12 Home Tools You Need – Part 3

A Guide for New Homeowners.

toolbelt without tools Well, now that you’re in your new place and have the important stuff unpacked, you’ve probably made a good start on your list of things to fix or change to suit your taste. And that means… you’re likely going to be heading for the hardware store.

Today I’m highlighting 3 “maintenance tools” to add to your arsenal.

For those of you who need to catch up, you might want to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Maintenance Tools

adjustable wrenches # 6

Adjustable Wrench


Adjustable wrench, crescent wrench, adjustable spanner or fit-all – whatever you might call it – when it comes down to the nuts & bolts of home ownership – it’s a very handy tool. Just try assembling that new gas BBQ without one and you’ll know what I mean.

It’s efficient too. You can tighten up the leaky toilet shutoff on your way to the garage, to fix that flat tire on your vintage Schwinn bicycle, knowing that you have the right-size wrench for each job.


Even though adjustable wrenches are by nature, “adjustable”, they still come in various sizes to suit the task. If I could only have ONE adjustable wrench, I’d have to go with the 8″ (mid-size) for the most flexibility.

Fortunately, adjustable wrenches can be purchased in a set of 3 at a reasonable price. There are some spiffy new designs hitting the market these days, but I recommend sticking with the common style (shown) for starting out. The shape allows you to get into places a bulkier design may not.

two sizes of putty knives #7

Putty Knife


You’ll need this often overlooked tool as soon as you start painting your new home – which is usually before you even move in. Task #1? – filling in the nail holes, nicks and scratches in the drywall or plaster you’ll notice the first time you see the place empty.

Other uses include: stripping paint off furniture, prying off switch plates, re-glazing old windows, and scraping dried paint drips off the hardwood floor (be gentle!).


Putty knives come in widths from 1″ to 4″, usually in 1/2″ increments. Even wider widths are available, but you really don’t need them unless you plan to crack fill new drywall construction.

For starters, I’d say the most useful width is 2″. This is wide enough to bridge many common wall nicks, but narrow enough to use between a door casing and light switch. You’ll can always add different widths to your tool box if you need them. (The rounded corners on the 2” wide one in the picture are from decades of use – from stripping furniture to applying roofing tar).

Look for one with a thin blade that has lots of “flex” to it and a comfortable handle. Cheap putty knives with thick, stiff blades are frustrating to use.

speed level-straightedge #8

Spirit Level


Does it bug you when that closet door swings open all by itself? Exactly.

Spirit levels are just the tool for checking to see if things are perfectly level, plumb or even at a jaunty 45 degree tilt (if that’s your inclination).

Doors, shelves, tables, mantles and cabinets all look and work better when they’re level and/or plumb.


Spirit levels come in a whole bunch of lengths. A small  9 -10 inch “torpedo” level can fit your tool box or slip into your back pocket. Look for a sturdy aluminum body with a magnetic edge (like this one at Amazon.com).

Longer levels are more accurate over longer distances, but you can always place your torpedo level on a longer straight edge when you’re ready to wallpaper the nursery.

My personal favourite is the 24″ Speed Level shown in the picture, which I’ve had for 20 years. It’s lightweight, and has a unique shape that tapers to a thin edge at the ruler markings. Checking for level is just one use.

It’s marked for measuring (inches/cms) which is handy for marking distances on a level line (like stud centres). But mine probably gets the most use as a straight edge for marking lines or as a cutting guide for my utility knife.

Sadly, the 24” may be an extinct species now. Amazon lists a 36″ version, but it’s out of stock with no promise of more. The manufacturer, does have them on the Empire website (again, just the 36″ though). If you see one of these in a hardware store, grab it. It’s a handy multi-purpose tool.

(Part 1) Pre-move Tools

(Part 2) Moving-in Tools

(Part 3) Maintenance Tools

(Part 4) Project Tools

(Part 5) Power Drill/Driver

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