Tiny House Tools – What I Used To Build My Tiny House

Tiny House Tools

ryan tiny house and the tools he used to build itHi, I’m Ryan
I’m often asked about what tiny house tools I used to build my tiny home. Having helped build over 3,000 tiny houses, I’ve learned a few things about what tools you really need and what you don’t. There are some places where you can save money on tools and others where you want to buy the best you can afford.

So, what tools do you need to build a tiny house?


Hand Tool Recommendations For Building A Tiny House

Hand Tool Recommendations For Building A Tiny House

It’s funny how some tools greatly benefit from being powered while other hold their own despite being dead simple. There are a few hands tools that do just that — they get the job done.

Hammer: Estwing E3-16S Hammer

Estwing E3-16S Hammer

There are small cult followings around which hammer brand is the best: Eastwing, Martinez, Craftsman, Irwin. My recommendation is to look for a solid metal or composite handle that feels good in your hands and is around 16 oz. These are pretty commoditized so prices are all affordable. Expect to spend $20 to $40 on a hammer. For that price you’re striking (ha!) a nice balance of good quality without overspending.

The Eastwing E3-16S Hammer sits in the sweet spot of good value and decent quality. For around $25, you can have a good hammer that will serve you well, get the job done, and not cost a whole lot.


Ryan’s Hammer Recommendation:

Vice Grip Pliers: Irwin Locking Grip Vice Grips Set

Irwin Locking Grip Vice Grips Set

Vice grips are my all-time favorite tool. If Ductape and WD-40 are universal go-to tools, vice grips are right behind them. If you’re not familiar, they are essentially pliers that have a cam in them that locks down the jaws to hold the item tightly. You can lock it down and let it go and it will still hold fast.

I’d suggest going with the original brand, which is Irwin, and have at least a large curved jaw and a small curved jaw. These came in handy so many times when building my tiny house, let me tell you.


Ryan’s Vice Grip Recommendation:

Screw Drivers: Craftsman Screwdriver Set

Craftsman Screwdriver Set

Really any name brand will do here. You’ll want a smaller and larger version of both phillips head and flathead. Get something that seems pretty sturdy, feels good in your hand, and isn’t part of some large set. You’re shooting for something that isn’t the cheapest, but one step up. Some of the cheaper sets out there will be made of very low-quality metal and only lead to stripping your screw heads.


Ryan’s Screwdriver Recommendation:

how to build a tiny house

Box Cutter: Metal Body Box Cutter

Metal Body Box Cutter

My suggestion is to look for something that you can change the blade on, has a retractable blade, and has an all metal body. For $5 you can get a decent one, so I’d suggest whatever looks good to you. You may want to consider having a few of these lying around — they’re often sold in multi-packs.

Make sure to pick up some replacement blades.


Ryan’s Box Cutter Recommendation:

Wire Pliers

Wire Pliers

These specialized pliers were something that I didn’t initially think I needed, but as soon as I got into wiring my tiny house I realized my regular pliers weren’t going to cut it. I picked up a pair of purpose built electricians pliers and twisting and stripping wires went much faster.


Ryan’s Pliers Recommendation:

Hand Chisel

hand chisel

These were things that I didn’t use often, but the few times I needed them they were super helpful. I’d get a small set of these for the few times you’ll need to notch out a board, clean up a joint etc.


Ryan’s Hand Chisel Recommendation:

Pry Bar: Estwing 21 Inch Nail Puller

Estwing 21 Inch Nail Puller

There just comes a time when you need to tear something out. You’re most likely a brand new builder, so mistakes happen. This pry bar plus a Sawzall are the solutions to those mistakes more often than not. You really can get any nail puller. It’s just a strong piece of metal that let’s you lever out nails and pull apart boards.


Ryan’s Pry Bar Recommendation:

Pex Water Line Cutters: SharkBite U701 PEX Cutting Tool

SharkBite U701 PEX Cutting Tool

Plumbing often comes with some specialty tools, but using quick fit connectors in your PEX will avoid most of that. The cutters are really important to make sure you cut your PEX cleanly so they seat properly into your fittings. For only $13, you can have a great cutter that will make quick work of your PEX lines.


