Today, as housing, industrial, and commercial building continue to boom, contractors are needed daily. Whether hired on by a crew, or independent contractors, they are an important backbone of today’s society.
In order to be successful on the job, contractors are required to have the right tools. Focusing on carpentry and general construction, there is a unique assortment of required and essential tools. Some are basic, some are more advanced, some are common sense. Whatever the case, all are important to have in your tool collection.
It is very important to go with quality tools, not just household tools. Decent tools for contractors are built to take a beating, day after day. No contractor wants to replace their newly bought tools a month or two later.
Many tools will even come with a lifetime warranty or at the very least, one to three years. However, many companies offer an extension of warranties. While a warranty extension may cost a bit extra, it is often well worth the price to get the extension. Tools take a beating, and by purchasing a warranty, sometimes thousands up thousands of dollars will be saved.
Below is a list of essential contractor tools. By having these tools at your disposal, you will be able to get each and every job done correctly. Not to mention, stocking up on these tools will save you many headaches and several trips to the local hardware store throughout each new project.
Table of Contents
- 75 Must-Have Tools for New Contractors and Construction Workers
- 1. The Simple Wrench
- 2. The Claw Hammer
- 3. The Power Drill
- 4. The Level
- 5. The Circular Saw
- 6. The Orbital Sander
- 7. The Hand Saw
- 8. The Carpenter Pencil
- 9. The Tape Measure
- 10. The Screwdriver Set
- 11. The Staple Gun
- 12. The Nail Gun
- 13. The Air Compressor
- 14. The Tool Belt
- 15. The Ladder
- 16. The Nail Puller
- 17. The Bolster
- 18. The Utility Knife
- 19. The Shop Vac
- 20. The Generator
- 21. The Concrete Mixer
- 22. The Scraper
- 23. The Bucket
- 24. The Voltage Tester
- 25. Lights, Lights and More Lights
- 26. Stools and Chairs
- 27. The Wheelbarrow
- 28. The Sawhorse
- 29. The Oscillating Multi-Tool
- 30. The Caulk Gun
- 31. The Jackhammer
- 32. The Adjustable Wrench
- 33. Pliers
- 34. The Hoe
- 35. The Concrete Float
- 36. The Chisel
- 37. The Crowbar
- 38. The Pickaxe
- 39. The Router
- 40. The Impact Driver
- 41. The Multimeter
- 42. Protective Gear
- 43. Work Boots
- 44. The Flashlight
- 45. Truck Toolbox
- 46. The Hard Hat
- 47. The Putty Scraper
- 48. The Pocket Knife
- 49. A Jobsite Marker
- 50. Gunk and Goo Remover
- 51. A Notebook
- 52. The Etcher
- 53. Lubricants
- 54. The Impact Wrench
- 55. Gas Cans
- 56. The Propane Torch
- 57. A Welder
- 58. Construction Cones
- 59. The Push Broom
- 60. The Extendable Magnet
- 61. The File
- 62. The Water Dispenser
- 63. The Bungee Cord
- 64. The Zip Tie
- 65. Duct Tape
- 66. Electrical Tape
- 67. Rope
- 68. The Rubber Mallet
- 69. The Vice Grip
- 70. The Yardstick
- 71. The Socket Wrench Set
- 72. The Stud Finder
- 73. Batteries
- 74. Contractor-Sized Trash Bags
- 75. Brushes
- Essential Tool Tips
- Putting a Nail in It
75 Must-Have Tools for New Contractors and Construction Workers
The tried and true wrench is a very important tool to have. Consider Craftsman wrenches to be some of the most versatile tools in the bag. From a stuck light socket to installing cabinets, they’re an asset.
Many wrenches come in sets of many. The measurements on quality wrench sets are clearly marked. It is important to have a variety of wrenches to fit a variety of different bolts and nuts.
The claw hammer seems to be the universal tool in every contractor’s bag. Different sizes are a must. From hammering nails into a stud or tearing down an old cabinet, no contractor can survive without a hammer.
Hammers come in big and small, heavy and on the lighter side. A good construction worker will usually have quite an arsenal of hammers in his or her toolbox. Different hammers fit different, unique needs.
The drill along with the proper bits will be a contractor’s best friend. They can be cordless or corded. The contractor should consider a Milwaukee high power drill to speed any job process along. Milwaukee is a good brand with a solid reputation and although their tools are a bit more expensive, they’ll last you a lot longer and cause you fewer headaches.
The nice thing about a cordless drill is the freedom to roam around without being connected. However, when owning a cordless drill, it is a good idea to carry extra batteries on hand. Corded drills are less trouble, but the worker is confined to the distance his or her cord will allow the drill to travel.
That said, there is a tradeoff in power as you move from a corded drill to a cordless drill. Corded drills will usually be more powerful. There are rare exceptions but it’s a good rule of thumb to follow.
4. The Level
Hanging cabinets, squaring carpets, and installing brackets is impossible to do without a level. Levels come in many different sizes. They should never be left out of a capable contractor’s toolbox.
Nowadays, there are even electronic levels available. While they can be a nice luxury to have, the best level is still a classic style with a bubble in the middle of a glass pipe. Furthermore, most levels have a built-in measuring tool.
Any contractor that knows what their doing should pack a circular saw in their toolbox. Preferable, one manufactured by Milwaukee. They’re portable, powerful, and light years ahead of any handsaw.
Circular saws can also be called skill saws. They serve a very valuable purpose. All of them are portable and most are electrical powered.
No contractor should go without an orbital sander. When cutting plywood to fit in tight spots, the edges need to be straight and groomed. An orbital sander will shave hours off of the time clock.
