I have a feeling this has been asked before, but I didn't find it here. I've read a number of websites and there always seem to be a little fluff and maybe this favorite tool or that.

I'm thinking about putting together some basic home repair toolboxes for my twin boys who recently moved out on their own. They already have sets of mechanics tools, needle nose pliers, ratchet sets, and so on, and one boy has a set of electronics tools, but if anything goes funky in the house, I get the call or at least have to loan them my tools.

Here is what I'm thinking So far:

  1. Corded Power Drill

  2. Corded Circular Saw

  3. 100' heavy duty Extension Cord

  4. Level

  5. Speed Square

  6. Bit Drivers

  7. Hand Saw

  8. C-Clamps

  9. Miter Box

  10. Hammer

  11. Crow Bar

  12. Saw Horse clamps

  13. Black and Decker Workhorse table and vise thingy.

  14. A wheeled dolly kind of toolbox, think Stanley Fat Max thing.

What else would you recommend? What unnecessary fluff have I included? Are there name brands that are good, but not extremely expensive. What name brands to avoid.

Edit: As I am not a consistent power tool user, I tend to distrust cordless tools. I know battery tech is vastly beyond what I used to use, but there is nothing more aggravating than not being able to use a tool because a dead battery. If they were to make a corded adapter for a cordless tool I'd be all over it. Also, My corded Ryobi drill has lasted more than 20 years, so....

  • 5
    Ryobi makes a cord less tool back, that has basic tools and all run on same battery And can add to the collection. And a cord power skill saw is a great tool to have for more cutting,if doing larger job. Also a meter for electrical wok is nice to have.
    – user101687
    Jun 13, 2019 at 16:41
  • 11
    The only power tool in a basic set IMO is a drill (a good cordless is enough these days). I hardly ever use my cordless driver, preferring my spiral ratchet yankee driver for most tasks, and using the cordless drill for a very few. Other power tools are best bought with the materials for a project.
    – Chris H
    Jun 14, 2019 at 9:36
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    Don't buy a tool until you need it. Seriously.
    – J...
    Jun 14, 2019 at 12:46
  • 3
    I didn't see a tape measure in there, if they don't have one, that's a cheap must-have item. Jun 14, 2019 at 16:22
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    As they are likely to be assembling and un-assembling flat-pack Ikea furniture for the next decade or two, I suggest a rubber mallet.
    – StrongBad
    Jun 14, 2019 at 18:16

9 Answers 9


Shopping sprees are counterproductive

There isn't a Great Depression coming up, and this isn't an expedition to Mars.

Buy what you need... when you need it.

As far as circular saws, I can't remember the last time I used one or even missed having one. I think their danger:utility ratio is pretty poor. What I've found indispensable, however, is a built-in radial arm saw with lead-in and exit tables. Wow, what a useful tool!

I have a sawzall I used once.

Forget the wheeled dolly toolbox. Tool boxes are personal choices. Get them a Home Depot gift card instead and let them figure out what works for them.

The one thing I really do recommend, because they will never find it on their own, is a speed wrench + bit holder in lieu of a cordless drill to drive screws. It's much more efficient than you'd think, and does several things for you.

  • exceptionally good control. No more blown through or buried screws.
  • you can leave the drill bit in the drill
  • which makes pre-drilling holes more sensible, giving better work and fewer splits
  • does not steal battery power from the drilling task
  • 1
    I have a circular saw and a sawzall - each purchased when I actually needed them and each only used a few times. But each well worth it (built a small deck with the circular saw) and I keep them around for next time. Jun 13, 2019 at 16:56
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    @manassehkatz Y'know, it's funny, on building a deck my mind goes straight to "lay down board, pencil mark, walk it to the radial arm, yank, walk it back, lay it down". The inherent inefficiency never occurred to me, but I also never sweated the safety of it. Jun 13, 2019 at 17:34
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    What pray tell is a "speed wrench"?
    – Logarr
    Jun 14, 2019 at 5:20
  • 4
    You've used a sawsall once, recommend driving screws with a speed wrench, and using a RAS. TIL, Harper doesn't do this for a living ;)
    – Mazura
    Jun 14, 2019 at 16:42
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    @Mazura Isn't that the whole point? Almost no one does this for a living. Most people simply don't need so many tools.
    – user91988
    Jun 14, 2019 at 21:02

