Thursday, March 27, 2014

Power Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

Unless they have servants who do the work for them, every homeowner (and many renters) needs to be be prepared for routine home maintenance and repairs. That includes you women, by the way. Here are what this longtime DIYer finds to be essential power tools to make those jobs go easier.

Start With a Cordless Drill-Driver

A good cordless drill belongs in every home toobox, which is why it's often the first power tool people buy. When choosing a cordless drill, look for one that's well-balanced and powerful enough for ordinary tasks, while still light enough that you can carry it around without wearing out your arm.

They call these drill-drivers because they both drill holes and drive screws. A keyless chuck on most cordless models lets you switch from a drill bit to a screwdriver bit in seconds. A drill is useless without bits, so when you buy that drill you should also pick up a set of the most common twist-drill sizes. Get one that has screwdriver bits included, and also the little teeny sockets called nut drivers. For bigger holes, you'll probably need an assortment of spade bits.

If your cordless drill doesn't come with two batteries, shop around and pick up a second battery so you don't have to wait for your battery to recharge in the middle of a job.

By the way, There's Nothing Wrong with a Corded Drill

A drill with a cord costs less than a cordless one, and you never have to replace a battery. They aren't as convenient and you have to drag around an extension cord; but for only occasional use a corded drill is always a practical alternative.

A Jig Saw for Quick Cuts

A jig saw, whether corded or cordless, can be used to make both straight and curved cuts in plywood, solid wood, plastic, hardboard and many other materials. Cordless models are probably overkill for the average homeowner: a good-quality corded model will do the trick for most work. Be certain to pick up blades to go with your new saw, and get the right kind - there are different-shaped mounts.

More Power: A Circular Saw

Jig saws are usually overwhelmed if you use them to make long cuts or try to saw thick pieces like 2x4s. The solution is a circular saw. Like almost every other kind of tool, they're available as either corded or cordless models. Be certain to get blades to go with a new one, including a fine-toothed blade designed for cutting plywood and plastics. Watch the blade size, by the way - most consumer saws take 7-1/4 inch blades, but many cordless saws take smaller sizes.

Now, Make it Smooth

For almost any job you'll need to add finish, and that means the surface needs to be smooth. For this, pick up a sander for cleaning up after sawing or drilling. There are lots of sizes and varieties, but most beginning jobs probably don't need anything more complex than a quarter-sheet palm sander. Pick up an assortment of sandpaper sheets when you get the tool. There are many kinds, but the packaging will tell you whether the sandpaper is designed for wood or metal.

Other Must-Haves

Don't even think about picking up power tools unless you're wearing safety glasses. You should also be wearing hearing protection when using these loud tools, whether it's cheap disposable earplugs or a set of over-the-ear muffs.

Last and certainly not least, the right extension cord is a must-have for corded tools. The crummy one you bought at the grocery won't cut it: you need a grounded (three-prong plug) cord long enough to safely reach from an outlet to your worksite. Get a heavy-duty cord, too: 14-gauge or, better yet, 12-gauge. A light-weight cord (16-gauge or even 18-gauge) can overheat when you're using it and may not be able to carry enough current to run your tools. That could damage a tool, wasting your money.

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