The orbital sander can also be fit with different grits of sandpaper. From course to fine, there is a specialty sandpaper for every orbital sandpaper. Some orbital sanders can be battery powered, but typically the best have to be plugged into a socket.
We recommend Bosch to get you started off on the right foot, er… hand.
7. The Hand Saw
No job can be completed without a good hand saw. For quick cuts or delicate wood, a manual saw is very important. It should always be included in your toolbox.
Manual saws are also important to have for places that power saws cannot reach or areas where power saws would be too dangerous to use. Be sure to wear your eye protection when using any type of saw.
Usually seen in a wedge shape form of a pencil, carpenter pencils are a required asset for every worker to have. From marking measurements to tracing a straight line, it’s important to keep them sharp and ready for the job.
Most of the time, carpenter pencils are about a dime a dozen. However, that does not diminish their importance. In fact, they should be kept handy by any and all contractors or new construction workers, just in case.
Attention to detail will always come first for a contractor. Without a tape measure, no too measurements will ever be the same. A tape measure is a tool belt’s best friend.
Tape measures can be big and small, and come in many different lengths. A good tape measure will have a clip where a worker can keep it on their tool belt. Stanley makes some of the best industrial and commercial tape measures in the business.
Contractor or not, every man should have a set of screwdrivers. From flatheads to Phillips, every kind is an asset. Your best bet would be a good set of Craftsman. It’s also nice to have a decent set of magnetic screwdrivers.
Some screwdriver sets even have choosable bits within one driver. Similar to a drill, there are many different size and shape bits that can be inserted in the chuck head. This is a good thing to consider, as they are made in very portable tool kits. We recommend this screwdriver set by DeWalt if you opt to go this route.
11. The Staple Gun
A staple gun is literally a staple of a new contractor’s toolbox. Either electric, air-powered, or manual, a staple gun makes the job of stapling thinner pieces of material together easier.
One should take care when working with a staple gun. Many on-the-job accidents happen as a result of them (especially the powered variety). However, when trained correctly, a staple gun can prove to be a very beneficial tool in your arsenal.
Arrow has consistently, over many decades, made a quality manual staple gun and the Arrow brand is the gold standard when it comes to hand-operated staple guns.
12. The Nail Gun
Usually powered by air, the nail gun is essential in any trade. It can shorten five minutes of hammering into the quick pull of a trigger. Nail guns are used to forever bond two items.
Just like the staple gun, the nail gun has been the culprit of numerous on the job injuries and even death. Great care and instruction should be deeply considered when working a nail gun to prevent loss of life or limb. When used correctly, a nail gun can be a tremendous asset.
Although most are powered by air compressors, the Milwaukee 2746-20 M18 FUEL is actually powered by a nitrogen air spring mechanism. Why does this matter? Well, there are no cords that get in your way and the spring mechanism is optimized to deliver just the right amount of force needed to drive your nail in the perfect distance.
Perhaps the most universal tool for construction work is the air compressor. Not only can it be used to fill a tire, but it’s also required to operate a nail gun, staple gun, grease gun, you name it. While it might not be the first tool you consider buying, it certainly won’t be the last. After you start building up a decent tool collection for your workers, you’ll be in dire need of an air compressor since most tools require them for operation.
Pro-Tip: You don’t want to go all-electric with your tool selection as electric tools don’t have the power and reliability that’s needed the way air-powered tools do, especially for jobs that require heavy use of your tools.
Larger, more commercial air compressors have been known to have gasoline engines. Most that are available and all that is needed are electric models. Usually, they have a four to eight horsepower electric motor. California Air Tools is far and away the best brand that sells air compressors. See our article on the Quietest Air Compressors if you want to know the ins-and-outs of all the best air compressors on the market.
14. The Tool Belt
The tool belt is often overlooked. It is surprising how many tools will fit in one when moving from place to place. It’s much easier to have this around the waist than carrying a toolbox.
Tool belts are often provided by companies, but independent contractors will always need to invest in one for themselves. Tool belts allow a worker’s focus to be elsewhere, not on carrying his tools. They also make climbing up and down ladders a bit easier, especially if you’re used to carrying a bucket of tools instead.
15. The Ladder
Ladders of all lengths are essential to get the job done. Without one, nothing would be done above six feet, give or a take a few depending on your height. Werner makes some of the most impressive ladders of all sizes.
Wooden ladders are very common due to their price, but they’re not usually the most durable. So, if you don’t mind replacing your ladders every so often, wood can be a good choice. However, aluminum ladders are usually just as cheap and last a lot longer. They’re also lighter making them easier to carry. Aluminum ladders are also less likely to rust.
Steel ladders while last you the longest but they’re heavier to lug around. One advantage of them being heavier is that you don’t usually need anyone to hold onto them while you’re climbing up. They’re also less likely to fall over or slide.
An excellent option for ladders is the Little Giant. It’s a multi-position ladder made of aluminum that can be used as a step ladder, extension ladder, trestle-and-plank, and more. It’s heavier than sin at about 40 pounds but it’s worth its weight in gold. It can hold up to 300 lbs. and meets both OSHO and ANSI specifications. It’s also made in the USA.
16. The Nail Puller
Accidents happen. Using the claw end of a hammer to pull a nail may work, but it can also damage softer woods and materials. Any contractor should consider a nail puller to quickly make an accidental nail history.
17. The Bolster
Similar to the appearance of a shovel, a bolster should be considered by any serious contractor. It does not dig, instead, it is used to cut through and tear down brick and brick walls. If you plan on doing a lot of brickwork, it’s a must-have tool.
Stanley offers a lifetime warranty on their bolster, so it’s a pretty good option for newbies.
