A homeowner caulking around window gaps in the drywall.

DIY projects can be an enjoyable and budget-friendly way to make upgrades around your home. However, these projects can quickly turn into headaches without the right tools.

Fortunately, we’ve created a list of some of the best affordable tools to make your DIY projects more accessible. The below suggestions do have some affiliate links in them in order to support the blog so we can write up some more content!

The Best Cost-Effective Tools for DIY Projects

Here is a list of the top 14 handy, affordable tools for DIY efficiency projects, including:

  1. Caulk for air sealing
  2. Can spray foam insulation
  3. Electric outlet gasket
  4. Weatherstrip adhesive
  5. Ductwork insulation
  6. A caulk gun
  7. Quick setting cyanoacrylate glue
  8. Cellulose
  9. A comfortable dust mask
  10. Fiberglass insulation
  11. Mastin sealant
  12. Safety glasses
  13. Backer rods
  14. Housewrap tape

The rest of this article will tell you everything you need to know about these tools to level up your DIY projects in an affordable way. So let’s discuss them in greater detail.

1. Caulk for Air Sealing

Air sealing your home with caulk is one of the most affordable and effective ways to upgrade insulation without invasive, costly, or complicated procedures.

This application can decrease the number of air leaks in your home and improve its ability to maintain steady temperatures as the seasons change. Additionally, it helps keep water runoff and bugs at bay.

The best caulk types for air sealing include latex, expandable foam, and butyl rubber.

Latex Caulk

Latex caulk is one of the most common caulk selections for household DIY projects.

We recommend DAP Alex Painter’s Acrylic Latex Caulk because it dries fast and lasts long. This product fully dries within two hours and can stay intact for 10-15 years. You can use it to fill gaps between doors, drywall, and windows.

Silicone Caulk

Silicone is a bit more flexible and good for areas around windows, doors, the bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere that needs a bit more protection.

The most popular silicone caulk you can get is the Gorilla 100% Silicone Caulk Sealant. It’s also paintable within 30 minutes of drying.

Butyl Rubber

Caulk doesn’t have to be an exclusively indoor material. Certain types of caulk are great for exterior settings too.

For example, butyl rubber caulk is an excellent choice for your outdoor sealing projects. You can use it to seal up metal, mortar, aluminum, concrete, rubber, and other outdoor materials.

There is hardly a better choice for butyl rubber caulk than the Flex Shot Rubber Adhesive Sealant Caulk. This product will help you cover small holes that cause air leaks in your home.

2. Can Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is handy for sealing walls, ceiling cavities, and floors. You can use this spray foam in almost every section of your house, and it never loses its shape.

What sets spray foam apart from the caulk products we discussed earlier is its superior ability to maintain a consistent temperature in your home, which helps lower energy bills.

It does this by preventing air leakage. As a result, your air conditioner and furnace will be more effective and have to run for less time, thus reducing your monthly energy bills.

Closeup on a can of Spray Foam Insulation being applied to a door seam during a DIY project

Additionally, spray foam insulation can help reduce condensation levels in your home. Condensation happens when the outside temperature comes into contact with the air inside your home, and poor insulation is the most common culprit because it can cause air leakage.

Luckily, spray foam insulation is an easy solution.

We recommend Loctite TITE Foam to remedy condensation and air leaks. This spray foam helps prevent leakage from both inside and outdoor air.

3. Electrical Outlet Gasket

Buying and installing an electrical outlet gasket is an affordable and accessible home improvement that can save you energy.

Sometimes, you may feel cold air coming from your switch plates and outlet sockets on a windy day. Things might be worse during the winter. However, this can be easily fixed by installing electrical outlet gaskets.

We recommend Duck Socket Sealers because they help insulate all the wall cavities behind switch plates and outlets, creating a barrier that prevents outside air from getting inside.

When making your purchase, it’s crucial to ensure you buy a gasket that matches your outlet design.

4. Weatherstrip Adhesive

Weatherstrip adhesive is another air sealing tool that makes it easy to make simple yet effective home improvements.

It gives you a waterproof seal that resists vibration, heat, detergents, temperature changes, and oils.

This adhesive can permanently bond various surfaces, including metal, vinyl, rubber, and fabric. It works best for sunroofs, trunks, car doors, and more.

Weatherstrip adhesive cures quickly and is easy to use, even for beginners. All you have to do is squeeze it directly from the tube to the surface. Then, use a small brush to spread it on each section and allow the adhesive to cure for about 24 hours.

We recommend the 3M Black Super Weatherstrip Adhesive because it’s the most economical and efective option. For long-lasting results, use it alongside this 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner.

5. Ductwork Insulation

Ductwork is simply a system of pipes and ducts circulating cooled or heated air throughout your house. Installing duct insulation poses many benefits, including lowered energy consumption, reduced utility bills, and creating a more comfortable home.