Ryan’s Pex Cutters Recommendation:


tiny house plumbing

Power Tool Recommendations For Tiny Home Construction

Power Tool Recommendations For Tiny Home Construction

Having the right power tools is critical to getting the job done. A good set will let you make more accurate cuts, prevent your arm from getting tired, and make quick work of things when it comes to building your tiny home.

Impact Driver

Impact Driver

If you’ve never used an impact driver before, let me introduce you to your new best friend. Next to my miter saw, my impact driver was the one power tool I reached for more times than I can count.

If you’ve only used a drill before, an impact driver is similar, but with a lot more torque. A normal drill will have around 400 foot pounds of torque while an impact driver will have around 2,000 foot pounds of torque.

Impact Driver bitsSo what does that even mean? It means that you can drive in screws without pre-drilling holes and you can drive in much larger, structural screws that replace the need for large lag bolts. I’ve been able to drive home 10” high shear screws without any fuss, whereas a normal drill wouldn’t be able to get them an inch in.

Why does this matter? Because with this one tool alone, you’ll cut out the need for pre drilling in all your rough carpentry, meaning 50% less operations. When we’re talking about build a whole house, 50% less operations is a big deal!

My suggestion here is to buy brand new, have at least three batteries, and buy a major brand name. This is a place you want to splurge because you’ll be using this all day, every day. These are often sold as a combo pack with a drill, charger, and two batteries which will get you setup nicely. Plan on spending $200 to $400, and instead of getting the cheapest tiers/price points, I’d suggest buying one or two steps up.

You’ll hear people be dogmatic about their brand, but if you buy DeWalt, Milwaukee, or Makita, you really can’t go wrong. It’s often best to stick within one brand for battery-powered tools so you can share your batteries among them.


Ryan’s Driver Recommendation:

Battery Powered Drill

cordless drill

A drill is another really great power tool to have. Like I said above, you’ll be using your impact driver a lot, but a drill comes in handy for drilling holes, which you’ll later sink a screw into with your impact driver.

Drills also have a smoother, more consistent spin to them, making drilling holes with a bit much easier. Think of a drill as the tool for drilling holes into wood, while impact drivers are used exclusively for driving screws into wood.

Having two tools — a drill and an impact driver — means you can pre-drill a hole when needed and then without changing bits, drive the screw in. This will speed your work up a lot and is just plain convenient.

My suggestion is to figure out what impact driver you want, then look for a combo kit that includes both the impact driver and drill. The drill included will be pretty evenly matched in quality and the kit should include both tools, a bag/case, a charger, and often two batteries.


Ryan’s Drill Recommendation:

Power Tool Batteries and Chargers

cordless drill batteries

Extra power tool batteries are usually pretty expensive, but having a good battery is key. When it comes to NiCad vs. Lithium Ion, Lithium Ion is the way to go for weight, performance and it’s ability to hold a charge. There are many brands with cult followings, but any of the major brands will suit your needs. If you don’t know, these batteries use a proprietary connector, so you’ll have to use the same brand of batteries that your power tools are.

The cheapest way to get batteries is when you buy them as part of a kit. I will often figure out what tool I want, then go find it in a combo. Tools sold as a “bare tool” or in these combos typically include a case and extra batteries.

My suggestion is to have three batteries between your drill and impact driver. This allows you to have a battery in each tool and a third on the charger at all times. Again, this just helps you be efficient in your work. You’ll also make your life easier if all your tools can fit any of your batteries (e.g. the same brand).

For my tiny house build I found that the charger included with the drill and impact driver was enough for my needs. They do sell multi chargers, but I found that if I had one in my drill and the other on the charger I never ran out.

Driver Bits

Driver Bits

While you’re at it, pick up some impact driver bits. These are a little bit higher quality than standard bits because of how much more force is involved. These use a universal connector, so for the bits, any brand will fit in any other brand’s impact driver. If you’d like a suggestion, I’d get a set of 2” long ones for every day (like these 2” impact driver bits) and then a few longer ones (like these 6” bits) to have on hand. I also like to use screws with a Robertson (aka square) drive for less slippage, so if you use those, here is a good option for Robertson driver bits.

The last thing to know is that branded bit sets come in boxes that will neatly store in the tool’s case, so I bought this driver bit set and it fits perfectly.


