Tools and Supplies You’ll Need After a Disaster Hits Your Town

by Tommy Grant

It’s hard to turn on the news and not see another part of the country or the world devastated by a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or floods. The pictures start to look all the same after a while.  Blocks of homes reduced to rubble while some neighborhoods are grateful that only a few walls and part of a roof are missing.

The latest is that many areas commonly exposed to natural disasters are being denied insurance from every major insurance company. That leaves some people with the hard choice of simply abandoning their homes or the equally difficult challenge of rebuilding themselves. 

Many who do their own repairs have help from family, friends and neighbors but that doesn’t make the job any easier.  What can make things at least a little better is having the necessary tools and supplies to deal with massive repairs. And that could mean having more than one of each tool if you’re hoping that others can help with the work. 

Types of Damage and Repairs Common after Natural Disasters

The type and extent of damage to a structure depends a lot on the nature of the disaster, the type of construction, and it’s exposure to the elements.

  • Brick homes stand up better to high winds but crumble in an earthquake.
  • Wood framed homes can actually sway in an earthquake avoiding major damage, but can fly apart like a house of cards in a tornado.
  • Roofs on any type of construction are often wood framed with asphalt shingles.  There are too many YouTube videos of roofs on buildings peeling off like tissue paper in a hurricane.
  • Basements are always a catch-point for water damage from flash-flooding and even from a heavy rain during a power-outage.
  • Windows are fair game in any disaster and it’s rare that any home will endure a natural disaster without window damage.
  • Homes in valleys are sometimes shielded from the direct effect of high winds, but are more subject to flooding and landslides.

It’s hard to say if anywhere is safe from some level of natural disasters these days, especially when you factor in the frequency and extremes fueled by climate change. The question is how bad can the damage be and what would it take to repair it?

The Unlucky and the Lucky Few

Another image that shows up a lot is the home with some broken windows and a few missing shingles on the roof, while next door the neighbors home was wiped off the foundation and left in a heap across the street. Building construction varies and storms can be fickle. Sometimes it’s just a question of who has the good or bad luck.

Knowledge Comes First

You can collect every tool that Home Depot stocks and they’ll be worthless if you don’t have the knowledge and skills to use them. There are a few approaches and we’ll cover some of them in depth.

1. Books

There are books about how to fix everything. They’re worth reading before disaster strikes, but even if you don’t have the chance they’ll be an invaluable resource that you can reference while you rebuild. Here are some major ones to consider:

2. Videos

There’s also no shortage of videos about how to do most anything. YouTube is a good source and you can buy video libraries for various trade skills. Here are links to some of the key videos:

3. Classes

Community Colleges and even Home Centers like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards offer classes about trade skills. Most are fairly basic but it gives you an opportunity to ask an expert any question related to the subject. They don’t cost much and some at home centers are free. If there’s a construction or trade skill that is a mystery to you, it might be worth taking a little time to learn more about it.

4. Your Community

Major rebuilding projects are difficult to do alone. We mentioned the importance of having family and friends and maybe neighbors help with your project. The real value goes beyond an extra set of hands to the knowledge and trade skills they may possess.

How many of us have a brother who’s a plumber or a carpenter; an uncle who’s an electrician, a father-in-law who was a roofer, or a neighbor who was a mason? If you have people around you who can help with a highly experienced skill you’re in better shape. They may also have their own tools but it’s unlikely they’ll have supplies to offer you.

Take the time to think about who you know with trade skills that you can possibly ask or recruit for help.  Family and friends are usually quick to offer assistance, and if you’ve been a good neighbor you may find a neighbor’s help is easy to request.

In fact, if do have a relative who has a trade skill it might be worth offering to help them with any projects they’re working on at their own homes right now. You’ll learn a lot and the best time to learn something is before you desperately need it.

What’s important is to think beyond the tool to the task. It makes sense to have a hammer in your tool kit but there are different types of hammers. You may need all of them and do you know what they are and what they do?

It makes sense to have a pry bar but here again, they come in different sizes and shapes. Think about what you or your group can realistically do and make sure you have the right tools to meet the tasks. 

How many tools and the types of tools you assemble depends a lot on how much your home is at risk and your budget. Harbor Freight is known for low prices for tools and finding old tools at flea markets, garage sales and resale shops is always a good idea.  A little rust won’t affect the operation of most tools and you could always restore them.

Another idea is to buy assembled tools kits.  Some are customized to certain tasks like carpentry and masonry while others are generalized. Here are all of the tools you should consider if you think you may be doing some major repairs after a disaster:

And don’t forget, rebuilding anything after a disaster is fundamentally a two-step process defined by demolition followed by construction.  You need to have tools that can do both.

