Basement Renovation Tools


Oh man, I can't believe how little he looks here. My son, ready to pitch in on the basement remodeling.

 "What tools do I need?" When I was learning how to finish a basement this was my first question.

You're going to see a lot of tools here, don't worry if you don't know what they do or how they work.  You don't need to buy all of these at once.  In fact I recommend that you only buy what you need and only about a week ahead of when you need it.

To that end I've broken up the list by basement finishing stage.  This is basically the order in which I bought my tools except that you get the benefit of not having to run back to the store 4 times in one weekend (the polar bears thank you). 

Design Software

Basement Design SoftwareBasement Design Software - I haven’t personally used this software but I did some research and watched their product videos. It seems to have everything you would need and then some.  It even has 3D view, furniture placement and some other cool designer features that will help you layout your basement spaces.

If you’re just doing the basement design, the “Essentials” package is all you should need. Buy it on Amazon.

Test Wall Tools

Power Saw -  For cutting lumber and trim. I love my 10" DeWalt but it would have been nice to get the extra reach.  6" wide boards will not cut all the way through with a 10" saw.  No biggie, just flip it over, but still if you don't have one yet go for 12".  Here's a link to the newer version of what I still use today:

Drill - For just about everything.  Driving screws, making holes.  When you get to the electrical stage you will have to make a lot of 1" holes through 2 x 4s so get something with power and with 2 batteries so when one dies, it will, you can just swap'em out and keep going. Absolutely do not get a corded drill and I would definitely spend the extra money to get the newer Litheon batteries.

Standard Tool Box Tools

  • Tape Measure - 25 feet should do it.  You want something that you can operate yourself so nothing to flimsy.  You'll use it extensively, anything under $10 is probably not worth it, over $20 and your likely paying for professional contractor quality - which you won't need.
  • Crow Bar  -  Sweet!  You know you've always wanted one.   Get a smallish one, you're not working on the docks here.  It's for pulling out errant nails and for leverage while you lift or move walls (in some cases).  You'll mess up a lot, your crow bar is your friend.
  • Framing Square - Get a big one.  This will save you hours and hours of frustration.  It ensures that your walls line up correctly so that the room is perfectly square.  Your drywall and flooring companies will thank you.
  • Speed Square - Super handy for marking cuts and getting in to corners where the big framing square can't go. My only tip here would be to get one 7" not the bigger 12" as I carried mine around a lot in the pocket of my tool-belt.
  • Regular Hammer - not much to add, just buy something middle of the road, if you don't already have one.
  • Rubber Mallet - Save your ears and lower the noise level in your house.  A rubber mallet has a bigger striking head and a much lower noise volume, well worth the eight bucks.
  • Clamps quick clamps- If you've read my post on finishing your basement by yourself you know that clamps are essential, you can't do it without them.  I really like these Irwin fast clamps.  They've held-up great, are inexpensive and are easy to use with one hand.
  • Sledgehammer - For when you are close, but not close enough and it's already nailed into the floor with concrete nails.  No worries, you've got your sledgehammer.  Ironically this blunt instrument is perfectly for making minute adjustments to things that are very heavy to move or complicated to undo.  (also - awesome Peter Gabariel song/video)

Tools for Framing Walls

Air Compressor    - You will need an air compressor strong enough to run your framing nailer but they are also really handy for a variety of other household tasks.   Adding air to your car tires. Blowing up pool tools or anything that needs to be blown up. Power for your brad nailer (when you do the trim) and for a power stapler - which is awesome for crafts and furniture projects.  I also use mine to blow out dust and grime from my lawnmower and porch lights.  Again, a bit pricey, but worth it.

Framing Nailer - For nailing up your framing lumber.  The vertical studs of your walls have to be nailed at the top and bottom at an angle without moving the position of stud.  I tried this by hand and it's close to impossible until you've had years of practice.  A framing nailer is one of the pricier tools you'll buy but you need it for months so renting is not financial feasible.  Borrow one if you can.  Or if you want to be a macho man like me, pick up your own.

Chalk Line - You will need this to mark lines on your basement floor so that you know where to place the bottom plate of your walls.  You also will want to "snap a line" across the rafters (the long beams holding up the first floor of your house) so that you know exactly where the top plate goes.

Plumb Bobbasement toolsThis was one of the trickier tools for me to learn how to use properly, which is weird because it's basically a pointed weight on a piece of string. Basically it's used to transfer one exact point from the top of your wall to the bottom.

4' Level - You may already have a level, but you need one that's four feet or longer.  They are used to determine if something is level or plumb, obviously, but they are also useful for measuring gaps across a set of studs.  There are $10 levels and there are $100 levels, my opinion is that for renovating your basement you want to be in the $30-$40 dollar range for a 4 foot level.

