What Should Be In A Renter’s Toolkit?

Renting has its advantages, especially if you move around a lot, switch jobs a lot, or just don’t like doing household maintenance. Someone else is responsible for the heavy-duty work that goes with owning property, so you don’t need to own as much stuff as you would if you owned your place.

But, even renters need some basic tools, and there are some things that if your lease allows you to do it yourself, you should because it will be faster and less hassle than calling maintenance to do it. You’ll probably also want to hang pictures and so forth, something that the majority of leases today allow you to do within reason.

So, what tools does a renter really need to own? These are the ones that I found useful in my years of renting.

  • Curve claw hammer — generally the smaller weights will suffice for a renter
  • Flat screwdriver #1, #2, #3
  • Philips screwdriver #1, #2
  • Level (there’s an app for that)
  • Picture-hanging kit (nails, screws, anchors)
  • Measuring tape 25′ (laser is fine)
  • Set of Allen wrenches / hex keys (generally both SAE and metric)
  • Box or utility knife
  • Spackle knife – you’ll have to fill in any holes you make in your walls before you leave!
  • A sturdy plastic or metal box to hold the lot

These items are nice to have but not required:

  • Impact driver or power drill
  • Screwdriver set
  • Drill bit set

As a renter, that’s really all you need. Homeowners will need much more, but that’s a topic for another post.

Screwdrivers vs. prybars, and other safety stories… πŸ”¨πŸ› β€ΌοΈ

I saw a meme this morning that got me thinking. The meme had a picture of a screwdriver, and read:

“If it looks like a screwdriver, feels like a screwdriver, and turns like a screwdriver, it IS a prybar. ALWAYS use a screwdriver as a punch, chisel, or prybar.”

Except, IS and ALWAYS were taped over the original words on a SnapOn “The Right Way Every Day” hand tool safety poster.

Screwdrivers, quite simply, are not prybars. The big ones might work like one in a pinch, but you’re way better off using a claw hammer, or – *gasp* – an actual prybar if you need a prybar.

Why wouldn’t you want to use a screwdriver as a prybar? Because you can break the tip on the screwdriver – especially if it’s a cheap one – and the tip can fly up and cause injuries to all sorts of things you don’t want hurt – especially your eyes.

Screwdrivers aren’t punches either, although with drywall, with nothing behind it, a Phillips screwdriver can be used as a punch – in a pinch. But you’re better off using an actual punch, or a drill, if you need to put a hole in something.

Why? Same reason you wouldn’t use a screwdriver as a prybar. You can break the screwdriver. Say you’re trying to punch a hole in drywall, but there’s a stud behind where you put the screwdriver. The screwdriver bends. You’re out a good screwdriver.

Stud finders are much more useful for locating studs in the wall than knocking on it and listening for hollow spaces, or punching a screwdriver through the wall repeatedly until you hit something.

And as for using a flathead screwdriver as a chisel… again, they may look similar, but they aren’t the same thing. Chisels are made to cut things; they’re sharper than screwdrivers, sometimes considerably. Your screwdriver might work, in a pinch, but again, chisels are harder than screwdrivers, especially cheap screwdrivers, and you don’t want to break your screwdriver.

Trust me, a bit of metal in the eyeball is NOT a good idea!

If you do have to do any of these things, for $DEITY’s sake, use eye protection, and no, your glasses do not count! Make sure everyone around you is using eye protection too. It’s generally safer – and less expensive – to just go get the right tool for the job.

On Hex Wrenches and the hexes they make us want to use on them… πŸ”¨πŸ› 

Hex wrenches (also known as Allen keys or Allen wrenches) are used to drive bolts or screws that have a six-sided socket. There are two styles of hex wrenches: metric and Imperial (also called U.S. customary, or SAE).

Why is this important?

You want to make sure you use the right tool for the right occasion.

An SAE wrench in a metric bolt will not fit properly. Neither will a metric wrench in an SAE bolt. Sure, you can use one that’s a teeny bit smaller, and angle it, but then you’re running the risk of stripping the bolt.

Here’s the thing – you can strip (damage) any screw or bolt by using the wrong tool to try and put it into or remove it from whatever it goes in. Strip it badly enough, and you need specialized tools to remove it.

A basic hex wrench set, in both metric and Imperial sizes, is a good recommendation for any tool kit.

Screwdrivers (not the kind with vodka and orange juice) πŸ”¨

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All adults should have screwdrivers in their tool box.

There are several types of screwdrivers.

