0 The Toolbox

If you're a renter considering buying a fixer-upper, you're gonna need a lot of tools that you probably don't already own.  In the first year of owning this house, I acquired a ton of tools, many of which I could not have done the job without.

Standard screwdrivers - owning a couple phillips and a couple flat heads is not gonna cut it.  Especially when dealing with an older house, where there are generations of different screw sizes & types.  Not to mention you're going to leave them all over, so having a few on hand will save you from trying to search for the few you own.  Get a full set of screwdrivers, long and short, and with several sizes of blades, phillips and flat.
Also, get yourself one of those all-in-one screwdrivers with interchangeable bits that usually are stored in the handle.  You're going to run into square and star screws, among others, and you'll be glad you had it on hand.
Impact Driver - sometimes using a cordless drill with a screwdriver bit is overkill on power, or it won't fit in a small cabinet, and an impact driver is perfect. I got one as a gift after borrowing my dad's for a few projects, and I don't know how I'd gone so long without it.
Hex Key/Allen Wrenches - call them whichever, getting a couple sets of these is necessary. You'll probably get one in the IKEA furniture or towel rack you buy, but when you need to take out the old set screw to get the old towel rack off, you'll wish you had a hex set.

Claw hammer - can go a long way for removal of shelving, nails, and general destruction.  Oh, and it works for assembly too, but that's not as fun.
Sledgehammer - unless you're actually taking out a wall, as cool as owning a sledgehammer is, buying the 50 lb sledge is not really necessary. We bought one, and have only used it a couple of times, out of the joy of destruction, not because we needed to.  That being said, getting a handheld 2-5 lb. sledge can be handy when a regular claw hammer just isn't doing the destruction you'd like to see.

Pliers & Wrenches
Pliers set - necessary for fixing or installing electrical, removing stubborn brad nails, plumbing and much more. Should get standard slip-joint, needlenose, channel lock, and some cutting pliers.
Vise Grips - when you pop the head off a screw, you'll wonder how you'd get it out without good vise grips.
Adjustable wrenches - various sizes - necessary for plumbing, furniture assembly, many other projects.
Socket set - both metric and standard, with an extension arm or two, and a set of deep sockets.  In general, you'll use this more on the lawnmower or your car, but there have been many occasions when I needed to remove a stubborn bolt from some old furniture and a standard wrench just didn't get the job done.

Cutting & Hand Saws
Wire Cutter - if you're doing any kind of electrical, this is much easier than trying to strip wiring with a knife
Utility Knife - opening boxes, cutting carpet up to fit in the dumpster, cutting drywall, tons of uses.  Just DO NOT cut toward yourself.  EVER.  I've got a scar on my hand to prove it.
Drywall Saw - you can cut holes in drywall with a utility knife, but it's a pain in the ass.  The serrated blade on a drywall saw makes it much easier to cut outlet holes when hanging or using existing drywall.
Hacksaw - It's the only one I've ever used effectively.  Cutting pipes down, frames for windows, etc., it just can't be beat.  I own a couple other hand saws, like a wood saw and a hand miter saw, but they just aren't necessary with the power saws I have.

Power Saws
Circular Saw - very versatile, second only to the miter, this is great for working with bigger pieces of wood, before I had a miter saw or a table saw, this worked great.
Miter Saw - by far the most-used saw I own.  Get a 10" blade, dual-bevel, meaning that the blade is adjustable on the horizontal AND vertical axis, so you can do base boards and flooring easily.
Table Saw - didn't know I needed it till I had it.  You can achieve a similar effect with a straight edge, clamps, careful measuring, a steady hand, and a circular saw, but with a locking fence, there's just no beating the accuracy of the table saw.
Jigsaw - makes small cuts and notches a breeze.
Reciprocating Saw - or "sawzall" - will rip through a 2x4 and nails with no problem.  Don't take down a bulkhead without one.
Dremel Saw Max - when installing new flooring, where the door jambs need to be cut up to accommodate the new flooring height, nothing beats this little tool.  It can also cut metal, sand small areas, and cut straight lines.

Air Tools
Shop Vac - don't ruin your Dyson - get a good Wet/Dry Vac for all the dust and crap you're going to collect.
Air Compressor - to run the nail gun you're going to own.  Also see if you can get some attachments - I have  a little nozzle for ours that I can use to blow sawdust off tools, and a tire attachment.
Brad Nailer- I have a 16 gauge brad nailer, and it works for most everything from building shelving to installing moulding.
Flooring Nailer - if you're doing hardwood floors, and more than 200 sq feet, search Craigslist and buy one.  It'll only cost you a little over $100, you can turn around and sell it for probably about the same when you're done, and you won't have to pay $30/day to rent one.  Trust me, it'll take you more than 3 days.

Irwin Quick Grip - get 4 of these. they're great at holding boards together, clamping something down while you saw it, clamping guides down, all sorts of uses.
Corner Clamps - I bought a couple on a whim at a thrift store, and they have been super useful - will hold two boards at exactly a 90 degree angle.

Tape Measure - get like 5 of them.  You're going to leave them all over (just like screwdrivers) and will never find it if you only have one.
12" Level - great for smaller jobs that don't require a huge level
48" Level - that 12" level is not going to work when you're trying to level kitchen cabinets or hanging a series of photos on a long wall.
72" Metal Ruler - clamp this to a board as a guide for your circular saw, use as a straight edge for utility knife cuts, etc.
Speed Square - a metal triangle that will help make sure your cuts are 90" or 45" every time.

Extension Cords - a few 25' and one 50' should do it.  When you have the power off in a room and need to run from another room, it's great to not have to string together a couple extension cords to get there.
Power Strips - you'll need a few laying around for the workshop and for on the job.  When you don't have to unplug the miter saw to use the table saw, you'll thank me.  I HIGHLY recommend the octopus kind, where it's essentially 5 short extension cords in one, instead of an actual strip.
Work Lights - again, when you don't have the power on in a room, or when the room lighting isn't bright enough, having a couple of cheap clamp lights on hand is helpful.  If you want to get crazy, you can get one of the fancy halogen lamps, but a clamp light with a 100-watt bulb will work just fine.
Voltage Meter - even though you turned the power off, and you're certain you got the right breaker, use a voltage meter.  In fact, check it while the power is on, then turn the power off, just to be sure the meter is working properly.

Caulk Gun - you'll be doing a lot of caulking, whether it be adhesive, tub & tile, kitchen sink, etc.  Make sure to get one with a built-in spout cutter and seal punch.
Screws, Nuts, Bolts, etc. - as you move through the house, save the screws if they're any good, as well as any hardware you get - hinges, rollers, etc.  Will save you a trip when you suddenly want to hang something or throw up some drywall.  That being said, having a new box of wood screws, drywall screws and some nails in the shop are always good.

I'm sure I'll add more things to this page as I add to the workshop, but for now, this is all I've needed!

The Wolven House Project Copyright © 2012