Guide to Hand and Power Tools for Your Home

Hand tools and safety equipment all homeowners need include:

  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Earplugs or muffs
  • Dust mask or respirator
  • Hammer
  • Handsaw
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Level
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Drill and bits

Common power tools for homeowners include:

  • Cordless drill/driver
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw (sabre saw)
  • Finishing sander
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Miter saw
  • Oscillating tool
  • Pressure washer

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we are looking at cool tools and cleaning up the confusion about which one to use for which job. Don’t go anywhere, because if you do, you might be making extra work for yourself.

Home improvement projects can prove to be very frustrating, if you don’t have the right tools. And there are so many different tools out there that can help you make your project go a little bit easier.

Now, this week we’re going to look at all kinds of tools. And whether you’re a pro, or a do-it-yourselfer, we got some great tools to show you. We are going to start out with the basics.

My oldest daughter Chelsea bought her first house about a year ago and quickly discovered the value of a good set of tools. She’s got a pretty good perspective on what a novice DIYer needs in their tool box or tool cabinet, as the case may be.

Chelsea Lipford: Definitely a drill is the first thing I picked up. And it was a, well, I got a hand-me-down from Dad. I bought a few new batteries for it. And then after I used it for a couple of weeks, I realized I needed some different kind of bits, besides just the little screw driver tips. So, I went and got a bit kit. So, I can hang all different kinds of things.

I’d be lost if I didn’t have a tape measure. And then, these, I don’t know I just use these for different household things. But, I have the utility knife for when I was renovating, cutting out old caulk. And stuff like that.

And then a level. Before I bought this, I just used… When I first started with my house, I had an app on my iPhone that I used to make sure things were level. And one day, I was using it to hang a shelf and it fell on to the floor and cracked the screen. And then so I decided to get the level.

Danny Lipford: Now, Chelsea mentioned how much she loves her cordless drill. So, it begs the question about what drill to use for what job? Apparently, Allen saw an opportunity for some comic relief.

Allen Lyle: I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.

Danny Lipford: So he volunteered to provide the answer with some help from one of his friends, Kendra Bennett, an avid DIYer.

Allen Lyle: What have we got here? A cordless?

Kendra Bennett: Cordless.

Allen Lyle: Rechargeable. Probably what? Three volts? That’s probably a little bit more than that. For this though, you don’t have a lot of power.

Kendra Bennett: No.

Allen Lyle: What I do like though is at least you have a light. I mean, this is very good for, like, tight spots. If you got something under cabinet you’re trying to take care of.

Kendra Bennett: I can see using this for taking the screws out of wall sockets, or the… Or handles off of a cabinet door. That’s true.

Allen Lyle: Now, you use this a lot though.

Kendra Bennett: Yes.

Allen Lyle: Why?

Kendra Bennett: Well, it’s good for putting furniture together. If, you know, you’ve bought some pre-fab cabinets and you’ve got to put them together, everything’s going to go together much faster with that.

Allen Lyle: That was a cordless, that’s battery powered. This is a corded hammer drill.

Kendra Bennett: Mmm-hmm.

Allen Lyle: I love these, Kendra, because of the fact that this is great for if you’re putting stuff into concrete.

Kendra Bennett: Exactly.

Allen Lyle: Get a masonry bit on this thing. You’re not just drilling into it. Think about if you’re drilling and someone at the same time has got a hammer hitting on the back of this to really force that down there. So that works really well. Now, this impact driver has a lot more torque.

Kendra Bennett: Absolutely.

Allen Lyle: In addition to hammering down on it at the same time, think about somebody has also put a clamp on the drill bit and is spinning it at the same time. So you have got that more torque out of this little thing…

Kendra Bennett: Right.

Allen Lyle: …than you do with that big monster there. Which means you have more time…

Kendra Bennett: Absolutely.

Allen Lyle: …to make your movies.

Danny Lipford: If there’s a tool that every homeowner needs, it’s the hammer. And nobody is more opinionated about hammers than a professional carpenter.

Joe Denson: If you are looking for a hammer, and you’re not a professional builder, probably the most common hammer for you would be a 16-ounce claw handled hammer. It’s very good, it’s light. You can work with it, it’s not hard.

I think a lot of people would have trouble picking a hammer like this up initially and hanging a picture with it. This hammer has the solid steel construction on it which I really like that, you don’t have to worry about breaking it off. It’s got a long length. It’s 16 inches from top to bottom. Smooth faced, 22-ounce, which is an easy swing. It won’t wear you out throughout the day. Straight claws, it’s just a really universal hammer for me.

Hammers do wear out believe it or not. I know most people have them all their lives. But you’ll get to where you just slide off the head of a nail with this. And one really good trick is that you just take that, lay it on a piece of concrete and rub it back and forth. And you will—it’s just like sanding that thing, but it will texture it up enough to catch the nail.

