You’re ready to hire yourself out as a handyman. Presumably, you’ve got the basic tools already – hammer, screwdriver, measuring tape, etc. – but want to lay in a few more.
Before you became a pro handyman, you probably sat down and thought about what kinds of jobs you plan to take on. Are you good at painting and don’t love electricity? Or do you have a way with plumbing but refuse to get on a ladder? If you are the carpentry whisperer, you’ll want to buy different tools than someone who’s going to focus on garage door installations.
10 Essential Handyman Tools
Consider your purchases carefully! It’s easy to get sucked into buying all the tools you might ever need because, well, who doesn’t want more tools? Before you go buy one of everything, take a look at our recommendations for the next round of tools to consider.
1. Cordless Drill
The cordless drill is often the first power tool anyone buys. Capable of drilling holes or driving screws – of a wide variety of sizes of each – it’s indispensable. It might be called a drill, but where it really pulls its weight is as a powered screwdriver, making every job with screws go exponentially faster. Be sure to get a cordless one and get a backup battery, too, so there’s always one charging while you’re working.
If you’re already thinking – what about an impact driver? – hold off on one of those for now. Right now, you want the versatility of the drill.
2. Shop Vac
Unless you’re working exclusively outside, you’re going to be working in people’s homes. It seems pretty unlikely that you won’t make at least a small mess now and again. It is not OK to borrow the customer’s household vacuum to get rid of chunks of drywall or sawdust, so you’re going to have to bring a shop vac.
You could be that rare handyman that customers seek their whole lives – one who leaves the space cleaner than he found it. You could build a whole business around being the neatest handyman in town. Regardless, the job’s not finished until you’ve cleaned up, so get a shop vac.
3. Reciprocating Saw
If you don’t already have one, you are missing out. A reciprocating saw can do so many jobs for you – it can help with demolition by taking down drywall, framing, and pipes. It can work as a tree pruner. It can handle rough cuts of wood. It can chop large debris into smaller pieces.
Once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one. This is also the kind of tool that the average homeowner doesn’t have so wielding one will make you look like the Superman of handymen.
4. Caulk Gun
You might not even have considered this because it’s so basic.
Who would hire a handyman to caulk?
Plenty of people!
This is one of those magical handyman skills that you know anyone could handle with five minutes of practice, but regular people are irrationally scared of. But you’ll need a caulk gun to do it.
Even homes that own ladders have owners who assume every handyman will bring their own. Whether you’re installing trim or painting or patching drywall or putting in a ceiling fan, you’ll need a ladder. It doesn’t have to reach the roof – unless you’re planning to do roof repair – but it should be high enough to reach the ceiling.
If you live in an area in which vaulted ceilings are common, make sure you’ve got one that does extend a little further than standard ceiling height.
6. Circular Saw
If you expect to ever need to cut wood, a circulating saw is a must. Corded or cordless is a personal choice, but we like the cordless for the greater versatility and we don’t miss the extra oomph you get with a corded model.
Unless you’re a very specialized handyman, a circ saw is a tool you will use again and again. (Unless you like using an old-fashioned handsaw even though it’s not 1870).
7. Speed Square
You already have a tape measure, but their floppy construction makes them unsuitable for some tasks. If you’re using that circulating saw (see #6), you’ll want to a measuring tool with no give in it to mark cutting lines.
Unlike a measuring tape, a speed square will also help you keep your cuts square and make sure your materials are meeting at right angles.
8. Allen Wrenches
With a small fleet of Allen wrenches on you, you can assemble Scandinavian furniture, tighten a faucet, or repair a bicycle.
These tiny tools are increasingly a part of American life but are so small that they are easily lost. You’ll want a large set of them but resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to replenish your stash frequently unless you’re hyper-organized.
9. Crowbar or Prybar
Not everything you do as a handyman is going to be construction – some of it will be destruction. Although the reciprocating saw you’re going to get will handle a wide array of tasks, sometimes you’ll need something more precise.
Could you use the claw end of a hammer? Sure.
But a legit handyman has the right tools for the job, so if you’re pulling materials apart – trim from the wall or a trellis away from the side of the house or a nail out of wood – you’ll want a pry bar.
10. 5-Gallon Bucket
What a mundane suggestion! A bucket? Yes, a 5-gallon bucket.
- Haul trash out of a house.
- Carry tools into a house.
- Flip it over and have a place to sit and each a sandwich.
- Hang tools from the outside.
- Mix cement, grout, and paint in it.
- Haul water in it.
They are cheap and versatile. On second thought, you should get two.
Time to Go Shopping!
As a pro handyman, you could justify and rationalize the purchase of nearly any tool out there. But don’t spend all your hard-earned money on tools you’ll only use once or twice. Consider what tasks you do most often and stock up on the tools that contribute to you working faster or more effectively.
If you’re cleaning out gutters and hanging art for people, skip the Allen wrenches and invest in a decent ladder. If all your work is exterior, don’t bother with the shop vac.
Apart from reading this article, I would also recommend reading some of the many handyman blogs on the internet. They can give some great insight and help you kickstart your handyman lifestyle.
And when in doubt, always buy more duct tape.