Building Your Trade Toolbox

Basic Tools For Homeowners and Professionals In Trades

Anyone devoted to doing the job right the first time knows how important it is to have the right set of tools available that are in good condition and working properly. Whether you are a DIY homeowner, or a tool savvy professional, or a Trades Person.

After several years in the construction industry as a journeyman, Red Seal Carpenter, and Movie Industry Professional, I have had many people ask me about different trade tools.

Although I specialize in the remodel and construction industry, I am also asked about other trades and am in contact daily, as a foreman, with professional tradesmen and tradeswomen, who I regularly consult with on various projects, design and tools.  It is their and my recommendations that I used to bring these choices to you.

These are the same tools I work with daily and regularly.  Some tools are required tools of our trades and you’ll need them right away, while others are used less frequently.  But to a professional building their tool box, these are tools that any trades person will want to invest in for their future tool box.

If you want tools that make your job easier, some quality tool recommendations, and choices you’ll appreciate, then you are in the right place.  Watch for regular updates here as we build on these lists to give you the information you need to make great choices!

What’s important is starting with tool basics:  9 essential and basic tools for anyone.

1 – Ladders-Get The RIGHT Ladder: Tool Tips

1a – Make sure you know which ladder is the correct ladder for the job you need it for. In addition to the basic step and extension ladders are many others, for example; platform, scaffolding, telescoping multi-ladder, tripod, . . . plus many more.
1bWhat is the correct ladder height?
With an extension ladder you want to make sure it will reach 7-10 feet above the wall or the roof line (or taller than the job you are using it for – Standard level is 4 steps, or 4 feet, below the height of the job you are using it for. As an example think of an 10 foot wall – the ladder you’ll want to use for this job is going to be no less than 6 feet tall).
1c What is Grade and Type of Ladder?
Ladders come in 5 levels of grade and type. They take into consideration weight and job. Duty ratings consider the maximum safe weight capacity on the ladder. For a ladder used on a construction site and used by several people carrying tools, you would want a higher grade (grade 1A for example) ladder than a ladder used around the home for occasional repairs by lighter weight people. Keep in mind what type of job the ladder is being used for – Heavy construction for several people or light jobs around the house by lesser weight people and get the ladder that corresponds to BOTH the weight of the people using it AND the jobs performed by those people needing and using that ladder.
1dWhy is Ladder material important?
Consider ladder weight – Ladders range from wood to fiberglass to aluminum with other material choices also. The reason is that some jobs may require working with electricity while others only require stepping up to reach an object (for example the Platform Stepladder). Work on a ladder may also need to consider work with chemicals that could damage a ladder, or cause injury to a worker. A ladder may need to be moved multiple times, making ladder weight significant also, and lastly, a worker may simply have a ladder preference. For example a lightweight step ladder – Fiberglass makes it light and sturdy at the same time.

2 – Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are simply a good habit to get into. If you have ever known anyone with one eye you will understand why. What should you look for In Good Safety Glasses?
– Good fit
– Lightweight
– Comfortable
– Soft rubber nose pieces
– Adjustable, rubber-tipped templates that hold well without pressure or squeezing.
– Do you need to wear eyeglasses? Look into the safety glasses with polycarbonate lenses which allow you to perform close up work and read blueprints and instruction books with ease.
– Most Important is comfort and good fit over style – You’re protecting your eyes, not decorating them.

3 – Appropriate Work Boots With Steel Toes

How Do You Choose Comfortable Work Boots?

The biggest complaint about steel toe work boots from most people is that they cramp their toes and hurt their feet.

 How do you buy comfortable steel toe work boots?
– Make sure you have room in your boot for your toes – Don’t buy a steel-toed boot too short. To help eliminate cramping toes, buy a half to a whole size larger steel-toe boot. There is no, “give” in this type of work boot, so you must take boot length into consideration when buying your boots.
– For added comfort try insoles – Because this will affect the fit, so make sure you bring these with you when you are trying on steel toe boots.
– Replace worn boots regularly – It’s the wear, not the brand, or length of time you’ve had your boots that is important – Whether you’ve had them 2 months or 10 years is not what’s important.
– Get the correct boot width for your foot – If you need it longer, you may – ALSO – need wider.
– Socks matter – Cheap socks mean poor fit. Get boot socks for your steel toed boots – These are more spendy than cheap tennis shoe socks, and they have special padding designed with steel toe boots in mind. Don’t skimp on good socks – Socks Matter!

