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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

Must have tools for DIY: beginner's essential toolbox guide

Updated: 4 days ago

Do you know these must-have DIY tools?

tools and workbench on a garden deck

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, having the must-have tools for DIY at your disposal can make the difference between a project's success and failure. I know only too well the trauma of trying to complete a job without the right tools, which adds time and often reduces the quality of the overall finish. I also know that it can be quite overwhelming to decide which tools to invest in when you are just starting out in the world of DIY. On the one hand, you want a variety of tools but don't want to buy unnecessary ones as they all cost money, and DIY can get expensive. On the other hand, you don't want to cheap out and buy seemingly good-value tools only to find out that they are poor quality and need replacing quickly. Sound familiar? Then you'll be glad to hear that I've made lots of mistakes already and am happy to share the benefit of my experience to save you from learning the hard way, too!

What are the top 15 must-have DIY tools?

In this guide, I'll whizz through the top 15 must-have tools that every DIY enthusiast should consider adding to their collection.

1. Tape measure

hand holding a top reader tape measure over a piece of mdf

Accurate measurements are the cornerstone of any DIY project. A reliable tape measure ensures precise cuts and placements, essential for tasks ranging from simple repairs to complex constructions. My personal favourite model is a top-reader tape measure. It allows you to measure the exact dimensions of alcoves and internal spaces. The dimensions are shown on the top of the case and take into account the length of the body. 

2. Cordless drill & drill bits

must have diy tool - a cordless drill and drill bit selection

A cordless drill is a versatile tool that serves multiple purposes, from drilling holes to driving screws. Its portability and power make it indispensable for various DIY tasks. Power drills make light work of drilling through wood, brick and plaster. By inserting screwdriver bits into your drill, you transform it into a handy electric screwdriver, increasing its versatility.

I love my hammer drill as it has various settings to select depending on the task you are working on. (Hammer/drill & screwdriver). You can pick up a Ryobi starter set for under £100 (I think I paid £75) that comes with replacement battery packs and a charging station. I recommend looking out for offers and deals in your local DIY store or even on Amazon (I buy quite a lot of tools from them) as you can save a packet.

3. Saw

A saw is one of the most essential of the basic tools. The types of projects you plan to tackle and the frequency you plan to use them will determine which saw to choose. Handsaws are usually fine if you are starting out and don't want the expense of an electric saw.

Handsaws are often smaller, lighter, and easier to store, which is another advantage. They are also easier to use when you are starting out, although they require more effort and elbow grease. So, they might not be ideal when you have a large project with lots of cuts to complete or when you are cutting through chunky pieces of timber, which will require a lot of effort.

These are the saws that I use and recommend...

must-have DIY tool - hand saw

General-purpose wood saw

I always have one of these in my toolbox as they are so quick and easy to use and take up little storage space. B&Q usually do a '2 for £10' offer which makes them super affordable too.

Mitre box with tenon saw

mitre box with tenon saw for must have diy tools for beginners

When it comes to installing DIY panelling, a mitre box and saw is the cheapest and easiest way to get accurate mitre cuts. 

The only downside to using a plastic mitre box is that you can accidentally shave a little off the plastic edge when you make your cuts which over time makes the mitre box less accurate; the other possible issue is that standard mitre boxes aren't very tall, which is fine for panelling but can be an issue if you are working on tall skirting boards. I wrote a tutorial on how to make a tall, wooden mitre box in case this is useful. If you are working on skirting boards, you might like to read my guide on how to get the perfect joins


jigsaw on a sheet of mdf - a must have diy tool for beginners

Once you start DIYing regularly, it's worth investing in a power saw. I bought this super affordable jigsaw from my local DIY store a couple of years ago, which was under £30 and is great for cutting quickly through larger pieces of wood. A jigsaw saves a lot of time and effort and has to feature on my must-have DIY tools list.

I haven't cut metal with it (there are different blades for wood and metal), but I have used it for the following projects, and it worked a treat.

