What is the best tool in your toolbox?

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It seems like every home improvement professional has a trusted, favorite tool; the one they rave about to their colleagues and inspect lovingly after use.

Whether it’s the perfect screwdriver, the best brand of molding, or something less orthodox like a great planner, we wanted to find out which tool our experts rely on the most.

Why We’re Asking:

It seems like every time you’re out buying a new tool, you distantly recall some recommendation from a trusted professional. But, confronted by a seemingly endless number of options, we’ve all been known to pick out something at random and run to the cash register. We’re hoping to make this advice into a destination for recommendations, where homeowners can turn to find the best of the best when it comes to home improvement projects.

So we’re turning to the experts to get the word on which tools are worth it. We’re turning to the experts for help and asking them to weigh in right here in the comments. What does this mean? Homeowners will get the raw, unedited answers directly from the experts. It also gives you, the homeowners, an opportunity to ask the professionals for clarification directly.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What is the best tool in your toolbox?

What is the most useful tool that you use in your work? Why?
Do you have any recommendations for people looking to DIY, whether it’s a type of tool, a brand, or even the best place to get them? (Alternatively, if there is a tool that you think is a waste of space, let us know about it too.)

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!

24 COMMENTS

  1. My favorite tool is….. my tape measure! I have a 25′ metal tape measure that has saved my backside over and over again. I am able to ensure that the furniture (purchases and arrangements), storage bins, etc. ACTUALLY fit in their space. I NEVER leave home without it!

  2. In both my art and my design work I love my cinnamon scented pencils from France. A friend gave me a set years ago and I have been hooked ever since. The scent puts me in a calm, creative mood. Clients also ask me abouth the pencils so they are a conversation starter as well.
    Pablo Solomon
    Artist & Designer

  3. My favorite tools are my tape measure, graph paper and furniture templates. I always start a job by measuring the room and the furniture that is staying. This enables me to create a furniture plan that will be functional and allows me to create an inventory of what items need to be purchased to complete the project. I always start with a plan so that my clients are only buying what they need and what will work in the space. I know there is software that can help me with this but I find that working through the project with pencil and paper helps me connect with what I am working on.

  4. The best tools in my toolbox are the ones I use, the ones I know how to use, and the ones I’m not afraid to abuse.

    I have too many specialized recommendations to mention, so all I will offer is an open invitation for DIYers to contact me via my blog, twitter, or facebook if they need help selecting the right tools for their needs.

    The number one way a DIY can help themselves is by doing researching online and in-store. Online, search for the projects you anticipate needing to work on, and see which tools are commonly used. Browse around in-store, and carry your cell phone or smart phone in-hand. If you find a tool you’re not familiar with but looks popular, snap a photo and research it later online.

    Find a forum related to the topic you’re interested in, and search their post archives. (The Garage Journal is one of my favorite tool-related forums.) If you have a question, sign up for a free membership, and ask for help.

    If you buy a good quality tool, it will last you for many years and projects. If you buy the cheapest one you can find, it will probably break when you need it most.

    It will take too long for me to discuss my best and favorite tools, so I’ll just share some of my favorite brands: Channellock for tongue and groove pliers and adjustable wrenches, Wiha for screwdrivers, Wera for ratchets, Craftsman for sockets, Vaughan for hammers, Stanley for utility knives, Wright for wrenches, Gearwrench for ratcheting wrenches, Leatherman for multi-tools, NWS for heavy duty pliers, Grip-on for locking pliers, and Klein or Craftsman for wire strippers.

  5. A notebook & pencil are a must for me. I’m always jotting down notes, taking measurements, making drawings of what I want to create, and keeping a list of things to do. Of course, there’s never a pencil when I need it so I keep a few scattered around my tool area so the kids can’t take all of them! And I keep a sharpener or knife nearby too, as the points break off all the time. I’ve tried those funny shaped pencils that you find in hardware stores, but those feel too strange in my hands, so the yellow school-type pencils work best for me.

  6. Our ‘Build on Your Lot’ program teaches potential home buyers the complete building and buying process from start to finish, educating them about each step along the way and making sure they are 100% involved in all aspects of their new home. We’ve found that through educating the home buyer, we are also able to establish trust, and in turn, build a lifetime relationship with the customer. To us, educating our audience is the most important tool we use.