4 – Tape Measure

What Is The Best Tape Measure?
Use and Type of Job are primary factors in choosing the best tape measure.
Class I, or Class II? – When accuracy counts, get a Class I Tape Measure (These are best for those people who need exceptional accuracy in their work-Engineers, for example).
– For around the house or rough measurements are all that matters, the Class II tape measure is fine. Class I means the tape is accurate within 1.1 mm. Using a 10 m range for each -Class II means the tape is accurate within 2.3 mm.
Units of measure make a difference when you need meters, or inches, or a combination of both. When you need to switch between the two measurements, trying to flip a tape over to see one unit of measurement in metrics versus the other side in inches will create mistakes in measurement. Choose what you need for accuracy. Be specific if you need to ask questions about measuring differences.
End hook on a tape measure means different things. Cheaper pocket tape models have a flat, small hook on the end to grab onto something for easier measuring. More expensive, professional tapes feature a hook that allows the user to measure alone from various angles of a project. Contractors prefer this type measuring tape.
Thick or thin tape? Thick is best for professionals on larger jobs. Thin is better for home and/or small jobs that don’t require working alone, or measuring larger objects that allow for the width of a wider tape measure.
Case Designs are open or closed – Closed designs cover the gamut of most jobs while open design covers are primarily used for those people and professionals working in areas where they need to be in dirty environments – Mud and dirt, for example.
Locking devices – Two are available, both depend on what job you need to do. There is a conventional lock and an auto lock – Conventional locks keep the blade from slipping back into the case when you need to ‘hold’ a measurement by locking it into place manually . Auto locks work by automatically locking the tape into place once the tape is extended.

5 – Leveling Tool

From hanging pictures to building a house a level is a fundamental, necessary and basic tool requirement for any tool kit.
How do you decide on the best level?
– Decide what you are using your level for.
If you are hanging pictures or working in close quarters then a torpedo or other basic level works best.
High end levels are for experienced professionals and include laser levels. Laser levels are used for your initial layout work, but professionals resort back to their bubble levels when they need to physically check how their ‘object,’ or ‘project piece’ is going to sit on or in a particular area.

6 – Sawhorse

Typically these come in pairs, so the real choice for a becomes: How many pairs do you need?– Function is essential – Can they hold the weight and design of your intended project?
– Use of simple materials – wood or steel, or table  saw horse.
– No extra parts or decorative embellishments
– Four (4) sawhorses may be better than two (2) – Especially when you need to cut one piece of wood and it will become unstable once it comes apart, thereby rendering your project to the sacrificial wood pile if your measurements are off. You also risk pinching your saw blade with wood instability, which may create a kickback of your wood, or wreck your saw blade, or both.

7 – Cordless Circular Saw

Certainly in my opinion, a cordless circular saw is one of the five most basic and fundamental tools to own – whether a professional, or a DIY Homeowner.  Pay attention to the blade you buy, so that you make sure you are getting one that won’t wear out quickly when what you really need is one that gets you through your job. Read More Here.

8 – Random Orbital Sander

See why I like the random orbital sander better than a Palm Sander . . . Read More Here.

9 – Tool Box

What Tool Box Is Best?

– Decide what tools you need/want it for then choose from whichever works best for those needs – Whether it is one of these or a combination: hand held (hand carry) tool bag, rolling tool chest, or tool workbench. Know what tool storage you need to keep your tools handy, safe and protected.
– Keep convenience in mind – Does it have the appropriate storage you need so you aren’t juggling through a mess of tools to find what you need at any given moment? A cloth tool bag may be better for you than a tool box – Simply because they are made of sturdy cloth, lighter weight, and easier to carry.
– Metal latches last longer and provide safer, better protection for your tools.
– Get a light weight for carrying tools and a heavy weight for storing tools – Unless you move a lot, or are a professional you won’t be moving your tools often. Because of the weight, heavier tool storage chests are often found at garage sales – Keep your eyes open for any bargains.
– Rolling tool storage systems are a bonus when you are moving heavy tools often. Fat Max is my personal favorite. These make moving tools as simple as rolling luggage.
Tool chests storage systems are simply required once your tool set has outgrown your tool box.
– Tool work benches are best when they have wheels -In my opinion. These are larger items and have an area for you to build on with storage underneath. Most professionals can’t be without one, or have more than one, so if you’re thinking about a gift . . . . See these tool storage solutionrecommendations.

Watch as we build our list of Professionals and Get Professional recommendations from them for the best Tools of Their Trade: