Renters' Tools: Five Essentials for Every Apartment

tools for the toolboxNo matter where they live, whether it's a state of the art luxury high rise or a humble walk-up, it seems that most apartment-dwellers have at least one thing in common: They don't own tools.

Maybe it's because most renters just pass on even the most trivial home improvement needs to a maintenance staff or lowly super. Or maybe they think you need to have a yard in suburbia before you own a toolbox. But whatever the reason, they're wrong.

Everyone should own at some basic hardware. Trust us, there's nothing more frustrating than when you just need a Phillips-head screwdriver and you don't own one. That's why we've compiled this helpful list of tools that you should own, no matter what your living situation.

Tape Measure

Or as it's described by Sean Wankel of Wankel's Hardware, a family-owned hardware store that's been supplying Manhattan's Upper East Side with nails and screws since 1896, "The all-important tape measure." Wankel has had a wide variety of people come in with creative improvised measurements, from the classic use of outstretched arms to showing the height by pointing out a spot on the leg. "You can use many things [to measure], but a tape measure makes it easy," he said. "You have a specific idea of exactly what you need."


Quite possibly the simplest and most common-sense tool that someone should own. And yet, some don't. "You can hang pictures with some toothpicks and a brick," said Zak Rose, an independent furniture designer and builder working in Chicago, "but it is a lot easier to do with nails and a hammer."

Four-in-One screwdriver

This handy little device saves you the need of buying four different screwdrivers or sacrificing the space they take up. It comes with two bits with two varieties of screw heads on either side, allowing you to interchange them depending on the job. And it can even help with non-screwdriver needs. "It's actually a 'five-in-one' because it's also got a 5/16th nut-driver," said Wankel.

Cordless Drill

The most costly investment on the list, a cordless drill is also the most useful. "It's versatile," said Wankel. "It's really going to give you a lot of options for what you need to do in an apartment. Where if you have just a screwdriver and a hammer, you're going to be sort of limited in what you accomplish."


Lovers of classic '80s television will recognize this last entry on the list from the series "MacGyver," in which pretty much every episode reaffirmed the many uses of a pocketknife. "I carry a small pocketknife with me when I am working," said Rose. "I have found it to be incredibly handy whether I have all my tools or none ... it seems to come in handy several times a day."

Hopefully with everything on this list you'll be able to tackle most any home improvement problem, but more than likely you'll eventually run into something that will require you to run down to a hardware store and pick something up. But that's OK. According to Rose it's how you put together a proper tool collection. "Buy the tool you need for the job at hand and soon you will have a full toolbox," the builder said.

Other tools you should think about eventually adding to your collection: Hex keys, hot-glue gun, lockjaw pliers, and razor knife with replaceable blades.
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