The 10 Commandments of Buying the Right Tools

Whether you’re a veteran weekend warrior or a newcomer to home improvement, you’ll get nothing done without reliable tools you can wield with confidence. But rather than buy a comprehensive set of tools all at once, opt instead to build your collection gradually over time, so you can give due thought to each purchase. As you deliberate over which are the right tools to buy for the tasks at hand, bear in mind these words of advice from an expert.

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  1. Less Can Be More


    Owning a comprehensive array of hundreds of tools may impress your home improvement buddies, but if you never (or very rarely) use the full range of tools at your disposal, then you've probably wasted your money. Far better is to focus on your immediate needs and what you’ll need most often down the line. The old adage—quality over quantity—holds true with tools.

  2. Pricey Isn’t Always Better


    Costlier tools may be more durable, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for the weekend warrior. Indeed, a top-of-the-line tool may be so complicated that it surpasses the skill level of an average do-it-yourselfer. Put simply, don't pay more for the cachet of a expert-tier tool if you yourself are not an expert.

  3. Try Before Buying


    Buy online if you wish, but it’s a good idea to at least eyeball a tool in person to assess its size quality of construction. Good tools are a bit like clothing: You should check to see how it fits in your palm. Making the acquaintance of a tool first-hand is the best way to avoid buyer's remorse.

  4. Determine Your Skill Level


    If you're a beginner who's never done a lot of work around the house, focus your search on simply designed tools. Familiarity with a tool minimizes the risk that you'll injure yourself or cause incidental damage. Take special care with potent power tools. And before you hit the "on" switch, make certain you understand how the tool works.

  5. Suit Yourself


    Not all tools are created equal. For instance, a framing hammer can weigh almost two pounds, while a lightly balanced finish hammer comes in at only ten ounces. Get a sense of the heft of the different tools and try to find your sweet spot: Heavier hammers drive nails faster, but as you get tired, it’ll also begin to feel heavier and less accurate.

  6. Consider Project Needs


    Different projects require different tools. Before you undertake the task of, say, building a bookcase, take pains to understand what exactly goes into the project. Knowing what tools are necessary for what you intend to do can help you dodge the mistake of under- or over-purchasing.

  7. Buy Back-Up Batteries


    Battery-powered drills have almost entirely replaced the older corded models. As long-lasting as lithium batteries may be, they can't run forever, and once they've lost their charge, they're rendered useless. Fortunately, lots of manufacturers sell drills, saws, and other tools with two batteries, so if you shop smart, you can keep working with hardly an interruption.

  8. Work Your Way Up


    Once you’ve gained basic skills and your first tool purchases have begun to seem rather primitive, step up to more sophisticated equipment. You’ll gain accuracy, reliability, power and even confidence, but the old rules still apply: buy tools that suit your size, needs, and storage capacity (as well as your budget).

  9. Remember Protection


    Buy safety goggles, earplugs, and facemasks. There are legitimate safety risks involved in any number of home improvement projects, even ones that may seem totally harmless. Safety equipment isn't an optional extra; it's a must.

  10. Ask Questions


    When shopping for tools, be sure to ask questions of the sales associates about which products are best-suited to your tasks and needs. Ask for advice and instruction that once you get home and start work, you're not just winging it.

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