Cordless Drill/Impact Driver Set

I agree with @manassehkatz that cordless drills are powerful enough for most tasks, and way more versatile. For anything that my regular cordless drill can't handle, I would want to step up to a drill press or a hammer drill -- a regular corded drill doesn't provide anything extra really. However, what is very useful to have is an impact driver. That way, you can easily drill pilot holes with the drill, and drive screws with the impact, without changing bits, which is a huge timesaver. And most every cordless drill manufacturer will sell the two as a set with a good discount.

Miter Saw

A miter box for a hand saw is (imo) barely worth using -- it's so much slower and less accurate than even a cheap electric miter saw. A decent 10" miter saw can be had for under $100, and it can cut 2x lumber all day long, which aside from screw driving, is one of the most common things you'll need to do with almost any construction project.

  • I find a hand mitre frame (much more accurate than a box, designed around its own saw) very useful, but I also have a hacksaw blade for mine which sees use on aluminium and plastic. The biggest project for it was probably building a bed-frame for the campervan from something like 60 metres of 2x1 and 2x2 and probably the best part of 100 cuts. Cut, assembled, and varnished in a day
    – Chris H
    Jun 14, 2019 at 9:32
  • I'm not convinced a corded drill is necessarily more powerful than a cordless. I used to think so but I had to drill through a steel beam once and my corded drill just jammed and burned out. The cordless saved the day and the corded when to the landfill. I've never looked back.
    – JimmyJames
    Jun 14, 2019 at 14:47
  • @ChrisH, I'm curious what you find a hand miter saw can do that an electric one with an appropriate blade cannot? I don't doubt it would be useful sometimes, but if buying one or the other, I'd go with the electric one every time.
    – Nate S.
    Jun 14, 2019 at 16:41
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    @NateStrickland yeah, the extra cost is most definitely worth it. Having a drill with a cord is a big hassle IMO. The If I'm working on the outside of my house or in the yard or in a closet or even just hanging something on the wall quickly I don't want to bring out an extension cord for all that. You get two batteries so one is always charged and never deal with cords to clean up/trip on again.
    – Brad
    Jun 14, 2019 at 17:55
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    @ChrisH, true, I think we mostly work with different materials, so that makes sense. Interesting perspective!
    – Nate S.
    Jun 14, 2019 at 18:06

Comments on some specific pieces:

1) Corded Power Drill

Skip the corded. Yes, a corded power drill has more power, but cordless (e.g., ~ 18V) is plenty powerful enough for amateurs and many pros, and far more convenient. Modern cordless batteries last a long time, charge quickly and don't lost torque/speed as much with a low battery (until it gets really low) like the old batteries did. Plus if you get a reasonable brand you get a battery that can be shared with other tools (from the same brand, of course). I would avoid the 12V (or lower) tools - they tend to be underpowered and you don't save that much these days. But beyond that, most brands will work just fine.

2) Corded Circular Saw

Good idea. Corded is less of an issue here as (a) for most people the saw will be used less frequently than a drill and (b) the extra power of corded can really make the difference in usability.

3) 100' heavy duty Extension Cord

Absolutely! Consider three additional features (extra cost, but all quite useful):

  • A lighted socket so that you can easily see if it is plugged in.
  • Built-in GFCI protection if the cord will be used outside but plugged in to a non-GFCI receptacle.
  • Multiple outlets on the end.

Unfortunately, some of these extras only come on short cords, so you have to pick what matters - or get a short cord with the extras together with a long regular (but heavy-duty) cord.

4) Level

Get a long one, and I recommend a metal frame for durability.

11) Crow Bar


I bought a crow bar many years ago. Hadn't even used it but threw it in a suitcase with other tools on a trip to a customer in another state where I had to do (among other things) some network cabling. Sure enough, I had a problem getting wires through the attic and the crow bar solved the problem.

