Toolbelt Diva: How To Stock A Toolbox

Norma Vally Hammer
Fix-It FridayHome ImprovementSelf Improvement

I approach buying tools with passion and savvy – much the way I shoe shop. My mantra guiding me through the tool corral is you get what you pay for. Your initial thought may be, “Hey, I only need this tool (shoe) for one project (party), so why spend a lot?”

The truth is, projects always come up (as do social functions) and a high quality tool (shoe) will go the distance (dance floor). Cheap tools just don’t perform well – plastic cracks, heads strip, (heels break off!), and what should be a functional-fix turns into a frustrating fiasco (blisters). 

You may not need to buy the most expensive tool on the shelf, but research brands, look for tool warranties, and look at what pros load in their toolbelts.


Start stocking with these five must-have tools:

16oz. hammer: This is the perfect all purpose hammer.It’s light enough, so it won’t strain your wrist, yet heavy enough so you’re not undergunned.

25ft.long/1in.wide tape measure: I love this tape measure because it’s fat, an inch wide. This width allows you to easily read the numbers and it won’t bend when pulling it out past a few feet.

Tongue & groove pliers: These pliers are adjustable, easy to control, and will fit around various size fittings and nuts. 

Retractable utility knife (with blade storage in handle): You’ll use this knife to cut everything from carpet to drywall. It’s also easy to replace the blade and the blade storage-handle is super convenient.

Ratcheting screw driver with multiple bits: The multiple bits change out easily whether you need a Phillips, slotted, or square drive.The ratcheting action allows you to keep steady pressure while simply twisting the handle in place.

As you become more proficient with these tools, your confidence level will build, enabling you to take on more complicated projects. Your tool collection should grow gradually with your skill level.


Must-have safety tools & accessories:

Safety goggles: These glasses should fit properly on your face so they don’t slide off when you lean over and should comply with OSHA regulations.

Mask: Mask type should be project specific.For a light project a dusk mask will suffice. Using a harsh chemical, for instance, may warrant a respirator. Check safety recommendations on your product label.

Work gloves: Glove type should be task related. For example, a waterproof glove should be worn if using a wet, caustic product (always check safety recommendations).Also, a snug fit is crucial, especially if you’re using a power tool with a spinning blade – loose gloves are notorious for getting caught in moving parts.

Ear protection: Any time you’re working and you have to yell over the noise from your project in order to be heard, you need ear protection.Be it plugs or muffs, ear safety is a must to prevent hearing loss.

Electricity testers: Flipping a breaker isn’t enough, a neon tester or plug-in circuit analyzer will assure that there is no electricity flowing so you can work safely.

It’s always good to have these miscellaneous items stocked in your box too:

  • lubricating spray
  • assorted nails, screws, and anchors
  • masking, duct, and electric tape
  • sand paper
  • zip-ties
  • flashlight
  • long-reach lighter
  • permanent marker and carpenter pencil

Truth be told, as much as I love to open my closet doors and see a brand-new designer shoebox, it’s the well stocked toolbox in my closet that gets me up on my feet and ready to tackle projects skillfully and safely for decades. Not even Prada can do that.

Norma sig


About the Toolbelt Diva

Norma VallyA seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally’s media career boasts four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s series Toolbelt Diva and a radio show on Sirius Satellite by the same name. Norma is the author of the book series Norma Vally’s Fix-ups; has appeared on Today, NBC Nightly News, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, TLC, HGTV, DIY, Hallmark, etc; has been featured in Women’s Health, People, Woman’s Day, Glamour, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and New York Times. She is a supporter of The Boot Campaign, a non-profit assisting active and returning military. Norma founded Chix Can Fix, a new motivational movement devoted to empowering women to take control of their homes and their lives.

You can find Norma on Facebook and You Tube.

  • Tara

    Norma, Thanks for the great tips on tools and safety! Through the years I have purchased a lot of “power” tools for my husband, and have “apprenticed” for him on all sorts of large and small projects around our house. I am now ready to become his assistant (or boss)!!!

    • Norma

      Nice going, Tara! Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, or share some of your own DIY tips in my new column here at WYSK called “Fix-it Friday!

      Cheers!