When you've moved beyond assembling cheap furniture for your first home, that second-rate tool kit won't cut it anymore.
A proper renovation, DIY project or home maintenance task requires heavy-duty equipment. Those who plan to9 take on more ambitious home projects can go beyond the standard screwdriver and hammer to make completing them a breeze.
Power up your repairHome improvement blogger Mag Ruffman knows many people fear power tools.
But as an expert well versed in all things home improvement and renovation, she encourages everyone to give power tools a shot.
An electric drill gets the job done faster, and it also can be used for more than one purpose. Shut off the power and it becomes a manual screwdriver. Add a paddle attachment, and mixing paint becomes a breeze.
When used properly, electric saws need not be feared, either. Neither will break the bank for most DIYers.
Ruffman especially likes cordless tools for the freedom that they allow users. "You're not tethered to a workbench," she says.
"It's worth it to invest in the higher quality tools because they're going to last you for a lifetime," says Alex Roberts, president of Mr. Handyman International LLC in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Even when a high-end tool is out of your price range, "I really recommend people buying a mid-grade tool that isn't cheap plastic," says Mag Ruffman of the ToolGirl blog.
Read on for recommendations that will take your tool collection to the next level.
Stash your stuff
First things first -- if you're making a commitment to nice tools, invest in a sturdy toolbox. Whether it's canvas, metal or strong plastic, it will keep tools organized and in good shape.
The junk drawer or flimsy plastic bags are poor storage solutions for important tools. A real toolbox can save you time instead of wondering, "Where did I leave that?" Roberts says.
On the level
Even the nicest framed art can be ruined by a crooked wall-mount, but it's difficult to determine evenness with the naked eye. Fortunately, "a level can be the deciding factor," says Lisa Shapot of The Think Tank, an art, construction and design firm in Garnerville, N.Y.
Forget the chunky level with hard-to-read bubbles in neon yellow liquid. Use a laser level to hang an assortment of items, such as picture frames, shelves and flat-panel TVs. Roberts recommends a laser level for both its usefulness and compact storage.
Protect your walls
"People put a lot of holes in walls," Roberts says, from hanging shelves to pounding picture frames into place. An electronic stud finder can take the guesswork out of the process.
Plus, you can avoid of unsightly pockmarks from a few too many blows from a hammer.
No toolbox would be complete without the right safety products. Protect your eyes with high-quality goggles, your ears with earplugs, your hands with thick but pliant gloves and your nose and mouth with a mask, depending on the project.
Think ahead for which safety supplies you'll need in a bind -- electrical tape, for example. "Very often you see a live wire you don't know what to do with. The best thing to do is take the electrical tape to cover it up," says Sindi Landman, Shapot's partner at The Think Tank.
Have a little one at home? Keep chemicals, blades and pointed edges tucked away with child-safe locks, and always have a first-aid kit nearby.
Odds and ends
Don't forget to stock your tool kit with the vital bits and pieces to complete your projects. Always keep enough fasteners, nails, screws and bolts on hand, and place them all in separate compartments to keep them neat.
Shapot calls Elmer's Glue an indispensable tool, but your project might call for rubber cement, which is perfect for paper, or heavy-duty super glue that can bind materials like metal and wood.
Pry it open
Got a stubborn door that won't stay shut or open wide enough? A good pry bar should do the trick. Its skinny flat blade gets into the toughest spots around the home.
"You always have a door sticking where you have to pry something off," Ruffman says. The same goes for tricky cabinets and drawers. A pry bar also does double-duty by removing nails from objects.
See the light
Whether the power goes out in a storm or a project calls for investigating a hard-to-see corner, a good flashlight is crucial. Especially in the event of an emergency, you don't want to find yourself without a reliable light source.
Reliability is one reason that tool experts say you shouldn't skimp on a cheap flashlight.