Hammers

We mentioned before that there are various hammer configurations but these are the basics.

  • Claw Hammer – a traditional hammer used for general carpentry and construction.
  • Framing Hammer – The hammer head has a straight top and a sleeker design for driving nails into lumber.
  • Small Sledge Hammer – When more force is needed to drive anything and for demolition.
  • Large Sledge Hammer – Demolition and driving metal pins and stakes into the ground or busting up concrete or plaster walls.
  • Brick Hammer – For splitting and shaping bricks and general masonry.
  • Finish Hammer – For precision work, drywall and other pounding that requires a light touch.
  • Wooden Mallet – Used for driving chisels or on delicate surfaces.
  • Rubber Mallet – Used for pounding and driving delicate materials from tiles to window frames.
  • Nylon Faced Hammer – Usually two sided hammer head with a rubber head on one side and a nylon/plastic head on the other for driving metal, plastic and other easily damaged materials.

That’s a lot of hammers but if you’re doing a significant amount of rebuilding there’s a good chance you’ll use all of them.  You don’t need to buy the absolute best, just take a good look at it and think about how well it will hold up.

Saws

There’s a bit of a dilemma with saws related to whether they are electric powered or powered by hand.  It’s a good bet the electricity will be out after a disaster but a generator can help you deal with a power outage. The safe bet is to have both electric and hand saws. Here’s a list and remember, some of these saws are necessary from the demolition phase of any rebuilding project.

Electric Saws

  • Sawzall (reciprocating saw) – Indispensable for demolition and works extremely well for topping off posts, beams, and general cutting and sawing. Remember to have a variety of blades for replacement and varying materials.  Usually the blades are for wood or hacksaw blades for metal.
  • Circular Saw – The saw of choice for carpenters.  Just make sure you have circular saw blades for both cross-cutting and ripping along the length of a board. 
  • Jigsaw  – Allows precise and curved cuts for counters, cabinets or other precision cuts in drywall for electric outlets and other sawing that requires precision.  Remember to have blades for various types of materials from hacksaw blades for metal to blades for wood, plaster, ceramics, tile, and plastics.
  • Miter Saw – This is a tabletop saw used to cut precise angles and clean, 90-degree cuts.  Remember to have a variety of blades for wood in addition to diamond tipped blades for ceramics and stone and metal cutting blades for pipe and other metals. 
  • Table Saw – A table saw has a circular blade emerging up from the center of the table and is used for long, straight cuts on boards. It’s generally used for wood and is typically needed when boards have to constantly be cut to specific sizes. 
  • Cutoff Saw – This is a handheld saw with a small, horizontal circular blade.  Various attachments are available from traditional blades to other blades for cutting every type of material.
  • Concrete or Masonry Saw – These are handheld saws of varying sizes with diamond tipped, circular blades that can cut through concrete, brick and other stone materials. Another necessary saw for demolition or masonry work.
  • Tree Trimming Saws – This is essentially a small chain saw attached to a long pole that allows you to reach up into a tree or other hard to reach area to cut branches or hanging debris.
  • Chain Saw – This gets back to demolition.  A chain saw can make short work of large structural pieces, shattered wall frames and other debris that needs to be cut and hauled out during the demolition phase of a project. 

Chain saws are also the tool of choice for any trees that have come down on your property during the disaster. They’re available as gas powered, electric and rechargeable battery. Gas may be the best for initial demolition especially if the power is out.

Hand Saws

Some hand saws are used even when power saws are available.  Many are used in place of powered saws when the electricity is out.

  • Woodsaw – This is the traditional hand saw used by carpenters for general cutting of various types of wood.  They’re available with both crosscut and ripping blades so buy both.  There are also variations in the saw tooth size for wood ranging from larger timbers to general lumber.  It makes sense to have every variation on saw teeth because backsaws are the most used hand saw on most rebuilding projects. They’re the standard substitute for circular saws when power is out.
  • Hacksaw – The go-to tool for cutting metal.  Have plenty of extra blades because they can dull quickly and are difficult to re-sharpen.
  • Coping Saw – Another precision saw that works like a hand powered jigsaw.  Make sure you have a pack of replacement blades because the blades are thin and fragile.
  • Tenon Saw – this saw has a saw-toothed edge with a straight back for making precision cuts into wood for mortise and tenon joints and other precision fitting.
  • Bow Cut Saw – This is the go-to saw for cutting branches and small timber.
  • Keyhole Saw – Another precision saw that narrows to a sharp tip for cutting somewhat precise holes and openings in wood and drywall.
  • Wallboard Saw – Similar to a keyhole saw but stiffer and shorter to cut holes in drywall and plaster.
  • Veneer Saw – This saw has a flat blade that can cut across an even surface and it usually used to lop off the top of wooden pins and dowels used to join woodwork. 

