12 On-site Essentials for Selfbuilders

Shovel

Even if you don’t know the difference between a spade and a shovel and you don’t intend to tackle any of the physical work yourself, a good shovel will always come in handy. Most selfbuilders will use it at some stage to clear debris left behind by messy builders, or to move gravel or hardcore about. There are loads of different types, some with narrow blades for specific jobs, such as trench digging, others that are round-nosed for shovelling hardcore. There are even insulated shovels for working in areas where there is a danger of uncovering live underground cables. A well-made and designed shovel will serve you well for many years so it is worth buying a decent one.

Left: Long-handled round-pointed shovel from True Temper offers extra leverage to make life easier. It has a polyfibre handle and large footsteps for added comfort. RRP: £27.99. (www.screwfix.com)

Right: British-made Bulldog square mouth 28in - No.2 shovel with polyfibre D-handle and shaft. It is ideal for trench work, concrete mixing, tarmac and general shoveling and the shaft will not rust or rot. RRP: £24.95. (bulldoghandtools.co.uk)

Wheelbarrow

No site can function without at least one wheelbarrow. It is useful for transporting everything from deliveries to bricks and concrete, as well as a host of garden chores when the build is finished. Cheap barrows have a habit of rusting so buy a good-quality galvanised model or one with a plastic pan.

Right: Makita’s BL LXTwheelbarrow has a 175kg capacity, but wheeling it is easy, thanks to its 18V battery-powered motor. It has soft-start and two-speed control, a reverse gear, and a brake lever with locking mechanism. It is fitted with an LED joblight and three-stage adjustable handle which can be folded for compact storage. The rear wheels can be adjusted from 480mm to 760mm wide. A bucket frame or pipe frame is also available, sold separately. RRP: £629.95 - body only. (makitauk.com)

Below: Wheelbarrows don’t come much sturdier than The Invincible. The galvanised heavy-duty builder’s barrow has a deep pan with a 175kg capacity and can be fitted with a choice of three wheel types – pneumatic, solid and puncture-proof. RRP: £128.95. (wheelbarrows.co.uk)

Sack truck

A sack truck is often easier to use than a wheelbarrow for unloading compact heavy items such as bags of cement and ballast. Bristol Tool Company’s mini compact folding sack truck is even more versatile, since it folds up to be stored away when not in use and can be transported to a job in the boot of a car, thanks to its telescopic handle and folding toe plate. Despite its light weight – just 3.5kg – it can cope with loads of up to 60kg and the extendable handles can be adjusted to suit the user’s height. RRP: £99.95. (sacktrucksdirect.co.uk)

Vacuum

Dealing with mess on a daily basis is one of the biggest issues for selfbuilders living on site. If this applies to you, the Makita DCL180 18V portable vacuum could soon become your best friend. The handy tool packs a powerful punch and runs off the same battery as your Makita drill, so it is relatively cheap at around £50. The lithium-ion battery takes just 22 minutes to charge so you can use it little and often. (makitauk.com)


Designed for heavy-duty cleaning jobs, the Vonhaus multi-use wet-and-dry vacuum easily tackles vast amounts of dirt, dust, debris, sand, sawdust, wood chippings, metal shavings, liquid spills, blockages and anything else a building site can throw at it.

The 45-litre tank means large spillages are cleared with ease without needing to empty frequently, making it particularly good for cleaning up after flooding.