With replaceable blades, a utility knife is a must in any toolbox. Utility knives are lightweight and can easily be carried on your tool belt. Keeping it close allows you to grab your utility knife any time you need to cut anything.
Utility knives come in many different sizes and some of them have unique features others don’t. Some blades are even made with diamond material, which is very useful for cutting through glass. This could prove to be an asset for a contractor installing windows and having to cut the glass to size.
Milwaukee’s unique utility knife features a belt clip and a wire cutter, perfect for those who haven’t yet invested in a good tool belt. A good retractable utility knife is also a good option if you don’t want to accidentally cut yourself.
19. The Shop Vac
Cleaning up sawdust with a broom and dustpan will do nothing but send debris flying into the air. A shop vac is an essential tool to make clean-ups a breeze. Shop Vac makes a great shop vac (go figure) and most models double as an excellent blower as well (such as the model featured above). In fact, Shop Vac has done such a good job with shop vacuums their brand name has become synonymous with the product itself.
Shop vacs also come in many different size capacities. Some hold ten gallons of debris and some hold more. Some have two and a half horsepower motors and some bigger models have eight or more.
The other advantage of owning a shop vac is the ability to vacuum up liquids. Spilled water, light paint, or dyes can easily be vacuumed up with a shop vac. Often times, this is much easier than sopping it all up with rags.
20. The Generator
Not all job sites have easy access to electricity. Saws, lights, and any other electric-powered tool can be plugged into a generator. Contractors should just remember to bring enough fuel for the day and long enough extension cords.
An important thing to consider when buying a generator is how much power it needs to produce. A contractor will often need to look into a commercial or industrial generator rather than a generator the average homeowner would own (one of those you carry like a suitcase). Generators can be powered by gasoline fuel, diesel fuel, or even solar-powered.
The advantage of buying a gasoline generator is that the fuel is often less expensive than diesel. However, a diesel generator will often have a much longer lifespan. Also, it will typically be more powerful and be able to handle powering more tools simultaneously.
Be sure to check out our list of the Best Portable Generators for Construction if you want to take a deep-dive into the world of generators.
Without a concrete mixer, a worker is stuck to the old fashioned stirring water and concrete in a wheelbarrow with a shovel. Using a concrete mixer will make much less of a mess. It will also save workers time.
Concrete mixers can either be large enough to have their own axle, towed by a work truck or a van, or they can be portable. It is important to chose the appropriate size mixer for the task at hand. Smart contractors will usually purchase one that is slightly bigger than what they will need.
22. The Scraper
Yes, you read it right, a scraper. You might not think you need one right now, but just wait until you get out on the job, they come in handy. Scrapers are useful for doing everything from removing paint, rust, metal, varnish, build-up, concrete, glue, and any other type of hard to remove gunk.
The Super Scraper is by far the best scraper on the market. It was the first carbide-tipped scraper on the market, appearing first in 1998. It’s durable, well-constructed, and made in the USA. The company also offers a limited lifetime warranty on it.
The downside is that the Super Scraper isn’t always available. However, there are other carbide-tipped scrapers on the market. But, if you can get your hands on a Super Scraper, do so, you won’t regret it.
23. The Bucket
Perhaps one of the most simple things in your tool arsenal, but most versatile, is a nice bucket. Almost anything can be poured, stored, or mixed in a bucket. The more buckets the merrier. The good kind is available at any hardware store (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.) or any building supply store.
Buckets can always be disposed of (properly, of course) if they get too contaminated. Some buckets also have marks on the sides that mark how much of a liquid is contained in the bucket. This can be handy for mixing paints or chemicals.
And, of course, the best use of a bucket is for tool storage. But don’t just toss all your tools into a bucket, be sure to get a good tool bucket organizer first.
Gone are the days of sticking a finger on an exposed wire to feel the “zap.” A voltage tester is a must-have. It will show whether or not the electrical current is flowing or not flowing.
Voltage testers can be purchased with a variety of different functions and features. Depending on the amount of current that is likely to be needed to be observed, a smaller or large voltage tester may be needed. Some even have a function that allows the user to handpick the type of current being read and observed.
The tester featured above also has a GFCI outlet tester with it. This tester can also indicate seven different wire conditions such as open hot, open neutral, open ground, and others.
Some jobs cannot be completed in a timely manner. Things happen. When a contractor has lights to plug into a generator, they can finish their work even after the sun goes down. Lights are also handy for darker places that have less natural light.
Some lights come on a stand and are intended to produce a large amount of heat. These can help aid in keeping a job site warmer in the cool winter months. Some lights have motion detectors that can help catch prowlers in the night.
Other lights are portable and can be hung from rafters. Some floor lights are capable of lighting up a room. Other lights may have adjustable bulbs that allow different intensities of light to be emitted. Some lights can rotate up to 360 degrees and others are stationary.
Whatever the case may be for your lighting needs, you can never have enough lights.
Some jobs require more detail-oriented work that requires being stationary. It is a good idea for a worker to be equipped with stools and chairs to get a break from standing. Better ergonomics are often over-looked by contractors and construction workers, resulting in back and neck injuries that could’ve been staved off.
A good worker should consider a steel chair as opposed to plastic. With a steel chair, they are likely to last much longer. They can also support a larger amount of weight for various sized workers.
A good option for a quality stool is the Pro-Lift Pneumatic that comes equipped with a tool tray. This allows you to have all your tools handy without having to carry them around with you everywhere. You also won’t have to worry about leaving any tool behind. The stool also features an adjustable height as well as a nice padded cushion, saving you from a pain in the rear.
27. The Wheelbarrow
Best friend to the shovel, the wheelbarrow can be used to transport just about anything. Wheelbarrows come in various sizes, shapes, and builds. From transporting sand to concrete mix, they are a true asset to just about anyone who works in a job that requires manual labor.