Wrenches and Pliers

Hardware parts and pieces are common attachments in all manner of construction and all require a range of wrenches and plier types to either be loosened during demolition or tightened during construction. 

This is when size matters and that means “various” sizes.  From attaching large framing bolts to smaller attachments and fittings, wrenches are the only option for some construction and assembly tasks.

Wrenches

  • Adjustable Crescent Wrenches – As the name implies these are adjustable wrenches that can be used on a variety of bolts of varying sizes.
  • Socket Wrenches – Socket wrenches use a rotating socket to make fastening and loosening bolts easier.  They sockets come in a variety of sizes but you may want to buy a set in both Imperial and Metric sizes.
  • Combination Wrenches – These wrenches have both a box end and open end on each wrench.  Both are equally sized to a certain span and also come in both Imperial and Metric sizes.
  • Monkey Wrenches – A monkey wrench is typically used for plumbing but can also be used when extra force and torque is needed to loosen or tighten large bolts nd fittings.
  • Allen Wrenches – Allen wrenches have a 6-sided shape and are designed for tightening and loosening fittings held in place by Allen screws.  They’re commonly used in doors, windows, and plumbing fixtures. 
  • Basin Wrench – A basin wrench is a self tightening wrench typically used under sinks for plumbing but also work very effectively for bolts in tight or hard to reach places. 

Pliers

  • Slip Joint Pliers – These are the common pliers we typically thinking of when we hear the word “pliers.”  They can adjust with their slip joint of various sizes of bolts and attachments. 
  • Needle-Nose Pliers – Precision pliers that come to a sharp point for hard to reach parts and pieces.
  • Wire Cutters/Strippers – Commonly used in electrical work.
  • Channel Locks – Sometimes known as a pliers wrench, these are typically large and adjust to tighten and loosen a range of hardware, parts and pieces.
  • Vise Grips – Adjustable, locking wrenches in a variety of sizes and configurations that lock onto any hardware or surface they are attached to.
  • Linesman Pliers – These pliers combine a large plier head with wire cutters.
  • Fencing Pliers – Heavy duty wire cutters with a hammer head for pounding U-nails for fence repairs and maintenance.
  • Cutting Pliers – Heavy duty wire cutters that cut other materials.

Most well-equipped tool benches have all of these wrenches and pliers and they will make any project large or small much, much easier.

Screwdrivers

This is fairly easy to do because screwdrivers are often sold in large and complete sets that feature both flathead screwdrivers and Phillips head screwdrivers. However, many screws have shown up lately with odd shaped heads. 

An alternative to screwdrivers is a drill or hammer drill that allows you to use a variety of screw heads to handle the range of hardware screws that keep showing up. The screw heads are also sold in sets with a variety of drill heads. Buy the complete sets that have a range of sizes and types. You never know what you’re going to run into during demolition when it comes to screw head types.

Battery powered, rechargeable drills are the best choice because of their portability. And don’t forget to get a good selection of drill bits for wood, steel and stone. 

Screwdrivers

  • Flathead (or slotted) – The standard screwdriver for screws with a simple slot cut into the top.
  • Phillips Head – A crisscrossed shape screwdriver for use in Phillips head screws.
  • Pozidriv – A European variation on the Phillips head screwdriver that is less likely to slip in a Phillips head screw.
  • Torx Screwdriver – A Torx head screwdriver is shaped like a 6 pointed star. It’s common in some automobile but often is found in construction work for framing and finishing. 
  • Robertson Screwdriver – Also known as a square screwdriver the head is literally shaped like a square and it also comes in various sizes.  It’s common in fences, decks and exterior siding in addition to automotive and furniture making. Delivers high torque.
  • Hex Screwdriver – A Hex screwdriver has 6 sides in a hexagon shape and is often used to fasten bolts and custom fittings. Think of it as an Allen wrench with a handle.

It makes sense to have sets of each type of screwdriver although some of the more obscure screw heads will cost more than the standard slotted and Phillips heads. The most economical way have screwdrivers across a range of screw types is to buy a drill or impact drill and a complete set of screw heads. 

Pry Bars and Crow Bars

These are usually required for any demolition work. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes and because of the simplicity of their design are usually inexpensive. Here again, a range of sizes is good idea if you have any amount of extensive damage requiring demolition. 

