Practical odds and ends for the new homeowner
November 30, 2015 8:14 AM   Subscribe

My little bro just bought his first place. What are some things you need as a new homeowner that he might not have as a former apartment dweller? Looking for housewarming/Christmas ideas. The more practical the better.

It's a town house, with a bit of a yard and a deck. Caveats: he wants to renovate the kitchen over the next 6-12 months, and I believe his deck is set to be replaced as well, so I'm a little hesitant to get kitchen/grilling stuff. We're in the northeast as well, if there's seasonal thing that might work.
posted by Diablevert to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Fire extinguisher!
posted by phunniemee at 8:17 AM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, maybe throw a roll of duct tape in there for laughs.
posted by areaperson at 8:18 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tools! Depends on what he's got already. Maybe a ladder.
posted by exogenous at 8:18 AM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh how about snow shovels?
posted by areaperson at 8:19 AM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

If he's going to renovate the deck he's going to need a nice drill. When we bought our house my FIL bought my husband a really nice tool set with a drill, bits, a reciprocating saw, level, studfinder, and some other things that I don't even know what they do. It's been very useful as we've renovated our house.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:20 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lint trap monitor, water leak monitors, wet dry vac
posted by tilde at 8:21 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not practical but something an apt dweller is unlikely to have: wind chimes.
posted by dysh at 8:21 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

We get tons of use out of our ratcheting screwdrivers: full size and stubby
posted by brilliantine at 8:27 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

A ladder. Since he's got some outdoor space to maintain, he'll need yardwork tools (pruning shears, shovel, stuff like that).
posted by adamrice at 8:30 AM on November 30, 2015

Tools, basic gardening equipment. Thirding fire extinguisher and seconding the shop vac.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:31 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gift card for the local home improvement store and a schedule of their free classes.

If you're in the same area, and you have a professional you like, perhaps a half day of that person's services, cleaning, gardening, carpet steaming, tree-trimming, etc.

I've done renos and I'm here to say, you absolutely need a shop vac and they are very reasonably priced. A chop saw was another good investment, but I'd give the gift card and let him pick out what he most needs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

1. A specific tool that turns of the water at the meter in case he has a break. And advice to find that place before the issue..err...spouts.

2. Look into a Thing Charger, doubles the use of any outlet to be a device charger leaving the outlet free for other uses.
posted by Freedomboy at 8:40 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Small screwdriver- we keep one in our cutlery drawer. So handy
Battery tester and crapload of batteries
Oven/fridge thermometer
Flashlight/nightlights- ie they stay plugged in the wall and act as nightlights, and if the power fails, they come on.
posted by Ftsqg at 8:45 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

My tool room is in the basement. Having a tool belt saves trips when "handymanning" upstairs and a tool box would be overkill.

A ladder is essential, but I also use a step-stool more often indoors, such as for changing lighting bulbs.

Garden gloves prevent blisters when extensively digging, cultivating, etc.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 8:48 AM on November 30, 2015

A ladder.

Specifically, a fibreglass 6' stepladder. Fibreglass, because he'll be doing electrical (lights at least). 6' because 5' is often too short and 7' is unwieldy in a townhouse (ask me how I know).
posted by bonehead at 8:48 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

He might already have a plunger, but if not, a plunger is really important to have before you need one.
posted by Twicketface at 8:50 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nice extension cords (flush to the wall, swiveling ones) and surge protectors. New art and furniture, particularly accent tables. Possibly a new mailbox/house numbers/outdoor lighting. I bought a concrete bench for my front porch that doubles as a good place to put bags/boxes down while opening the front door.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2015

+1 to snow shovels. Especially bigger ones. (I have a tiny one which works wonders for my car because I have to park in a lot and I can get between the cars with it, but for a new place--definitely get a big shovel.)
posted by sperose at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am in the process of purging and purchasing things for my household. I am looking at upgrading and updating my homeowner's tool sets and have been looking hard at the list at the Sweet Home here. In particular, being organized and finding one's stuff is crucial so the Milwaukie toolbox looks good. In general, the Wirecutter and Sweet Home cause me to covet a great deal. Fortunately, I have a high look to buy ratio. If the short list does nothing just browse the site.
posted by jadepearl at 9:12 AM on November 30, 2015

I'd use some caution with the Sweethome DIY section. Some of their calls are fine, but others are puzzling. That Porter-Cable drill, for example recently was the bottom of the barrel in the recent Fine Homebuilding tests.

Equally, I'd much rather have a 16" or longer toolbox. That Milwaukee one is really tiny and will have trouble with longer tools such as a box saw. If you want organization, I recently bought one of these bags, and so far really like it for around the house.
posted by bonehead at 9:22 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Money. He will go to some Big Box store every week now, and it will always cost a hundred bucks. Every damn time.

