The Essential Construction Tools List: 45 Different Types & Their Uses
Whether you’re an apprentice carpenter, a contractor looking to build up a toolbox, or a home DIYer looking to knock out some old projects you’ve been putting off for too long, you need some essential tools. But unless you’re well-learned in all the traditional handyman trades, chances are there are some tools you aren’t thinking of or don’t quite know how to describe.
This basic guide will list all of the essential construction tools you can imagine. Use it as a guide for reference in case you’re ever wondering what a particular tool is used for or if it’s right for your needs.
What Tools Do You Need for a Good Construction Kit or Collection?
No one needs to own literally every tool ever created. Tools are devices with specific functions – you wouldn’t bring a hammer to a job needing a saw. Therefore, it’s a good thing to think about what you’ll be building or how you’ll be using the tools before setting out to acquire a full toolbox of stuff. What you’d need for a plumbing job is quite distinct from what you would need for a carpentry job, for example.
Professional Use or DIY Construction?
On the surface, there’s no difference between tools you would use for professional purposes (i.e., contracting and construction) compared to DIY home projects. However, there’s often a world of difference in terms of budget and quality.
That’s mostly because professional tools are designed to last for much longer. A power drill intended to be used for multiple hours every day by a construction crew will necessarily have a bigger battery, be heavier and offer more torque and precision than a budget-friendly DIY power drill.
So, the big difference between professional and DIY construction tools is quality, and durability to a lesser extent. Note that this doesn’t mean you can’t purchase professional level construction tools for your DIY home project. Just be sure that works within your budget.
Additionally, some construction tools are simply too bulky and big to be worth using for in-home projects much of the time. Certain large saws, power tools, and the like are mostly relegated to construction sites and aren’t suitable for your home or garage.
Mobile or Stationary?
Do you need the tools to be mobile or can they sit in your garage or at a worksite, only moving when it’s time to pack everything up? Obviously, heavier tools usually provide more power and are better for stationary workshops or sites. Mobile tools can also be great, particularly if you pair them with a high-capacity battery and have a tool chest to store them in.
Most individual contractors will have mobile tools that they keep with them from job to job. Home DIYers might have heavier table saws that they keep in their home workshop, on the other hand. Either option is fine, but the important thing is to think about which environment you’ll be using your tools in before making any kind of purchase.
Essential Construction Tools List
The types and quantity of tools that anyone in construction might need can vary dramatically. Here’s a breakdown of all the essential tools you might need for different tasks.
Hand tools qualify as any tool that moves under your own muscle power rather than a battery or generator.
Hammers are arguably the most iconic tool and are used for pushing in nails, which serve as connecting lynchpins for planks of wood. Hammers come in multiple types, although claw hammers are the most common since they have an additional claw at the back of their head you can use to pull out nails. Sledgehammers have longer handles and bigger heads and are used to demolish material.
A wrench is a metal tool that normally comes sized for a particular type of nut or bolt. The metal edges of the open head can grip a given size of nut tightly, which allows the contractor to tighten or loosen a nut by twisting the tool. Many wrenches are purchased in kits that come with a multitude of different sizes for all types of nuts.
3. Saws (Manual)
Manual or hand saws are staple tools that can cut lumber and, in rare cases, thin metal like aluminum. Saws are characterized by blades of metal with a row of wedged teeth that create incisions every time you pull the saw up and push it back down. Different types of saws include crosscut saws, which can make cuts across wood grains, drywall saws, which can cut through many types of drywall, and circular saws, which are better for certain types of carpentry work.
Screwdrivers come in one of two major types: Flathead and Phillips, though both are used to twist in screws by matching up their heads with the requisite bit. Manual screwdrivers are often better than power drills or electric screwdrivers since their heads are attached to their bodies and don’t fall off, plus they allow for more precise screwing and unscrewing.
5. Levels and Measuring Squares
A measuring square (also called a carpenter’s square) is a measuring tool that allows you to precisely measure right angles with a writing utensil. Some measuring squares are combined with levels, which are flat, ruler-like tools that include a small amount of liquid with a bubble that can tell you whether a given surface is flat. Other levels are separate and may be included with rulers for accurate measurements.
