My dad was a jack-of-all-trades type. Painting rooms with perfectly sharp lines, replacing faucets and light fixtures, tiling, framing rooms, and hanging drywall were all well within his wheelhouse. There was never a project he couldn’t do. Only those that he couldn’t do ... yet.

Ed Kromer would have been mortified to know that his beloved only child once paid someone to install floating shelves. But he would be thrilled at what I can do now.

Over the last year, I’ve been steadily renovating my Baltimore City home with the power of YouTube tutorials, some elbow grease, and perhaps a little inherited inclination toward home improvement.

All it took was giving it a try. And the right tools.

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So, below are some of the items that have helped me on my DIY journey. I sourced the items from Ace Hardware which has locations throughout Baltimore City — one conveniently located a block from my house— and in the surrounding counties. Ace Hardware is great! But it is by no means the only place you can buy these items or a version of them.

These gift suggestions are for the DIY-curious, home improvement novices, and new homeowners/renters. I’ll leave everything else to the professionals.

stud finder
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craftsman level
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Hang it right

Everyone needs to hang something on their walls. But without the right tools, a simple installation quickly becomes an unsightly hole or closet shelves crashing down in the middle of the night. Both have happened to me on multiple occasions.

Each of these items makes a great — probably unexpected—gift.

Stud finder:

Zircon WireWarning e50 ($26.99)

Levels in multiple sizes:

Craftsman 48 in. Aluminum Magnetic I-Beam Level ($16.99)

Craftsman 9 in. Torpedo Level ($7.99)

Bonus: A picture hanging kit and drywall anchors

Hillman Assorted Picture Hanging Set ($17.99)

Hillman Wallboard Anchors ($14.99)

purdy paint brushes
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zinsser primer
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Paint it

Painting a room is one of the most common home improvement firsts. It’s comparatively easy, and a fresh coat instantly gives any space new life. Painting can also be inexpensive — but only if you have the basic supplies. Here’s what you need.

Paint brushes and rollers

I like the Purdy brand brushes and rollers. Purchase a variety of sizes, and be sure to get a stiff, angled trim brush. Don’t forget the roller frames, paint trays, and a couple of paint liners!

Prep and clean up

Painting is messy, especially for novice painters. Include some painter’s tape, drop cloths, and brush cleaner. Here are my favorites:

FrogTape Painter’s Tape ($7.99)

Ace Plastic Drop Cloth ($9.99)

Klean Strip Acetone Brush Cleaner ($11.99)

Put all these supplies in a bucket stuffed with some festive tissue paper. There is always a use for a 5-gallon bucket or the smaller.

Bonus: Okay, I admit this is unconventional. But I’d love to get a gallon of Zissner Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer ($34.99) for any occasion. It’s the Serena Williams of primers. It can cover the most egregious wall color in a single coat and helps the topcoat go on beautifully. Put a bow on the can! People will love it!

stanley tape measure
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Much-loved basics

I find myself using these three basics all the time. If your loved one doesn’t have these items, it is a safe bet that they need them. A sturdy, quality tape measure will last your loved one a lifetime. A utility knife can do everything from opening packages to scoring vinyl plank flooring.

Tape measure:

Stanley LeverLock 30 ft. Tape Measure ($19.99)

Utility knife:

Stanley Dynagrip Retractable Utility Knife ($15.99)

Miter saw:

Stanley Mitre Box with Saw ($19.99)

craftsman corded finishing sander
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Black+Decker Cordless Compact Drill Kit
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First power tools

The hand sander, drill, and nail gun are great starter power tools with many household uses. If your loved one is considering doing anything involving trim or molding, get them a nail gun. It will save them time, frustration, and probably from hitting the hands with a hammer.

Hand sander::

Craftsman Corded Finishing Sander ($54.99)


Black+Decker Cordless Compact Drill Kit ($64.99)

Nail gun:

Arrow Corded Nail Gun ($69.99)


If you go the power tool route, please include a pair of safety glasses or goggles. I think everyone looks incredible in these: Milwaukee Anti-Fog Performance Safety Glasses ($19.97)

station north tool library
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Learn from the experts

The Station North Tool Library has everything the aspiring DIYer needs. They offer tool rentals and a variety of home improvement classes at a variety of different price points. I haven’t been yet. But I plan on taking the tiling course in the new year! Maybe I’ll see you there?

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