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Rich and Judy offer prompt, professional,
efficient, and reasonably-priced solutions
to home repairs and remodeling.

Handyman's Favorite Tools

These are the tools that I own and use every day on home repairs all around the city. (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Bosch PS31
This is my favorite drill, and the one I've used every day for most of the last decade. It's capable of doing 95% of the most common tasks that a home owner will ever need. One of the reasons some folks don't fix things is because they don't like the fuss. This drill makes the least fuss. Here are the benefits:
  • It's small, light, easy to grip, and easy to use.
  • It won't take much room in a closet, and will fit in the average purse (although this is not a purse tool).
  • It's powerful, well balanced, and holds a charge for many days of use.
  • I used an 18-volt drill for years, and one summer I built a picket fence with it. This drill could probably do that too. But now when the tool buggy has to go up to the third floor, weight is more important.
  • A built-in light goes on when you pull the trigger. Initially I thought this was just a cute gimmick. I used the light, and it works well. It made the drill easy to use. One day I needed to drill something in a cabinet, and the light truly went on. I didn't have to get a fussing flashlight. The flashlight takes a hand to point it, and directing the fussing beam where it's needed requires an acrobat. Lots of drills have lights, but this drill has multiple lights and doesn't cast a shadow. (Thank you to the Fine Woodworking reviewer who pointed that out.)
  • Two of my professional journals have given it a "best in class" review. There are likely other favorable reviews I haven't noticed.
There are two times when this would not be the drill I'd choose:
  • It doesn't drill into cement/mortar/brick/tile very well.
  • It doesn't bolt big porch beams together.
For drilling into cement/mortar/brick/tile, a hammer drill with a cord is necessary. You can find an inexpensive one for about $40 at a big box store or Harbor Freight. If you like tools, own a brick house, or could imagine yourself fastening something to a basement foundation wall, owning a hammer drill is a good idea. Because I like the quality of my Bosch cordless, and because I like Bosch tools in general, I use a Bosch hammer drill.
Irwin Screwdriver
This is the one tool I bring into every estimate. Phillips, slotted, square drive, and hex bits. It also has hex holders to remove hex screws common with window treatments and plates under a dishwasher. The screwdriver shape makes it the go-to tool when my electrician-quality screwdriver (everyday use) wants to strip the screw head.
Garbage Disposal Crud-Ectomy
Never put any of your favorite fingers in a garbage disposal!! Use this pair of long pliers to pluck out whatever's bouncing around in the garbage disposal. A ribbon made from the side of a butter tub will hold the flange open so your other hand can use the flashlight.
Pelican Liners
Liner for the paint bucket. Liners can be expensive, so I buy them in the party pack (3 dozen) at my neighborhood paint store.
Pelican Handheld Paint Bucket
This is my favorite painting tool. It's large enough to use with a small (4") roller, making it ideal for paint touch-ups. It's an ideal wall repair tool. A magnet holds a paint brush out of the paint. Put a piece of aluminum foil or a plastic grocery bag over it when you break for lunch. The liners are a nice accessory.
It's common to get this tool confused with a putty knife; it makes a crummy putty knife. A putty knife that's stiff is really a scraper. It can be used for scraping, cleaning, and prying. Don't use it with putty. The metal handle and a small hammer make it a nice tool to free a window that's been painted shut.
Spackle / Putty Knife
Not all putty knives are equal. A scraper may look like a putty knife, but it is stiff and doesn't work for spackling. My requirements for a good putty/spackling knife are:
1) A metal hilt. Use it to make a dent. It gives the spackle some depth to grab better and will flatten any fibers sticking up. It's hard to spackle a bump, but it's easy to spackle a dent.
2) comfortable grip
3) hole for peg board
4) stainless (rust resistant). Do not put a spackle knife away without wiping it off -- stainless steel will rust.
14-in-1 Paint Tool
This is one of three tools I bring on most estimates. Hyde is a quality name in painting tools and scrapers. The grip is soft. The scraper will take lots of abuse before it needs sharpening. It can be used as a hammer to hang a picture, and the hole for the peg board rounds out my requirements for a good scraper-like tool. There are better tools for cleaning a paint roller, and the bottle opener is not necessary. It opens a paint can and works nicely as a lever when adjusting bifold doors. Although this is a 14-in-1 tool, I find that it's truly good for these five purposes:
  • scraper
  • opening a can of paint
  • a pry bar for a window that's been painted shut
  • a makeshift hammer (because of its metal hilt)
  • cleaning a paint roller
I find the other functions to be pretty superfluous.
Drilling in Metal
This is the drill bit I use to drill into metal. Slow speed is helpful.
Magnetic Screw Bit Chuck
When using to drive a screw, use a magnetic chuck with a Phillips screw bit. The screw will stick to the bit (one-handed operation) and is less likely to strip.
Skil Flooring Saw
Some of the new engineered lumber/laminate floating floors click together and are easier to install. If you're an energetic homeowner who's considering installing a floor, this floor saw will make that job much easier. You can rip, and cross cut. The port will attach to most vacuum hoses and will help minimize a fussing mess.
Zircon Stud Finder
This is a fine all-around stud finder. It will work on drywall as well as the plaster and lath walls found in a vintage building. When using a stud finder, keep in mind that studs are frequently found on one side of a wall switch or outlet. Frequently there are two studs next to a window. Baseboards are nailed to the studs, and you may be able to see the finish nails. With drywall, sometimes you can see the screw heads if you look closely: they will be found every 16 inches.
Magnetic Stud Finder
This is my favorite stud finder, but it will only work on drywall. It’s a powerful magnet that finds the heads of the screws that hold the drywall to the studs.
When using a stud finder, keep in mind that studs are frequently found on one side of a wall switch or outlet. Frequently there are two studs next to a window. Baseboards are nailed to the studs, and you may be able to see the finish nails. With drywall, sometimes you can see the screw heads if you look closely: they will be found every 16 inches. As a bonus, the screw is usually close to the middle of the stud.