A shovel or spade can be used to dig through soil and dirt thanks to the wedge and scoop at one end. Shovels are ideal for yard work and for clearing away trenches to install piping or plumbing material, or for electrical work. They can also be used to clear away some organic debris, like tree roots, thanks to their sharp heads.
7. Pickaxes and Crowbars
A crowbar is a long steel tool that can be used to dig up difficult objects in the way of construction work, like tree roots, nails, and the like. It can also be used for regular digging. Pickaxes are hand tools with a sharp, spear-like point on one end and a flatter wedge on the other end. These tools can break up hard soil by swinging the sharper end into the ground with force.
8. Nail Pullers
A nail puller is a dedicated version of the puller found on many claw hammers’ heads. These longer tools offer extra leverage and can be used to pull out particularly big nails or those that are difficult to yank out with a smaller tool. Some nail pullers are included at the end of crowbars.
9. Measuring Tapes and Rulers
These measuring tools allow construction workers and DIYers to accurately measure out the sizes and distances of different elements. Rulers are firm and are easy to use in conjunction with a pencil or another writing utensil. Measuring tapes extend for much longer than a 1-foot traditional ruler and can be easily carried on your belt, but are flexible and made with a “bendy” tape, plus a right-angle edge to help you hook it around a surface’s edge.
Bolsters look like hand shovels to some extent, but they are used to cut through bricks. They feature wider cutting edges that can accurately slice through bricks to separate them for reuse or to break down a wall or building feature. Bolsters can also be used to clear away mortar or grout: the material between individual bricks.
A chisel is a type of wedged tool most often used with carpentry or other woodwork. It can get rid of bumps on wooden services and can also be used to get rid of concrete bumps on concrete surfaces. It can also be used to remove excess concrete after a surface has already hardened to prevent other tools from getting dirty over the same work.
A float is a wooden tool that is used to smooth concrete surfaces after they have been plastered. It has a handle of the top and a smooth wooden surface on the bottom, which is then moved in a circular motion to smoothen or calm the surface of fresh concrete.
A hoe is a hand tool that can excavate soil and that has a history in farming. Construction workers and contractors can use hoes to loosen soil for yard work or dig up tree roots and the like. Hoes typically have wooden handles and metal plates for the head, which sits at a right angle relative to the handle.
Pliers feature heavy but narrow jaws at the end of a pair of handles, which can apply pressure for twisting and untwisting nuts and bolts. Some pliers can also be used to strip wires, cut cables, bend metal, or otherwise act as very tough fingers for gripping metallic objects and surfaces.
15. Adjustable Spanner
An adjustable spanner is a versatile tool featuring a wrench head that can be opened or closed by spinning a control wheel near the head. The movability of the head allows it to work for almost any size of nut. Plumbers can make use of these tools if they want to have a one-size-fits-all tool for any plumbing job.
16. Utility Knife
A utility knife (particularly a retractable one for safety) is an invaluable manual tool for cutting wire, string, duct tape, and much more. It’s much easier than trying to tear through many materials with your fingers and it’s small enough that it can fit in a pocket or on most tool belts without being too heavy or taking up a lot of space.
Power tools are more modern inventions that come in both corded and cordless varieties. They provide more power and faster performance with the trade-off of requiring an electrical outlet, generator, or battery.
17. Saws (Powered)
Powered saws are similar to their manual counterparts, but can be corded or cordless. They can cut through workpieces with electric power and thus spin or slice at faster-than-human speeds. They usually have circular saw blades that rapidly rotate to cut through wooden pieces at a rapid pace. Table saws are larger saws with built-in tables on which carpenters place wooden pieces and slide them toward the rotating saw blade for an accurate cut.
