Note from the hosts:  The brothers Paul and Dave of Hamtil Construction write, “We frequently are asked to weigh in on tool decisions for friends and family.”  Well, right around the time that I posted this on the ten essential tools for homeowners, I became friendly with Paul Hamtil, the voice behind @HamtilConst

When I eventually asked Paul to do a post for us, I suggested “The 10 essential contractor tools.”  While that post has not yet come to pass, this instead will do nicely.  Just in time for your last, last minute Christmas shopping, the guys posted this on their Hamtil Construction Facebook page last week.  I asked if I could re-print, and they agreed. 

I thought it was interesting though that our two “top ten tools lists” shared absolutely zero entries in common.  Cheers, Happy Holidays and Enjoy.  ~jb


Given that we pack an arsenal of tools for our work, we frequently are asked to weigh in on tool decisions for friends and family.  In the spirit of the holidays, we want to present a gift of our “top ten tool picks” for the DIY’er or handyman / woman on your list.  Ahh, yes.. if we had the money we would buy all the tools we can get our hands on!  Since we can’t, here are a few essentials that won’t break the bank.

Happy shopping, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season!


Tim the Toolman Taylor Home Improvement image via Hamtil Contstruction

Tape Measure

A helpful hint when talking tape measures is that the “standout” is pretty important.  That’s how far you can extend it before it goes limp and falls to the floor.  This can be really frustrating, so a 9’ min standout is suggested.  25’ tapes are suggested, and for the mathematically challenged there are versions with fractions listed!

Cordless Drill

Because they range in volts, sizes, and quality, choosing a drill can be tough.  Most pros will use an 18volt drill at the minimum.  For a homeowner and less frequent user, we say that fewer volts are OK.  12v or 14.4v should suffice for typical needs.  A caution, however, is that if you already have cordless battery tools you may want to match the brand and voltage of batteries to stay universal.  Also, while a 12v or 14.4v tool is less expensive, if you want to step up to a combo pack or introduce a saw to your collection later, going with 18v may be a smart move.

Ryobi offers a nice entry level drill. See our review of the Ryobi ONE+ drill, here.

Paul Hamtil Sporting a New Headlamp :: Good for caving or just for exploring a crawlspace

Screwdriver Set

The cornerstone of any toolbox, a set of good screwdrivers will be an almost sure go-to for most projects. This holiday is the perfect time to upgrade from those old, dull ones that grandpa gifted to your DIY’er. We always recommend a multi-piece set by Craftsman. When they get dull or break, you’ll be thankful for the no-questions-asked warranty!

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After recently witnessing our Heating & Cooling contractor using a headlamp in a dark basement while he worked on a duct, we thought it was brilliant idea! Remove the light holding burden and free up those hands to get down and dirty.

Laser Level

Sounds like a serious tool, but actually there are many inexpensive versions of laser levels for use around the home. To free up your hands when working solo, and so you don’t have to buy 4 different lengths of levels, this is a great tool.  It will be useful for hanging pictures, painting stripes, tile install, and more!

Circular Saws and Saw Blades Sitting on an Unfinished Floor

Circular Saw

Likely to be the most useful saw for a variety of projects, a circular saw is a good addition to any tool collection.  While it’s not necessary to buy the top of the line, there are a few benefits worth paying a little more for.  One is “blade brake”, which will increase safety by quickly stopping the blade when the trigger is released.  Another is “levers” in lieu of “knobs” to adjust the blade settings.  Levers are simply easier.


After witnessing so many bad ladders over the years, this is one area that needs some attention called to it.  Spending a few bucks on a solid ladder is a wise investment! Little Giant makes an excellent ladder (yet somewhat pricey) that can be set up in many configurations, making it versatile- yet compact.  A top choice for homeowners!

Hyde 10in1 Multi Tool via hydetools.com


This super handy tool will scrape, gouge out old paint or caulk, open a paint can, and more!  To take it up a notch, Hyde Tools also makes a 10-in-1.  This is a new variation of the traditional tool which includes a screwdriver and bit assortment in the handle.


Clamps are always a welcome present to a DIY’er!  When fixing that broken furniture or building a new woodworking project, clamps are essential.  Try a 4 clamp assortment pack by Quick Grip for starters.  Throw in a Vice Grip for good measure and you’ll have it covered!

Smartphone (or just the apps)

Is this really a top ten tool? Well, in today’s world… absolutely!  How can anyone survive a project without a calculator app, YouTube links at our fingertips, and the camera ready to snap those finished project photos?  (Or, to snap photos of broken stuff to bring along to the hardware store so we don’t have to explain what the thingamabob is).


Oh and what’s your pick or gimme? Leave a note below. Thanks for Reading.  ~jb