diy tools

DIY Tools — 15 Essential Items For Your Toolbox in 2023 (UK Guide)

The vast array of tools is overwhelming when starting your DIY journey. To help you on your way, we’ve separated the nice-to-haves from the must-haves and compiled this list of 15 essential DIY tools. 

So before you start your next project, ensure you have all the tools listed below:

1. Tape Measure

tape measure

A tape measure assists you in almost every DIY project, from measuring room dimensions to marking materials to cut.

Investing in quality construction ensures a far more durable tape measure, and smart functions, such as locking the tape, are essential when working alone. 

Choose a tape measure that’s longer than you need and check it has the units of length (metric or imperial) you follow.

Pro Tip: Go for a compact design that fits in your pocket. 

2. Claw Hammer

hand holding claw hammer

A claw hammer is a versatile tool; you can use it as a hammer and crowbar. 

The ‘claw’ part is either completely curved or slightly straight (rip claw hammer). A curved claw is better for removing nails and small demolition jobs like skirting board removal. 

Claw hammers come in various weights and sizes, but we recommend a mid-range claw hammer, weighing around 16oz and roughly 300mm long. 

Pro Tip: Choosing a soft grip handle provides comfort whilst working and prevents the hammer from slipping from your grip.

3. Set of Screwdrivers

set of screwdrivers

According to Homebuilding & Renovating, there are five main screwdriver heads, the most common being Flat/Slotted and Phillips.

When renovating, you often need to switch between heads, so we recommend buying a screwdriver set that includes all five types in various sizes.

Pro Tip: Choose a set that includes a sturdy carry case, as this keeps your screwdrivers organised and makes them easier to move around.

4. Drills and Drivers

builder using combi drill

There are several different types of drills and drivers, such as hammer drills, impact drivers, and drill drivers. Each has its benefits and uses, but we highly recommend a combi drill for beginners.

A combi drill provides three main functions — drilling, driving, and hammer mode. It’s suitable for drilling into wood, metal, concrete and masonry. It can also act as an electric screwdriver.

There’s a big debate about which is better, corded or cordless drills. We recommend a battery-operated cordless model for general use, as it allows you to work indoors and outdoors. If you’re looking for more power, pick a corded hammer drill.

5. Drill Bit Set

drill bits and screws

We recommend buying a complete set of drill bits to prepare you for most DIY projects. These sets usually come in a carry case, which keeps them organised and saves time searching for the right bit.

Choose a set that includes masonry, wood, and HSS drill bits. It should also include screwdriver bits and flat bits — the more, the better!

6. Adjustable Pliers

plumber using adjustable pliers

Adjustable pliers work like spanners, except they adjust to various sizes, saving you from buying a collection of spanners, many of which you won’t need. This versatility makes them particularly useful in emergency plumbing situations.

We recommend choosing heavy-duty adjustable pliers with a large jaw.

7. Wood Saw

construction worker cutting wood using wood saw

There are many types of saws, but a universal hand saw is the best choice for beginners sawing wood.

Hand saws are available in several different sizes, and the blade’s teeth vary in number. For general-purpose use, we recommend a medium to large hand saw that offers cross-cutting and rip-cutting with around 8 TPI (teeth per inch). 

8. Junior Hacksaw

builder using junior hacksaw

Unlike a wood saw, a junior hacksaw is ideal for cutting through metal and plastic. Moreover, the blade is much thinner with finer teeth, making it better suited for precision cutting. 

A junior hacksaw is excellent for cutting plastic pipes and tile trims (metal or plastic) and cutting bolts and rods. 

Furthermore, a junior hacksaw is small enough to fit in a tool bag, and you can change the blades to suit the material you’re cutting. 

9. Spirit Level

carpenter using spirit level on wood

Whether putting up shelves or doing something more challenging, spirit levels are essential in any toolbox.

Many people use spirit levels for marking straight edges, and if you have an extra long one, you can also use it as a cutting guide for power tools such as circular saws and jigsaws.

As a general allrounder, we recommend buying a mid-size spirit level, around 30–40cm long.

Pro Tip: Look for a magnetic spirit level with shock-resistant end caps.

10. Combination Square

different types of squares

A combination square is a versatile measuring and marking tool with interchangeable heads.

Each head serves a different purpose, such as the protractor head, centre finder head, etc. The standard head lets you mark and check 90° and 45° angles, which is important for many DIY projects. 

You can buy combination squares in various sizes, but we recommend a mid-size model, around 300mm, for beginners.

11. Clamps

carpenters clamps

Clamps are used for securing materials on a workbench whilst cutting. There are several types of clamps, but bar clamps are the best option for beginners. 

Bar clamps come in various lengths and have rubber heads that don’t leave an imprint or mark wood. For speed of use, quick-change bar clamps are the best choice. These clamps have a quick-release design, allowing you to clamp and de-clamp rapidly. 

Pro Tip: We recommend buying a pair of bar clamps, as you’ll often need more than one. 

12. Filling Knife

man using filling knife

Filling knives are typically used to scrape paint, remove wallpaper, and apply Polyfilla. Also, the smaller knives are great for mixing small amounts of tile adhesive or browning plaster.

We recommend buying a pack of filling knives that includes three different sizes. If you’re repairing large cracks, buy an extra large knife, known as a taping knife or a jointing knife.

13. Utility Knife

utilifty knife

The humble and ubiquitous utility knife is used to cut basic materials like plasterboard, cardboard, and plastic. They’re also handy for cutting sealant and removing carpets.

Utility knives use either replaceable or snap-off blades. With snap-off blades, you don’t remove and replace the blade. Instead, you snap off the tip to reveal a fresh edge. This design means you can quickly change your blade with minimum effort. However, it’s less robust than a standard replaceable blade.

14. Sealant Gun

builder applying silicone using a sealant gun

Sealant guns are indispensable when sealing baths, showers, sinks, doors, windows, etc, with silicone. And despite their name, you can also use them with tubes of caulk and glue.

When choosing a sealant gun, pick one with two metal bars on either side of the tube. These bars secure the tube when under pressure. 

15. Paddle Mixer Attachment

mixing concrete in a bucket using a paddle mixer

It might seem like a niche tool, but a paddle mixer makes mixing building materials, such as plaster, tile adhesive and cement, much easier. 

A paddle mixer attaches to your drill and spins at high speed, mixing materials much faster than by hand. Think of it as a giant drill bit that saves your arm muscles a lot of hard work! 

It’s worth noting that paddle mixers work best with an SDS hammer drill, as excessive use can burn out less powerful drills.

Final Thoughts

Reducing this list to only 15 tools was difficult, but it covers 80% of the jobs you’ll likely do throughout your DIY journey. Add more tools as you grow your skills and tackle new projects.

Remember, you get what you pay for, especially with tools, so don’t choose the cheapest option. Well-made tools last a lifetime if you look after them.

If you want a second opinion, check out Charlie’s video below as he creates the perfect starter kit for his wife.

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If you want something to do with your new tools, check out our guide to 31 home improvements that add value.