  7. My favorite tool by far is the Set and Match level, by Kapro tools. It is
    designed to help you hang large art that requires hung with two hook from
    the ‘D’ ring on the back. The level allows you to mark the spots on the
    wall where the hooks should go and also to keep it level. I like it so much
    that I order them in bulk so that I can give them to the people I teach to
    do Home Staging and ReDesign, To go along with this I use the Heavy Duty
    Wall Hangers by NB Industries and the Lufkin Self Centering measuring tape.
    With these tools I can hang a very large mirror requiring 2 hooks, level,
    in less than 5 minutes

  8. I am a second generation plumbing contractor that shares a residential
    plumbing business with my father. There have been many great advances in our industry over the years, but the most important tool that I carry with me at all times is my smartphone.
    I can take pictures, order product, connect with customers for scheduling,
    suppliers, and manufacturers, and even stay out of the office and on the
    jobsite more. It is also part of our marketing machine. I focus on Twitter and monitor Facebook.

  9. As a REALTOR the tool that helps build my brand — “Specializing in You” — is my ears. Listening is a skill that I refine and implement to the advantage of any real estate buyer, seller or investor who chooses me to help them buy or sell in any real estate market. The real estate transaction is about the consumer and listening, intently, to their needs, wants and desires and measuring that against market realities equals success. It also affords the communications process to flow efficiently, and the transaction to close without unforeseen complications.

  10. Well, I’m a content-builder and marketer, reaching out to professionals who want to share their insights on interior design, home staging, DIY, etc. So, I’d have to say that my go-to tool is the Internet. The best way forward in terms of all of these areas and beyond is sharing information, and making that information attractive, digestible, and shareable. As such, building a community of likeminded professionals who want to do just that is the best way of achieving that. And the Internet has been an unprecedented force in creating a far-reaching and extensive means of presenting information, and creating communities while we’re at it.

  11. I have two favorite tools for staging and redesign work: a camera and Magic Movers. I take pictures throughout the makeover process, and often refer to them when I’m working on floor plans or shopping for items for clients. The Magic Movers (those plastic discs you place under furniture) make moving bulky or heavy pieces of furniture incredibly easy, and they protect my clients’ floors at the same time. Couldn’t do my job without ’em!

  12. Hello Dolly, my best tool is my experience/skill/knowledge of past mistakes and future goals of excellence. The best measurement with the best install and even a happy customer is still some times ordinary success. The difference between ordinary and EXTRA ordinary is that little EXTRA. Experience and knowledge is superior to even the best precision job even if it is installed on time! Don’t get me wrong, I make mistakes, but that just proves my point, the mind is the best tool. Without a real brilliant system or design the job is – at best- quaint even when delivered as promised. I often go at a job so different than others that even if I don’t get the job, the suggestions I made are used. Imitation is the best form of flattery .

    • I find this to be so true in our line of work as well! Couldn’t agree more that a brilliant system and design is what sets the pros apart from the run of the mill. Recently, our experience has been used to mold the market, and even when we don’t get the work, we’re finding that our competitors are using our suggestions and approaches.

  13. One of my favorite tools in my toolbox is Skil’s power cutter because it makes easy work of zipping through those annoying clamshell packages, cardboard and thick material such as vinyl flooring, cork sheeting and carpeting! In full disclosure, I used to be one of the company’s spokespeople; however, I have not worked for them in well over 5 years and THIS tool is still my favorite… even when they’re NOT paying me!

  14. Before I became a Realtor, I remodeled and updated old homes for resale. I did this work myself, alongside my carpenters and painters. Yes, wearing coveralls, a baseball cap and smelling of solvent was my regular thing back then, and frankly, I absolutely loved doing that work!

    My absolute faaaaaavorite tool was a ratcheting wrench that fit over any size bolt. That thing saved the day many times and since I am female and not that strong in the hands and upper body… it made me able to do things that would have required the assistance of a man had I not had it. I loved feeling that self-sufficient! Great tool!

  15. When making home improvements, the best tool a consumer can invest in is a professional design. Design lays the foundation for any home improvement project. Having a well thought out plan is the difference between a space that is never used and one that is beautiful, functional and adds value to the home. Whether you choose to build the project yourself or hire a contractor, developing the plans for any project is a necessary step in the process.