Ryan’s Driver Bits Recommendation:

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Drill Bits

Drill Bits

You’re also going to want to have a set of bits for your drill. Many brands make small kits in a nice case that will cover all your needs. Figure spending around $20 to $40 for these sets.

Any brand of drill bits will fit in any drill, but one think to consider is the boxes they come in. If you buy the same brand as your drill, some of them are designed to fit in their own hard cases. For example, this DeWalt bit set fits perfectly in their hard drill cases. It’s a little thing, but it makes it very convenient to fit two tools with batteries, a charger, and a bit set and driver set all in one box.


Ryan’s Drill Bits Recommendation:

Spade Bits

Spade Bits

If you’ve never seen these before, they allow you to make certain size holes from 1/8th of an inch up to around 2 inches. You should really only use these for rough carpentry because they can be hard to control and result in a rough hole.

That said, they are super useful when it comes to running wires or other smaller hole needs where precision isn’t necessarily the goal. For these, I’d get something with good reviews, but you don’t have to spend a lot for your needs.

This budget spade bit set will cost you about $16 that should suit your needs. For myself, I decided to spend a little bit more for a spade bit set that came in nice hard plastic box. I just find that a storage box keeps things organized a bit better as it jostles around in my toolbox.


Ryan’s Spade Bits Recommendation:

Hole Saws

Hole Saws

These are circular saw bits that cut larger holes with your drill. A spade bit is good for making holes up to about 1.5” to 2”, but beyond that you’ll want to have a hole saw. The main use for these is cutting holes for shower and toilet drains in your floor, your mini split passthrough in your side wall, and vent fan wall connections.

They sell some budget versions that come with a lot of different sizes. I just waited until I had a need for one andbought the size I needed. Lenox is the main name brand, but you don’t need to spend a lot here because you’ll only need to cut a few larger holes during your entire build.


Ryan’s Hole Saw Recommendation:

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Corded Power Tools You’ll Need To Build A Tiny House

Corded Power Tools You Will Need To Build A Tiny House

There are some power tools that I prefer to have in a corded option. While I often like the convenience of cordless, sometimes a corded version gives you more power, although this has been changed a lot in recent years as battery powered tools can actually be more powerful in some cases.

One area I usually opt for the corded version is with any tool I buy for a very specific, one-time use job. For example, my Sawzall, or reciprocating saw, is corded because I rarely use it and the corded version is about 1/3 the price of its equivalent in power and quality cordless cousin.

Miter Saw

Miter Saw

A miter saw or compound miter saw is one of the tools, next to an impact driver, that you’ll use most during your build. It is incredibly useful during your tiny house build and is one place I suggest you dedicate some of your dollars to splurge on.

You’re going to want to stick with a name brand in a size that can easily cut both a 2×10 board and a 4×4 post in a single cut each. If your saw can cover those two things, you’ll be able to do most cuts easily on the saw. Plan to spend $200 to $500 here on a brand new, high-quality miter saw.

These saws come in three main sizes, is the difference being the size in diameters of the blades they use: 7.5”, 10”, and 12”. The smaller 7.5” is fine for weekend warriors or hobbyist, but is too small for the size of the project that is building a whole house. The 10” saws are ideal for 95% of your cuts, especially if the saw is specified to cut the above size lumber. While it can be tempting to get a 12” miter saw, I think it’s mostly unnecessary.

The area I might consider really splurging is on a sliding miter saw. A miter saw built on a slide allows you to cut wider boards. If I were to buy a sliding saw today, I’d opt for a Bosch glide arm miter saw because it gives you the advantages of a sliding saw without needing a lot of depth. This saves space if you’re building in a shop, and I believe we’ll see more brands come up with their own version in the coming years.


Ryan’s Miter Saw Recommendation:

Table Saw

Table Saw

A table saw is something you could do without, instead using a circular saw. I was able to find a good deal on a table saw one Black Friday that met my needs for cheap. Table saws are really useful for breaking down sheet goods like plywood or OSB.

A table saw will provide you with the ability to make the most accurate cuts on your sheet goods. You can do a lot with a circular saw, but I think you can still rely on a table saw being more accurate. I wouldn’t spend a lot of money here, but entry level saws start at around $300 and go up to around $600.

