14 Invaluable Tools to Have on Hand When DIY-ing Alone
Wish you had a DIY buddy to help you lift heavy materials, or hold gear for you while you work? Meet your new best friends.
DIY projects big and small are often solitary tasks. Sometimes there’s nobody around to lend a hand and other times, an inexperienced “helper” may end up getting in the way. For those tasks where you could really use an extra set of eyes (or hands) that you just don’t have, there are tools and gadgets that can assist you in a pinch. Rather than wishing you had help lifting heavy materials or someone who could act as your safety “spotter,” add these items to your cart.
1. Panel Carrier
Carrying large sheets of plywood or drywall is always awkward, especially for those who don’t have a long reach. The low-cost Stanley Panel Carry is an ideal solution, not only providing valuable extra inches, but also preventing the bottom of the panel from digging into your hands.
It is made from durable plastic with a curved handle that offers comfort and good grip. The high-visibility orange color also means it won’t easily get lost among dust and rubble.
2. Bottle Jack and Stand
A good jack is essential for any home auto mechanic. Once the vehicle is raised by a jack, stands are usually used for safety. The easy-to-use Powerbuilt Unijack is noteworthy in combining both jack and secure stand in a single device.
It has a wide, stable base and built-in auto-locks to prevent accidental descent. With a load limit of 6,000 pounds and a good range of height adjustment, it can support anything from a compact sedan to a heavy truck or SUV.
3. Hand Truck/Dolly Cart
A good hand truck or dolly lets you move heavy loads and carry materials and tools in a single trip. There are lots of different hand truck models to choose from, but Fullwatt’s 264-pound folding hand truck is particularly versatile.
It combines the light weight of aluminum with the strength of a steel frame. The handle has multiple height positions, and a tri-wheel setup is superb for climbing steps or stairs. When not in use, it folds flat for easy storage.
A spring clamp can often be the additional pair of hands you lack when tackling DIY projects alone. They can be used for everything from holding wood projects while the glue dries to fixing up dust sheets when partitioning off a work area.
Each clamp in this set of 24 heavy-duty spring clamps is made from durable steel with a rust-resistant coating. They are 6 inches long and have a 2.5-inch opening. Their handles and tips are wrapped in PVC for good grip and to reduce the chances of marring workpieces.
5. Furniture Sliders
When painting and decorating, it is often necessary to move furniture. Doing it solo can result in painful back injuries and risk damaging flooring or carpets.
Furniture sliders are a great help, and they are easy to position because you only need to lift one corner of a sofa or chair at a time. These sliders from CO-Z have a tough plastic body that glides smoothly across all kinds of surfaces. Inside, there’s an EVA foam pad to keep them in place. Each one can support 110 pounds, making light work of heavy objects.
6. Tool Belt
One of the last things any DIYer wants, particularly when working up on a ladder or on a roof, is to have to keep fetching tools, nails, and screws. A good tool belt is the obvious answer to this issue, and there are dozens to choose from.
The Dickies five-pocket tool belt is made from hard-wearing, rip-resistant canvas, with an adjustable webbing belt for comfort. It offers versatile carrying capacity without being bulky and awkward to wear.
7. Mini Drywall Lifter
Drywall should never be installed right at the floor level, because if there’s even slight movement in the wall or flooring, it will crack. However, trying to lift an 8-foot by 4-foot sheet while driving enough screws to hold it in place is difficult to pull off on your own.
A drywall lifter, like this one from Wal-Board Tools, is a cheap and effective solution. It provides the leverage required using foot pressure, leaving your hands free to work. It’s made from heavy-duty steel so it won’t bend, and a powder coating gives it a long life.
8. Garden Cart
While hand trucks are very useful, nothing beats a well-made garden cart for real load-lugging ability.
Gorilla Carts are known for their strength, and the Gorilla Cart heavy-duty utility cart has a capacity of up to 1,000 pounds. It is also incredibly versatile: With sides in place, it’s great for carrying sacks or buckets. With them removed, it provides a large flat-load bed. Pneumatic tires give the cart all-terrain capabilities, and the handle doubles as a tow hitch.
DIYers often need to work in dark corners, or where there is inadequate lighting. A headlamp is a great solution, putting the beam right where it’s needed while keeping hands free.
The Petzl ACTIK CORE Headlamp weighs under 3 ounces yet offers two powerful beams and three brightness levels, all selectable with one button. It is rechargeable and runs for up to 130 hours. Alternatively, three AAA batteries can be used. It also has a detachable, washable headband.
Twine doesn’t seem that important until you don’t have any. It can be used for temporary holding, hanging, or fixing. It can also be used for laying out paving, decking, or borders. It can even bundle up trash for convenient disposal.
BeCraftee jute twine offers a natural, biodegradable fiber. It is easy to cut and tie, very flexible, and surprisingly strong. Each roll is 328 feet long.
11. Laser Distance Measure
Working solo can make measuring difficult because there’s nobody to hold the other end of a tape. Errors are not only frustrating, but can be very costly. Laser distance measures are a convenient and effective solution.
This multi-function, pocket-sized model from Bosch has impressive accuracy of within 1/16 inch over a range of up to 165 feet. In addition to distance it can calculate area, volume, and includes an inclinometer for angles. With Bluetooth connectivity and the free MeasureOn app, you can also save measurements you take to your smartphone or tablet.
12. Ladder Stabilizer
Ladders are a necessity for many DIY jobs, but working high off the ground is dangerous, particularly if a DIYer doesn’t have an on-the-ground spotter. Overreaching while standing on a ladder—say, while cleaning out your gutters—can lead to serious accidents. While stretching too far should always be avoided, particularly when you’re working alone, the Werner Quickclick Ladder Stabilizer can dramatically increase safety.
This spring-loaded mechanism fixes quickly onto most extending ladders. It has a span of 44 inches that not only provides a more stable platform from which to work, but can often reach across windows or downpipes, making painting and repairs easier. Rubber feet prevent it from marring surfaces, and a paint can hook keeps a gallon (or a small bucket of tools) within easy reach.
13. Non-Contact Voltage Tester
When you’re installing new wiring or doing other repairs to your electrical system, the work is done with the power off. Knowing whether electric current is present—and whether it is safe to turn the power back on after an electrical repair—can be the difference between the safe completion of a project and a dangerous, even fatal, electric shock. The safe way to check live wires is with a non-contact voltage tester.
The Fluke Voltalert is reliable and affordable, and continually self-tests to let you know it is working properly. It detects power through the insulation, so there’s never any need to touch bare cables. A glowing tip, and a beeper give clear indication of live current anywhere from 90 to 1,000 volts.
14. Band Clamp
We mentioned above how people doing DIY on their own often wish they had an extra pair of hands, and how useful clamps can be. While the spring clamps featured are great for small projects they have obvious limits.
With 13 feet of high-strength nylon webbing, the SEDY band clamp can accommodate much larger projects. The four jaws are perfect for gripping square and rectangular pieces, but can be removed so the clamp can adapt to any shape. Simply loop the strap around the object, and turn the soft-grip handle to the tension required.
The prices listed here are accurate as of February 6, 2023.