A well-stocked toolkit will help you handle everything from everyday fixes to major home improvement projects.

I’m not talking about specialist tools of a builder or a plumber, but just what to keep handy. When you’re starting out as a homeowner or moving into your first rented home, making a small investment in a home tool kit can help you handle basic needs, and you can continue to grow your collection over time as new projects arise and your skill level improves.

This also makes a great housewarming present for someone, and they will always thank you for it!

A Toolbox is a good start! There are plenty out there to choose from, but don’t get one too small, as you will soon fill it once your collection starts to grow.

Screwdrivers – These humble devices are used to get screws in and out, and often to lever lids from paint pots. There are differences in heads and differences in sizes, but you can basically break the essentials down into Slot Head, Philips Head and Allen Head. If your budget allows, you can get a handy boxed set with interchangeable heads into one handle.

Hammers - A toolbox staple, you’ll mainly use yours to drive nails or fit parts together. The claw hammer is perfect for most duties - the V-claw at the rear drags out nails or even levers up floorboards. Handles are typically made of wood or metal, though rubber, plastic, or vinyl assists with shock absorption if you expect to be hammering all day.

Pliers - Needle-nose pliers and heavier grooved pliers are a good start. Ones with wire cutters built in are great for wiring and craft jobs.

Measuring tape - A 3m retractable tape will work for most jobs. A second smaller ’dressmakers’ tape of 150 cm or so can be put in a pocket or purse for shopping trips or hanging pictures.

Utility knife and a pencil – you will be surprised at how often you reach for these!

Nails, Screws, Nuts and Bolts – you can buy small boxes of all of these containing several sizes and is a good start.

Duct Tape -there are dozens of widths, lengths, strengths and colours. It’s useful for general sealing, patching holes, packing boxes and repairs. Some duct tape can also stick to rough and uneven indoor and outdoor surfaces such as wood, stone, plaster, brick and metal.

Did you know it is quite often mistakenly called ‘duck’ tape, but it may not be such a mistake at all, as that was its original name. Initially, ‘duck’ tape only came in army green, because During World War II, it was developed as a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable cloth backing, used to seal ammunition cases during that period, and repelled water like ‘off a duck’s back’.

Oil and water-displacing spray - probably more commonly known as WD-40. Great for easing rusty locks and hinges and lubricates almost anything.

Level - Getting an accurate level for positioning is important. ‘Torpedo Levels’ are compact, have tapered ends are handy for small projects, but a longer level is a must for straightening-up pictures, drilling holes in a level line, etc.

Spanners - these provide a grip for a nut or bolt, with a handle to deliver leverage for easier turning – the longer the handle, the greater the leverage. A socket set uses a single handle that can be fitted to differently sized grips, but whole sets are pricy. If you can’t afford a whole set, try one or two spanners with standard size openings for starters, either ‘U’ shaped or ring shaped. 2BA (jaw size of 8.2mm) and 4BA (jaw size of 6.3mm), are the most common. An adjustable wrench with an adjustable jaw would be an option too.

We then get into a whole different price range – a power drill, an electric screwdriver, a step ladder - and importantly, an extension cord on a reel, because unless battery operated, whatever you want to use your power tool for is bound to be some distance from an electrical outlet!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan