People who make a habit of working on houses often are, or become, tool lovers. Having the right tool for every job is not just a matter of necessity (there are some tasks that only a pry bar will perform) but also a matter of satisfaction.
Nothing eases a task more than having the right equipment at hand -- provided, of course, that you know how to use it.
What tools does a serious rehabber need?
A complete list of basic hand tools could be as bewildering as the hardware department of a major home-improvement center. It would include a lot of tools that serve specialized functions, such as finishing dry wall, setting tile or building furniture.
But, while the "right" assortment will vary from job to job, depending on complexity, and person to person, depending on skill and zeal, there are some basic tools that will serve in most situations. If you're just getting started in tool collecting, here's a checklist of non-power hand tools that may provide some guidance.
*Hammers. It helps to have a couple, in different weights -- a 16-ounce for trim and other applications that use smaller sizes of nails and a 22-ounce for framing and other jobs requiring larger nails.
*A nail set or two, to counter sink nail heads in trim and floors.
*Pullers. Hammers have limited use as pullers, being confined largely to nails that are already sticking out. A "cat's paw" puller can be driven under the nail head so you can yank the nail out. A small pry bar works well for extracting heavy nails, and can also be used to lift trim and other small pieces of material. If you're going to be removing long pieces of trim, you may want to use more than one pry bar.
*Screwdrivers. The best bet is a kit with a selection of flat heads and Phillips heads.
*Pliers and wrenches. Pliers come in amazing variety, but a pair of small needle-nose pliers and a pair of larger blunt nose, or engineer's, pliers will work for most home tasks. A set of simple, open-ended wrenches will fill most needs, though if you can find a good, relatively inexpensive one, a set of socket wrenches with sockets is great to have.
*Saws. Unless you're determined to do things the old-fashioned way, you probably don't need a cross-cut saw. But a hack saw is useful for cutting pipes or nails and a coping saw is essential if you're going to fit curved molding.
*Miter box. A simple wooden one will suffice for making angled cuts, on trim, for instance.
*Hand plane. There are several different kinds but a simple block plane can trim, smooth and shave doors, floorboards and molding.
*Chisels. A couple of sizes will do; they're useful for mortising locks and hinges and splitting or shaving lumber.
*Sawhorses. Nothing beats them for stability and flexibility, not to mention how handy they are for setting up a job-site picnic.
*Tape measures. A 1-inch-wide metal tape, 20 or 25 feet long, is good for framing and general construction; a 3/4 -inch-wide metal tape 12 or 16 feet long works for trim and finer tasks.
*Levels. Ordinary bubble levels are fine; it's nice to have a short one (2 feet) for small spaces and a long one (4 feet) for wider distances.
*C-clamps. These are useful for holding boards together while you're nailing, or for attaching a level to a 2-by-4 (which effectively extends the level to the length of the board).
*Squares. A large, metal carpenter's square helps in framing and stair-building; a combination square can be adjusted for a number of preset angles, and helps put a straight line on a board before you cut it.
*Other leveling, squaring devices. A line level is an inexpensive device that hangs on a string tightly stretched across a distance. It's useful when you're pouring footings or leveling a floor. A plumb bob can determine if a structure is truly vertical or if an object is right under a spot on the ceiling. A chalk line marks straight lines on surfaces, and is much easier to use (and more accurate) than a pencil and a yardstick.
*Portable lights. One flashlight per floor is about the right number. Clip-on work lights that move around with the task are useful and inexpensive. Plenty of heavy-duty extension cords and a multiple outlet device with a fuse will make the most of limited electrical service.
*Scrapers and cutters. Utility knives are so cheap and so useful every worker should have his or her own. Small scrapers are helpful for stripping old finishes and large ones may be the only device that will lift old floor tiles.
*Wire brushes. A selection in various sizes helps strip intricate surfaces such as stair balusters or carved molding. Old toothbrushes are also good for very fine work. (And some people use dental tools to get out every speck of old finish.)