  • Crow Bar – A traditional pry bar with a curved (gooseneck) end tipped with a claw to pull nails.
  • Point End Pry Bar – A narrow, rounded handle ending in a small curve used mostly for prying tight spaces around windows and door frames.
  • Claw End Pry Bar – Usually long (3 to 5-feet) with a flat, gentle curve ending in a claw. Often used for prying nails out of roofs and floor boards.
  • Flat End Pry Bar – A smaller, general use pry bar that’s usually flat and ending with a claw on one end and a curved, 90-degree flat end coming to a sharp edge. Used for general pry work in smaller areas.

We mentioned drills but there are other power tools that make rebuilding and construction easier. Some are a bit obscure and highly specialized for unique building and demolition challenges.

  • Drill – For drilling, screwing various attachments, cutting holes with hole-bit attachments and other general drilling work.
  • Hammer Drill – A hammer drill has a a hammering action imparted to the revolving bit.  Most often used for final driving of screws into wood and other materials.  Also used for drilling into stone or concrete with diamond tipped drill bits. 
  • Belt Sander – A sander that literally drives a belt of sandpaper for large scale sanding of surfaces.  Uses a range of sandpaper grits and used in both demolition and construction for large, hard to sand surfaces.
  • Pad Sander – A sander that works through vibration for finish work on exposed, wood and plaster surfaces.  Needed for sanding final spackling on drywall.
  • Oscillating Saw – A saw that emerges as a flat, thin blade that rapidly oscillates allowing the blade to work into and cut in tight gaps and spaces.  Used primarily for demolition.
  • Angle Grinder – This is a multi-purpose tool that has a horizontal axle allowing you to attach everything from saw blades to grinding wheels, polishing buffers, sandpaper, diamond tipped circular blades, and others.  The attachments range in diameter from 3 to 4-inches and is an excellent all-purpose tool for both demolition and construction.

PPE – Personal Protection Equipment

This is a critical set of equipment especially for demolition. You can never know what kind of materials you’ll be exposed to when demolishing a structure, especially if it’s an older building constructed before some of the newer and more intelligent construction codes. 

Some of the these are simple and obvious while others are a bit more obscure for particularly dangerous and hazardous materials. It’s a good idea to have all of this PPE equipment for both demolition and construction. 

Supplies

If there’s one thing people in disaster areas learn quickly it’s that supplies and materials for construction rapidly sell out at local lumberyards and home centers. That assumes that those locations weren’t also damaged as a result of events. 

The telegram is that there are certain supplies you should have stockpiled in reserve. This is especially important if you live in one of those areas subject to frequent storms or other events. Here are some ideas that just seem to make sense from a supply standpoint.

Hardware

The easiest way to stock up on hardware is to buy the kit assortments. They’ll have the most common hardware although you may need to make separate purchases for things like galvanized hardware. 

There are tools that don’t fall into broad categories that you will need for demolition and construction.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Small, Hydraulic Jack These are indispensable for prying apart fallen timbers, walls, concrete and other heavy materials after a collapse of a structure.
  • Various Levels – As you rebuild you’ll want to make sure walls, windows, doors and other construction is level and square.
  • Glass Cutters and Glazing Putty – Window repair will be an eventual task.
  • Baling Wire, Duct Tape and Other Tapes – Temporary repairs for fastening and holding things in place are a constant task when rebuilding.
  • Paint and Painting Supplies: Brushes, rollers, drop cloths, blue masking tape, Roller handles and extensions.
  • Garbage Bags, Shovels, Dust and Sweep Pans – Clean up is constant from demolition to rebuilding and finishing.
  • Shingle Flats that Match Your Roof – This isn’t about re-roofing your entire home but enough shingles to repair a few square yards.
  • A Couple of Rolls of Roofing Felt
  • Lanterns and Other Construction Grade Lighting Alternatives
  • First Aid Kit

And All of the Above are Just the Basics

Anyone who has done any significant construction or demolition work will recognize most the tools and supplies we’ve covered. There’s more.  How much you can assemble depends a lot on your motivation and your budget.

One thing to remember is to make it a mission to find tools and supplies for disaster preparedness.  Look for them at flea markets, resale shops and garage sales. Tell your neighbors, family and friends that you’ll take any old tool they ever consider throwing away. A little rust is easy to remove and most old tools work as well as new ones.

Hopefully you’ll have a bit of luck and use your tools for furniture building and everyday repairs. Then again, if you live in an area subject to disasters and/or don’t have any home insurance—luck can be a capricious mistress.

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