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First Time DIYers: The Essential Tools

First Time DIYers - The Essential Tools

So I've thought for a while about making some posts on our tools; what we have, what we wish we had, what I recommend and what I don't. Over the last six years, we've gone from owning absolutely nothing to now having a whole wardrobe of stuff. So I'm going to do a little series over the coming months, featuring tools as well as pretty (or not-so pretty!) house updates. For this post, I'm going right back to basics and talking about the essentials for new first-time DIYers. Basically, what I wish someone had told me, when we first started buying tools.

DIY Tools for first timers

As a DIYer starting out, buying a whole toolbox of every single tool you may ever need, is bloooooomin' expensive! Sometimes the typical thing to do when gearing up for DIY is to buy lots of bulk-tool sets. You know, screwdriver boxes that come in 15 different sizes, tool bag sets which include 3 separate saws, spanners of every size, you get my drift. Personally unless you've received this as a gift, I wouldn't bother buying these sets. Screwdrivers in a bazillion different sizes isn't actually as useful as you would think and when a screwdriver costs less a quid to buy separately, sometimes it's better to not over-prepare. Save your money now, buy the actual essentials and any odd sized screwdrivers (or the like!) you might need in the future can be purchased then. It's not going to break the bank, after all.

So this is my recommendation of a beginners tool list, when you haven't got hundreds to spare...

'Obvious' Stuff;

So let's start with the 'obvious' stuff. These include;

Tape Measure - Personally I like to have a few and I really wouldn't bother with the expensive ones, you'll find yourself misplacing it pretty often, and even more so when you start to accumulate more tools. Stick to the cheap ones - and I also recommend keeping one in the car too. You'd be surprised how useful you'll find it!

Pencil - Again, these go missing a lot. BUT I recommend a mechanical pencil over any other kind. They don't need sharpening when the lead breaks and this also means they're always sharp, so you can guarantee a nice crisp line, every time.

Learning to DIY - what tools you'll need


Screwdrivers - You'll need both a cross head (Phillips) and a flat head. We have a total of about 6 different screwdrivers and that's done us absolutely fine for six years. None of ours are expensive and they're still going strong. Stick to a few mid-sized ones and just buy additional sizes when you need them. As much as the screwdriver is a "must have", you'll be surprised how little it actually ends up getting used.

Hammer - If you're just buying one hammer, I would recommend a claw one. The claw end will be useful in removing old nails and prying things off walls, as well as just being a good old hammer as well. Again ours is just the basic cheap one - it's lasted us this far and is still going strong.

Small Spirit Level - A small spirit level is a must, but if you want to save a few bucks, you can always just download an app on your phone instead.

Step Ladders - You may not need giant 6m ladders, but you will need some kind of indoor step ladder. These can be quite pricey, but I recommend looking out for secondhand ones on eBay - ours was just £5 and we've had it since the start of our renovation journey.

Cheap Step Ladders for DIY

Adjustable Pliers/Spanner - Most people have one of these in their tool set, and it's certainly handy to have. These are particularly really useful for gripping stuff!


Basic Electric Tools

Jigsaw - Of all the electric saws out there, I would definitely recommend getting the jigsaw first. It's the most affordable to buy and it can pretty much do everything. From 45degree cuts, to straight lines, as well as more intricate awkward/curved cuts too, which other electric saws can't. It's not the perfect most professional tool for each job you might use it for, but when you're just starting out, the jigsaw is a perfect one-tool-does-all deal. I do also recommend a cheap handsaw too.

Jigsaw for DIY


Combi-Drill - If you're looking to buy your first drill, I definitely recommend a combi-drill over a hammer drill, or any other kind of drill. A combi-drill can drill through masonry, wood and it also acts as a drill driver for screwing stuff together. You'll find it massively useful when it comes to screwing things together (generally we use ours more for this than making holes!) and a cordless one also makes it much easier to use. We have this Ryobi branded one, which I highly recommend.

Cheap Combi-Drill

DIY Vacuum - Okay, so this isn't exactly a tool, but believe me - it's our BEST DIY purchase we've ever made. A DIY vacuum isn't just an old unwanted nearing-for-the-bin vacuum, it's one specifically designed to hoover up dust, rubble, sludge, you name it. The suction power on these things is INCREDIBLE. The hose is wider, so things are less likely to get trapped, and even the capacity of them is huuuuuge in comparison to a normal hoover. You honestly won't regret buying one. We have the Karcher MV3 which we love - and you can read a full review of that vacuum here.

