1) All in one tool- We have 2 of these Husky 14-in-1 Painter’s Tools. Best $12 (for 2) we have spent, we use these ALL the time and they haven’t broken with 2 years of heavy use. The small edge is great for cutting caulk and it also works well combined with a hammer to chisel (I even used it to chisel dry thin-set away from concrete).
2) Cordless drill- Ours is a cheap Ryobi one which gets the job done. Just make sure to have at least two battery packs so there’s always an extra one charged. I would say 85% of our projects involve using a drill at some point.
3) Hammer- Just another one of those tools that you always need. I don’t think it matters how much you spend, just go to a brick and mortar store to pick one out that feels comfortable to hold.
4) Rubber mallet- We have both small and large mallets, they’re essential for laying floating floor but have also come in handy for lightly tapping other things into place.
5) Clamps- Clamps are always good to have around (at least 4), it’s like having an extra set of hands. I prefer the ones that have rubber on the ends so they don’t damage the surface of whatever you’re clamping and glue will also wipe off easily. We have these:
6) Allen wrenches- Make sure to have a good variety of sizes.
7) Crowbar- We’ve used our crowbar for everything from ripping up the carpet to ripping off door and window frames. Crowbars are great if you’re demoing anything!
8) Duct tape- The band-aid for DIYers haha! In my experience duct tape can hold things together for years!
9) Tarps/plastic- Great for laying down to make clean up easier when sanding, cutting, painting, gluing, etc.
10) Liquid nails- This is my go to glue for everything. I used to buy little things of super glue until I realized how pointless that was when you can just buy a big tube of liquid nails.
11) Caulk gun/caulk- If you put up any trim or molding, caulk will be your best friend and make everything look nice (i.e. it will look like a pro did it not you).
12) Painters tape- Some people have the magic ability to paint without taping off, I am not one of those people. My painting is a hot mess even with the tape so… I have yet to find a tape that works perfectly with absolutely no bleed. Painters tape isn’t just for painting, I also use it for caulking to give a clean straight edge. It works great for holding things together while glue dries if you’re unable to clamp it.
13) Level- Twist each end in opposite directions and see if it bends. You want one that won’t bend so that it remains level and doesn’t throw you off later (which unfortunately I have had experience with).
14) Rafter/speed square- I have yet to actually use this for it’s intended purpose (angles) but I always use it to draw a straight line across whatever piece of wood I’m cutting.
15) Buckets/lids- We have at minimum 10 homer bucket in the garage. They get used for everything. My favorite use so far is putting paint in it instead of using a tray, when I want to take a break or quit for the day all I do is drop the roller grate in and stick the lid on (no mess trying to get paint back in the can). We also have a very handy bucket tool organizer:
16) Heavy duty gloves- From tiling to anything involving wood and possible splinters thick gloves are a must.
17) Knee pads- Many projects involve contorting your body into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, with knees often taking the brunt of the it.
18) Utility knives- I recommend getting a pack of replacement blades too, they always seem to dull very quickly around here
19) Sanding block/sponge- These are usually sold for sanding drywall but work for any small sanding job (you can always wrap sandpaper around the block if you need a different grit).
20) Wet/dry vacuum- You don’t want to use your nice household vacuum for drywall dust and sawdust. We have rigid one that has a washable filter.
A few other things that are nice to have around:
Miter saw, circular and/or table saw and jigsaw
Mouse and belt sanders