Some wheelbarrows have two wheels in the middle while other wheelbarrows have one wheel in the front. Now you’ll even see some with four wheels. No matter type is chosen, every construction worker or contractor needs to have a quality wheelbarrow on hand.
And don’t forget about the powered wheelbarrow. Most often powered wheelbarrows are electric-powered, but you can find them powered by gas as well. This is a must-have if you or your workers move a lot of heavy objects throughout the day. Your back will thank you later.
28. The Sawhorse
Similar to a foldable workbench, a sawhorse is specifically designed to hold pieces of wood ready to be cut. They have four independent legs making them very sturdy. A sawhorse should be at the ready for any contractor who works in residential construction.
In case you were befuddled by the name, the reason a sawhorse is called a sawhorse is that its appearance resembles a horse (head-slapper). Once a carpenter uses a sawhorse, they will likely never want to be without one.
Similar to the way drills have many attachments, so do oscillating multi-tools. It is important for any contractor to have this in their arsenal. Milwaukee makes pro-grade oscillating multi-tools and should definitely be considered first.
Oscillating multi-tools are typically more expensive. Therefore, it is important to consider purchasing a warranty when buying a tool such as this. If anything goes wrong, the company will replace your tool.
30. The Caulk Gun
Caulk guns, or caulking guns, are also known as a skeleton gun (for obvious reasons). They make lining a window, sink, or bathtub with caulk a much easier task. Not to mention, by using a caulk gun, almost no caulk is wasted in the process of caulking.
Some caulk guns are electric, others are man-powered. That being said, it is important to consider how often you’ll be using the caulk gun to determine the best choice for you. Generally, most brands are fairly reliable. Once in a while you’ll come across an extremely cheap caulk gun that’s a bit of a pain to get set up, but even the cheap ones do the trick once you get them started.
31. The Jackhammer
Jackhammers, or demolition hammers, tear apart concrete in no time, while annoying everyone within hearing distance. Some are operated by an air compressor while others are electrical-powered. (This is another great reason to own a generator, by the way). Jackhammers will save you and your crew a huge amount of time.
Jackhammers come in different sizes. It’s important to consider one that is correct for the job. A smaller jackhammer could be used for cleaning out a concrete mixer. A larger jackhammer could be used for busting up an old foundation or slab.
We’ve written a good article on jackhammers so be sure to check it out before you purchase one of these bad boys.
Plumbers and contractors alike can benefit from this tool. The adjustable wrench, or adjustable spanner, is basically an open-ended wrench that allows you to set the size. Rather than trying every wrench in your toolbox to get the right fit, an adjustable spanner will make things smooth sailing the first time around.
Not only will the adjustable spanner help to get into very tight spaces, but it’ll also save you on buying an entire wrench set if you don’t need a wrench that often.
Pliers are an indispensable tool for nearly any manual laborer or contractor. Electricians can even benefit from a good pair of pliers that can strip wire. The jaws at the end are often grooved, allowing them to grip anything that comes their way. In a pinch (no pun intended) they can also be used to bend metal, remove nails or loosen bolts.
Pliers come in many different types. There are needle nose pliers, regular pliers, and angled pliers. Pliers are also used for crimping wire. A prepared contractor should have all the different types of pliers in his arsenal.
34. The Hoe
A friend to the shovel, the hoe is wonderful for digging up tree roots or loosening terrain. It is a must-have for yard maintenance or a contractor trying to expose plumbing or wiring. The hoe’s sharp edge makes cutting into the ground in small areas a lot easier than a shovel.
There are several different types of hoes that can be purchased. Some have prongs, and some have a flat blade, others have two heads in one. Depending on the terrain and the function, a contractor that does a lot of yard work, or simple trenching, should consider either kind.
After grooving and edging a concrete slab, it’s time to float the concrete. Floating concrete allows a contractor to smooth the concrete out into a buttery smooth surface. No contractor working with concrete should ever leave home without his or her float.
Floats also come in many different sizes. It is important for a concrete worker to purchase one that fits best to his assignment. A large one is great for bigger spaces, whereas a smaller one is better for more detail-oriented work.
36. The Chisel
From the Flintstones’ era, the chisel is a carpenter’s go-to best friend. With the chisel lined up and the sharp strike of a hammer, it can bust off a piece of material or even separate two different pieces of material. A chisel should always be kept in your toolbox or tool belt.
Like most other tools, a chisel comes in many different shapes and sizes. Sets of chisels can be purchased with many different sizes of chisels. While not used very often, a chisel is still a valuable asset to have when you need it.
37. The Crowbar
The crowbar is not only a thief’s best friend, it’s also great for a contractor or construction worker. Contractors should always have a crowbar for prying up old baseboards, prying cabinets away, or even just to open up a paint bucket or two. It even comes in handy as a defense weapon. The crowbar is one of the most versatile tools one can own.
Crowbars also come in many different shapes and sizes. It is never a bad idea to have more than one. One of the best crowbars for construction workers is the Estwing Gooseneck Wrecking Bar (pictured above).
38. The Pickaxe
Yes, you usually think of a pickaxe as a tool for a fireman. But, the pickaxe is a very versatile tool that’s commonly used in construction work as well. Like a hoe, a pickaxe is used manually to break up the ground. However, it’s a much more effective tool for harder ground and harder surfaces, like brick, gravel, or stone.
You might not need a pickaxe very often but when you do it’s nice to have it on hand rather than running out to the hardware store at the last minute. So, get one and keep it in the bed or your pickup or van just in case.
39. The Router
The router is one of the best things a carpenter can have. Much like a drill, it goes around a lined up area to dig out a small space. Whether the space is for design or function, a router is necessary to achieve it.