Tools for Wiring a Basement

Wire Stripper - Double dipped comfort grip.   MMMmmmm, double dip. This Klein wire stripping tool makes it easy to strip the sheathing off of your electrical wires.  Make loops so you an attach wiring to terminal screws.  Cut solid and stranded wiring.

Look for models that you can close or open with one hand as that's often all you may have available.  Super insulated for extra protection this a tool you'll use all over the house.

Line Tester - Before you touch or cut an electrical wire you should touch it with a line tester to see if it's "HOT".  That is, to see if there is electricity running through it.  This is one tool you should always have with you if you're going to be working on an outlet, a switch or any electrical device.

For less than $20 you get piece of mind and it might just save your life!  Important features include, an audible alert when the line is hot, visual light when a line is hot, easy to replace batteries, auto shutoff and a clip so you can attach it to you shirt for easy access.  These are really easy to learn to use.  You just hold the button in and touch the wire with the point of the line tester.  If the light goes off and you hear the audible alert that means there is electricity running through that wire, do not touch it!


Nice to Haves

Shop Vac  - Renovating a basement is messy work.  A shop vac can make cleaning it up fun.  I use mine all the time, even after my basement was finished. Cleaning out the car, blowing leaves (this one has a blower) and sucking up spills.  But, if budget is a concern - a good 'ole broom also does the trick.

Impact Driver  - (check out my full article on this tool)  This was the most eye opening tool purchase I made.  Impact drivers use an internal hammering mechanism to help you drive the screw in place, or loosen a stuck screw.  This is very helpful for spots where you can't get enough leverage using an ordinary drill, like if you're leaning over the top step of a ladder and using your left hand.

Table Saw -  I didn't buy one of these until well into my basement project.  I ended up needing it to trim down some doors and to cut some wainscoting for the bathroom.  I think I also used it to cut sheet lumber for the sides of the built in shelves.   The main link is for one in the $300 range but if you want one that has it's own built in platform (like I did) you can go for the mac daddy table saw.

Basement Finishing Tools

Man, that does seem like a lot of tools, now that I've written them all down.  But, it's not as intimidating as at looks.  Just go slow and steady.  If you're nervous about buying a tool I suggest going to Home Depot or Lowes a couple of times during the week and just look at them and read the boxes and ask questions.

If you want to check out all of the tools here and their reviews you can also visit the Amazon store for this site.  I try to update the list with the latest versions as prices and functions change.  All of the tools are recommended specifically for users like you and I who are not professional contractors but are undertaking a fairly big project like finishing a basement.  That being said, most of these are pro level tools and should last a lifetime or more.


Why Amazon???  With Amazon Prime's free shipping (highly recommended) you can get even the heaviest tools delivered straight to your door.  The prices are usually better than at Home Depot or Lowes but be sure to shop around a bit.  The image and link will give you a free trial.

FULL DISCLOSURE - I am an associate seller for Amazon.  That means if you use these links to buy tools I get a small percentage of the price.  This will be invisible to you and does not change the price in anyway.  My product recommendations are not influenced by the commission.  I have used most of these tools or their similar tools cousins on my own basement and home renovation projects.


basement finishing jasonIf you are going to get tools I appreciate your support so that I can continue to expand this blog and share more great time and money saving tips with you!  Plus, one day I'd like to put in a home theater and I can guarantee I'll take pictures and videos and share the whole thing with you!

Cheers - Jason

Do you have a great tool or tool brand that you like?  Please post a comment, I'd love to put something new on my wish list!

Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

  1. says

    Does anyone have experience with a laser based measuring device? I was thinking of adding one to my toolbox but not sure where to look?

    • says

      Thanks Spencer - that's awesome! If you were able to buy from my affiliate link, thank your for supporting this website. Even if you didn't I'm glad the process was smooth for you. I almost never buy new power tools now. - Jason

  2. Kevin Knight says

    Jason, I work for Bosch so I'm obviously going to be a little biased. I started reading your site because I am planning on finishing my basement and have enjoyed your insight. I have cringed every time you say "plumb bob" but you'll see why in a second.

    The Bosch GLM 80 is by far the coolest laser distance measure on the market. It's accurate to 1/16" over the working range of the tool which is 240'. It has a built in inclinometer so it can snap into the "R 60" rail and double as a digital level. It's backlit and does all the standard measurement functions like straight distance, square footage and cubic footage. It also does more complex measurements like single and double indirect Pythagoras calculations. It measures in metric as well as standard. If you haven't played with one I can't recommend it highly enough. These things are accurate enough to cut crown molding and stuff studs.

    I also would highly recommend a GCL 25. It's a 5 point laser with a cross line front. It would have saved you hours with your plumb bob alone. It also would have helped with your tiling in the bathroom (floors and walls).