    It is easy to get overwhelmed when receiving several different plans and bids. Oftentimes, a homeowner will overlook the quality of a design in lieu of shopping for the best price. One way to gauge the quality of a design is how intricate it is and another is how much effort the designer puts in to create, prepare and present their concept. An expert design ensures quality and longevity. Ultimately, it will help save money by optimizing material use and finding construction efficiencies. A solid design will increase the return on the investment, while a poor design can become a liability and cost more in the long run.

  16. Wow…I’m not much of a tool girl but, my favorite is the tape measure. I do all of my own site measures for my local interior design firm and for my virtual design firm, Professional Kitchen and Bath Plans, I work through Skype with my client and their tape measure. I also like the square and the speed square, with these three tools I can figure out any angle in a room and be able to reconstruct it to a floor plan on my auot CAD to begin the space planning process.

  17. At GreenHomes America we take great pride in the tools we use, and since we use all sorts of gadgets Infrared cameras, combustion analyzers, gas leak detectors, It’s hard to pick just one, but I think the Blower door would be the best.

    For those who don’t know what a blower door is (don’t worry you are not alone) it is a big fan that gets set up in a door of your home and draws air out. When I describe it like that it doesn’t sound too exciting, but bear with me.

    There’s a rule when it comes to the air in our homes: what goes out must come in. Capitalizing on this, the blower door measures how leaky your home is overall. The fan won’t suck the cat out when you turn it on, but it is strong enough to recreate the effect that a 20mph wind on all sides of the house would be like.

    A lot of the time we as homeowners know about some of the leaks in our home; the door that won’t close right, the drafty room in the back of the house or some of our windows for example.
    The blower door reveals these leaks but also helps to show us the rest, some we can’t see or immediately feel. It captures the total leakage for a house and highlights the leaky recessed lights, the interior wall that is open at the top to the attic, the big space around the chimney connected to the attic and the basement.

    I know I was only supposed to pick one tool, but if you add an infrared camera to the mix as our energy advisors do, you can actually “see” the cold outside air making its way through areas we thought were sealed up.

  18. My favorite tool would be my furniture sliders. I have two sets – one with felt backing for sliding furniture across wood floors and one set with a plastic backing for sliding furniture across broadloom. As a Home Stager, I find myself moving furniture around quite a bit. With my sliders, I can do this on my own without having an assistant with me. All I have to do, is lift up one edge at a time of the piece of furniture and slip a slider underneath it. Once all four corners are sitting on the sliders, it’s ready to be moved. They are a great tool for homeowners to have on hand as well, if they like to re-arrange their rooms on occasion.

  19. As a marketer, my favorite tool are our Guild Quality surveys. Guild Quality is a third party surveying company who reaches out to my customers once we have completed a job. We get the results of each survey and use them for internal training if it shows an area where we need to improve, or I use some of the testimonials on our social media accounts and on our web site. Using a third party to do this for us shows our customers that we want their feedback; whether it is good, back or indifferent. It also allows us to show transparency to prospective customers. A good company is one that is always willing to learn and adapt; by using this tool we feel we are making great strides in doing so.

  20. My favorite tool is the internet! I love being able to look up pictures to get inspiration for different rooms and to read advice from other experts (like all of you here!). The internet has a wealth of information and being able to access it at my fingertips can help me quickly find the right furniture, paint colors, or local stores. It’s a great way to communicate your ideas to a customer quickly. Just beware, there’s a lot of bad information out there, so make sure you’re reading advice from true experts and reliable sources.

  21. As a florist, I use all kinds of tools and I am often annoyed with the ones that do not work or are environmentally hazardous. Such as oasis. This highly toxic foam tool is known to cause lung infections among many florists and as our rule of thumb we NEVER use it. Instead, we opt for a much more environmentally friendly tool called bind wire. Bind wire is wire covered in a thin layer of waxed cloth. I like using it because it is easy on the hands and gentle on the flowers. You can buy a roll of bind wire for $8 and it will last anyone doing flowers at home or DIY projects for years.

  22. My favorite tool is probably duct tape. It is versatile, forgiving, a cool silver color, and surprisingly strong. It hasn’t been too long since I saw a car that it’s road worthiness appeared to be dependent on carefully placed, liberally used duct tape 🙂 .

    With some HVAC systems, bypass (air traveling around the edge of an air filter) can be reduced or eliminated by applying duct tape to where one edge is attached to the filter and the other edge is bound to the holding frame.

    Also, like Katie Miller, I enjoy the possibilities presented by accessing the Internet for online tutorials, ideas, etc.

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