An end view of a piece air duct that uses fiberglass air duct insulation

Insulation is a great way to prevent air leakage inside your home’s ductwork system. A good ductwork insulation level not only prevents energy wastage and leaks but also minimizes condensation buildup and temperature drops.

These insulation materials come with different R-values. HVAC experts recommend that you go for the one with an R-value of at least five. Even so, eight is the most preferable and the highest R-value.

When buying, go for the duct wrap, like Reflectix. It is the newest and most effective ductwork insulation available. Fiberglass also does well, though it has a few concerns with moisture absorption.

6. A Caulk Gun

You will need a caulk gun if you are handling caulk or other adhesives. This device will help you regulate the sealant amount you release at a time and ensure that you place the adhesive exactly where it is supposed to be.

There are different caulk gun types. They differ in design, size, and functionality. The most common are sausage guns, battery-powered guns, pneumatic-powered guns, and two canister trays guns.

A homeowner caulking around window gaps in the drywall.

7. Cellulose

Cellulose is another must-try home insulation tool. This material mainly comes from recycled newspapers, and can be used in both old and new homes.

It’s a great weekend DIY project for most experienced homeowners. You can rent the machine required to blow cellulose insulation into an attic at a local home improvement store.

a yellow bag filled with grey broken up pieces of cellulose insulation

You may decide to go for dense-pack cellulose or wet-applied spray cellulose. The dense pack adds thermal insulation into wall cavities while acting as a soundproof material.

Wet-applied spray cellulose also has the same sound and thermal properties, though it is best suited for new houses before setting up the drywall.

The best part is that cellulose is very affordable and works better than most other insulation materials. However, the exact amount you will incur varies, depending on labor, size, and supply cost.

In addition, the boric acid and aluminum sulfate in cellulose create resistance to pests, mold, and fire.

We recommend US Greenfiber Cellulose because it’s inexpensive and made of recycled materials.

8. Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass is one of the most commonly used insulation materials. Most people prefer it for DIY projects because of its capability to reduce heat transfer. You can also find it in duct insulation and rigid boards.

This insulation comes in different types, including rolls, batts, and loose-fill. Its design enables it to slow the spread of cold, heat, and sound in structures. In addition, it traps air pockets, which helps maintain appropriate seasonal temperatures.

Fiberglass is generally inexpensive and best suited for standard joist and stud spacing, free from obstructions. 

9. Mastic Sealant

For durable bonds and connections, mastic adhesive has your back. You can use this sealant for DIY projects on nearly all surfaces, including glass, steel, timber, marble, and various boards.

It also serves as the best joint-sealer for doors and windows and stands out as one of the best thermal insulation coatings on pipes and ducts.

Mastic being applied to a leaky air duct

You can get duct sealant in either the foil tape form or you can paint it on.

10. Backer Rods

Backer rods are flexible foam pieces that serve as backings in cracks and joints to control the amount of caulk or sealant used. This DIY project tool comes in various types, sizes, and lengths for optimal fitting to the joint or crack size.

A Sika Backer Rod pictured next to its package on a tabletop
Courtesy of Sika

Here are some benefits of using backer rods:

  • Minimized caulk or sealant consumption by reducing sealant depth.
  • Boosted elasticity in the joint sealant.
  • Forcing the adhesive close to the joints’ sides for a superior bond.
  • Creating a bond-breaker, making it easy to clean the joints and refill them as required over time.

Backer rods come in three distinct types: closed-cell, open-cell, and bi-cellular. Each one has its features and specific uses.

Closed-cell backer rods are best for expansion joints, curtain wall joints, and partitions. Open-cell backer rods better serve window glazing, parking decks, contraction, and expansion joints. Finally, bi-cellular backer rods work well in irregular joint applications.

Their prices also vary, depending on the features. But the M-D Building Backer Rod is cost-effective and functional.

14. Housewrap Tape

Housewrap tape is a great way to seal all house wrap applications seams, including insulation and sheathing.

It helps create a barrier to prevent uncontrolled airflow and mold growth. It also protects the interior of your home, reducing heating and cooling costs. 

You apply housewrap tape by completely wrapping the entire building. The product needs to have high holding power to create a weather-resistant bond outside of a building.

We recommend Tuck Construction Sheathing Tape for DIY projects because it’s affordable and has stellar reviews.

Wrapping it Up (Pun Intended)

So that’s what we have for now! You can see it’s a lot of air sealing and insulation products that are relatively lower cost and a great bang for your buck. When doing energy efficiency, air sealing is usually the #1 thing you tackle, with insulation being #2, so this makes sense. We hope the list was helpful, and good luck with your efficiency project!

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