I would add in:

  • Pipe wrench

  • Basic electrical tools - multimeter, receptacle tester, non-contact tester.

  • 1
    Don't forget that the crowbar was a glorious weapon in Half Life! Thanks. I hadn't thought of a pipe wrench, mainly because any plumbing problems I face are generally handled with PEX and Sharkbite connectors. The boys already have multimeters, but frankly we have never bothered with a receptacle tester or non contact....
    – Paul TIKI
    Jun 13, 2019 at 16:40
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    Receptacle tester is great for helping diagnose problems and as a double-check that a receptacle has been installed/repaired/replaced properly. Non-contact tester is extremely useful as a safety check - check that a wire is live, flip the breaker, check again that it is dead before you start working on it - too often, circuits are mislabeled. Yes, you can use a multimeter do all the testing but these 2 cheap little tools (but get real UL-listed ones, not cheap knockoffs) are very handy. Jun 13, 2019 at 16:44
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    Only thing to add is a gfci power strip when working.If plug into basic ,outlet and cord being used outside added protection.
    – user101687
    Jun 13, 2019 at 16:49
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    @manassehkatz I have learned the hard way about testing breakers. I consider myself lucky that the worst done to me was some busted knuckles jerking my hand back in a confined space.
    – Paul TIKI
    Jun 13, 2019 at 16:52
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    I would recommend a flat pry bar over a traditional crowbar. Both useful, but I'm sure they'll get far more use out of the flat pry bar for projects around the house.
    – Sam
    Jun 13, 2019 at 16:52

The best gift I ever bought myself was a Black and Decker tool set from Home Depot - on sale for Father's Day. It was $69.99.

Cordless Drill and Cordless Screwdriver, a plethora of wrenches, bits, leveler, stud finder, hammers, etc. Thing has 4 compartments and it's awesome.

Couple weeks ago I had some repair guys at my house and they needed some kind of wrench. I said Down those stairs is a black and orange tool kit - guy came back up impressed that I had such a great tool kit.

Those types of tool kits are great because they have enough to be dangerous but also enough to where if they got a job in the trades industry they would have enough tools to work without buying piece by piece.

  • 5
    I would agree with this 100% - buy a cheap "all in one" kit, then if you use something enough that either it breaks or you get frustrated by how cheap and junky it is, that's when you actually buy a nice tool to replace that one. Jun 14, 2019 at 16:25

1) Corded Power Drill

I think this depends on how their property is built. If it's a wooden property then cordless is probablly a better choice, for conviniance and screw driving functionality. On the other hand if it's a brick or concrete property then a hammer drill is a must and that pretty much means corded if you don't want to spend a bunch of money.

Remember you will need drill bits too. Again what bits exactly depends on what your house is built of. I have found "multipurpose" bits invaluable as they let you drill through wood or metal and into the masonary behind.

2) Corded Circular Saw

Personally I'd go for a jigsaw before a circular saw. The circular saw is better at long straight cuts but the jigsaw is less feirce to handle and can handle a wider variety of types of cut.

3) 100' heavy duty Extension Cord

Length will depend on the size, layout and circuit configuration of the property, but yes a long extension lead lead is a must.

6) Bit Drivers

Some sort of screwdrivers for the screws in the property are a must, Personally I preffer regular screwdrivers to handles with bits, but that is a preference thing.

7) Hand Saw


8) C-Clamps

Yeah some form of clamp is needed

10) Hammer

With a claw for pulling out nails

Most of the rest seems overkill to me at least initially.

I would also add tools and materials for basic plumbing, at the very least enough to put some kind of stop end on a pipe so that water can be returned to the rest of the system. Exactly what these tools and materials are will depend on how the plumbing in your property is done.


It's hard to recommend a generic tool set because they may never need something that we may think of as important. Even just looking through the answers you've already received, there's advice to skip things I would (personally) consider very important, and advice to add things I don't see any need for.