If I were to build a tiny house again, I think I’d skip a table saw and opt for the next item.


Ryan’s Table Saw Recommendation:

Track Saw

Track Saw

A track saw is essentially a circular saw that slides along a track which makes your cuts way more accurate. If I were to do it again, I’d go with a high-quality track saw cutting on the ground with a piece of foam under the plywood.

Track saws have recently really come into their own. There are several brands that made good quality saws, and prices have also come down recently. The top three saws right now are the Makita SP6000J, the DEWALT DWS520K, and the more expensive Festool TS 55 REQ-F-Plus.

If I were to buy one today, I’d go with the Makita. This saw seems to be a very popular choice that a lot of my woodworking friends have recommended to me. At around $450 with the track, it’s not cheap, but track saws in general are pretty pricey.

The biggest reason I’d suggest this over a table saw is that I find it gives you more control when it comes to cutting sheet goods. I’ve used table saws on and off for 20 years as a hobbyist woodworker, but I still don’t feel 100% comfortable with them, especially with boards being able to get kicked back at me.

A track saw lets you set your track exactly where you need it and stays put. Working on the ground on top of foam makes the wood easy to cut and, because you can stand or kneel on top of the sheet itself, your wood doesn’t move. All this adds up to being able to make very accurate cuts while supporting the piece firmly and mitigating risks like table saw kick back. It does all of this well and is much easier than I find cutting with a table saw.


Ryan’s Track Saw Recommendation:

Circular Saw

Circular Saw

A circular saw is a very practical tool for cutting boards, sheet goods, and more. I don’t use my circular saw much, but when I need it, it is great. I’ve opted for a corded version of this because I don’t use it much and often use it on the ground. A corded version is also less expensive.

The saw I recommend is very popular and pretty affordable: the Dewalt DWE575SB is a great saw that you can’t really go wrong with — and for $139, it’s a great choice. I don’t usually recommend one brand over another, but this one has seemed to attract a lot of high praise even from builders who are usually loyal to other brands.


Ryan’s Circular Saw Recommendation:

Orbital Palm Sander

Orbital Palm Sander

A sander is one of those must-have tools when it comes to finish woodworking. There are a few types of sanders out there, but the orbital style sander is really the only one you’ll need for building a tiny house. There were a fewtimes when I needed to sand away a lot of material quickly, and for that I borrowed someone’s belt sander.

The orbital sander essentially makes a random circular-ish sanding motion. This means you won’t have a sanding pattern show up in the pieces you sand, which is what you want. I’ve used a lot of them, but this Bosch Orbital Sander seems to strike the balance of high quality for a pretty affordable price. I actually have two of these and have used them a lot.

When you buy a sander, pick up a large pack of 80 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit paper discs with a hole pattern that matches your sander. I’d also recommend corded tools here.


Ryan’s Sander Recommendation:

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Router

Router

A router is a tool that will modify wood edges to make them into different profiles. It’s also used to route out channels in wood to slide pieces of plywood in for things like shelves. This is definitely a finish woodworking tool and not entirely necessary, but it is certainly nice to have.


Ryan’s Router Recommendation:

Jig Saw

Jig Saw

This is one of those tools that you won’t need to use a lot, but when you do, it will be the only tool that can do the job. It’s mainly used to cut out curves in plywood, so I’d suggest going with a budget brand here and maybe even considering used.


Ryan’s Jigsaw Recommendation:

Oscillating Saw

Oscillating Saw

Rockwell is the brand to beat in this category of tools. When I first saw these come on the market, I dismissed them as some useless tool that was sold to weekend warriors who had no clue what they were doing with more money than they had sense. Now I’m an unabashed convert and I own this oscillating saw kit for $133.

These tools are great for making square plunge cuts into a face of wood. Outlets are a great example of this. Oscillating saws are one of those tools that can do a few things well, but they aren’t going to replace any other tool in your toolbox. This is very nice to have, but not required.


Ryan’s Recommendation:

Sawzall / Reciprocating Saw

Sawzall Reciprocating Saw

A Sawzall is another one of those tools that shines when you need it. I referred to mine as “the problem solver” — when I made a mistake, it took care of it. These really come in handy when you accidently nail something with a rink shank nail (which are nearly impossible to pull out) and need to cut them out.


