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When I was hired as an electrician, I was given a list of hand tools to buy before showing up for work at the jobsite. I was familiar with many of the tools on the list, but there were some that I’d never used before.
Right away, I bought every tool on the list, which was quite an investment, but that investment continues to pay off due to the knowledge I gained. I no longer work as an electrician, but the lessons I learned on the jobsite have stuck with me as I take on DIY projects.
When it comes to handling electrical work around the house, life is much easier if you own the right tools for the job. If you’re not familiar with the common tools that electricians use, you might be surprised to know that you likely already have many of them in your tool box already.
Read on to see my list of essential electrical tools for DIYers.
Essential Electrical Tools For DIYers
The tools I’ve listed below is not an exhaustive list, but they are the ones that can be considered the most-often used. They’re certainly the ones I used every day on the jobsite. You’ll also notice that I recommend Klein tools as they’re simply the best. They’re the top preferred hand tool in the electrical industry, as well as one of the leading brands used in other trades.
I’ve linked to several different retailers below as well for your convenience. If you’re looking to buy new electrical tools, I encourage you to shop around as I’ve found that each item may sell for less at a different retailer.
Side Cutting Pliers
My go-to hand tool on the jobsite was my side cutting pliers. They have so many uses and can cut through many materials. Side cutting pliers are great to have around the house, and you’ll definitely want a pair if you take on DIY electrical projects.
Klein Side Cutting Pliers
Diagonal pliers are great for prying up nails, staples, and the like. They’re also great for precise cuts, especially in a more confined space. Diagonal pliers are more lightweight compared to their big brother, the side cutting pliers, and were probably my second go-to hand tool.
Klein Diagonal Pliers
End Cutting Pliers
If you need extra cutting power, grab you a pair of end cutting pliers. Not only will they cut wire, but they’ll also power through screws and bolts.
End Cutting Pliers
Needle Nose Pliers
I think most DIYers own a pair of needle nose pliers. They are the perfect hand tool for prying and reaching tight spots. You can also use them to loop wire ends that need to be wrapped around terminals.
I’ve used needle nose pliers to widen holes in drywall to accommodate hardware like toggle bolts as well.
Klein Needle Nose Pliers
Wire strippers are an absolute must for any electrician, and for DIYers looking to handle an electrical project. As the name suggests, they are used to strip off the protective insulation to expose the wire beneath.
They can have additional uses, such as cutting, crimping, wire looping and wire bending.
Klein Wire Stripper
Where would we be without screwdrivers? They are so handy and so often used that it’s easy to take them for granted. Electricians use screwdrivers, large and small, on a daily basis. No tool belt or box is complete without them!
Klein 6-Piece Screwdriver Set
Electricians use nut drivers to remove and replace various sized hex head screws. I think the most popular sizes I used were 1/4″ and 5/16″. I bought multiple nut drivers, but a multi-nut driver would have been much handier to have.
Klein Multi-Nut Driver
Voltage Tester Pen
You should make sure that power to the circuit you’re working on is disconnected before performing any electrical work. Even though I flip the relevant breaker off, I always check an electrical device or light fixture with a tester pen before working on the wiring.
Klein Tester Voltage Pen
This is another tool that pretty much every DIYer owns. A tape measure is a must for measuring needed wire lengths, installing light fixtures, adding switch and outlet boxes, and more.
DEWALT Tape Measure
A hammer will be needed more during a “rough-in” than a “trim-out”. Common uses are hammering staples that secure romex, adding or removing 2x4s, adding holes in block walls, etc.
A torpedo level is handy to have for leveling various electrical boxes, cover plates , conduit, and more. An unlevel box or cover plate looks sloppy and can be a reflection of the quality of work in general.
Empire Torpedo Level
If you have a utility knife in your shop, you likely use it to cut things and open boxes all the time. A DIYer might use it to cut the sheathing off the end of romex to access the insulated wires beneath. Use extreme caution though… you don’t want to cut yourself or the insulated wires.
Stanley Utility Knife
A pencil always comes in handy!
Additional Electrical Tools That Are Helpful
I consider the tools below to be very helpful to own but a DIYer wouldn’t use them as often as the hand tools listed above.
You can perform all sorts of tests, such as voltage, current, and continuity with a digital multimeter. It makes troubleshooting common electrical issues much easier.
Klein Digital Multimeter
An outlet tester is a convenient little tool that detects common outlet wiring issues. Simply plug it in and the lights will let you know if the wiring is correct or if there’s an issue. Buying one with a GFCI tester will also allow you to test GFCI outlets. Plug it in and push the button to reset a GFCI outlet (if wired correctly).
Klein GFCI Outlet Tester
Many DIYers already own a cordless drill. They are great to have for many uses and can come in handy at times during electrical work. I’ve linked to a regular drill below. You may not use it very often, but a cordless hammer drill is essential for drilling into concrete. Electrical projects sometimes involve working on block walls.
DEWALT Atomic Cordless Drill
A fish tape can pull wire through PVC pipe, EMT, and can help pull wire behind drywall.
Klein Fish Tape
Are there any electrical tools for the DIYer that you can think of that should be added to this list? Let me know in the comments below!