Most routes are run by electrical power, and while not used often, they are an asset. In woodworking, however, they are used daily. For this reason, it can be important to purchase a high-quality router that will last for years and years to come.
When someone new to construction sees an impact driver they often think it’s the same as an impact wrench. However, there is a big difference between an impact driver and an impact wrench. An impact driver actually drives in screws or tight nuts and bolts, while an impact wrench is used to loosen stubborn nuts and bolts, or ones that require a lot of force.
Impact drivers are usually battery powered. However, they produce powerful force to quickly insert a screw or bolt into place. They are often overlooked, and most people will just opt for a drill, however, an impact driver has much more torque and will perform work more quickly.
Impact drivers are great for when a drill just won’t cut it. They can save a lot of time, a lot of hassle, and a lot of frustration. An impact drill is one tool that should definitely be added to any construction worker’s arsenal.
41. The Multimeter
While a voltage checker is important, so is a multimeter. It will specifically read out how much voltage is coming from a particular area. This can often help an electrician determine voltage, resistance, current, capacitance, frequency, and continuity.
Some multimeters even have “read aloud” measurements. A worker can keep his eye on something else, such as how bright or how dim a light is, while the multimeter reads out the precise measurements of the current. This can be very convenient.
Not all multimeters have this capability, and often times just a regular multimeter will suffice. Especially if you do a lot of electrical work, a multimeter is a must-have tool to have.
42. Protective Gear
Whether you’re talking high visibility vests, steel toe boots or shoes, safety harnesses, or safety goggles, protective gear is a must for anyone who works manual labor. Without protective gear, a worker is left exposed to not only the elements but also to flying debris. It is important for a worker to always prioritize safety as that is job number one.
Protective gear is often an OSHA requirement as well. Without protective gear, a job site could fail an OSHA inspection leading to the loss of a contract. Not only is protection gear smart to wear, but it is also a legal requirement to have appropriate protection.
Protective gear depends on the type of work being performed. It can also vary from worker to worker, and should always fit properly according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Each worker should invest and be fit for their own protective gear. Sharing protective gear is never a good idea because if it does not fit right then it won’t protect right.
Be sure to check ANSI specifications for any personal protective equipment you are thinking about buying.
43. Work Boots
Many jobs require the use of steel toe work boots. If a hammer falls on a worker’s toe, it will not phase them if they are wearing a decent pair of protective boots. Steel toes are highly recommended over safety toes because they’re much harder to crush. Generally speaking, your toes are kept much safer with a steel toe boot.
Before buying a protective work boot, it is recommended to go to a boot supply store such as Cavenders’ Boot City or Boot Barn to obtain measurements for a proper boot size. Other things to keep in mind are work boot ratings, especially electrical hazard ratings if you work in an area with high electrical risk. Obtaining a boot with a good anti-slip rating is a must too if you work around slippery chemicals or oils.
A close second in popularity to the steel toe work boot is the steel toe work shoe. Consider it as a nice second choice if you work a more casual job but still face the risk of getting your toes crushed.
44. The Flashlight
If you’re a contractor, you should own a flashlight, period. Whether you’re looking in rafters or an attic, or even just a dark closet, a flashlight can be an invaluable tool. Also, breakdowns in vehicles can and do occur, and you might find yourself having to change a tired or fix the engine in the dark.
A good quality flashlight should be made of heavy steel. This will protect it from the bangs and bumps it’s sure to endure after numerous drops. Also, a nice heavy steel flashlight handle will come in handy if you’re ever attacked by someone or someone’s pet.
A good flashlight should also have an adjustable beam size. Some even come equipped with a strobe light function in the event of an emergency. Most LED flashlights nowadays will last you a long time and are capable of being recharged without having to replace the batteries constantly.
Most of your higher-end flashlights should come with a lifetime warranty. If they don’t have a lifetime warranty, opt for a flashlight that does.
45. Truck Toolbox
Having a toolbox in your truck is an absolute necessity as a contractor. If you roll up to work out negotiations on a new contract and you don’t have a toolbox in your truck, you’re going to look like an amateur.
But not only is it about looking like a contractor, but you’ll also have all your tools handy wherever you go. A good truck toolbox will keep all your tools secure as well, in case you and your crew decide to grab a quick bite. A toolbox will also protect your tools from the elements.
Some truck toolboxes can be mounted inside the bed of a truck. Other truck boxes are designed to be mounted under the truck’s frame itself. It all depends on the make and model of the truck, as well as the expectations of the box, as to what makes the most sense. So, do your homework before you buy.
46. The Hard Hat
Many job sites will not let a contractor enter the premises without a hard hat being worn. It is of the utmost importance to find one that meets OSHA standards. It should always be kept in your truck or van, and always be worn when on a job site.
Hard hats can be purchased in many different sizes, and many are adjustable. It is always important to find a hard hat that fits properly. Without a proper fit, a hard hat will not serve the purpose it is intended for.
Be sure to inspect and replace your hardhat regularly to ensure it works properly when you find yourself in the unfortunate event that you actually need it.
Accidents happen and messes can and will be made. In these instances, it is important to have a putty scraper on hand. Caulk lines can be straightened, tacky substances can be loosened, and gunk can be scraped off in places it doesn’t belong.
Some putty scrapers are made of plastic while others are made of metal. It is never a bad idea for a laborer to have more than one kind. Metal can scratch certain surfaces, while plastic is not strong enough to work on other surfaces.
A putty scraper is a bit more delicate than a carbide-tipped scraper. It’s better used for jobs that don’t require a lot of force to be applied.