18. Drills (Corded and Cordless)
Power drills are fantastic tools that come in both corded and cordless varieties. Both use power to rapidly rotate a drill bit to carve a small hole in a material, like wood or metal. Drills can also be used to rapidly screw or unscrew bits from wooden planks or other surfaces. Modern drills come with rechargeable batteries and easy to change drill bits to allow them to work with a wide variety of screw sizes, and most operate by pulling a trigger located on the handle.
A router tool “routes” a specific spot in wood or plastic, essentially hollowing out a small space in a hard material using a rotating drill bit. They are primarily useful for woodworking and carpentry.
A sander is a finishing tool for carpentry work. It’s characterized by an abrasive belt that is stretched between two drums on either side of the sander tool. The belt is then turned by a motor, which rubs the wooden surface smooth. Some sanders are better for back and forth finishing motions while other “orbital” sanders can be used in circular motions.
21. Shop Vacs and Blowers
A shop vac is a powerful vacuum with a big reservoir that can suck up water, debris, and anything else using a long hose that more often than not comes with a variety of attachments. Many shop vacs are also blowers, which blow air out via a powerful motor to get rid of leaves, sawdust, and more. Other blowers are separate tools.
A jackhammer is an electrical tool shaped like the letter “T” which can rapidly drive a wedged hammer up and down into a hard surface to break that surface apart or pulverize it for easier removal. It’s meant to be used with two hands and only under supervision, and these tools are quite loud, normally requiring ear protection. They require generators or power outlets to function in most cases.
23. Air Compressors
An air compressor can blow out highly compressed air to blast away sawdust or other debris from sensitive or tight surfaces. Such air must sometimes be replaced via cartridge, while others can take surrounding air, compress it, and blow it back out via a long tube or hose.
A generator is a mobile power source that runs off of gasoline or propane to provide electricity to power tools that connect to its apparatus. These generators are oftentimes heavy but can be useful for contractors that need to complete work with power tools far from a primary power grid.
25. Concrete Mixer
A concrete mixer is a powered tool that can mix the various elements of regular cement (including water, fine and coarse aggregates, and cement itself) by rotating a reservoir barrel gently for hours on end. Concrete mixers are typically designed with wheels and handles so they can be moved from place to place on a worksite.
26. Impact Drivers
An impact driver is an alternative version of a standard electric drill. It delivers a sudden and powerful downward force with a spin to drive a screw or nail into place in an instant. They are quite similar to electric drills, with a handle and trigger and a battery located at the bottom.
27. Caulk Guns
Also called a skeleton gun, caulking guns deposit “caulk”: a silicone or latex material that can bond materials together or filling gaps. For instance, caulking guns can be used to seal gaps or cracks in metal, ceramic, and glass surfaces. Caulking guns come as either battery-powered or pressure powered models and use disposable tubes of caulk to deposit the material via a long tube-and-plunger apparatus.
28. Oscillating Multi-Tools
An oscillating multitool is a versatile device that functions with a bunch of different attachments and heads that can be swapped out. Depending on the attachments that come with the purchase, an oscillating tool can plunge into and cut through pieces of wood, sand wood, grind materials, polish a surface, act as a saw, and more.
29. Nail Guns
Nail guns are power tools that, when loaded with nails via a magazine like a traditional firearm, can project nails into a wooden surface at incredible speeds. They’re ideal for rapidly nailing a wooden board or another material onto a given surface, particularly if that board is thin and easy to nail in the first place.
Many contractors and construction workers need accessories to be safe or complete their tasks with the utmost accuracy.
Most contractors and professionals will need writing materials like pencils and chalk. These are good not only for signing contracts but also for marking out measurements, such as in carpentry, or for marking the length of pipe needed for a maintenance order for a plumbing job.
31. Batteries and Extension Cords
Extension cords or cables are ideal for extending how far a given generator can provide power to a power tool or device. For instance, contractors can use them to power a tool on the second floor of the house even if the generator is on the first floor. Most extension cords are made with durable materials and can reach up to over 300 feet in length at their longest. Batteries are replaceable and rechargeable power cells that can provide portable power to tools like cordless drills.
