4 Must Have Tools for Every Vancouver Home

No matter how great the build quality of your home is, something is bound to fail eventually. In terms of locks and doors, developers tend to invest the least amount of money on a home’s security. After all, we all tend to focus on the big shiny features like the washing machine and refrigerator. Door hardware tends to be the last thing on people’s minds, however, it is the one thing you will use every day so here are 4 must-have tools every Vancouver and Lower Mainland homeowner should have in their toolbox.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please call/text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. You can also just drop by our Key Store located at L21A – 555 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC. We are located on the bottom floor of the SFU/Harbour Centre next to the BC Liquor Store.

Tool #1: A Screwdriver Set

Most DIYers think that you need power tools to get a job done. Professionally, I think 80% to 90% of our jobs can be done with a good set of hand tools. However, power tools certainly can make the job easier, but with inflation and supply issues power tools and batteries can be quite expensive.

In the world of locksmithing, I generally recommend staying away from power tools. None of the screws we deal with should be power-driven in – at least all the way. Over-tightened screws can damage locks and cause locks not to work properly. 

Screws should be hand tightened only. Over-tightened screws are one of the most glaring indicators that someone other than an experienced locksmith installed the lock/door hardware. Not only can it cause the lock to malfunction, it can make basic maintenance and repairs sometimes impossible.

Often in new developments, I generally find that a carpenter or some other trade installed all the locks using power tools. I can’t blame them, they are getting paid by work volume so speed is of the essence. Unfortunately, they tend to set their power driver’s torque setting to the max and make the screws impossible to back out by over-torquing the screw heads, snapping off the screw heads, or rounding off the screw head slots. This means that we sometimes have to drill out the whole thing and replace the whole lock as lock screws tend to be proprietary. If you damage a lock screw, you won’t be able to find it at your local Home Depot.

So do yourself a favour and stick to hand tools. If a screw is not going in easily, it is probably because it’s the wrong screw or it’s not aligned properly. If you feel a lot of resistance, back out the screw gently to avoid double threading then try it again gently.

If you only can afford one screwdriver, make sure to get a Philips #2. This is probably the most popular screwhead in modern locks with its cross-shaped slots. When installing Residential Grade 3 locks, it’s the only tool you will probably need.

If your home has antique locks or similar reproductions, you will probably need a flathead screwdriver at least 4mm in width.

If you can afford to get another screwdriver, I would recommend getting a Robertson No. 2 driver with its square-shaped tip. Most door hinges will have at least one longer screw with a Robertson No. 2 screw head.

Rather than getting just 2 or 3 drivers, I personally recommend getting a multi-driver set. Most locksmiths in town will have a set of Megapro Multi-Bit Screwdrivers, but that’s because we need something that will address every kind of screw out there.

Most homeowners will be fine with something like the Klein Tools 14-in-1 Multi-bit Screwdriver. If you are living in Vancouver, you can find it in Aisle 6, Bay 012 at the Home Depot Store at 900 Terminal Ave. If you live closer to our Port Coquitlam location, you can find it in Aisle 32, Bay 004 at the Home Depot Store at 1069 Nicola Ave.

Now the downside to a multi-bit screwdriver is that it should be used only for driving in or driving out screws. Due to its plastic components, it should not be used as a prying or striking tool. For a driver set that can handle more abuse, I recommend a cheap set from Husky. They can handle a lot of abuse and are quite affordable.

Tool #2: Painter’s Multi-Tool

The second tool that I think every homeowner should have is a cheap 15-in-1 Paint Tool. There are several versions of this tool with some having more features than others, but even the 15-in-1 Paint Tool from Husky costs less than $10.

As of the time of this article, they can be found near the Paint Department at the front of the Home Depot store at 900 Terminal Ave, Vancouver or the Home Depot store at 1069 Nicola Ave, Port Coquitlam. 

Whether you are painting your home, doing a little home renovation, or attempting a small lock project, this is an invaluable tool. I guarantee every tradesperson has one of these lying around in their toolbox. If you are in the trades and you don’t, you should go get one.

When it comes to locks and door hardware, the blade is sturdy enough to be used as a prying tool to do things like prying open stuck windows and doors, pushing back a broken deadlatch, shimming a door to the correct clearance, etc. If you are in a situation where you are trying to “loid” a knob or lever, the curved hook and bevelled edge will work 10x better than a credit or business card.