If you are planning to do a lot of woodwork projects, then you might want to opt for a more expensive model, but for the average DIYer it's great.

4. Claw hammer

claw hammer - must-have DIY tool

When it comes to driving and removing nails a claw hammer is an indispensable tool. Its versatility and ease of use make it a favorite among DIYers. I have a mini claw hammer which is very light and manoeuvrable, perfect for using in tight spaces and ideal for tasks such as hammering rawl plugs into a wall and installing panel pins or small nails.

For heavy-duty hammering, it's worth getting a mallet or full-size hammer, but as I tend to work with screws rather than nails and use a brad nailer when I do want nails, a huge heavy hammer isn't on my frequently used list. 

5. Utility knife aka Stanley knife

Utility knife cutting through wet microcement on a breakfast bar

From cutting through different materials to precise trimming, a utility knife is a must-have tool for any DIY enthusiast. Its usefulness spans across various projects, making it an essential addition to your toolbox. I've used utility knives on each of the following projects... Cutting foam on upholstery projects like the DIY footstool or DIY headboard. Removing carpets, hanging wallpaper, adding wallpaper to wall panels and even squaring off the corners on microcement projects are other examples of when a utility knife comes into its own.

6. Stud finder

Studfinder a must-have DIY tool

A stud finder can literally save your life by preventing you drilling into electrical cables and can save you a world of hassle by letting you know where pipework is located insider the walls you want to drill into. As well as the safety aspects, stud finders help locate studs behind walls accurately, ensuring secure installations of shelves, cabinets, and mirrors for example. You don't need to spend a fortune on this must-have DIY tool as even the basic, entry-level ones do the job adequately, helping you out. Read my article on how to use a stud finder for all the tips and tricks.

7. Screwdriver set

A comprehensive screwdriver set with various sizes and types of screwdriver bits is essential for tackling a wide array of DIY tasks, from assembling furniture to fixing appliances. I tend to use PZ2 (pozidrive 2) screws, so use the corresponding screwdriver most frequently. It's a good idea to have a whole range of screwdrivers in your toolbox as you'll find flatpack furniture sets and the like often come with specific screws like slotted (flathead) or hex (allen) keys. Manual screwdrivers are affordable, easy to use and store.

Electric screwdrivers are handy but I found the very cheap ones to be a bit weak especially compared to using screwdriver bits on a drill in screwdriver mode.

8. Sander

There is a high chance that you'll need to do some kind of sanding if you are completing a lot of DIY projects as it's a necessary evil. You can usually start off quite happily with a few sheets of sandpaper in various grits and use them with a block of wood or a specialist sanding block.

However, once you start sanding regularly or if your sanding project is located inside your house, then the best option will usually be a power sander with some kind of dust extraction. Sanding can get ridiculously dusty and it's bad for you to breath in the dust particles so attaching a vacuum to your power sander is always a good idea if you can.

Mouse sander 

mouse sander must-have diy tool

A mouse sander is the perfect entry-level power sander as is small but packs a punch when it comes to small sanding projects. You can pick one up for about £20 and I definitely recommend one if you have more than a little sanding to do because you can attach a vacuum hose to the back of the sander to collect the dust and it saves a lot of effort. You need to buy mouse-shaped sanding pads which attach with velcro. If you have a large project or you sand regularly then I'd skip this and move straight to the random orbital sander below. Otherwise, this is a brilliant investment.

Random orbital sander

orbital sander- must-have diy tool

Achieving smooth and polished surfaces is made effortless with a random orbital sander. Its ability to remove material efficiently makes it invaluable for finishing touches on woodworking and home improvement projects. I picked mine up for around £50 and it's so much more powerful than the mouse sander that it makes light work of sanding large areas like tabletops, doors and bookshelves.

9. Nail gun (brad nailer) staple gun

brad nailer in a diyer's hand - a must-have DIY tool

10. A spirit or laser level

an orange spirit level being held by a DIYer.

