How To Organize Tools in a Tool Chest? [10 Simple Tips]

It’s certainly great to be well-equipped for the job at hand. But when you are wasting half an hour looking for tools for your project, you’re clearly doing something wrong.

Tool organization is often a neglected procedure among homeowners but not for you because you landed in the right place!

Stop looking for the needle in the haystack and follow these 10 simple tips on how to organize tools in your tool chest.

You will be the envy of all your neighborhood friends when they see how organized your are. The only problem you might run into after this are constant requests to borrow your tools.

Before you get too far ahead of yourself though let’s get this tool organization party started…

How To Organize Tools In Your Tool Chest
How To Organize Tools in a Tool Chest? - Better Home DIY

1. Lay all your tools out

To begin your organization project, dump out everything you have. Power tools, manual tools, sockets (like these pass through socket sets). nails, screws, screwdriver tips – everything needs to be before you so that you can get started easier.

Then, you should go through all your tools one by one and assess them individually.

Make sure that your tools work, clean up dirty tools that you may need later, and put damaged or rarely used tools aside.

This process of going through your tools will take a lot of time, but it will make your sorting job a whole lot easier. It will also allow you to perform maintenance and determine which tools should stay and which tools should be thrown away or donated.

2. Get rid of anything unnecessary

Speaking of being thrown away, you should get rid of anything unnecessary.

If you have duplicate tools, tools that haven’t been used for quite some time, or tools that are frankly outdated, then donate them if they are still in good working order.

After all, fewer tools will take up less space, and you will also have less to go through as you are organizing your toolbox.

3. Categorize and sort your tools

The basis of toolbox organization is being able to sort your tools based on some criteria.

Below, we’ll talk about a few ways to organize your tools to give you some perspective on how you could do it. Of course you may have your own method so feel free to use ours as just a guideline.

Keep in mind that you may choose only one sorting method, or you may combine them depending on how many tools you have, what their purpose is, and whether or not you have recurring jobs.

Also, do not overcomplicate anything – ideally, you should have as few tool groups as possible.

Sorting by function

Sorting by function is probably the way most people will go. Essentially, you try to keep together tools that are used in a similar manner.

For example:

  • You may place all your screwdrivers in one drawer and wrenches in another. Furthermore, if you have a significant number of specific screwdriver or wrench types, e.g. Phillips screwdrivers or socket wrenches, you may dedicate separate drawers for each as well.
  • Tools used for cutting and sawing may all be placed in one drawer, while tools for securing fasteners such as screwdrivers or wrenches may be placed in another.
  • Bolts, screws, nuts, washers, and other fasteners may be kept in a single drawer as well. Again, if you have a significant number of some fastener type, then you may try to sort them out further, perhaps by socket size, head shape, or any other criteria that makes sense to you.

Sorting by project

If you have a few recurring projects, then it’s a great idea to separate tools by projects.

This way, you’ll keep tools intended for a project all in one place, which will allow you to avoid looking for all your tools in different drawers or toolboxes.

For some perspective:

  • If you often take wheels off vehicles, then you may dedicate a separate drawer to tools like socket wrenches, impact wrenches, wrench sockets, or grease guns.
  • If your ‘honey do…’ list often consists of hanging things, then you may dedicate a drawer to things like screwdrivers, screws, nails, anchors, laser level, hammer and other items.
  • For woodworking jobs, keep jigsaws, palm sanders, saws, jigsaw blades, nails, screws, and other tools together.

Sorting by frequency of use

Keeping popular tools close by is another great idea.

Why keep your wrench set somewhere in the depths of the tool chest if you need it on a daily basis? It would be much smarter to keep frequently used tools near the jobsite so that you can easily grab them when necessary.

Sorting out metric/standard tools

If you have metric & standard tools & accessories, then you should sort them out as well. It will be easier for you to look for wrench sockets or saw blades of specific size if you know where they are.

4. Upgrade your tool chest

Your tool chest should be able to provide each of your tool categories with sufficient space. If necessary, you should upgrade your tool chest.

For most people, a basic 3-drawer tool chests will probably suffice.

With that said, if you have so many tools that you’ve managed to pinpoint quite a few tool groups, then you may want to consider a multi-drawer tool chest or even more than one toolchest.