Danny Lipford: Well, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t stress how important it is to use all the tools we are showing you this week very safely. And that starts with protecting your hearing, your eyes, as well as your lungs. And this is very inexpensive. These three items, only about $20. And they will last you a long time if you’ll keep up with them.

Now, while I’m picking up a few other things while I’m here, why don’t you check out this week’s Simple Solution?

Joe Truini: If you’re one of the many homeowners who are now using air powered, pneumatic tools around the home and yard, you may have discovered you now have a storage problem. You have the compressor, air hose, tools, fasteners. Where do you store them all?

Well, first, I recommend keeping them all in one place. For storing the hose—the air hose itself—go out and get yourself a plastic hose reel. This is designed for holding a garden hose, but it works great in the shop as well.

On the back is a keyhole slot, so I started one screw. I’m going to slip a wood shim on there, and I’ll explain why in a minute. Then simply put on, the screw, put the screw through the hole, and tighten it up. OK, straighten it out a little bit. Then put one more screw in the top, just to keep it from spinning around. There we go. Nice and secure, just two screws.

Now you have a place to store the hose. Readily accessible whenever you need it. And for the tools themselves, you can store in the shelf.

But because this is designed to be stored outside, this shelf is pitched down, so water runs off. That’s not a problem indoors, right? So that little shim tips it back so your accessories and tools can stay in there without sliding off.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re digging into the details of tools to answer some commonly asked questions. My good friend Tom Blizzard is one of those homeowners who always has a project going on, so he’s the right man to help out as we tackle which saw is the right saw?

Now, Tom, can you imagine back before electricity having to use the old handsaw to cut 2x6s, 2x4s to build an entire house? Those guys must have had quite impressive biceps.

Tom Blizzard: Those houses were all wood too. Every piece had to be cut.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I know. Man, I’m glad we got power these days. What do you think about the circular saws these days?

Tom Blizzard: They’re great. I have got on old one and new one. The new one’s got a laser light on it. And my old one weighs about a hundred pounds.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I know, those were… It’s sad. It’s a lot better. And they have it ergonomically a little bit better, so that you’re not so much fatigued. Have you tried the…

Tom Blizzard: You want to race?

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah, we’ll race. Now, what about the battery operated one? Have you tried the cordless?

Tom Blizzard: This thing, I use this all the time. If I’m under a house or in an attic, somewhere I don’t want to run a cord. Or if there’s no power there.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Tom Blizzard: These things are wonderful.

Danny Lipford: What about… I’m sure you’ve dealt with a miter saw before.

Tom Blizzard: I use it for everything. And probably use it more than I should.

Danny Lipford: Well, the molding, you know, it’s almost a necessity now. For molding…

Tom Blizzard: I’ve actually got a miter saw stand that stretches out about 15 feet.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. It works pretty good. Now, another thing over here, the jigsaw, have you had much use of that? I’m sure you have.

Tom Blizzard: This was the only saw I was allowed to use as a child.

Danny Lipford: Give it a try and see what you think about that one.

Tom Blizzard: This is real similar to when I had to cut the sink in. It’s not very good for big cuts like you’re doing. The blade flexes a lot.

Danny Lipford: There you go. Pretty good. Now something else. Reciprocating saw. Any time you do remodeling, you’re going to use that for demolition. But have you ever seen one quite like this? Check that out, pretty aggressive-looking.

Tom Blizzard: Yes.

Danny Lipford: And then, let me grab one of these blades to show you this. All right, you can, with just this flip right here, you can put this in, like that, you’re ready to go. Or you flip it. Flip it around.

Tom Blizzard: Oh, wow!

Danny Lipford: And you’re ready to go. But wait, there’s more. Watch this. Take that… And you can put it in sideways. So just imagine how handy that is when you’re doing a lot of demolition?

Tom Blizzard: I wish I’d had that about two weeks ago.

Danny Lipford: While carpenters use saws a lot, so do flooring installers. But these tools are a lot more specialized. Like the wet saw for cutting ceramic tile. But flooring pros also have to cut a lot of door jambs. So, what do they use?

Joe Denson: The kind of jamb saw we like to use is an electric one. It has a round blade, allows us to do a lot of door jambs at once. We can cut six or eight door jambs in just a matter of minutes. Whereas, if we had a manual jamb saw like this it would take us, you know, a couple of hours to cut all the door jambs that we need to cut.

Danny Lipford: Homeowners can rent the kind of jamb saw Joe is using. But, as you can see, it’s a pretty aggressive tool, and it requires some precise adjustment to cut the jamb at the right height. However, the oscillating saw is a lot less intimidating option. Because you can use a piece of wood flooring as your guide just like you do with a manual jamb saw.