A sawhorse is a wooden or metal structure with four legs and a flat little surface that can be used to support a board or other cutting material for sawing. It gets its name from being reminiscent of a horse in shape.
33. Ladders and Stools
Ladders are key construction accessories that are required for contractors or roofers to reach their targets. They can be leaned against buildings and used as climbing apparatuses to achieve greater heights. Stools are similar height-boosting tools that are much smaller and feature a more stable base, allowing a worker or DIYer to reach a room’s ceiling for electrical or plumbing work.
34. Voltage Checker
A voltage checker is a basic handheld sensor that, when the sensor head is placed next to a power outlet or electrical device, can check a current’s voltage. It essentially works through two probes: one must touch one half of an electrical connection and the other probe must touch the other half. If electricity is flowing, the tester will glow or otherwise indicate this and tell you the voltage.
A multimeter can measure the voltage, current, and resistance of a device like a battery. It’s necessary for some types of contracting work and can be helpful for DIY home repairs, such as fixing a thermostat or another home appliance.
Contractors, construction workers, and plumbers with safety on the mind will want to include protective gear in their kits. This includes hardhats, which protect your head from falling debris or construction tools on a worksite, eyeglasses, which can defend your eyes from chemicals or dirt or debris, and gloves, which can protect your fingers from being hurt during work or from being cut on rough or sharp environments, common on construction worksites.
Storage and utility solutions are important for workplace efficiency and to help workers move material and tools from place to place.
37. Toolboxes and Belts
Practically every craftsman of every trade should have at least a toolbox or belt. Toolboxes have partitioned spaces for a variety of tools and handle for easy carrying, and they’re usually quite tough on the outside. Tool belts are thick and sturdy and designed to support a variety of tool about the waist without putting too much pressure on their wearer.
A wheelbarrow is essentially a large container with a single wheel at the front and a pair of handles at the back. Workers can tilt the wheelbarrow onto the front wheel to maneuver it around a worksite to transport different materials like sand, concrete mix, and more. The back may be fitted with a pair of flat stands to let the wheelbarrow rest when it is not being moved.
39. Rolling Carts
A rolling cart is a maneuverable storage solution that you can use to hold bottles of grease, glue, or any other materials for easy access. You can use a rolling cart to move these materials from place to place if people need access to them in one spot more than another. Many carts also have locking feet for added security.
A workbench is a waist-high table on which contractors, plumbers, and DIYers can place their workpieces or tools to perform their tasks with more stability. Workbenches are usually characterized by flat surfaces and may include additional attachments like built-on rulers or levels. They may also have drawers or attachments for table saws and the like.
41. Folding Chairs
Folding chairs are a good addition to a worksite if significant downtime is expected. You may also want folding chairs for your home workshop or for use with a workbench so you don’t hunch over the bench and give yourself back pain after many hours of work.
Storage solutions like lockers and cabinets can provide long-term locations for a working crew to store hats, tools, and other materials. These can be secured with locks so a work crew doesn’t have to take their tools or other things home with them every day after their shift.
Most worksites will need lights to illuminate the space, particularly for indoor environments, or if construction must continue throughout the nighttime hours. Construction site lights often have long stands and can tower over workers. Smaller lights may be used with workbenches to provide illumination for home workshops or garages.
Most worksites will need buckets to store water or other materials. Buckets have innumerable uses in that they can be used to transport material from place to place or act as temporary storage locations for screws, nuts, and bolts.
45. Utility Vises
An adjustable utility vise is a mechanical clamp that features tightening mechanisms that can hold a device or piece of working material within its grasp. Once tightly held, a contractor can operate on the workpiece without it moving around and without having to use a hand to steady the workpiece. It’s perfect for standing, cutting, chiseling, and much more.
All in all, many of these tools will be quite valuable as staple devices for most contractors, plumbers, construction workers, and even DIY home project enthusiasts. Things like hammers, saws, screwdrivers, and power drills are key tools no one should be without. Other tools are better suited for specific professionals or tasks. Start or build upon your tool collection today!
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