Ryan’s Sawzall Recommendation:

Measuring Tools For A Tiny House

Measuring Tools For A Tiny House

Being able to measure and cut accurately is something that seems easy, but to do it consistently is easier said than done. Here are the measuring tools you’ll need for building your tiny house.

Speed Square

Speed Square

A speed square was one of those tools I hadn’t used much before my tiny house build, but which quickly found a place on my toolbelt. I was constantly using it to extend my marks across boards, as a saw guide for straighter cuts, and for rafter cutting.


Speed Square Recommendation:

Combination Square

Combination Square

A combination square does a lot of the same things that a speed square does, but has some other features that make it useful. Because the ruler slides through your shoulder piece, it’s great for measuring depths, setting blade and router bit heights, comparing depths of two cuts, and more.

Its main use is for more complicated joinery in your finish work, but I found myself using it throughout my build process.


Combo Square Recommendation:

Spirit Level

Spirit Level

A level is critical to making sure things line up and stay straight. Make sure you get your tiny house trailer totally level before starting and continuously check it along the way. I’d suggest buying two levels from your local big box store: a 24-inch version and a 6-foot version. Don’t cheap out here — I’d recommend purchasing the best you can find.

Carpenter’s Square

Carpenters Square

A carpenter’s square is for checking right angles. Get a big one so you can quickly check how accurate your 90-degree angles are over more than a few inches. It also makes quick work of putting down cut marks on your sheet goods when you’re breaking them down. I went with a 24” model and that’s what I suggest you get as well.

Carpenter’s Pencil

Carpenters Pencil

This seems like a simple thing, but a carpenter’s pencil is something I recommend to a lot of first-time tiny house builders. They have a flat side so you can more accurately and easily draw along a board surface. The flat side also means they won’t roll away if you put it down on a table, they’re great to use as a spacer when doing deck boards and the likes, and they make scribing easier. I’d get a big box of them — I often started my day by tossing a few in each area I was going to work so I always had one at hand.


Ryan’s Pencil Recommendation:

Pneumatic Tools That Will Make Building A Tiny House Easier

Pneumatic Tools That Will Make Building A Tiny House Easier

This class of tools was intimidating when I first started, but after teaching myself the ins and outs, I’ve come to love them. If there is one set of tools that will make building a tiny house easier, it’s these. The labor they save you is huge and means you can get more done quickly and easily.

The other thing that these help you with is wear and tear on your body. If you talk to some old timer framers, you’ll quickly learn that building a house is hard on the body. Most of you reading aren’t builders or contractors and that means you’re not used to this kind of work. Do yourself a favor and get these tools — you’ll thank me for it later.

Air Tool Combo Kits

Air Tool Combo Kits

This is a great way to get started and, if you’re building a tiny house, it’s all you really need. I was worried that this 6-gallon pancake compressor wouldn’t keep up, but not once was I left waiting for it to catch back up.

These kits are great and I’d suggest one to anyone wanting to build a tiny home. The only additional things I’d suggest are a palm nailer, an extra hose, and a framing nailer; more on that next.


Ryan’s Recommendation:

6-Gallon Air Compressor

6-Gallon Air Compressor

The heart of any pneumatic system is the compressor, which makes pressured air that will power all your tools. A standard 6-gallon pancake compressor is all you’ll need. Just make sure you get a name brand and consider buying new because the combo kits are so affordable.


Ryan’s Recommendation:

Finishing Nail Gun

Finishing Nail Gun

A finishing nailer uses small 16-gauge nails that have a very low-profile head. These are only to be used in finishing work, as they aren’t suited for anything structural. The narrow head means the nail will make a very small hole in the finished piece that you can either fill or leave as is.


Ryan’s Finish Nailer Recommendation:

Framing Nailer

Framing Nailer

A framing nailer is what you’ll use when doing anything structural. The nails it can drive are much larger and heavier, specifically 3” .131 ring shank nails, which you’ll be framing your tiny home with. You could use a hammer to drive these, but a framing nailer, which can be had for $86 brand new, is too affordable to not use. Plus as I mentioned earlier, this will save your body a lot of pain.


