While it is possible to build with as little as a hammer, square, handsaw, tape measure and level, it is big advantage to use modern power tools and electronics. Of course, if you are only doing the general contracting, about all you will need is a cell phone. I am going to try to list some of the tools you need, and some that you could use. I am going to use some pictures, but if a brand is obvious, it does not mean I am endorsing it.
In some cases, you may want industrial quality, and in others, ordinary homeowner quality will be sufficient
Take good care of you tools, they are extensions of yourself.
Hammers are the symbol of builders. You will need several. A framing hammer ( usually 22 or 24 ounce), a 16 ounce claw hammer, a sledgehammer and possibly a couple different sizes of ball peen. Buy reasonable quality and keep more than one. They are easy to lose. The ball peen could be handy if you work any metal or do masonry work.
Saws are essential.
A decent quality circular saw will be used constantly. One that uses a 7.25 inch blade is good. You can buy different blades for different purposes, but a good combination type blade with carbide teeth will likely come with the saw and be used most. Keep a spare blade of this type.
A reciprocating saw is not an essential tool, but can be worth many times it’s cost when the need arises. It need not be an expensive one, but should have a quick change for the blade. Keep a variety of blades of good quality.
A power miter saw is very handy tool for making accurate angle cuts and square ends. Best when equipped with a stand, which you can purchase or make. Again, there is a large choice of blades. The combination blade that likely came with the saw is fine for framing. A smooth cut blade will be needed for cabinetry or finishing work. Sliding compound miter saws are the most versatile, but are expensive.
An inexpensive jigsaw with a variety of blades should be in every toolbox.
A table saw can be useful, but may be quite expensive. Consider one of the portable, fold down, job site saws available today. The low priced ones seem to work well, but don’t hold up as long.
There is a large variety of special power saws available, but most would find little use outside of a shop.
You will need hand saws. If you choose low cost hard point saws, you will not have to sharpen them, and can just replace them when they no longer work. You may need a hacksaw, jab saw or drywall saw, coping saw and back-saw with miter box. These are inexpensive enough to keep, in any case.
You will need levels. A 4 ft., a 2 ft., a pocket spirit level and a plumb bob. Possibly a laser level, transit, or water level. You can rent laser levels or transits as you won’t likely need them for long periods,and they can be very expensive.
Buy a good set of wood chisels, and keep them sharp.
A good cordless drill and impact driver is a worthwhile investment. The impact driver drives long screws easily with much less stripping. You need at least two batteries. Go with lithium-ion batteries. They are much superior. An 18 or 24 volt is excellent. These are a relatively expensive investment, but you will use them for many things for years. Cordless saws etc. are excellent as well, but you probably don’t need them very badly. Buy a cheap corded drill for back up, and perhaps a heavy duty ½ inch corded for mixing drywall mud, mortar, or thinset cement.
Squares are a must. The minimum would be a 24 x16 steel or aluminum square. Very handy is a 12 inch tri-square that has a lip on one edge. It will make for quick marking, and can be used as a guide for your circular saw when making 90 or 45 degree cuts. You might also want a 4 ft. T square for cutting or marking drywall.
Tape measures are needed. A 25 ft. is good, and you will have occasion to use a 100 ft. or more. Chalk lines and straight edges are very handy.
Needed as well are a multitude of other hand tools such as shovels, brooms, bars, paint brushes and rollers, pole and other sanders, drill bits of many sizes and kinds, nail sets, and the list can go on and on.
Air tools can speed a job up considerably. Some are expensive, but can be rented cheaply if you plan your job so you don’t need them for too long. You can buy cheaper brands, but they are often considerably heavier. Roofing nailers and framing nailers are the most expensive, and require a compressor that can deliver at least 4 cubic ft. of air per minute at 90 lbs. per square inch along with 50 to 100 ft. of good quality hose. Brad nailers and narrow crown staplers are cheaper and often come as a combination. They can be operated with a small compressor that can cost as little as 100 dollars. A brad nailer should be capable of driving an 18 gauge 2 inch brad. Use the stapler for putting up soffit and tacking down carpet, and the brad nailer for baseboard and casing.
You will need ladders and scaffolding. Buy high grade ladders. Your safety depends on them. You will need an extension ladder, and at least one stepladder from 5 to 8 ft. long. I like to have one each of 5 ft. and of 8 or 10 ft. Scaffolding can be rented, or you can go whole hog, and rent scissor lifts or man lifts. A good investment, though, is one or two of those small rolling mini scaffolds that can be bought for about 90.00 dollars each. Very handy tools when painting, dry walling or wiring, if only as a rolling shelf.
Heavy equipment will surely be needed for some jobs, but are too expensive to buy for one or two projects. A backhoe, skid steer, or loader may have to be rented or hired for land shaping, or back filling. Hire unless you have experience operating this type of equipment. You might want a crane for lifting rafters, or perhaps a whole roof section into place. You might need a concrete pumper for floor or wall pours. Expensive to hire, but sure makes life a lot easier. For excavating a basement, nothing is much better than a track hoe, if there is one nearby. Moving costs are quite high for this type of equipment.
If you can borrow tools, do so. Just be prepared to replace what you break and bring them back clean and sharp or your circle of friends might grow smaller. Buy used tools if possible, but don’t pay too much. Renting is good, but consider the time and gas spent picking up and returning stuff.
Most of you are do it yourself types and already have most of the tools you need, or won’t mind adding to your collection. If you decide to sell the bigger items after the project is finished, there is always a market for good quality tools. Don’t expect more than ½ new price, though.
A rule to follow, if the cost of tools needed is less than the cost of hiring the job done, buy the tools.
I can buy them on credit while tradesmen almost always demand cash. I don’t blame them, I demand cash for work too. In future posts we will suggest more tools when relevant and try to explain their uses, and how to use them.