I approach buying tools with passion and savvy – much the way I shoe shop. My mantra guiding me through the tool corral is you get what you pay for. Your initial thought may be, “Hey, I only need this tool (shoe) for one project (party), so why spend a lot?”

The truth is, projects always come up (as do social functions) and a high quality tool (shoe) will go the distance (dance floor). Cheap tools just don’t perform well – plastic cracks, heads strip, (heels break off!), and what should be a functional-fix turns into a frustrating fiasco (blisters).

You may not need to buy the most expensive tool on the shelf, but research brands, look for tool warranties, and look at what pros load in their toolbelts.

Start stocking with these five must-have

16oz. hammer: This is the perfect all purpose hammer.It’s light enough, so it won’t strain your wrist, yet heavy enough so you’re not undergunned.

25ft.long/1in.wide tape measure: I love this tape measure because it’s fat, an inch wide. This width allows you to easily read the numbers and it won’t bend when pulling it out past a few feet.

Tongue & groove pliers: These pliers are adjustable, easy to control, and will fit around various size fittings and nuts. 

Retractable utility knife (with blade storage in handle): You’ll use this knife to cut everything from carpet to drywall. It’s also easy to replace the blade and the blade storage-handle is super convenient.

Ratcheting screw driver with multiple bits: The multiple bits change out easily whether you need a Phillips, slotted, or square drive.The ratcheting action allows you to keep steady pressure while simply twisting the handle in place.

As you become more proficient with these tools, your confidence level will build, enabling you to take on more complicated projects. Your tool collection should grow gradually with your skill level.

Must-have safety tools & accessories:


Safety goggles: These glasses should fit properly on your face so they don’t slide off when you lean over and should comply with OSHA regulations.

Mask: Mask type should be project specific.For a light project a dusk mask will suffice. Using a harsh chemical, for instance, may warrant a respirator. Check safety recommendations on your product label.

Work gloves: Glove type should be task related. For example, a waterproof glove should be worn if using a wet, caustic product (always check safety recommendations).Also, a snug fit is crucial, especially if you’re using a power tool with a spinning blade – loose gloves are notorious for getting caught in moving parts.

Ear protection: Any time you’re working and you have to yell over the noise from your project in order to be heard, you need ear protection.Be it plugs or muffs, ear safety is a must to prevent hearing loss.

Electricity testers: Flipping a breaker isn’t enough, a neon tester or plug-in circuit analyzer will assure that there is no electricity flowing so you can work safely.

It’s always good to have these miscellaneous items stocked in your box too:

  • lubricating spray
  • assorted nails, screws, and anchors
  • masking, duct, and electric tape
  • sand paper
  • zip-ties
  • flashlight
  • long-reach lighter
  • permanent marker and carpenter pencil

Truth be told, as much as I love to open my closet doors and see a brand-new designer shoebox, it’s the well stocked toolbox in my closet that gets me up on my feet and ready to tackle projects skillfully and safely for decades. Not even Prada can do that.

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.

Norma Vally Hammer