Ryan’s Recommendation:

Palm Nailer

Palm Nailer

A palm nailer is a neat little air hammer that fits in the palm of your hand. For tiny home building, I used it for two main areas: nailing in siding and nailing Tico nails into joist hangers and tiedowns. Both those applications can be done with a one-off specialty nail gun, but since we’re not professional builders that will use them over and over, a palm nailer is the perfect solution.


Ryan’s Palm Nailer Recommendation:

Air Hose

Air Hose

If you get the combo kit I mentioned above, it will come with a low-quality hose that I found to be quite serviceable for my build, but I also did go out and buy a second hose. These hoses have universal connectors, so you don’t have to worry about mixing and matching brands.

At the start of my day, I’d set up my work station and tools, then would run one hose to my house for my nail gun and a second hose to my cut station with a blow gun to blow off dust as I made my cuts. Not necessary, but definitely helped make things go a little faster.


Ryan’s Air Hose Recommendation:

how to build a tiny house

Other Tools You’ll Need To Build A Tiny House

Other Tools You Will Need To Build A Tiny House

There are a few other items you’ll need to build your tiny home. Most of these fall into the safety category, so they should be considered carefully. Make sure your safety equipment works for you andis comfortable and easy, that way you’ll be more apt to use them and stay safe.

Ear Protection

Ear Protection

Do yourself a favor and figure out ear protection that works for you. A lot of people like over the head ear muffs, but because I wear glasses, I found ear plugs to be more practical for me. I picked up a big box of them at the start of my build, that way I never had the excuse of not having some. The box linked to here is a pack of 200 sets all individually wrapped, which was perfect to give to any friends and family who showed up to help.


Ear Protection Recommendation:

Eye Protection

Eye Protection

Like the above, have a few of these on hand for you and anyone who comes to help you. I wear glasses normally, so I didn’t really think about these, but I did have a set on hand for helpers.


Eye Protection Recommendation:

Work Gloves

Work Gloves

If you are anything like me, you don’t come from a construction background. In fact, during my tiny house build, I built on the weekends and went to my corporate job in HR during the week. The point being that my hands weren’t toughened up like a trade persons’ hands would be.

Gloves save you a lot of wear and tear until you can toughen up your hands. I kept a few pairs of these Mechanix brand gloves on hand and I love them.


Ryan’s Work Gloves Recommendation:

Mask

Filtration Mask

People will have their own preferences here. Find something that works for you so that you’ll actually use it.

Clamps

Quick Clamps

You’re going to need a slew of clamps during your build process. I’d start out with a basic clamp set like the Irwin Quick Grips and then see what you need from there.


Ryan’s Clamps Recommendation:

Tool Belt

Tool Belt

I started out using a tool belt all the time, but later on I only wore it when I was up on a ladder or climbing around on a roof. Go to your local big box store and try on some to see what works for you. I also used a smaller apron just to hold whatever fastener I was using and a 5 gallon bucket to hold everything else.

Ladders

Ladders

I used three ladders throughout my build and I don’t know that I could have done with any fewer. First I had a 24-inch tall platform that was useful for things when I just needed a little bit of height. Then I also used an 8-foot ladder and a 20-foot extension ladder for working on the roof.


Ryan’s Ladder Recommendation:

tiny house building checklist

Final Thoughts On Tools For Building A Tiny House

Final Thoughts On Tools For Building A Tiny House

As you can see, you’re going to need a lot of tools to make your tiny home happen. I think all told, I spent about $2,000 on new tools to build my tiny home, but you might be able to get away with less. Buying used tools can be a great way to save some money, but I’d steer clear of used battery power tools and measuring tools.

There are a few things that you might only need once during your build, so borrowing a tool here and there is the way to go in those instances. I didn’t know anyone with tools outside of your basics, so I had to buy a few extras. There are also some tools that it makes sense to rent — a flooring nail gun was one I rented.

The other thing to budget for is all the fasteners, plates, adhesives, paints, and sealants you’ll need to use with these. I spent about $1,500 on just these and was shocked how much that all added up to.

I hope this was helpful in figuring out what tools you’ll need to build your tiny house.

Your Turn!

  • What tool for a tiny house build did I miss? What would you add?

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