When something goes wrong in your home and you need the right tool fast (as in, the drain’s clogged and you have 18 people coming for a dinner party in 20 minutes), a properly stocked set of tools is crucial. To help you figure out which gadgets will truly save the day during those clinch moments, we asked homeowners to reveal the best home improvement tool they ever bought. Here are six worthy of consideration.
1. Wet-dry vacuum
Accidents happen, and in some households they’re a daily occurrence. But here’s a reality check: That wad of paper towels works only on small spills.
Larry Perlstein of Westport, CT, says no home should be without a quality shop vac ($65, Amazon.com), which can quickly suck up wet and dry messes.
“You never know when you’re going to need one—hot water heaters can explode, pipes burst, and washing machines overflow,” he explains. Perlstein has also used his wet-dry vac to clean up dog vomit, leaky windows, and the water that his child sometimes leaves running.
2. Cordless power drill
Karina Burston, a DIY pro in Wakefield, RI, repairs her own decking, picture frames, and garden hose brackets, and hangs shelves, birdhouses, and coat hooks. All of this is made possible thanks to the cordless drill that she swears by ($75, Amazon.com).
“Hands down, it’s the best home improvement tool I’ve ever owned—I use it all the time,” she says. She prefers the 18-volt version and has even invested in an extra capacity battery, because the weaker power doesn’t cut it for some of the work she does.
“I also use the sander attachment for sanding my patio furniture and prepping for painting projects.”
3. Drain cleaner
You’re probably familiar with a metal snake, a major piece of hardware that descends many feet into your pipes to unclog the mess your teen girls’ hair has wrought. But there’s a cheaper home improvement tool that does almost the same job, according to Jenny Lilienthal of Lee, MA.
“A homeowner’s best friend is a simple plastic drain cleaner ($8 for a three-pack, Amazon.com), especially if she’s ignorant in the art of pipes and wants to save her husband from pretending he’s a plumber,” Lilienthal explains.
When the drain is stopped up, carefully shove this tool partway down (but hold tight, you don’t want to lose it in there) and then pull it out.
“You’ll inevitably retrieve a gob of hair and some black goo, and then the drain will be cleared—without the need for nasty Drano,” she adds.
4. Home weather station
We’re all a little obsessed with the weather. Many may turn to their smartphones, but Rob Rein says his home weather station ($150, Amazon.com) is in constant use in his Winsted, CT, home.
“I’m always looking to it for information on temperature and the dew point, and with multiple sensors I can see temp differences in the kitchen, basement, patio, and backyard,” he says.
This device is also helpful with rain measurements, so you can even know whether or not to water the garden or patio pots!
5. SpoutOff Outlet
Cleaning the gutters is one of the more tedious outdoor jobs—and it can be hazardous, too. Installing the SpoutOff Outlet ($69, TheSpoutOff.com) in his gutter system was a smart move for Russell Turner of Glenmoore, PA.
“It’s a larger-than-normal outlet without a lip around the edge to catch debris like twigs and leaves,” he explains. This improved outlet won’t clog every time it rains, so the water just flows out of the gutters.
“I love it because as I age into early retirement, I’m less comfortable handling the heavy, cumbersome ladder. I’m happy not to risk a potential accident or fall.”
6. An awesome axe
When William Grant bought a second home in Ghent, NY, he was excited by the prospect of clearing some of the land himself. But doing it required a quality home improvement tool. Enter the Fiskars axe, recommended to him by his brother in Montana ($52, Amazon.com).
“This baby goes through wood like a hot knife in butter,” says Grant. With a huge fireplace and a wood stove to keep stoked, chopping and splitting wood for winter is now a fast chore. It’s so easy and fun to use, Grant goes out to chop timber for exercise, even when the woodbin is full.