If he is a hirer and not a do'er, who will need to find good contractors, then maybe an Angie's List subscription? (But if he is in an area where he has a good network, then word of mouth recommendations are definitely better.)

The suggestion of emergency stuff is smart, because he can buy tools & supplies at his leisure -- but when you need a plunger, shop vac, water pump, pair of buckets (empty one while the other one fills), etc., etc., you really NEED it.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:50 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Picquic multi bit screwdriver is pretty essential. My Slimline lockbox has saved my ass a few times.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:52 AM on November 30, 2015

More drill than he needs. Get an 18v from the closest big box store. With a hammer-drill option.

Holy crap, all my friends who don't have one have to call me over all the time for holes in anything besides wood and drywall.
posted by notsnot at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Home Depot has a Milwaukee m12 fuel drill and impact driver on sale for stupid cheap right now. A great set of tools, and the Milwaukee ecosystem of tools is extensive.
posted by rockindata at 10:00 AM on November 30, 2015

A sweet rechargeable flashlight for getting under sinks and cabinets, and when you have to work on the electrical !
posted by bleedfoot at 10:03 AM on November 30, 2015

If he's not particularly handy (yet), Dare to Repair is a great basic home repair guide (pitched at women, but helpful for all).
posted by snaw at 10:09 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

A pry bar - I could not believe how much I used this thing when I got my first house.
posted by mikepop at 10:12 AM on November 30, 2015

Organization goods work great for new homes. Two magnetic knife strips for his kitchen are great, and one of the first things I replaced when we moved. Shelving for his garage/basement/extra room where he will be keeping all his project stuff. A tool bucket liner or two to convert any 5-gallon bucket into a project organizer. Garden hoses, gloves, and a couple of plant pots for the back yard. Flag pole that attaches to his house, with a flag for his favorite sports team.
posted by raisingsand at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Having recently moved and renovated, I have to say the ShopVac we were gifted in the beginning is the best.

Other ideas: hand truck, ladder, Milwaukee screw gun set, heavy duty extension cord, gift cards to whichever home improvement store is closest.
posted by purple_bird at 11:33 AM on November 30, 2015

My brother gave me one of these for a housewarming gift years ago, before I went houseless (and gave it back to him to hang on to for me). I think it's the ladder to have if you're only going to have one ladder. It's solidly built, stable with a nice wide base, and versatile as all get-out; it can be a stepladder as short as 4 feet or as long as 7, an extension ladder up to twice that long, or split in half for scaffolding supports for painting the ceiling when he remodels that kitchen. It can even be set shorter on one side to use on stairs, if he has stairs. And is very, very careful.
posted by MoTLD at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2015


* Home Comforts,
* a general how improvement book, such as Do It Yourself Home Improvement
* Cookbooks!
* Gardening books

Not books:

* Measuring tape
* hand vacuum
posted by backwards guitar at 11:51 AM on November 30, 2015

Don't let the "Readers Digest" logo put you off: the book that cadge recommends is the single book I'd recommend to any new homeowner. It's the Joy of Cooking of home maintenance: useful for a beginner but encyclopedic in its scope.

As far as tools go: assuming he's starting from scratch, I'd hold off on the rechargeable drill and the toolbox, and go with the basics: a four-in-one screwdriver, a pair of vice grips, a hammer, a flashlight (I think LEDs make the rechargeable flashlight into an expensive luxury), and a tape measure. These will enable him to tighten doorknobs and hang pictures at least. The ones I picked out should be decent quality, but you can get similar at any Ace hardware. Avoid pre-configured toolboxes from discount stores, and avoid Harbor Freight.
posted by mr vino at 12:25 PM on November 30, 2015

The best things I got when I first bought my fixer upper: cash and gift cards to Home Depot. If this feels too practical and impersonal, throw in a personalized mailbox or door knocker.
posted by hippychick at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2015

More drill than he needs. Get an 18v from the closest big box store. With a hammer-drill option.

I'd take this a step further and say find your local store like this that sells used tools. Buy something like a bosch that had an MSRP of like $499. The kind of drill the guy installing your ridiculous expensive steam shower would use.

I've had a couple decent drills, but my coworker had a drill like that and holy shit it was glorious. The first time i used it i realized i had been using the poop-grade ones all my life.

I think my coworker paid like, $75 for that drill. He's had it for years at this point. He agrees with me that it was a completely awesome purchase.
posted by emptythought at 3:17 PM on November 30, 2015

A small shop vac
A wet-and-dry hand vac
posted by jgirl at 4:29 PM on November 30, 2015

Actually, a headlamp is better than a flashlight for home repair because it's a lot easier to hold a headlamp than it is to wear a flashlight -- and when you set up a light behind you, your own head casts a shadow on whatever it is you're repairing.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:47 AM on December 1, 2015

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