diy tools

DIY Tools — 15 Essential Items for Any Toolbox in 2023 (UK Guide)

The vast array of tools can be overwhelming when starting your DIY journey. We’ve all been there, so we’ve created this guide to help you on your way. 

We’ve separated the nice-to-haves from the must-haves and put together this list of 15 essential DIY tools. 

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

1. Tape Measure

tape measure

No DIY job is successful without a tape measure, and it will become one of your most used tools. 

This must-have item will assist you in almost every DIY project, from measuring areas within a room to marking up materials to cut.

Investing in a quality design will ensure a far more durable tape measure. Clever functions, such as locking the tape, are essential when working alone. 

It’s a good idea to choose a tape measure that’s longer than you need so you won’t need to join measurements or buy a second one in the future. You should also ensure the tape measure you purchase has the correct measurements (metric or imperial) to suit your needs. A compact design is helpful as it will fit in your pocket. 

2. Claw Hammer

hand holding claw hammer

A claw hammer is an exceptionally versatile tool, as you can use it as a hammer and a crowbar for prying. 

The ‘claw’ helps remove nails, but you can also use it for small demolition jobs, such as skirting board removal. A solid claw means you won’t need to buy a separate crowbar, saving you a bit of money and space in your tool bag.

You can buy claw hammers in various weights and sizes, but a mid-range claw hammer is best for a beginner. These are generally 16oz in weight and around 300mm in length. 

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

The ‘claw’ part of a claw hammer is either completely curved or slightly straight (rip claw hammer). For beginners, a curved claw is the better option as it’s suited for removing nails and is more versatile.  

3. Set of Screwdrivers

set of screwdrivers

There are several types of screwdrivers, the most common being Flat-head, Pozi and Phillips. When renovating, you often need to alternate between all three and perhaps even some others, too! A starter set of screwdrivers covers you for the majority of projects.

A good screwdriver set should include at least three varieties of screwdrivers (as mentioned above) and contain various sizes. A carry case isn’t essential, but you may find it helpful to keep them separated and organised.

4. Combi Drill

builder using combi drill

If you buy only one power tool, make sure it’s a drill. A drill is invaluable to any toolbox, whether you need to drill into brickwork to put up a shelf or install a new hinge. 

There are several different drill types, such as hammer, impact, and drill driver. Each has its benefits and uses. However, we recommend a combi drill for an “all-around” drill.

A combi drill provides three main functions: drilling, driving, and hammer mode. It’s suitable for drilling into wood, metal, concrete and masonry. It’s also helpful in driving screws. 

Choosing a battery-operated model is beneficial, as it will allow you to work indoors and outdoors. If you’re looking for more power, pick a higher-voltage drill. 

5. Set of Drill Bits

drill bits and screws

We recommend buying a complete set of drill bits to prepare you for most DIY projects.

Drill bit sets usually come in a carry case, which keeps them organised and saves time searching for the right bit.

When choosing a drill bit set, opt for one which includes masonry bits, wood bits and HSS bits. It’s also beneficial to pick one with screwdriver bits and flat bits — the more, the better!

6. Adjustable Pliers

plumber using adjustable pliers

These pliers save you from buying a collection of spanners, many of which you may not need. 

They’re used the same way as a spanner, except they adjust to various sizes, making them suitable for many DIY jobs. 

Adjustable pliers are particularly useful in emergency plumbing situations where you may not have a suitable spanner available.

We recommend choosing heavy-duty adjustable pliers with a wide range of movement.

7. Wood Saw

construction worker cutting wood using wood saw

No tool kit is complete without a wood saw, as wood is one of the most-used DIY materials. 

There are many different wood saws, including electric power saws, but a universal hand-panel saw is the best choice for a DIY starter kit.

You can buy hand saws in various sizes, and the blade’s teeth vary in size and number. For general-purpose use, a hand saw that offers both cross and rip-cutting is ideal with around 8TPI (teeth per inch). 

It’s worth noting that saw blades have a limited lifetime, so unless your hand saw has replacement blades, it won’t last forever. 

8. Junior Hacksaw

builder using junior hacksaw

Unlike a wood saw that only cuts through wood, a junior hacksaw is ideal for cutting through metal and plastic. 

The blade is much thinner with fine teeth, making it better suited for precision cutting. 

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

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

9. Spirit Level

carpenter using spirit level on wood

Spirit levels are essential for many DIY jobs. Whether it’s as simple as putting up shelves or something more challenging, such as installing plasterboard.

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

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

Pro Tip: A quality spirit level has shock-resistant end caps and is also magnetic.

10. Combination Square

different types of squares

A combination square acts as a measuring ruler and lets you mark and check 90-degree and 45-degree angles. 

A combination square also allows you to draw repeat measurements quickly and precisely. These attributes are helpful for jobs such as fitting handles or overlapping feather edge boards.

You can buy combination squares in a range of sizes. However, a mid-size, around 300mm, is the best starter option. Many combination squares also have spirit levels built into them.

11. Clamps

carpenters clamps

Clamps are used for securing materials in position whilst cutting. There are several different clamps to choose from, but bar clamps are the best option for a DIY starter kit. 

Bar clamps come in different lengths and have rubber heads, so they 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 and allow 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 for scraping paint, removing wallpaper and applying Polyfilla. Also, the smaller knives are great for mixing up small amounts of building mix, like tile adhesive or browning plaster.

We recommend buying a small pack with at least 3 different sizes. If you’re repairing large wall/ceiling cracks, buy an extra large knife, known as a taping knife or a jointing knife.

13. Utility Knife

utilifty knife

No toolbox is complete without a utility knife. Unlike filling knives, utility knives are used to cut basic materials like plasterboard, cardboard, and plastic. They’re also handy for cutting sealant, caulk, or even removing carpets.

Utility knives either have retractable blades that you can remove or replace with a ‘snap-off’ blade. 

With Snap-off blades, you don’t need to remove the blade. I.e. you snap off the tip to reveal a new blade underneath. This design means you can quickly change your blade with minimum effort. It is, however, a little less robust than a standard utility knife.

14. Sealant Gun

builder applying silicone using a sealant gun

Whether decorating, plumbing or woodworking, a sealant gun is a DIY must-have tool. Despite their name, you can also use sealant guns with tubes of caulk and glue and silicone sealant.

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

mixing concrete in a bucket using a paddle mixer

It might seem like a niche tool, but a paddle mixer is a must-have if you’re mixing many building materials, such as plaster, tile adhesive or cement. 

A paddle mixer is a drill attachment. It spins at high speed and mixes your material much faster and easier than mixing 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 these paddle mixers work best with an SDS drill, as excessive use can burn out regular drills.

Final Thoughts — 15 Essential DIY Tools

It was hard narrowing this list down to just 15 tools, but we believe this list will cover 80% of DIY jobs.

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

YouTube player

Add tools as needed as you grow your skills and take on more challenging projects. Remember, you mostly get what you pay for, especially with tools, so don’t go for the cheapest option. Well-made tools will last you a lifetime if you look after them.

Check our Drills, Saws, and general Tools & Materials buying guides to find the best tools for your toolbox.