It comes with interchangeable HEPA and sponge filters for targeted wet and dry cleaning, and has three-in-one functionality. The blowing function can disperse debris or heap it up for easy collection. RRP: £82.99. (vonhaus.com)

Hi-viz wear

High-visibility wear is essential for busy construction sites to guarantee you can be seen. And just to prove that you can also look stylish, this Portwest ladies jacket has a contemporary silhouette and angled reflective tape to ensure an attractive, flattering fit. It is made from breathable durable Oxford fabric and comes with a detachable hood and secure zipped pockets. If a hi-viz jacket is not for you, reflective armbands may be a sensible compromise. (totalworkwear.co.uk)

Yard broom

A good-quality all-round stiff yard brush will come in handy for clearing up each day.
This 13in stiff hard-wearing brush has bass/cane bristles and is fitted with a metal bracket for extra support, making it ideal for heavy-duty work. RRP: £12.99. (thedustpanandbrushstore.co.uk)

Work boots

These safety boots (top) may not be the most robust for soggy UK conditions, but the Australian-made Redback Cobar footwear is certainly one of the comfiest. The black boots are a lace-up side-zip boot, made with 100 per cent full grain uppers which are chosen for their strength and durability. Light as a feather and tough as nails, Redbacks are designed for those who want to be comfortable standing on their feet all day. And there is no need to untie your laces every time you take them off, with the fast-release side zip. Other features include extra toe protection and a scuffcap to help them last longer. Priced at £144.95.

Redback also does lighter, more casual, safety boots (below) for around £110. (redbackboots.co.uk)

Hard hat

Good head protection is vital on site. In the UK, 3% of builders suffer a work-related injury, of which 11% are from being struck by an object. As with ear defenders, hard hats vary widely in price, from a couple of quid to several hundred. Few selfbuilders will want to fork out a lot if they only need to wear one occasionally, but the Uvex Pheos IES is a good all-rounder at around £20. The helmet has an adapter system for attaching ear muffs or a safety helmet lamp. Clever design also protects eyewear from objects falling on the helmet. (safetyshop.co.uk)

While not offering the same protection as a hard hat, this bump cap (right), with a polyethylene shell, is designed to protect the wearer from nasty bumps and abrasions from the likes of shelves and furniture while working inside. This denim example has air holes on both sides for ventilation while a sweatband offers relief on hot days. RRP: £5.98. (toolstation.com)

Ear defenders 

Construction sites are noisy as well as messy, so ear protection is paramount. Ear defenders can be picked up from builder’s merchants for a just few quid, but it is worth spending a little extra to protect your hearing. The ear defenders (top) are priced at £2.98 and come with an adjustable headband for all day comfort and fold up for easy storage. The 3M Peltor Optime III Ear Defenders (below) are made to a higher spec, as you would expect at a price of £26.99, and are designed for those who spend a lot of time on site. (toolstation.com)


Safety glasses

Many hard hats are designed to accommodate ear defenders and safety glasses for obvious reasons. Eyes, like our ears, need protection, especially when tools such as angle grinders, drills, jackhammers and saws are in use. Sparks and flying debris can cause permanent damage to our sight. For the sake of a few pounds it is better to be safe than sorry. (toolstation.com)

Work gloves

Heavy-duty construction gloves generally fit into one of two categories: the ubiquitous disposable type available in multiple packs, or long-lasting luxury mitts with a price to match. Priced at £39.90, these Mechanix M-Pact 3 gloves (right) fall into the latter category. Made from thermal plastic rubber, with knuckle and finger guards to protect against impact, they have a dual-layer internal fingertip reinforcement to provide added durability, while giving surprising dexterity. (ukmcpro.co.uk)


If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, these builders’ work safety gloves from the Safety Supply Company will protect your hands, if not in quite the same way. But priced at under a pound a pair, who’s complaining? And they will probably last longer than you imagined. These gloves, and more, from £0.48 per pair from thesafetysupplycompany.co.uk

Tape measure

The old saying ‘measure twice, cut once’ is never truer than in construction. And even if you intend to stay well clear of DIY, it is an essential tool for measuring up rooms to check against plans, or for buying furniture. Sure, there are various apps and laser measures these days, but nothing can beat a good old-fashioned tape. Stanley’s Fatmax range are good quality and will last long after the project is finished. It is probably worth investing in the 8m tape than the standard 3m and 5m sizes. RRP: £17.89. (screwfix.com)