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Materials & tools

Basic tool set: a beginner's guide

This tool list is the result of working alongside an experienced builder, building a winterized 20'x24' barn extension from bare ground. I started with no building experience and no tools. I began by borrowing each tool as it was needed, and then immediately buying my own (usually within a few days). The build took about three months, working when we could—at the end, I had a tool set comprised only of tools that I had actually used. Over several years, this tool set proved (not surprisingly, when you think about it) to have exactly what I needed to cover a range of building and fixing projects on a small farm (chicken coop, farm stand, greenhouse, a variety of work tables, and so forth). In fact, I've purchased almost no new items, mainly replacements for things that wore out, broke or disappeared.

Tool quality: There are cheap tools, mid-priced tools good for medium duty, and hardcore contractor tools, and the difference in price and performance is huge. A quick search at Home Depot (US) turns up single cordless drills from $35 to over $250, and 25' tape measures from $7 to $25, with recognizable brand names (Stanley, Milwaukee, etc) at all price points. In a nutshell: The most expensive tools are generally built for heavy continuous use, the ones in the middle of the price range are solid but not up to long periods of continuous use, and the cheap end generally hits its limit when you go beyond replacing a screw or hanging a picture. In practical terms:

  • You could steadily build a house with a medium duty chop saw, but try to cut dozens and dozens of 2x6s one after the other and it will .
  • An inexpensive drill might do fine until you try to drive a 3“ screw into solid wood, where you find it doesn't have the torque to take it all the way in.
  • You're up on a ladder, trying to extend your tape measure across an 8' space to get a quick measurement, and find it flops down after 6-7', where a better quality blade could extend 10' or more.
  • You buy a 36-piece screwdriver set on sale for $20, and end up really using only four of them, and the blades quite quickly get worn and lose their grip, plus you have a mess of unused tools to store.
  • I know a busy home repair contractor who refuses to upgrade from a $100 table saw he's had for years.

Bottom line: Get good quality for the job. Since you're not a contractor, buying the best is really a waste of money, while buying cheap is at best going to lead sooner or later to frustration, wasted time, and replacement. A good basic strategy is:

  • buy only what you need (be wary of massive tool collections; power tool combo kits are only a good deal if you'll regularly use everything that's included)
  • buy around the mid-price (look for sales!); on less expensive items (under $50) consider buying the best
  • for power tools, get pro brand names (Milwaukee, Makita, etc)
  • spend some time online reading a few articles and a bunch of customer reviews to get a sense of what brand names are really pro quality
  • use common sense: whether it's a hammer or a power drill, spend more the more you're likely to use it

The tool list itself is coming up… (:

Materials checklist

Materials you'll need, by category (in progress)…

  • Trailer or foundation
  • Shell (framing, roof, insulation, exterior)
  • Doors and windows
  • Ventilation
  • Energy (solar, propane, etc)
  • Plumbing
  • Water
  • Electrical
  • Interior finishing
  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Living area
  • Sleeping
  • Storage
  • Towing
  • Tools
  • Plans and references
  • Other materials
materials_tools.txt · Last modified: 2017/01/29 03:39 (external edit)