Before you begin any attempt at home improvement, make sure you have the right tools for the job.  Believe me, you will be far less frustrated and get done faster if you don’t try to make the wrong tools work for you.  From using the wrong size or type of screwdriver (irritating) to the wrong kind of power tool (downright dangerous) a tool can make a world of difference.

Be organized.

My daughter calls my garage “a monument to OCD”.  For year2-img_4407s I shared a workspace with two sons, my husband and my father.  Everything was scattered and there were duplicates of many tools, some quite expensive.  If we had been more organized I know we would have saved a lot of money. When I moved into my very own space and started unpacking I organized!  I used scrap wood to make shelves between the wall studs in my garage.  Each part of the garage has tools for different kinds of jobs.

A few good ideas to try:

  • Pegboard is great, but instead of using a large single sheet to organize all your tools, cut small pieces to fit between studs and hang only the tools for a specific task on each section.  I screwed 1×2 furring strips into the wall and mounted the pegboard on the strips.  This left enough space behind the pegboard to attach hooks.
  • Large rings are great for organizing wrenches. I picked up a package of these at Dollar Tree.
  • Magnetic strips or tool holders are a great               1-img_4418-001              way to organize small tools so that you can easily find them but they don’t get knocked around.  I found wonderful magnetic strips at Harbor Freight.
  • Gather the materials you are likely to use in your project before you begin. I’m not a fan of a toolbox.  You carry extra stuff you don’t need and things shake to the bottom of the box where you can’t find them.I pull the specific tools for a job off my shelves and carry them around in a simple plastic organizer.  When I’m finished I put them back where they belong so that they are easy to find for the next time I need them.

The tools you really should have

Power tools are expensive and take up space.  I have a lot that were handed down (or up) to me from my brother, sons, father… Add to that the fact that my husband loved power tools and- you get it.  I have a lot that I don’t need.  Here are the ones I wouldn’t want to be without.

  • A table saw is useful for many different kinds of cuts.  1-img_4409It can handle large sheets of plywood or short pieces of molding.  They aren’t especially cheap and for safety you need to mount them on a stand but scrounge garage sales and resale stores.  I recently saw one at a Habitat for Humanity restore for $70. People buy stuff that they want for a hobby and later discover that they don’t really like woodworking and good tools go away for low prices.
  • A miter saw (also called a chop saw) is a way to saf5-img_4410ely cut angles if you are putting up molding. They are handy for short cuts through material like 2×4’s and can be carried closer to a work site.
  • Of course there are obvious tools that you need to have:  Screwdrivers, hammers, drills, pliers, wrenches.  These will accumulate over time.  It’s good to have a couple hammers of different sizes.  I have a heavy one for driving nails and a smaller, light one for tacks and tiny nails.  It’s that thing about using the right 1-img_4416tool for the job.  A lighter hammer is easier to control when you just need to tap.  The heavier hammer finishes the job of pounding in a larger nail quickly.  I love my battery operated drill.  You can put in a screwdriver bit and get a lot done quickly and without tiring your hands and wrists.  There are times, however, when the battery drill won’t work.  The space may be too small or deep and you will find that a screwdriver works better.  Getting a set of screwdrivers is a good plan.
  • Specialty tools:  I bought a small nail-puller when I got locked out of my car at Walmart.  I used it to break into the car and I don’t ever want to be without it.  Not that I plan on getting locked out of my car anytime soon!  I just have discovered that this little pry-bar, nail puller gadget comes 1-img_4415in handy for a whole lot of incidental jobs.  My other favorite surprise tool is called a nail puller.  It looks like a plier except that the edges bite horizontally.  I use them, of course, to pull nails, but they also are great to getting close to a surface to cut off a piece of wire or the tip of a finishing nail that you don’t need to pull, but do need to flatten against a piece of wood.
  • This is a newer tool called an oscillating multitool.  I have given these as gifts several ti6-img_4411mes and won’t be without it. It’s lightweight and versatile.  It’s easy to control and you can make small cuts like notches safely and with pretty good precision.  They range in cost from expensive to dirt cheap.  I like the dirt cheap end.  The Chicago Tool brand that I use costs around $30 and works just fine.  The attachments for more expensive brands fit it, but you can also find less expensive blades and discount stores like Walmart. Buy one.  Just do it!

Have a Happy Place

There are times when you just need to walk away from a project.  1-1-img_4399You might think that completing a home improvement project is all about following the directions and getting the job done.  It isn’t. You will run into problems that just take a little thought to work through.  It’s like trying to make a pie crust and the stupid thing keeps sticking to the rolling pin.  Taking a step away and doing something that relaxes you will help your mind puzzle through your problem without having to stress about it. My happy places are always outside.  Lopping some dead heads off my rose bushes or pulling weeds gets immediate results and I feel less like I’m spinning my wheels.

So if you are prepared, it is time to begin to plan your home improvement projects!  Have fun!

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