A spirit level is indispensable for ensuring straight lines and accurate alignments. Whether you're hanging picture frames or installing shelves, a spirit level will see you right and there's nothing more annoying than completing the job to stand back and realise you've put something on the wonk!

Do I need a laser lever?

laser level a must-have DIY tool

When you are starting out, you don't need to buy a laser lever straight away, a standard spirit level is cheap and easy to get hold of, perfect for occasional DIYers and a toolbox staple for regulars. I recommend getting a longer spirit level if you can, as the tiny, lightweight plastic ones can be inaccurate (I discovered that the hard way!). A laser level is a good idea if you complete regular home improvement projects and is worth the money. You can buy an entry-level laser level for around £20-30 and they are self-calibrating and reliable. I use mine by attaching it to my camera tripod, but you can stand the level on a pile of books or a table/worktop if you don't have a tripod. 

11. Putty knife 

A large proportion of DIY is focused on the prep work. Prepping walls, floors, doors, ceilings etc before painting, skimming, wallpapering or panelling so a putty knife is a super handy tool as can remove lumps, bumps, wallpaper, and imperfections from the wall's surface before being used to apply filler to smooth out. 

Skimming spreader

must-have diy tool - a skimming spreader

I have to add a note here about my skimming spreader. Although this isn't a must-have toolbox essential for everyone, it definitely is for those starting out with skimming/ plastering or microcement projects on their agenda. This tool makes life so easy when you want to smooth a surface, as I did when I smoothed over my artex textured ceiling or applied a skim-coat to my walls. I bought mine from (not an ad, but you can get 10% off with the code CDS10).

12. Clamps

DIY clamps must-have diy tool

These clamps are so handy to have in your kit and had to feature in the must-have DIY tools list because I use them all the time. Perfect for steadying a piece of wood when you need to cut or drill into it. I use these DIY clamps all the time, but some recent projects where they were super helpful were, DIY marble side table, DIY marble tile splashback, DIY footstool.

Top Tip: You can clamp the mitre box we saw earlier to a table or workbench to get more accurate cuts.

13. Safety glasses

protective glasses for DIY a must-have tool

It'd be remiss of me to recommend a bunch of tools and not add safety glasses to the list! I always use safety goggles when I'm using a jigsaw or tile cutter to protect against flying debris and shrapnel. 

14. Dust mask

DIY face mask

There's no denying that DIY work is often dusty and dirty with fumes being a frequent challenge from paints, primers, sealants etc. A good quality mask is worth it's weight in gold as will prevent you from breathing in particles that can irritate and harm your airways. 

15. Paintbrush and roller

must-have diy tool paintbrush

I guess this is slightly cheating, as technically, a paintbrush and roller set are separate DIY must-haves, but they work together, and I'd rarely complete a DIY painting project without using both in some way, so I decided to bundle them into one.

I love the Harris brushes from B&Q as they are really good quality, but not so expensive that you are scared to use them. I tend to wrap my brushes in cling film or foil overnight rather then wash them out during painting projects and would feel bad about doing this if they were mega expensive ones!

Must-have DIY tools: building a toolkit

As beginner DIYers, the journey into the world of crafting and fixing can be both exciting and daunting. Power tools like the mitre saw and power drill might seem intimidating at first, but they open up endless possibilities for projects of different sizes and materials and make your life so much easier that it's worth taking the leap.  Investing in the list of must-have DIY tools will equip you with versatile tools that will serve you well across various tasks and projects. And while it's tempting to splurge on every gadget and gizmo, remember that building your collection over time is more sustainable and cost-effective. 

Start with a basic set of hand tools, gradually adding power tools as your skills and projects grow. Ultimately, the key is to find tools that suit your needs and preferences, transforming them into your favourite companions in your DIY endeavours. So, whether you're crafting a simple picture frame or tackling larger woodworking projects, having the right tools by your side will make all the difference. Happy DIYing and don't forget to check out my online course with tonnes of resources for total beginners at DIY.

Where next?

Below are some other tools-related posts you might enjoy

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