    If you really want the mac daddy of all interior lasers check out the GLL3-80. This squares up a room in seconds. It has 3 360 degree planes that serve all applications from running track, interior wall partitions vertical alignment, cross room point transfer, leveling drop ceilings, wainscoting, chair rails, floor tile , wall tile, etc... Anything you need straight, level, or squared can be made quicker with this laser.

    Hope this helps and I'd be happy to answer any follow up questions you might have.


  3. Collin says

    Hi there, you warned against getting a corded drill. Would you mind sharing your reasons? I was planning on buying a corded drill but don't want to do anything I'll regret later.

    Thank you!

    • says

      Hey Collin - I used my drill all over the place. Until I completed the basement plugs where scarce, I think I had one. So that would mean a long extension cord (pain). Before lithium-ion batteries I would have leaned a lot closer to a corded drill, more power, more torque. But with the new batteries the cordless versions are just as powerful. The price difference for me just wasn't enough to outweigh the benefits of not dealing with the extension cord.

      Good Luck -


      • Travis says

        I have to second the cordless drill. When working on wiring, for example, you'll be boring holes in every stud and ceiling joist you're threading wires through, often with limited access to outlets (you're working on circuits so they better be off). Cordless with a second battery is the way to go.

  4. Liz says

    Hello Jason, we are just starting our basement completing adventure if we where to go all out for a " Mac daddy table saw" lol could we skip out on the power saw... As you can see you are our first blog stop!


    • says

      Liz - You would think so, right? But unfortunately no. You'll still need a chop saw (Miter saw). Technically you could cut your 2x4s and trim using a table saw but it would be much, much harder to do and your accuracy would be off, especially on trim. Try finding a used one for around $90. - Jason

  5. Brandon says

    Jason, I only see the 12" miter on your site! I would prefer to save a few bucks and get a 10", is there a way to do that on your Amazon shop?

  6. Matthew R says


    I just wanted to say thanks for making this website. I just moved to Ashburn, VA last November and working on completing my basement. I have no tools and not a lot of building experience. Hopefully your website will help me out. From what I gather from reading stuff on your site you also live somewhere near Ashburn so I guess if need be I will have you come by and look at my work. lol. Thanks again for making the site.

  7. Khanh says

    Hi Jason, I was just wondering if your property tax would go up with the additional living space of your finished basement.
    Also, does your home insurance go up as well?
    Thank you.

    • says

      Khanh - Yes. Both property taxes and insurance may go up when you finish your basement.

      The insurance amount is probably going to be so small you won't notice it, maybe $5 a month??

      Property tax really depends on your jurisdiction. Depending on how they value your house. If you add an extra 1000 square feet of living space for example - the county will value your house next to other comparable sized houses in your neighborhood, thus raising your taxes. Again though, the amount will be relatively small.

      The good news is that your finished basemnet really does add a good amount of value to your house.

      Cheers - Jason

  8. Errin says

    Complete newbie question! Is there a difference between a compound miter saw like the one referenced here and a non-compound (I'm guessing bigger?) miter saw? More power, possibly? I'm assuming the compound will do? Also, are the saws capable of clamping onto a variety of stands, saw horse, etc.?

    • says

      Errin (with 2 Rs) - First, what's up with those two Rs and an E?

      You know what, good question. I had to think about this for a minute.

      The “compound” means it can tilt left or right to cut on an angle (dual compound would be left AND right). “Sliding” miter saw let's you slide the blade back and forward for extra cutting depth.

      What you get is an extra 4-6" of cutting width. With a 10" (blade) regular miter saw I could cut a max of a 6" board width. With a 16" sliding saw I can cut a much wider board.

      For finishing your basement you probably won't need to cut any boards wider than 6". I guess I "wish" I had a sliding miter saw but really, I lived this long without it and it worked out okay.

      Got the money, go with a 12" dual-compound, sliding miter saw (link goes to Amazon).
      Trying to save money - stick with a regular miter saw. This link is to Amazon, $119 with free Prime Shipping.
      There's no difference in power.

      - Jason

      PROPS to Patrick for correcting me on my original description - which I've now edited.

      • Patrick says

        Actually, that's incorrect. The "compound" means it can tilt left or right to cut on an angle (dual compound would be left AND right). "Sliding" miter saw is what you meant by being able to push back and forward.