Extension Lead - Again, not a tool. But you'll most likely need one unless your tools are battery powered. 

Other Useful Tools

Clamps - Clamps are basically an essential in my opinion. You'll need it to secure stuff when cutting, when screwing stuff together and even gluing stuff together. Ours are always out of the tool bag and so useful!

Bar Clamps for Fitting Upstands


Work Bench - Having somewhere to properly affix and cut stuff is really important. We actually shockingly don't have a workbench, (shocker!) but we quite often borrow one from time-to-time and it's one of those things we're forever saying "we need one of these"! If you're handy with woodworking you can always make your own - (this is actually our plan, but time is never on our side!) otherwise if you don't have one, you'll need at least some kind of other sturdy working area instead. There's nothing worse than balancing a piece of wood across two wheelie bins whilst trying to work on it - trust me.

Filling Knife - The most common of DIY jobs is filling stuff. I'm always surprised when people say they don't bother with filling knifes and they just use a bit of plastic or card! Seriously get yourself a filling knife. It will make the job sooooo much easier, much more professional, no lumps or bumps and you can do the job right, first time. And they even cost less than a quid. Trust me on this. Just buy one. It will be THE most used tool in your bag, probably.

Dust Masks - Safety is a huge part of DIY and dust masks are an absolute MUST. You need to use it for more jobs than you'd think, whether it's just sanding filler, smashing up plasterboard, or just cutting MDF. If you're planning lots of DIY, that's lots of dust you don't want to be breathing in. I thoroughly recommend investing in a reusable mask, but at the very least you should be using a disposable one when required. I also recommend having some eye protection as well and you can find both of these and all things to do with DIY personal protection and workwear over at Engelbert Strauss. If you have a bit more cash to spare, I would also recommend knee pads as well!

Cheap Disposable Dust Masks

Long Spirit Level - Whilst a small spirit level is always handy, I personally find the long ones are even more useful. When putting up shelves for example, you can lay it across the brackets, you can use it as a giant ruler for a straight edge and generally it's a lot more practical than smaller ones. Except for when you just need a small one, then the long ones are massively impractical. Either way, it's good to have both and ours is always in use!

Using a Spirit Level as a Ruler


Caulk Gun - You'll almost certainly need one of these, as you can't use any tube adhesive, caulk or sealant without out. A good one will last a pretty long time, I recommend the ones with bars on either side of the tube as these are much easier to use and don't just push the tube out. We have this one, which is our second gun and massively better than the first.

Set-Square - Making sure cuts are perfectly square is really important when it comes to building stuff and adjoining materials together. A set square will allow you to mark up a perfectly square line and it's also useful in transferring measurements. Ours also has a spirit level on it, which basically covers that tool as well. Again, ours is always out of the tool bag and you've probably already seen it in plenty of use on the blog too!

Using a Set Square


Drill-Bit Set - So I know I recommended not buying that many screwdrivers, I do however recommend buying a cheap set of drill bits. Ideally this would include some screwdriver bits, some masonry bits and also some wood bits. Drill-bits don't last an eternity, so we stick to cheap ones and a buy a new set every now and then, but having many different sizes and types on hand is massively useful.

Where to Find Cheap Tools:

So if you're like us, starting out on a MEGA budget then I personally recommend checking out eBay for used tools. Older tools are just as good as new ones and you can bag yourself someone's old tool kit for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy everything new. I also recommend checking out antique centres and secondhand places - our local market often has a used tool stand, as do the antique centres we've been to (the tools here are often not actually antique!).

For new tools, we buy pretty much everything from Screwfix. Their low-cost tool brand 'TITAN' is one of the cheapest out there and whilst they're not ridiculously amazing or high tech, they are really affordable and quite good for the price you pay. If you have a little more cash to spare, I also recommend checking out Ryobi tools - their batteries work across all of their tools which is absolutely brilliant and we've borrowed a few tools of theirs from friends and highly recommend those too!

So that's it! Hopefully this is somewhat useful for anyone starting out with DIY. I'd love to know if you have anything else to add to my list and also, what your first tool purchase was?

Girl Using Mitre Saw


*This Post is in Collaboration with Engelbert Strauss. Thank You for supporting the brands who support this blog!

1 comment

  1. What a great and useful article! I love how you've highlighted even the (seemingly) obvious stuff like dust masks and a work bench - attempting to DIY on a simple surface can lead to chaos! That being said, DIY is a great venture and an excellent hobby for construction enthusiasts to take up!

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