Thought Tuesday

Adulting 101 – Remembering Bob the Builder – Basic Home Repair Tools

I spend my days teaching kids the basics of simple home repair tools.  You would be surprised how many teens and young adults don’t have the first idea of how to use a hammer, a drill, or even, to measure something with a tape measure.  I believe firmly that ever young adult should be able to swing a hammer, use a drill/driver, hang a picture with and anchor bolt or by finding a stud, and use a saw.


These are basic tools ever household should have and every young adult should be able to use.

You will be far more successful in any home repair project if you have the right tool and know how to use it.

The first thing you need to consider is quality… buy a good quality tool.  High-quality tools are not only safer to use, but most will last a long time when they are properly cared for.  Choose tools that are manufactured well, are well balanced, and fit comfortably in your hand.

Here are a few basic tools you will need in a basic tool box:

Measuring Tools

Basic Measuring Tools
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Pretty much every project you will do in your apartment or home will require accurate measurements.  You will need to know more than how many feet and inches are involved.  You will need to ensure that your project is plumb, level and square… even the picture you are trying to hang.  Without these measurements, that crooked hanging picture will drive you crazy!

A measuring tape measures between 12 to 25 feet (there are longer measuring tapes, but you won’t need one).  Get yourself a tape that is at least 5/8-inch wide so that is stays rigid when it is extended.  This will help you avoid frustration… trust me.

I use a quick square or rafter’s square rather a carpenter’s square.  I find them easier to use for small jobs.  A standard rafter square is typically 12 inches long… and it is not a square shape.  Don’t be fooled.  A square is used to test the squareness of edges in planning and sawing material.  It is used to check right-angles in your work.  It can be used as a straight edge, ruler, and sometimes, a depth gauge.

A level has bubbles to help you determine leveling needs.  When laid flat against a vertical surface, a level can help you determine both horizontal and vertical levels – like when you want to hang a picture straight.

You may wish to invest in a stud finder.  Disclaimer: a stud finder will not help you find a man.  LOL.  A stud finder is handy when you need to find a stud to hang something heavy on a wall.

Cutting Tools

You will need cutting tools if you plan on cutting material for your project.

cutting tools
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Now that you have “measured twice” you are ready to “cut once.”

A basic home repair tool box should include a hand saw.  You could choose a crosscut saw – a saw designed to cut across the grains in the wood; a ripsaw – designed to cut along the grains of the wood; a backsaw – used to make angled cuts or trimming molding in a miter box; a keyhole saw – usually used for cutting pipes; a coping saw – has interchangeable thin blades; a hacksaw – used for cutting metal, plastic, and pipes.

Cutting success depends on choosing the right saw for the job.

As you get more handy with tools and more confident with projects, you will be ready to add a power saw to your tool box.  Again, there are many saws to choose from and success is determined by choosing the right saw for the job.  Power saws can be intimidating at first.  They should be!  When mis-used, a power saw can do great damage in a hurry!  So BE SAFE!

Here are a few power saw options to consider: a circular saw – used to cross cut or rip material (I use this saw for long cuts); a saber saw – also called a jig saw, the blade moves up and down, used to make curving cuts and makes a smooth fin-line cuts with or across the grain of the wood; a chop saw or compound miter saw – looks like a circular saw but it stationary, use to make short cut and and/or angled cuts (my favorite power saw).

Fastening Tools

There are so many types of drills and fasteners out there that is can be hard to sift through all the choices and pick which tool is best.

Drills make holes.  A bit fits in the chuck.  The bit is what grabs the material and whittles it out.  I am partial to cordless drills.  Also, I like a variable-speed drill.  It is a handy tool to own; the rotation can be started slowly and then sped up.

How to Choose the Right Drill BitThe drill bit you choose depends on the drill you’re using. The following table will help you pick the correct drill bit.

Drill Bit Drill Type Use
 Twist Hand, power, or drill press Small-diameter holes
in wood and metal
 Spade Power or drill press Holes up to 11/2 inches
in wood
 Auger Braces Holes up to 11/2 inches
in wood
 Expansion Brace Holes up to 3 inches
in wood
 Fly cutter Drill press Holes up to 6 inches in wood; smaller holes in other materials
 Hole saw Power or drill press Holes up to 3 inches in wood

Other fastener tools you may need in a basic tool box are simple tools that help you apply fasteners, like nails, bolts, and such.  The most common fastener tools are:

Hammer – the most common is a claw hammer with a handle and a head used to drive nails into wood, the claw helps to remove nails

Screw driver – used for tightening and loosening screws.  The two most useful screw drivers are flat and Phillips head (x-shaped head).  I like to use a cordless driver that looks more like a drill than a screw driver.  My personal driver is an impact driver.  🙂

Wrench – used to turn bolt heads or nuts – come in a variety of types which include open end, combination, adjustable, and Allen.  When using a wrench, pull it toward you rather than pushing it away to give you more control and to reduce slippage and the chance of injury

Pliers – a great extension of your fingers but stronger.  They are used to grip and hold things.  They should not be used to tighten or loosen things.  Common types of pliers include slip-joint (has two settings for two widths), groove-joint (use an elongated hole with grooves to allow multiple widths), needle-nose (good for grabbing small parts or wires in tight spaces), and locking (sometimes called Vise Grip, adjustable and locks in place).

There you have it.  These are the basic tools that should be in any young adults tool box… and yes… you should have one.  You should be comfortable using these basic tools.  You are capable of doing basic home repair tasks using these tools, such as, hang a picture.

Sadly, I see too many kids unable to handle these basic tools safely.  Sadly, I see too many teens unable to confidently take care of their own chores and small projects.

Now that you have an idea of the simple tools you should know how to use, we can address how to successfully do a few simple tasks the next time I get on my soap box!

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