        Sorry, don't mean to be one of "those guys". ;-)

  9. marty says

    yo I think your site is awesome. I finished my basement in which added about 1000 square feet to my home of living space. I am about to add a full bath and build a laundry room down there. laundry room is currently in entrance way from garage. Shoes coats hats and everything else flow into great room,plan is to make laundry room into mud room. I love my basement, my wife hates it lol, its my space. we live in a 2600 sq. foot 2 story home with vallted ceilings and floor to ceiling windows galore. Sometimes I feel I live in a fishbowl. My hope is if I move laundry into basement t will get her down there. lol just gives me 1 more excuse to be down there IM DOING LAUNDRY. THANKES AGAIN GREAT SITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • says

      What up Marty - Thanks for the great feedback. Yes! A mud-room is exactly what I need to add. It's been snowing here all winter and the kids are coming in and out with wet shoes and clothes - it would be great to have a spot for them to hang all that up to dry. Good luck with the bathroom! - Jason

      ps. I think you just told the internet that your wife needs to do more laundry, hope you have a comfortable couch.

  10. Ryan says

    Jason, great tool list! Quick question - the Irwin quick grip clamps you mention above come in a variety of sizes. Which did you find to be most practical (0-6", 0-12", 0-18", 0-24", 0-36")? Thanks!

    • says

      Hello L.

      The book is only in electronic format. It will work on just about any mobile platform. Things change quite a bit throughout the year, so with the electronic format I can easily update it with the latest pricing, techniques, codes, etc. Once you're a member you get free book upgrade for the life of this website, which hopefully will be awhile.


  11. Dan J says

    Jason, you may have covered it somewhere in your web site, however, It might be worth mentioning on your "Basement Renovation Tools - Chalk line" page; It's crucial to have two colors of chalk. When you need to undo mistakes or to change your plans, you must use a new color to avoid mixing up the old or mistake line with the new one (I've done it, it's painful) . I personally recommend having two chalk boxes, one for each color, they're inexpensive considering it's the foundation of your work.
    Your site is a life saver, keep up the great work. Keep on DIY!
    Dan J

    • says

      Hi Dan - Good tip. I never even considering buying a second color. I do remember just using a pencil to put "x"s over a mess-up line, but the color change would have also worked well. Cheers - Jason

  12. Travis says

    Throwing in a few of my own suggestions.

    Home Depot sells Bucket Head for like $25. It's not the guitar player, but rather a vacuum head that attaches to any 5 gallon bucket. Super cheap ShopVac!

    You've said it elsewhere, but buy a tool belt! I got a $20 one at Home Depot and I've gotten easily 3-4 times that value out of it. Especially for wiring lights, you can't beat having staples, screws (for the cans), measuring tape, hammer, needle nose, screw driver, lock nuts, voltage tester, box cutter (I use it for sheathing), and your strippers (not like that, except when it IS like that!) on you at all times while you're on the ladder.

    LED Headlamp - $10-$30 and you have light exactly where you need it. I use mine more often than my 500W halogen work lamp.

    Finally, an oscillating tool. $30 at Harbor Freight or $60 for a Black & Decker and you can make precision cuts in drywall or wood, or use it as a sander.

    Each of these should be standard!

  13. Goose says

    Any thoughts on electric nailers? My logic is it will save me the cost of having to get an air compressor too. Just not clear on the selection and if it really is enough power for framing

    • says

      Goose - First off, killer name. Do you mean battery powered (essentially electric) like the Paslode brand? I'm not familiar with literal plug-in style nailers. You'll want to check and make sure it's still cheaper to go electric even after buying a framing and a brad nailer (for your trim). If so, go for it. You don't really need a compressor for other aspects of the basement finishing project. - Jason

  14. Jarrod says

    What should I look for in a framing nailer? I've seen ones with different degrees. Is this a personal preference thing or should I look for a specific degree nailer? Also, full head or clipped head? Thank you.

    • says

      Hey Jarrod - You'll want angled instead of flat but whether you choose 31degree or 33 degree angle doesn't matter, just make sure you buy the matching nails. Clipped or full head doesn't matter either - you're choice, again just match the nail-gun. - Jason

  15. Dan S. says

    Hi Jason, great site. I may have missed it, but in your tools list what did you use to nail the pressure treated base plates to your concrete floor? I've seen gun powder activated nail guns, masonry drills with nails that go into anchors, even an adhesive was used in one youtube video.

  16. Andrew says

    Jason, awesome site! One thing though, you mentioned the brad nailer, but I didn't see one or a finishing nailer on your tool list. I was probably going to do a chunkier baseboard, so not sure a brad nailer would be strong enough. Either way, what do you recommend for brad or finishing nailer?

  17. Michael Shanklin says

    Do you have a list of materials needed such as nails, screws, etc? What kind of nails, what types of screws? Thanks for all your help regardless!

    • says

      Hi Michael - Yes, in my basement cost estimator I have a list of everything (every nail, screw, nut, pencil... everything!) that I bought. Just sign up for the newsletter and you can get it for free! - Jason

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