Since not everybody has the space or budget for a big tool chest or separate tool chests, you should try to minimize the number of tool groups.

You could expand your organization capability by making use of tool trays. For example, if you place 2 tool trays in your screw drawer, you will be able to separately store slotted and Phillips screws.

5. Organize everything by drawers

Once you have a tool chest, it’s time to organize everything by drawers.

Typically, lighter and more frequently used tools are placed in the top drawers, while heavier tools are kept in the lower chests closer to the ground.

This is the pattern that you should follow no matter how many drawers your tool chest has.

Below, we’ll talk about a tool layout that is commonly used in 3-drawer tool chests.

Top drawer

In the top drawer, you could store tiny instruments, sockets, screws, nails, and other small and frequently used items.

The main idea behind keeping often-used items in the top drawer is to provide you with easier access. During a job, you will probably have to reach for nails often, and with the nails stored in the top drawer, you won’t have to bend down every time you need them.

Aside from that, it’s easier to read socket sizes or tell screw head types apart when they are in the top drawer.

Middle drawer

Middle drawers may be used for tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, chisels, lighter hammers, saws, and other tools that you can take out at the beginning of the job.

Since you probably won’t have to access this drawer often throughout the project, such tools don’t need to be placed in the top drawer.

Many people use foam organizers in the middle drawer. You cut out the shapes of the tools in the foam and place each tool in its spot.

This provides your tools with dedicated storage spots, as well as allows you to identify tools that are missing from the drawer.

Bottom drawer

Finally, heavy and big tools such as impact wrenches, impact drivers, drills, and others should be placed in the bottommost drawer.

The bottom drawer tends to be bigger than others, which is part of the reason why you should place bigger and heavier tools in it.

Aside from that, by keeping all heavy tools in the bottom drawer, you’ll make the tool chest more stable and less prone to tipping, which is especially beneficial with wheeled tool chests.

Since heavier tools typically get greasy during the job, you may want to place some kind of a liner inside the drawer – for example, cardboard.

Even if your tools aren’t greasy, you should line the bottom of the drawer to prevent the heavy tools from damaging it.

6. Make use of organization trays

Don’t limit yourself to separating things by drawers – you may also divide every drawer into several sections for each of your tool subcategories.

If a drawer is dedicated to all kinds of screws, nails, or sockets, you may get organization trays for each to keep things more organized. If you have many screws of one type, you may go further and separate Phillips screws from slotted ones, for example.

Wrenches can be separated via dedicated wrench rails, and there are specialized organizer trays available for many other tools as well.

If you have the budget, consider buying trays for each of your tool categories.

You may also segment your drawers on your own by, say, mounting pegs in them to separate your tools. The middle-drawer foam liner we’ve talked about earlier is one of the options of a DIY tray.

7. Protect the bottom of the drawers

It’s a good idea to protect the bottom of your drawers, especially in the drawers that will store heavy equipment.

We’ve talked about drawer lining with the bottom drawer, but you may want to add a protective lining to other drawers as well, particularly the middle drawer.

Having a removable liner will also make your drawer easy to clean.

8. Label the chest’s drawers

After putting everything where it belongs, label your chest drawers. You may do so by attaching a masking tape with the tool names written on it to the drawer.

Alternatively, you could color-code the drawers to separate them.

If you are keeping separate tools or accessories in a single drawer – e.g. nails, screws, or wrench sockets – then make sure to include their names on the drawer label.

9. Put your tools back after use

All your efforts will be pointless if you aren’t able to maintain the tool organization you’ve worked so hard for.

After each job, make sure to place each tool where it belongs.

Don’t postpone replacing your tools till tomorrow – do it right after you are done. And if your tool chest is well-labeled, then you won’t have issues with putting things where they belong.

10. Consider a pegboard

Finally, you may want to make use of a pegboard as well. While a pegboard is not a part of a tool chest, it’s a great organizational tool that allows you to keep your most often used instruments right before you.

Aside from that, you could use your pegboard for duplicate tools that you didn’t want to throw out or tools that you weren’t able to categorize.

Wrapping It Up…

Hopefully now you feel confident about how to organize tools in a tool chest. I realize it isn’t exactly rocket science but when you pay attention to details like this you will be a much happier DIYer in the long run!

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