The difference is that I go to a professional dentist for my teeth cleaning, and with home repairs, I try to do as much of that myself before calling in the expensive professionals. But what usually happens is that when I go to make a particular repair, I discover that I don't have the proper tools and end up having to call the carpenter, plumber or electrician. Each visit usually runs a minimum of $250.
So if this sounds familiar to you, here are some tips from a group of experts who claim you can buy all the tools you need to maintain your home for a total of $250. We're talking about tools you can use instead of having to pick up the phone or run to the hardware store. The $250 figure is the minimum and the group also offers some more expensive alternatives for those of you with a bigger budget.
This particular group was assembled by Bob Tedeschi, who wrote about them in The New York Times and includes Joe Ball, a vice president for construction operations for a home construction company, the Pulte Group; Ken Stone, director of the Hobby Shop, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); and Donna Shirey, the chairwoman of the National Association of Home Builders Re-modelers Division.
Here are the tools and supplies they recommend.
1. A hammer. But not just any hammer. They say buy a hammer with a hickory or ash handle, because the wood absorbs shock. If you use a steel-handled hammer for too long, your elbow will get sore. Also, the hammer should have a curved claw for pulling nails, not the straight claw. You'll want the hammer to have a smooth-face, not corrugated, so when you miss you don't permanently leave a crosshatch in the wood. The face should also be flat because nails hit with an angled or otherwise flawed surface are more likely to bend. As for cost, you can go with a $5 hickory-handle hammer from Sears, or if you want to spend more like $16 on Plumb's 16-ounce Premium Hickory Autograf curved claw hammer, go for it.
2. A screwdriver. The group recommends a multi-head screwdriver with two different size bits for slotted and Phillips screws, as well as Robertson (the square screws) and something called Torx bits. A ratcheted screwdriver is easier on the wrist, and a screwdriver that stores bits in the handle will save you from buying replacements. A good quality screwdriver will cost about $10. That's what you'll pay for the Stanley FatMax Ratcheting Multi-Bit Screwdriver.
3. A cordless drill. The going rate for a decent cordless drill is $50. However, for those with a bit (pardon the pun) more to spend, Mr. Ball, of Pulte Group, recommends a cordless hammer drill, which is four times as expensive as a standard drill but it opens up the ability of the tool and will last a lifetime. One suggestion is the DeWalt 1/2-inch, 18-volt Cordless Compact Hammer-drill kit, including battery and charger, for around $220.
4. A tape measure. Mr. Ball likes a one-inch-wide, 25-foot-long tape measure with a lock.
5. Pliers. Buy a standard pair and needle-nose. You may also want to add a pair of 12-inch slip-joint pliers, for when you need more torque or a wide mouth for pipes. The group also recommends something called Mole-Grip pliers, which are commonly known as Vise-Grips. According to Mr. Ball, they give you teeth and leverage.
6. Wrenches. Buy one adjustable wrench and a set of standard and metric wrenches â€” each with one closed, or "box," end and one open end. And a set of socket wrenches â€” metric and standard â€” also helps especially if you find yourself putting together furniture.
7. A level and a stud finder. They're often sold as a unit, but you may want to buy them separately if you like the feel and versatility of a two-foot-long level.
8. A foot-long wrecking bar is handy, especially one with a nicely tapered edge so you can slip it beneath existing wood.
9. Saw. Light carpentry jobs require a handsaw small enough to fit in your toolbox. Be sure it cuts on the pull stroke. That tends to be easier than cutting on the push stroke. One popular option is the Stanley FatMax Single-Edge Pull Saw for about $16. For more complicated carpentry, you may need a jig-saw. They're safer than circular saws plus they're fast, and they can cut straight or in curves. One recommendation is the Bosch JS470E 7-amp jigsaw with a top handle, for about $190. Another option is Bosch's 5-amp jigsaw, for around $125.
10. Toss in an assortment of screws, drywall fasteners and eight-penny nails, a small notebook, and a carpenter's pencil, and you're set. Total: around $10.
So, how did we do price-wise? Hammer-$5, Screwdriver-$10, Cordless drill $50, Tape Measure $3, Pliers-$16, Wrenches-$12, Level and stud finder-$8, Wrecking bar-$5, Saw-$10, Jigsaw-$125, Screws, nails, fasteners, notebook, pencil-$8. For a total of $252.