That said, the best approach may be buying a tool set designed around a specific "first project" based on whatever immediate needs they have. Besides allowing you to tailor-match the tools to the project, you get your foot in the door for what may be the most important "tool" of all - education. I can speak from personal experience - as a young first time homeowner many years ago, I had the money and tools but lacked knowledge - I went in to many projects on my own with a "how hard can this be?" attitude and caused myself a lot of grief and long and painful headaches. Granted, that was in the days before youtube. But as a father who's willing to invest in his sons, the best gift you can give them is probably talking them through projects vs buying them tools.

Okay, sappy stuff out of the way, on to some comments on the tools:

1) Corded Power Drill

I agree with other answers- skip the corded tools unless you're on a budget. A $40 corded drill will probably outperform a $150 cordless drill, but it'll be much less convenient. And most homeowners are better served by convenient tools rather than powerful tools. Your sons don't need to bore holes as fast as possible, they just need a tool that feels good and is portable. If possible, get a cordless drill and impact driver combo kit such that they share the same battery/charger standards. This gives you some redundancy, besides getting the more specialized tools.

2) Corded Circular Saw

I would never own a home without one. In fact I have two, one I leave with a heavy demo blade that I use for framing, and one I leave with a plywood blade.

3) 100' heavy duty Extension Cord

Better - buy two, 50' cords. Or three 25' cords. This way, if they only need to go across a room, they don't have to drag out the gigantic 100' beast. Also, get cord storage reels. No one likes having to untangle a mess. Again: convenience is king!

4) Level

For homeowner tasks, get a 24" level (will be fine for most framing/etc) plus one of the little 4" or 6" pocket levels (much more convenient when their wives/girlfriends want them to hang a mirror).

5) Speed Square

Yes, and teach them to use it with the circular saw. Now they don't need the miter box! That said, if you think they'll be doing more precise finish work (i.e. hanging trim) get a real miter saw.

You also asked,

Are there name brands that are good, but not extremely expensive. What name brands to avoid.

Personally, I don't think there's a significant difference between major name brands of consumer tools. If you're stuck on picking a brand, I would consider access to warranty service and/or shop based on waiting for sales.

  • 2
    I wish I coulg give an extra +1 just for the Education remark
    – Paul TIKI
    Jun 13, 2019 at 18:27
  • The sad thing was, when I was 22 and owned my first home, I was surrounded by relatives who were contractors, drywall finishers, carpenters, electricians, etc - I was just too proud to ask them for help. In the decades since, I've wised up and now take full advantage of their collective knowledge!
    – dwizum
    Jun 13, 2019 at 18:38
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    Ahh, the arrogance of youth! I carry a lot of those same scars brother. Thank god for Youtube now.
    – Paul TIKI
    Jun 13, 2019 at 18:46
  • +1 for mentioning the price aspect of corded vs cordless drills. But - -1 for suggesting 3 x 25' or similar arrangements. A long reelable cord is the way to go for convenience, and from experience - something like 3 x 25' will have lots and lots of overhead to use.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 14, 2019 at 15:42
  • I guess it's ultimately personal choice and what situations are most common around your house. I don't like lugging out a giant, heavy duty 100' cord (even on a reel!) for a situation where I literally just need to get across a room, or across the garage. Of course it's the best choice when you need to use a saw out back behind the shed or something. I've got 3 acres and 2600 square feet right now, I need the longer cord more often than when I had half an acre and 1200 square feet.
    – dwizum
    Jun 14, 2019 at 15:49

Also add some miscellaneous consumables. Tools are of limited use by themselves.

I was in a civil emergency and had to scramble to waterproof after damage. So a cheap blue tarpaulin was sacrificed and nailed to the remaining wall with large-head roofing nails, that I happened to have left over.

  • Buckets - 10 + 20 Litre paint buckets - ideally with lids.
  • Tarpaulin/stout plastic sheet - water resistant.
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Bolts
  • Nail Plates
  • Washers
  • Outdoor Broom and some kind of sweeping pan.
  • Duct Tape
  • Rope / cord
  • Stout Plastic Bags - Great as emergency toilet when combined with bigger lidded bucket
  • Baby wipes / hand sanitiser

TL,DR: what will you need when a crisis happens? If its a big-enough problem, then no retailers will be open.

This is veering off to a "civil defense reaction list" which is related but somewhat tangential.