πŸ”¨ Standard / Slotted Screwdriver (“flathead”)

flat-head-screwdriver-great-neck-1-4-inch-x-4-inch-flat-head-screwdriver-flat-head-screwdriver-sizes-mm stanley_66_157_hr

There are several sizes of standard screwdrivers (commonly referred to as flathead screwdrivers). A set of standard screwdrivers contains several different sizes. It is generally a good idea to have a set of standard screwdrivers in your tool  box.

πŸ”¨ Phillips Screwdriver


A Phillips screwdriver looks like a modified X. It is generally a good idea to have at least a #1, a #2, and a #3 Phillips screwdriver in your tool box. If you wear glasses, a precision screwdriver set will contain what you need to make minor repairs.

πŸ”¨πŸ› Allen Screwdrivers / Allen Wrenches

The Allen type screwdriver, also called an Allen wrench, is a common one to have if you build a lot of IKEA furniture. The IKEA box generally contains one, but if you want to add a set to your tool box, it’s not a bad idea, especially if you’re a homeowner.

πŸ› Esoteric Screwdrivers

Aside from these three types, there are others that fall into the category of “unless you’re doing something really specialized, you won’t need one of these.” Here are just some of the more esoteric screwdriver types you might find, along with what they are called.



./~ If I had a hammer… πŸ”¨ πŸ› 

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Folk songs aside, the hammer is a striking tool, used for driving or removing nails, shaping metal or stone, and other purposes that require striking a blow to amplify the force of the wielder’s hand. While this post does not cover all of the various types of hammers out there, it does cover some of the more common ones.

The most common hammer, and the hammer every adult should own, is the claw hammer.

Claw Hammers

Claw hammers are characterized by a flat striking plate, used for driving nails, and a v-shaped claw that is used for removing nails. Claw hammers come in a range of weights; heavier hammers, due to the way physics operates, deliver heavier blows. You should select a hammer that fits comfortably in your hand, and is not too heavy for you to control.

Framing Hammers


Framing hammers are similar to claw hammers, but instead of having a curved claw, their claw is straight(er). Framing hammers are generally used for framing wooden houses, but are being superseded by nail guns. Most people who aren’t building their own home do not need a framing hammer; it is included here to ensure that the contrast with a claw hammer is shown.

Rubber Mallets

The rubber mallet is used to drive nails or brads into something that a hammer could damage. Generally, this is a concern when the wielder is upholstering a chair or other furniture. Smaller mallets are used in jewelry-making.

Sledge Hammers


Sledge hammers come in a variety of weights, lengths, and sizes. They are large, heavy, used for demolition, and generally wielded two-handed. If you need to break down a wall, you want a sledge hammer. Unlike the claw hammer, virtually no one who rents their home should need a sledge hammer. Some homeowners might have a need for one on occasion.

Splitting Mauls


Not to be confused with certain Sith, the splitting maul is used to split logs. It is a hybrid between a sledge hammer and an axe. As with the sledge hammer, unless the renter has a wood burning fireplace and means to chop their own wood, most renters do not need a splitting maul in their tool kits. Homeowners who don’t have a wood burning fireplace don’t need a splitting maul either.

 Meat Tenderizers


The last type of hammer I’ll discuss is the meat tenderizer. This one is not used for wood or metal, but for beating on lesser cuts of meat in order to make them more tender by softening the fibers. It can also be used to flatten a piece of meat, making a thick piece wider and thinner, as is called for in some recipes. Meat tenderizers are a good sort of hammer to have in any kitchen.

Hammer Do’s and Don’t’s

  1. Don’t use a hammer to drive a screw. You can use a hammer and nail to create a starter hole for the screw,  but you should not drive the screw into the wall using a hammer. This defeats the purpose of the screw by making the hole bigger than it needs to be.
  2. Don’t throw a hammer. Throwing a hammer is a good way to hurt someone or put an unwanted hole in the wall or floor.
  3. Don’t hold a hammer too close to the head. Holding a hammer too close to the head takes away most of the mechanical advantage created by swinging the hammer. You can do it that way to start a nail, but once you’ve got it started, use the mechanical advantage. DO hold the hammer like this:580b585b2edbce24c47b2bb5
  4. DO replace the hammer if the handle is damaged. Failure to do so may cause the head of the hammer to fly off the handle. Yes, that is the origin of that phrase. If the head of the hammer flies off, it’s another good way to hurt someone or put an unwanted hole in the wall, ceiling, floor, or a window…