16-OUNCE HAMMER A hammer can be a very personal thing, with weight, comfort and grip all factoring into the fit and feel. Bob Vila, the original host of the television series âThis Old House,â prefers Estwingâs steel shank wrapped in leather rings. Not only does it do a âgood job absorbing the impact,â said Mr. Vila, whose videos can now be seen at BobVila.com, âI remember it being in my fatherâs toolbox.â Sal Vaglica, a senior editor at This Old House magazine, prefers Fiberglas, but to find âthe right balance of heft and comfort,â he suggests trying out a few in the store.
MULTIBIT SCREWDRIVER âDonât bother buying kits with five different lengths and types of screwdrivers,â Mr. Vaglica said. âInstead get a multibit version that stores all the common bits in the handle.â His favorite: a $20 ratcheting screwdriver from Lee Valley. Ratcheting screwdrivers contain a gear-and-pawl mechanism that isolates the handle from the stem, allowing you to turn the screw many times without having to reposition your hand. MegaPro makes a $27 all-in-one version recommended by The Sweethome.
LEVEL âStart with a two-footer, because itâs the right size to help level and plumb projects like floating shelves, pictures, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and patio pavers,â Mr. Vaglica said. âLook for a metal box-beam buildâ with rubber bumpers on the ends, to help absorb the shock when you inevitably drop it, he added. âJohnson and Empire are two good brands.â
For hanging pictures, installing shelves or adjusting the legs on the washer-dryer, The Sweethome recommends the Sola PH 22 Flooring Level (about $19). More aggressive D.I.Y.-ers might want to splurge on the aluminum Sola MM 5 25 (about $42).
UTILITY KNIFE For breaking down boxes, cutting drywall or stripping wires, a utility knife will ease the job. âYou donât have to go fancy or spend a lot,â said Stuart Deutsch, the founder of ToolGuyd, a site that features new tool previews, hands-on reviews, industry news and the occasional D.I.Y. project. His suggestion of a solid option: the Milwaukee Slide-Out (about $8).
TAPE MEASURE How wide is your window? What size sofa will fit in your living room? âA tape measure will help you quickly answer these and other questions,â said Mr. Deutsch, who uses the 25-foot Stanley PowerLock Tape Measure (about $10). For something âsmall and pocketable,â go with the 10-foot Komelon 3110 (about $4), he said.