For the most part, I agree with the tools on your list, though there should be a few additions, namely:


At a minimum, you're going to need a portable LED work light and a trouble light (that is, an extension cable with a light bulb on the end). You might also want a small hat/clothing-mountable light, for tight spaces.

Reciprocating saw

Before I got one, I wondered why people went on about having one. Now that I have one... it's a lifesaver. Get a collection of metal and wood-cutting blades for it, too. This is definitely something that should be battery powered.

Extension Cord Spool

Don't skimp on the spool; wrapping a cable by hand is a pain, and if you're not careful, you can add a lot of twists and kinks that can damage the cable. Get a spool that has outlets on it, so you don't have to go hunting for the end every time you use it. You may want to add a short cord to extend from the spool.

Screwdriver Set

Yeah, the drill and associated bits will work for most things, but why bother pulling out a drill when all you need to do is open a battery compartment or install a new faceplate?

Adjustable Wrench and Pliers

A socket set with ratcheting wrench is useful and I would recommend it, but an adjustable wrench will handle most of the bolts you need to loosen, and a basic set of pliers will take care of holding on to things.

Tape Measures

You're going to need at least three - two to go missing, and one to use.

Go cordless

I got a Ryobi 18v cordless set that had most of the power tools on the list, plus a couple batteries and a charger, and I don't think I've used any of my corded tools since I bought it. As long as you have two batteries, you can charge one while you're using the other. And frankly, as long as you're buying a set, it's not all that much more expensive than getting corded tools anyway.

There are, of course, many kinds of tools out there, but most of them are specialty tools that have limited use outside of a specific area (say, pipe-cutters). If you have a few screwdrivers, a hammer, a circular saw, and a drill and bit set, you're probably covered for 90% of normal home repair. To that end, I would include a good list of specialty tools and what they are used for, like, "Cutting a pipe? Get this cheap pipe cutter, don't just use the reciprocating saw!" or "Sinking nails? Don't try to use an upside down nail to do it, here's a link to a nail-sink set!"


I concur with parts of the other answers. The main thing everybody agrees on is the cordless drill. I would strongly encourage you to reconsider the cordless. I use these tools every day, and a cordless driver (not drill) is most often used. Personally I would much prefer a cordless over a corded. Depending on location I can have the job done by the time it would take to set up and take down the extension cord.

Depending on what type of work you will be doing you may not need a circular saw, but in lieu of a table saw that is a good part of a tool set. Completely agree that two 50' cords are much better then a single 100' (only time I need that much length is for trimming the hedges, anything in the house or garage it's a 25 or 50 foot.)

You'll notice I removed the hand saw and miter box from your list. You will be much better off getting a miter saw, and happier in the long run. They are rather cheap $90 US, and you will save more then that in the time it saves you.

If you are working exclusively with wood, the C clamps may not be the best choice. I'd recommend a bar clamp.

I would definitely add a flat bar you your list (it will get used much more then a crow bar.)

You can't go without a utility knife. (No reason to get the expensive ones).

A drill (corded or cordless) is not to useful without drill bits. Get a good set that goes up to ½ inch.

Another must have is a multi tool (not the folding knife kind). If you have never used one and are skeptical if it really is any good, they are. Quite versatile (like scraping and sanding to prep for paint), and can make cuts that no other tool can make.

A tape measure. (You can get one for free from Harbor Freight when picking up some of the other items.)

A set of screw drivers.

A putty knife, preferably both a 1.5" and a 5".

To round out my additions a pair of Channellocks.

  • Cordless Drill

  • Circular Saw

  • Multi tool

  • 50' heavy duty Extension Cord

  • 4' Level & another around 12"

  • Speed Square

  • Utility Knife

  • Tape Measure

  • Putty Knife

  • Screw Driver set

  • Channellocks (groove joint pliers)

  • Drill Bits

  • Bit Drivers

  • Miter Saw

  • Bar Clamps

  • Hammer

  • Flat Bar

  • Crow Bar

  • Saw Horse clamps

  • A wheeled dolly kind of toolbox, think Stanley Fat Max thing.

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