I’ve been fixing up my home for the last five years, from the windows to the walls, the floorboards to the doors.
Something this experience has taught me is that it’s really important to use the right power tool for each task. Whereas a well chosen tool will do its job in a controlled manner, an imperfect option will often work inaccurately, and sometimes dangerously.
In this article, I’ll introduce you to nine of the tools I use most often in my home improvement work. Designed for the beginner or intermediate user, these power tools could greatly enhance your home improvement projects.
Please note that all of these tools require the use of PPE and appropriate safety precautions. You should always read the manual carefully before use, and follow any safety instructions.
And for more expert guidance on power tools, be sure to check out our guide to the best chainsaws.
1. Ryobi 18V ONE+ HP Compact Brushless Combi Drill
For most users, the first power tool you should buy is a cordless combi drill. These tools combine three drilling modes: drill, drill-driver and hammer drill. This means they can be used for a comprehensive range of tasks, including drilling holes in materials like wood or plasterboard, installing or removing screws or other fastenings, and hammer-drilling into tough materials like brick and concrete. I’ve even used my combi drill with a mixing paddle to mix floor adhesive.
The Ryobi 18V ONE+ HP Compact Brushless Combi Drill (Amazon) is one of my most-used cordless drills, combining good drilling performance with a user-friendly design. One of the great things about this particular drill is that it’s relatively small and lightweight. This makes it accessible to some users who might struggle to hold a heavier drill for long periods.
Top tip: if you never need to drill into hard materials like stone, buy a cheaper drill-driver instead of a combi drill.
2. Makita BO5041 Random Orbit Sander
A random orbit sander is a type of sanding tool designed to sand wide, flat surfaces without leaving too many unsightly swirls or machine marks. I use one of these tools for projects like sanding floorboards, and removing paint from surfaces such as window sills.
The Makita BO5041 (Amazon) is undoubtedly the best random orbit sander I’ve ever used, with unrivaled power and great ergonomics. It’s expensive, but well worth the extra investment, if you have lots of sanding ahead of you. This tool runs off household electricity, so you may need to use an extension cord to keep it powered while working away from power outlets.
Top tip: to avoid irregularities in the finish, start sanding with the sander already placed against the workpiece.
3. Bosch PSM80A Detail Sander
One of the most commonly required tasks in home improvement is sanding – and while a random orbit sander like the one listed above is a great starting point, you’ll need a different type of sander for hard-to-reach places like the corners of installed shelves.
This is where a detail sander comes into play. The Bosch PSM80A (Amazon) is my go-to-option, with a pointed sanding pad that can sand those hard-to-reach places. It’s worth noting that this tool is surprisingly powerful, so you shouldn’t need to press too hard into the workpiece.
Top tip: buy a variety of sanding pad grades to suit different sanding tasks. A higher grade (e.g. 120 instead of 80) means the pad is suited to a finer, smoother finish.
4. Ryobi ONE+ 18-Volt Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
As their name suggests, oscillating multitools can be used for a number of home improvement tasks, including sanding, grinding and cutting. These tools have different attachments for each type of work, but in all cases they are driven by the same vibrating action (oscillation).
The Ryobi ONE+ 18-Volt Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool (Amazon) is a great option with an easy attachment-change mechanism. You’ll notice that this is one of several Ryobi tools included in this article, and there’s a good reason for this: the brand’s tools often have a combination of affordability and effective performance that’s perfect for the home user.
Top tip: always check to ensure a multi-tool attachment is designed to work on the material you’re cutting/grinding/sanding.
5. Black + Decker BDCJS20B 20V Jigsaw
Jigsaw tools are the ideal solution for fiddly, complicated tasks where you need to cut out wooden pieces (or metal or plastic pieces, if you use the correct blade). These tools have a small saw blade with lots of sharp teeth, which moves up and down rapidly while you guide the foot of the tool carefully over a workpiece. Jigsaws are especially well suited to making curved cuts – which is pretty much impossible for most other types of power saw.
A good jigsaw to start out with is the Black + Decker BDCJS20B 20V Jigsaw (Amazon), which is a beginner-friendly tool powered by a lithium-ion battery (sold separately). You get a great selection of jigsaw blades bundled in with the tool, to help you saw a variety of materials.
Top tip: when using a jigsaw, it’s very important to use wood clamps (like these wood clamps at Amazon) to hold the workpiece steady during sawing.
6. Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ Cordless Miter Saw
Nothing cuts narrow wood pieces, such as fencing slats or parquet wood blocks, quite as efficiently and easily as a mitre saw will. These tools have a large, powerful saw blade, which can be pulled down using a handle to chop through pieces of wood in a matter of seconds.
I use a Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ Cordless Miter Saw (Home Depot) for this type of work in my home improvement projects. The tool is more complicated than some of the other items featured in this roundup, but I’ve chosen to include it as it really can save you a lot of time and effort in a large scale project.
Top tip: it’s easier and safer to use a mitre saw if the tool is mounted on a strong, level workbench.
7. DeWalt Atomic 20V MAX Cordless Rotary Hammer Kit (DCH172D2)
How much do you enjoy your home improvement work? If you answered ‘more than life itself’, or something along those lines, then we’d like to introduce you to your next and greatest gift to self: the DeWalt Atomic 20V MAX Cordless Rotary Hammer Kit (Amazon).
This premium tool is at the leading edge of drill design, balancing cordless convenience with superb hammer-drilling power. If you often drill into hard materials such as stone and concrete, then you’ll need an excellent hammer drill like this one in your inventory. As well as drilling holes, the DCH172D2 can also demolish hard materials. I once used it to break up a concrete greenhouse foundation.
Top tip: use your hammer drill’s depth stop accessory to ensure holes are drilled to the correct depth.
8. RockSeed Laser Level
What better way to enhance your home improvement projects, than by making sure everything is perfectly level? A good laser level tool will help you do this, by projecting straight, coloured lines of light onto a surface.
I use one of these tools almost every time I need to install something on the wall, whether that’s a shelf, cooker hood, curtain pole, mirror, or pretty much anything else. It’s a convenient, hands-free alternative to a traditional spirit level.
You can get a highly effective laser level at a very reasonable price. This battery-powered option from RockSeed (Amazon) is a great example.
Top tip: in order to get the best performance out of the tool, I’d highly recommend using it with a compatible tripod or telescopic pole.
9. Milwaukee 2880-20 M18 Cordless Angle Grinder
When a metal object proves too difficult to cut with alternative means, I can always rely on my trusty angle grinder to get the job done. These powerful handheld tools have a fast-moving grinding (or cutting) disc, which can cut or grind extremely hard materials.
While there are lots of great angle grinders out there, the Milwaukee 2880-20 M18 (Amazon) is a particularly good choice for home users, thanks to its relatively small size, kickback protection and anti-vibration features.
Top tip: always, always wear goggles, gloves and a full covering of hard-wearing clothing while using an angle grinder.