What All Apartment Dwellers Need in Their Toolbox You Should Always Have These Tools Handy

You should have these tools at your home (iStock.com).

Many apartment dwellers live under the misconception that their choice of dwelling--whether it’s a multi-family building or in a community--relieves them of many of the mundane responsibilities of home ownership, like no lawn to mow and no snow to shovel. So when something goes wrong inside your apartment, you can always call the super.  

Not so fast! Unlike a rental, everything within the walls, floor, and ceiling are your responsibility when you own your unit. If you’re having a problem, say a leak under the kitchen sink, the super may come take a look and fix it for you for a small fee or call a plumber for a big fee. Basically it’s your headache, just like for any homeowner.

With that said, every apartment dweller should be prepared.  The Cooperator has surveyed major home repair and do-it-yourself sites to determine what condo and co-op owners need in their dream toolbox.  The following 12 items are the most popular across the survey:

  1. Claw hammer. Indispensable.  You can knock things in (like nails) or pull them out (like nails). You should keep a couple of boxes of nails in the toolbox as well.
  2. Screwdrivers. Also indispensable.  They come in different lengths and heads. You need both a Philips head and a flat head screwdriver.  Multi-head sets with interchangeable lengths that can be slid in and out of a single handle are available at most hardware stores.
  3. Electric drill with full bit set. Even with traditional screwdrivers in your toolbox, an electric drill with a full set of bits, including screwdriver heads, is a necessity.  You need it to set an anchor or ‘molly’ in plaster or drywall. With the right bit attachments, they also double as a power screwdriver, which makes assembling furniture from IKEA much easier.
  4. Multi-tool or Leatherman. No matter what you call it, this is the best little tool that will ever fit in the palm of your hand.  It carries eight different heads and can help you fix just about anything in a nanosecond.  Loose knobs on the kitchen cabinets?  Multi-tool.  Handle coming off your favorite sauce pan?  Multi-tool.  The list goes on and on.
  5. Tape measure.  It's what you see workmen hook onto their belts.  It pulls out of a plastic or metal casing and usually goes up to 25 feet.  Bring it with you when you buy furniture to make sure that new couch fits on the wall and will get through the front door.
  6. Pliers. Great for pulling things out of other things, or holding something small in place while you screw something else into it.  They're also really useful for removing bones from fish before cooking and pitting cherries.
  7. Adjustable wrench. A necessary secondary tool that comes in really handy when doing any kind of plumbing repair.
  8. Level. This will save you much heartache when hanging shelves and framed artwork and photos.  
  9. Utility knife. It has unlimited uses, such as opening boxes or cutting linoleum among other things.  It will also prevent you from ruining your kitchen knives doing exactly those things.
  10. Putty or spackle knife (and putty or spackle). At some point we all need to make some minor repairs to a wall, especially a plaster wall.  If you’re painting, you need to ‘prep up’ first.  Don’t paint over cracks because they’ll come back and all too soon.  Apply spackle or putty first.
  11. Flashlight. No explanation needed for this one.
  12. Step stool. This item won’t fit in the box, but you’ll be glad you have this when you need to check something above sight line.  I’ve had mine since 1979.

Juan has been a super in a co-op building in Washington Heights for nearly 30 years.  He says, “The top three things everyone should have are a good wrench, both kinds of screwdrivers, and a hammer.  An electric drill is a really good investment, too.  Most of the residents in my building have them.  But they still call me to fix everything anyway.”  

Don’t be like Juan’s tenants.  Fill your toolbox and learn how to do it yourself!


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