48. The Pocket Knife
Often overlooked, a pocket knife should be an essential work tool. Not only is a pocket knife good for safely opening packages, but a pocket knife can also be used in a pinch as a straight edge. Also, some pocket knives have some nice multi-tool options.
Swiss Army Knives are one of the most classic pocket knives. Some are even customizable. Often times, by using a Swiss Army Knife, a worker can save a few trips back and forth to his or her toolbox.
Although a pocket knife is similar to a utility knife, it’s a bit safer since it can fold up. It also saves on space being able to easily slide into your pocket. Usually one or the other will suffice.
49. A Jobsite Marker
As a contractor, you’ll often find yourself having to write on top of glossy labels or slicker surfaces. A good jobsite marker solves the problem of the ink not sticking to these types of surfaces. In fact, some of the best jobsite markers can write on almost any surface, especially the Milwaukee Jobsite Marker pictured above.
Brands like Goo Gone make a wonderful and magical liquid that can remove tacky substances from any material. Let’s face it, things don’t always end up where they belong. Gunk has a way of showing up in the most annoying places too. By having a bottle of Goo Gone or similar on hand, cleanups can be a breeze.
51. A Notebook
Usually found in the classroom, a notebook is an important thing to have, especially for a contractor. A contractor or laborer can jot down important notes, names, and other relevant information on the fly.
It is much easier to write something down while it is fresh in the mind than it is five minutes later. Don’t be that guy.
52. The Etcher
An etcher is a handy tool to keep around. Not every surface lends itself to marking and an etcher allows you to mark just about anything. It also comes in handy for putting your name on your tools, in case someone borrows a wrench from you and then tries to claims it’s theirs.
A good lubricant or good water-displacing oil, such as WD-40, is an asset. It can help to quiet down squeaky parts. Also, it can help to free stuck bolts.
There are also a few dozen other uses for WD-40 that most contractors are not aware of.
Often powered by air, the impact wrench is the driving force behind large bolt removal, such as lug nuts on a tire. It can also be used to secure large structuring bolts in place. It is important to remember to have a bunch of different attachments for your impact wrench, such as a wide variety of bit sizes.
Don’t hunt around aimlessly for a decent impact wrench, just read our article on the Best Impact Wrenches and you’ll be all set.
55. Gas Cans
Gas cans, or other types of fuel canisters, are a must for storing and transporting gasoline and other fuels. Generators and larger concrete mixers often require gas to run.
Also, gas cans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and they are color-coded. One can purchase yellow cans for diesel fuel and red cans for gasoline.
And don’t forget about the capacity of the gas can. One to five-gallon cans are very easy to transport. However, more expensive fuel cans do come on wheels and usually come with an electric pump to more easily fuel equipment.
A propane torch can come in handy for a wide variety of things. If you are welding together copper pipes, melting ice, freeing rusted bolts, or even lighting your cigar after a hard day of work, a good propane torch is useful. Just don’t forget to buy a propane tank.
57. A Welder
Some contractors may need a welder to build certain structures. There are a lot of types of welders out there, from TIG to MIG, to plasma welders (more info on welder types here). There are also as many brands as there are types of welders (if not more), so it pays to do your research.
While not needed for all jobs, it is a great asset for many types of jobs. Welders are useful any time you need to connect two pieces of metal. Common uses for welders include connecting I-beams, pipes, floor joists, and other metal components.
When purchasing a welder, it is very important to have the proper protective equipment. Gloves, a welders’ mask, and helmet, and long-sleeve flame-retardant clothing are all a must when welding. A proper trainers course is also required by law or at the very least, highly recommended.
Construction cones have many uses. They can warn people of a parked work truck or van. They can also be used to help easily identify hazardous areas and help prevent accidents.
Construction cones come in many different shapes and sizes. Most of them are colored either bright yellow or orange. Another unique feature about cones is that most of them are stackable, meaning that storage is a breeze.
59. The Push Broom
A push broom can make quick work of cleaning up messes such as a spilled box of nails or sawdust. It should be kept in a work vehicle and readily accessible. A push broom can easily cut clean up time in half.
Push brooms can also be used to disperse water in the event of having to wash off a foundation or solid area. Because the bristles are so thick, they can be used as a squeegee.
Most push brooms are designed to last a long time. However, nothing beats the quality of the Super Sweep push broom.
Magnets are a very handy option for a contractor to have in their arsenal. If a screw or bolt is dropped into a tight space, the extendable magnet can be dropped in to help retrieve the missing item. They come in various sizes and have proven to be a great asset, recovering many a priceless nut or bolt.
Some of these magnets even have mirrors on them. By having a mirror, it is possible to identify a lost part that cannot be seen by the naked eye. This greatly improves the chances of retrieving a lost screw, nut, or bolt.
61. The File
A file can be very useful in shaving off bits of wood or metal that are over-extended. It has many other uses as well. A file comes in several different shapes and sizes so it helps to have a nice set of files.
Some files can even be purchased in sets with different measurements. This is good depending on the material that the contractor or worker will be filing.
Considering a water dispenser such as a tough Igloo brand to stay hydrated on the job site is an important consideration. Thermoses can be refilled, and often these containers are large enough to hold over 10 gallons of water. Water dispensers can be a great asset.
Many water dispensers will come with truck mounts. These mounts will allow the dispenser to be mounted at a convenient place on a work truck where everybody can access it. Fancier models even come with a cup storage area.
63. The Bungee Cord
Bungee cords are very common. They can be used to help secure loads or even clamp down an old toolbox. Bungee cords have hundreds of uses and should always be kept around.
Bungee cords can be purchased in packs of different lengths and strengths. It is always a good idea for a worker to keep a variety of lengths, sizes, and strengths of bungee cords around them. Bungee cords can even be connected together by their hooks to help extend them.
