20 essential items every DIYer needs in their toolbox

Richard Burr reveals his must-have toys.

Now, I’m a builder who’s grown up in a household full of builders, so I have always had access to just about every type of tool you could possibly think of.

Often when I’m at my mates’ houses, they’ll ask me to have a quick look at whatever DIY problem they’re tackling (you know who you are, fellas!), and I’ll ask to use their hammer, screwdriver or spanner – and just get a blank look from them.

So for their (and your) benefit, here’s my run-down of 20 essential items everybody should have in their toolkit…

1. A toolbox  

I know, we’re kicking off with a pretty obvious one here, but losing all your tools at the back of a cupboard or down the back of the ‘man drawer’ is a proper pain in the backside. So get a box – you won’t regret it.

2. Hammers

Preferably a claw hammer that you can remove nails with, lift floorboards or use as a mini crowbar. And a 4lb lump hammer for doing the heavy work (just don’t drop it on your foot).

3. Screwdrivers

You need two Phillips screwdrivers (big and small), two flat-head screwdrivers (big and small), a set of tiny screwdrivers (like you get in a Christmas cracker but more hard-wearing), and a set of Allen keys, as you’ll always lose the free Ikea ones and you never know when you’ll need them. You could also bypass all these and just get yourself a multi-bit screwdriver set – it makes a great housewarming present and you can also load the bits into a cordless drill.

(Chris Terry/PA)

4. A cordless drill

Preferably with a hammer drill setting. You will use this for almost every DIY job you have to do.

5. A Stanley Knife (and spare blades)

Stanley knives are brilliant. Blunt Stanley knives are rubbish. Whether you’re just sharpening a pencil or doing cuts on kitchen lino, you must have a sharp Stanley knife with a retractable blade.

6. Saws

You need a panel saw and a junior hacksaw. If you’re feeling ambitious, get yourself a coping saw too, but make sure you have extra blades as they snap easily. A panel saw comes with 45 and 90-degree angles to help your carpentry.

(Chris Terry/PA)

7. Wood chisels

You need at least an inch chisel, a half-an-inch chisel and an 1/8-inch chisel. These will come with blade covers. Do not lose them or your chisels will go blunt. These are precision tools for carpentry and you’ll need a decent sharpening stone too.

8. Cold chisel and a bolster

These are two invincible friends. Just try getting floorboards up without them.

9. A tape measure

Don’t get a flimsy one. Anything with a broad tape is going to be much more useful, and ensure it’s at least 5m long.

10. Head torch

Most DIY jobs need two hands, so get a head torch or you’ll be sick of holding a normal torch between your teeth in the cupboard under the stairs.

(Chris Terry/PA)

11. A set of pliers and an adjustable spanner

You can get pliers sets everywhere, and they are so useful. You should have at least a set of combination pliers, long-nosed pliers and a set of side cutters. Make sure you have new pliers with insulated handles – no raiding your dad’s old tools for these ones, or you might get a nasty shock.

12. Neon screwdriver

This is a mains detector screwdriver and a literal life-safer. When you’re using them, always make sure you use it on something that will give you a positive test, just so you know it’s working.

13. A stud/cable detector

This will save you drilling into cables and helps you find fixings on stud walls.

14. Screws, plugs and nails

Most shops sell fixings kits with a combination of all of these. Just make sure you get sets with compartments, or you’ll waste time searching for the right ones.

15. A spirit level

Go for a metre-long one, as it’ll come in really useful for marking lines on walls for shelves, for example. If you have room, get a boat level too.

16. A scraper

Whether you’re stripping wallpaper or mixing up two-part filler, this will come in really handy. Just don’t hit the handle of it with a hammer or you’ll ruin it. The same goes for your screwdrivers.

17. Clamps

Quick grips or G-clamps, you’ll find you use these for so many jobs.

18. Electrical tape and masking tape

Useful stuff. Don’t be without it.

19. A workbench

Carpentry is one of the most common (and most satisfying) DIY jobs. The best thing about a workbench is that no one’s going to shout at you if you accidentally drill a hole through it or stab it with a chisel (sorry, Mum!).

20. PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)

As my Dad says: “It’s all fun and games until someone pokes their eye out!” From personal experience ending up in Moorfields Eye Hospital, get yourself goggles and USE THEM, no matter how uncomfortable they are. You’ll also want a face mask and gloves too.

There you go. There are plenty of other toys you can get if you’ve got the DIY bug, and the state of my garage is testament to just how many you can cram in, but these ones will set you up nicely for hundreds of different jobs. The problem is, now there’s no excuse not to do them!


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