12 Essential Tools to Have at Home

When Denise and I lived in a condo, the solution to most home maintenance problems was simple. Call the building engineer’s office. Water heater leaking? Call engineering. Ceiling fan making a grinding noise? Call engineering. For a small service fee, and sometimes for nothing at all, one of the building’s professional uniformed technicians would be in and out of our unit in fifteen minutes or less. You could even ask them to change a lightbulb for you (we never did), if you’re too lazy or inept to do it yourself.

When we moved to our own house, the convenience of having full time maintenance staff nearby was something we had to give up. We also gave up the feeling of security; our guards at the condo were the nicest and most professional people, and we trusted them to keep us safe. In our new home, it made more sense to minimize having to invite strangers inside.

Smooth operator.

Smooth operator.

So with our new house came a brand new toolbox, and some shiny new tools. And my new role as homeowner was supplemented by my new roles as head technician and chief of security. In hindsight, I probably bought too many tools, but at least now I know which ones are really useful and which ones I can do without.

For the majority of basic home DIY (in the Philippine setting), I find that there are really only 12 tools that you need. 


Most jobs around the house are simple enough to do in 15 minutes, even for someone without prior experience. With a bit of common sense, most jobs can also be done safely. The exception, for me, is electrical work. As a rule, I don't mess with my house's electricals because the risks far outweigh the benefits. We rarely need anything done in that department, anyway. For everything else, if it's something that can be accomplished in 15 minutes, and the benefit is immediate, I try to do it myself. 

Our dirty kitchen's faucet handle broke off. Serves me right for getting a cheap one to save on a few bucks!

Our dirty kitchen's faucet handle broke off. Serves me right for getting a cheap one to save on a few bucks!

We live in a country where the daily wages for a construction worker, ie. carpenter, mason, electrician, is 500 to 600 pesos per day. That might not be much, but having a basic set of tools brings the cost down much lower. A name-brand tool will set you back about 400 to 500 pesos. Half if you go with a lesser-known brand. A good tool though, lasts forever, and is readily available when you need something done even in the middle of the night. Believe me, when your bidet pops off while you're on the toilet, flooding the bathroom at 10 in the evening, you're gonna want to deal with it. 

With that said, i'll start with what I believe to be the most essential tool in my toolbox. 


In my years as a building manager, and now a homeowner, i've found that of all the jobs that need to be done at home, plumbing jobs are often the most urgent. We need water for our home to function, but we need that water to stay in the pipes until we actually need it, otherwise it's a messy housemate. Water seepage also destroys cabinets, flooring, and furniture, and excess moisture leads to mold, pests, and unpleasant odors. 

Enter the adjustable wrench. At a cost of around 200 pesos, lower or higher depending on the brand, you get the problem-solving power of a whole set of wrenches in one tool. I've used mine to tighten a leaking a bidet, install a new faucet, tighten a leaking water filter connection, and force open a stuck water supply valve (to restore our water supply after it got cut, but that's a story for another time). Oh, and I use it on my car's battery terminals too. For my money, the 6-inch one is the most useful. Just remember: lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. 

For the other 11 tools on my list, stay tuned for Part Two! Want to receive updates on new posts and promos? Subscribe to my newsletter by entering your email address in the subscription box below.