It’s lightweight and quite sturdy. In all the years I have been using one, I’ve yet to break a Painter’s Tool. For all the other uses for this multi-function tool, check out all the videos on YouTube.

Tool #3: Airbag/Winbag

When I first encountered the Winbag at my usual tool store, I could not imagine how useful these would be. Not just for work, but even for jobs around the house.

Winbag is the commercial name for a manually inflatable airbag. You pump it up using a hand-squeeze rubber ball, and you deflate it by pushing down an air valve. It comes in two sizes, the normal version which can lift up to 300lbs and the larger MAX version which can lift up to 550lbs.

Some of the applications for this Air Wedge include:

  • Adjustments and leveling of heavy household appliances
  • Soft shim against delicate objects
  • Shimming and position of windows and cabinets during installation

When it comes to my world of locksmithing, I use it to:

  • Lift heavy doors into position for installation or repairs
  • Door stopper for really heavy doors or for delicate floors
  • Shim doors for under-the-door bypass entry
  • Force open doors with broken latches
  • Etc.

At home, I use it to lift up the refrigerator and the stove to retrieve something under it or to clean. I also use it to lift up heavy furniture to move it around or to place felt pads to prevent scratches.

I would recommend most homeowners use an Air Wedge instead of a crowbar or pry bar. If 300 to 550 lbs of force with a Winbag is not enough, you will probably hurt yourself trying to apply the same force or greater with a pry bar.

If you want the larger Winbag MAX, you may need to visit a specialty hardware store like KMS Tools located at 110 Woolridge St in Coquitlam. However, most homeowners will be fine with the standard size. 

If you visit the Home Depot stores at either 900 Terminal Ave in Vancouver or 1069 Nicola Ave in Port Coquitlam, you can find them at the front of the store with all the other miscellaneous hand tools.

Tip #4: Tape Measure or Ruler

I generally find that most people’s sense of length or width is grossly off the mark. They figure that eyeballing a measurement is good enough when it’s clearly not. There’s a reason why tradespeople say “Measure Twice, Cut Once”. It’s easy to make a mistake even when you physically measure something with a tape measure or ruler. It’s virtually impossible for most people to use your Mark 1 eyeballs.

For example, most storefront locks in Vancouver have a backset of either 31/32” or 1-⅛”. In millimetres, the difference is only 2.38mm. 

While I can tell a 31/32” lockset from a 1-⅛” Adams Rite lockset with a glance, when it’s installed inside the door, I need to measure. Even when I measure, I’m wrong sometimes as the difference is so miniscule which is why I always carry both lock sizes in my work van at all times.

So don’t assume a measurement. Buy a cheap tape measure or ruler and confirm (or disprove) your assumption. 

You can buy a cheap 8m/26ft tape measure at Home Depot for under $10. At the Home Depot Vancouver store located at 900 Terminal Ave, the Stanley 8m/26ft Tape Measure can be found in Aisle 17, Bay 002 for $9.98. At the Home Depot Port Coquitlam store located at 1069 Nicola Ave, the same tape measure can be found in Aisle 12, Bay 002.

Some tool manufacturers make a wider version marketed under the monikers like “FAT MAX”. They cost more but the width of the tape is about twice that of the normal versions. The thicker and heavier material means more of the tape can be extended further before it folds under its own weight. This can be useful for certain trades measuring bigger dimensions but is generally a useless feature for most DIYers. In fact, it can make the device so bulky and heavy that it will be harder and undesirable to use.

If you want to go high-tech, the sky’s the limit. iPhone users have an app called Measure on their phones. I’ve tried using it on jobs several times but found it useless. I’ll stick to a physical measuring device.

However, realtors and home renovation estimators are using laser measuring tools. They come in various ranges with higher range limits demanding a higher price point. These tools can also automatically calculate area and volume as well. I think if you are looking to create a blueprint or a diagram of some sort like renovating a closet, it would be an invaluable tool. For most people, it’s probably overkill.

Final Thoughts on Essential Tools for Homeowners

With a simple set of screwdrivers, a painter’s tool, an air wedge, and a tape measure, I think most homeowners will be surprised by the number of locks and door problems they can solve on their own.

Even if you were to call a locksmith, these tools may assist you in escaping from locked rooms or homes while waiting for a locksmith to arrive.

For questions/comments or to request a service call from Vancouver’s most trusted Vancouver Locksmith, please call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. If you need your keys cut or simply wish to chat, you can drop by our Key Store located at L21A – 555 Hastings St, Vancouver, BC. We look forward to serving you!

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