64. The Zip Tie
Zip ties are important for a contractor to carry around in all strengths and sizes. By having zip ties on hand, wires can be secured and tucked out of the way. Additionally, zip ties can be used for spur of the moment fixes.
65. Duct Tape
Enter, the almighty duct tape. Perhaps the most versatile item on this list, no worker should leave home without it. Its uses are countless and endless.
Duct tape can be used to patch a hose temporarily (or sometimes more than temporarily), it can help insulate your work boots, can patch up a tarp, or even a broken window, seal air ducts, fix leaky pipes, among several other uses. If you’re using it outdoor, make sure to buy “all-weather” duct tape. And don’t be that guy who confuses duct tape with Duck Tape (the brand).
66. Electrical Tape
No contractor, especially one working with electricity, should go without electrical tape. Electrical tape is used to secure wire connections and make them almost as good as new. It is especially important to have electrical tape when adding connecting ends to wires.
Electrical tape is readily available in most big box or hardware stores. It can be purchased in many different colors, although black is usually the standard color since other colors may look unsightly. Be sure to match whatever color wire you’re using with the same color electrical tape.
Rope can be used to pull a stuck work truck or van out of the mud. It can also be used to secure loads and prevent things from shuffling out of place. When done correctly, a rope can be also used to lift things with a bucket from one level to the next without having to climb a ladder.
Rope comes in many different strengths and materials. Some rope is made of nylon and is more stretchable, while some rope is even made of wool. It is important to figure out what the best type of rope is for your needs. The wrong kind of rope can dry rot very easily, so be careful.
One of the most important things to check when buying rope is its load. Some ropes can hold only 100 pounds while others can hold 500 pounds or more. And, if you’re using rope for something important (like holding a heavy object high above your head), be sure to check your rope regularly for any defects.
How to inspect rope:
Close to a hammer, a rubber mallet is an essential tool to have ready to go to work. By making use of a rubber mallet, plastic rivets and screws can be struck with much less chance of breaking than a traditional hammer.
Rubber mallets come in several different types. Some prefer a wood handle, some prefer a fiberglass handle. Fiberglass does tend to hold up better over the long run, but some just like the feel of wood in their hands. It really comes down to personal preference, however, if you end up buying a wooden mallet you will have to replace it more often.
69. The Vice Grip
Vice grips are similar to a stationary vice, only they are closer to the size of pliers. One end can be tightened to perfectly secure a variety of different bolts or objects. The grip is secure enough for a vice grip to be very functional for a variety of tasks. Some guys even use vice grips to temporarily hold a board in place so they can nail it down.
70. The Yardstick
As simple a tool as it is, the yardstick is extremely versatile. Not only can it be used for measuring, but a straight, non-folding yardstick can be used for stirring paint and chemicals. Yardsticks can also make an ideal straight edge.
A yardstick, in general, will usually measure a yard. However, yardsticks now come in all different types and sizes.
One of the best yardsticks a contractor can have is a folding yardstick. The yardstick pictured above can measure up to six meters and easily tucks away for storing.
Often times, yardsticks can be bought for just a few pennies at a local hardware outfit or part’s house. If you keep a yardstick handy, you won’t have to have to run out to the store to get one in a pinch. Keeping a dozen or so yardsticks around is your best bet so you always have one available.
Socket wrenches are much more efficient than a regular wrench. They come with many different sockets that will help fit several different sizes of nuts and bolts. The direction on a socket wrench can be adjusted to either drive in or out.
Socket wrench sets can come with other good things as well. Knuckle sockets, extensions, and even spark plug wrenches. It is important to choose a socket wrench set that has a variety of tools that could eventually be needed.
72. The Stud Finder
A stud finder is an electronic device that can help you to find a stud behind a wall. They are essential for carpenters, electricians, and many other types of contractors.
Most low budget stud finders will do just what they’re designed to do, find studs. However, there are a lot of different options out on the market today for stud finders. Advanced stud finders can find the direction that wood is going, determine ferrous vs. non-ferrous metals, find live wires, and some really advanced stud finders even have a thermal scan option to help you locate water-filled tubing behind a wall.
Voltage meters and many other tools alike require batteries to work and function. The prepared worker will have an assortment of batteries on hand to power multiple devices. Some may even consider rechargeable batteries for devices that tend to eat through batteries.
Batteries can be purchased in different assortments. Some contractor venues have a variety pack. Other times local stores will sell double-A or 12-volt batteries in bulk quantities. Be sure to check with your local store first before buying online. You might be able to strike up a bargain.
Also, don’t forget to buy battery packs for all the various power tools you own. It’s good to keep one or two extra battery packs for heavily used devices like a cordless power drill or jigsaw.
Let’s face it, as a contractor you’re going to be throwing a lot of junk away. This is especially the case if you get involved in a large renovation or demolition project. For this reason, contractor garbage bags are large, really large.
You can find contractor garbage bags ranging in size from around 42 gallons up to 65 gallons. Now that’s a lot of trash.
You’re going to need all kinds of brushes as a contractor. You’ll need everything from regular brushes for brushing dirt off of something to paintbrushes, to even brushes for cleaning mud off your work boots. It’s important to have a wide variety of brushes on hand whenever the need for a brush should arise.
Paintbrushes can be used for dusting surfaces, painting, or even carefully applying glue or chemicals. Paintbrushes have endless uses, not just for paint. Horsehair brushes, and other types of soft bristle brushes, can be used to brush the dust off of delicate surfaces. Stiff bristle brushes are good for cleaning grout and scrubbing floors.
It is important to research the best type of brushes for whatever project you get involved in. You definitely don’t want to show up on a job and find out you need a special kind of brush that you can only find in a certain specialty shop halfway across the globe when you need it that day.
