowed. I am in no way making money off of this, nor am I recommending these specific brands. In some cases they're not even the brand I own. They're used merely as tool examples.)


  1. What homeowner's tools are on your wish list? (Not asking because it's your birthday month or anything.)

    1. Haha, at this point I mostly want a pair of hedge shears and a wheelbarrow. Extremely unexciting.

      Of course I have a whole list of other more exciting things I want too, like a pneumatic nail gun (the one Young house Love uses comes with the air compressor, which is nice), a compound miter saw, a work bench, etc. Unfortunately I think that stuff will have to wait until I get a shed to store it in...