Essential Tool Tips
Homeowners may have a certain variety of tools on hand while professional contractors have a completely different set on hand. It is very important for the professional to purchase professional quality, name brand tools. They are built to last and can take a beating.
Some of these tools are so simple, it is hard to picture them as “tools”. However, when thought about, they can make the difference between a successful job and a difficult job. It is very important to consider each of them.
Some trades end up crossing over each other, and tools can be shared between them. Often times, companies that hire contractors may have a large dry van with every one of these tools and more in them.
1. Best Tool Brands
For a trade person just getting into a profession, it’s important to consider the best tool brands. Most tool brands are pretty good but in the long-run, the best brands will offer a lot more dependability and reliability. Milwaukee, Bosch, Irwin, and Porter-Cable are great brands for professionals.
Makita, Craftsman, and Stanley are great brands for the weekend warrior or the contractor who is just getting his feet wet. DeWalt and Hitachi may be ideal for the average DIY-homeowner, but oftentimes they will not hold up to weeks on end at a construction job or when they’re put to the ultimate test.
2. Considerations When Buying Tools
There are many different companies that will specifically offer discounts to contractors and construction workers. Northern Tool, Home Depot, McCoy’s, Lowe’s, and many more having programs specifically geared for contractors. By using these locations, workers can qualify for credit cards with decent interest rates, as well as incentives and discounts on purchasing tools.
Some tools that are more expensive, such as an air compressor, need to be registered for a warranty. This is highly recommended. If a motor goes out or a tank leaks, oftentimes it will be replaced with no questions asked.
Second-hand tools can be good as well. It is more important for a worker to know exactly what it is that they are looking at when purchasing second-hand tools. However, it can be a very good deal for many.
Second-hand tools can be acquired from locally own shops, pawnshops, or the internet. Sites such as Facebook or eBay often have listings for quality pre-owned tools. This can be a good route to go.
Another recommendation in the world of buying tools is to check out real-world user reviews. Amazon, Home Depot, Consumer Reports, and many more websites will have numerous real reviews about how good the tool turned out to be. This can be especially helpful in comparing brands of tools.
If several expensive tools are needed, you may opt to take out a small business loan in order to purchase them. They may be put up as collateral, but this can definitely help a contractor to get started on his or her feet. Many institutions are ready to help support small businesses.
It is a good idea to collaborate with a boss on the requirements of the job itself. Some tools may be provided, and others may have to be already owned. It can become very expensive to have multiple tools of the same, so coordination between workers can prove very cost-saving.
In addition to having the right tools, materials should be thought of as well. Making sure that the job materials and tools work in harmony together is important. To ensure this, a worker must have the essential tools needed to complete the project.
It is important that when purchasing or using tools, a contractor or construction worker is well versed and trained on how to use them. Most of the time, when an injury occurs at a job site, it involves a tool. By having the proper training, accidents can often be avoided.
Trade schools and community colleges alike usually offer exceptional instruction on how to properly use tools. There are scholarships available for these programs. It is recommended for anybody pursing a career where machinery is operated to always be certified on the proper use to avoid danger.
Often times, companies will pay their employees to become certified in certain operations. Welding, forklift operations, and carpentry are just a few. These are very good things for workers to learn. They should also know how to use a pallet jack and a lift winch.
By learning, not only does a worker become more experienced with tools, they become much safer as well.
5. Choosing a Vehicle for the Job Site
Although not necessarily a tool, a vehicle is still one of the most important things that a contractor works with. Even though it is not a hand tool, it is probably the most important tool of the day. Without it, there would be no getting back and forth to work.
Most contractors and serious construction workers go with a van or a truck. The benefit of a van is that your tools will be kept dry, safe, and secure. Most vans can also tow a trailer, where materials such as lumber or sheet metal can be hauled.
Other construction workers may go with a truck. A truck is well-suited to pull a heavier trailer load than a van. As well, a truck generally allows for more clearance than a van does. Not only can things rise above the cab of the truck while resting in the bed of the truck, but a truck can also move over more rigorous terrain than a van.
When choosing a vehicle, it is best to go with a lighter color. Most work trucks and vans on the road today are white in color. This helps the vehicle blend in and not be as noticeable, keeping your tools a bit safer.
Not only does a universal color help the vehicle to blend in, but it also shows less dirt and helps keep the vehicle cool. Many times, when a company has a fleet of vehicles, they are all the same color to keep everything uniform. Less is more.
Putting a Nail in It
In conclusion, there are many different types and brands of tools that a contractor can choose from. In order to budget the best, a contractor will want to make a list of the jobs that he or she will be doing the most. Then, the proper tools should be considered.
Warranties are important to explore. Maintenance is also a general requirement on certain power equipment such as generators and air compressors. By protecting the equipment, it should be able to serve a solid purpose for years and years to come.
Some companies will provide tools for their workers, while other workers and all independent contractors will have to provide the appropriate tools for themselves. It is important to never go cheap on a tool that is expected to take a beating and last for a long time to come.
By having the proper equipment to do the best quality work, a contractor will likely get a good review. By having good word of mouth, and good reviews, a good referral can be made. This is a way for a contractor to get more and more business.
Tools will have to be replaced from time to time. When these times come, it is important to do some research and see if any newer tools have been developed. If the brand previously owned did a good job, then it is important to stick with that brand.
A person should never hesitate to ask questions from a representative when choosing the right tool for the job. Often times, the representative has seen the best and the worst. They are there to make a sale, and should steer a contractor to the best products.
Any job can be completed successfully with the right talent. A worker, however, is only as good as their tools. The proper tools are an extension of the worker at any job site or workplace.