Now, painting is another chore that lots of homeowners take on. But when the pros do it, they depend on their skill rather than gadgets to make time.

Allen, you know, I kind of love it when the manufacturers like Hyde come up with an idea here that’s used on the professional paint jobs and they adapted to the homeowners. Pretty cool. You have a little cigar roller for touch-ups. Does the same thing as a five-gallon bucket.

Allen Lyle: Well, that has got some other features too. Look at this flat spot right here. I mean it’s perfect for if you’re using a brush. Dip that brush in and that’s the excess right there. Plus, you got the huge spout on this side. To me, that makes a lot of sense.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. That’s worth it. Just that by itself. Now, what about a lot of the paint accessories and the painting tools like this? I know the guys from Wagner have been, you know, developing these things for a long time. And the paint rollers like this, with a little vacuum sleeve inside, to hold the paint. This one… I know you’ve seen the manual ones.

Allen Lyle: Oh, I have one of the manual ones. I was amazed. And it’s not that it makes you paint better. But you can paint faster. There is less trips back and forth to the bucket.

Danny Lipford: And hopefully a lot less mess.

Allen Lyle: Oh, yes.

Danny Lipford: But this one, with having the battery pack in it and you’re able to move the cylinder back and forth. And that just makes a lot of sense. Nice and smooth delivery of the paint and so forth.

Allen Lyle: And of course, when it’s time to fill it up again, you’ve got the lid. Pops over a conventional can.

Danny Lipford: And that just hooks right over it.

Allen Lyle: Right on top of it.

Danny Lipford: Just like that to pull it right into the cylinder.

Allen Lyle: This is, again, it’s a cut-in, but it’s a roller. So, you’ve got the same texture, that’s against the trim as you roll. And then of course, just pop this off, pop this one on to fill it up. Like that.

Danny Lipford: That’s pretty cool. And that will do a lot of painting there, if you have that much trim paint, you know, or that much wall paint, where you’re going around. Because, you know, a lot of times that’s the big challenge for homeowners. Not only making sure that that texture blends and the color blends, the thickness of the paint, but also cutting that thin line around all of that trim.

Jodi Marks: You know, I like big things in little packages, especially when I’m over here in the power tools section. And DeWalt’s got one for you that I want to highlight. This is their new impact driver. And I like this for a couple of reasons.

First of all, this is their first cordless, brushless motor. Now all of that less, actually equals more for you, because having a brushless motor means you’re going to get more run time on your battery. And it does run on a 20-volt lithium-ion battery.

Another feature that I like is—look at this—when I press the trigger, three LED lights come on as opposed to, say, just one, so it illuminates your work surface better. Another feature that I like is if I need to change my bit, I just simply push it right in there and it locks into place. And to release it, I just press this little button right here and it comes right out.

It’s pretty lightweight—it weighs just over three pounds. Another thing I like about it is it’s got a little clip here so that I can hook it on to my blue jeans or my tool belt. The kit comes with two rechargeable batteries and a charger.

So all of that, I think, it’s a pretty darn good tool.

Danny Lipford: We’re unraveling the mystery of what tool to use for what job this week. And we’ve covered lots of stuff you can use to improve your home from the inside. Now, it’s time to head outside and take on some outdoor chores. First up, the pressure washer.

Allen Lyle: Let me tell you, this is a tool that I think any home can use. What’s important is, let’s talk, first of all safety. Never operate this without safety glasses. Always have those on. Never point the water at a person. Or even at yourself. I’ve seen people try to rinse their feet off and actually cut themselves. Finally, make sure you are familiar with how the machine works.

Most come with different nozzles. I like to look at this like a traffic signal. Red light, yellow light, green light. These are in degrees. You can see right on the front here. You got zero degrees. 15 degrees, 25 degrees. That refers to the degree of fan of the water that comes out of the nozzle. Zero degrees, red. Stop. This is something I don’t recommend using unless you’re talking about taking off some very caked on dirt, grease, gunk on metal. Fifteen degrees, that’s great for stripping things off, like paint or rust. In extreme cases, if you got very heavy mildew, a 15 would work on that. In most cases, 25 is great.

The next thing is to know how to actually clean something. Don’t ever start right on top of a fence or a deck or any kind of wood siding. Because you can damage it. This actually can tear the grain off of your wood. Always start about four feet back. And then move forward little by little until you’re getting that clean the way you like it.

Finally, slow and steady wins the race. You don’t want to rush with this. This cleans deep, it cleans well. It’s not meant to clean rapid fast.

Danny Lipford: Since we’re dealing with fences, let’s talk about one of the most dreaded chores associated with building one. Digging post holes. Austin, looks like you got the tough part of this whole fence-building project.

Austin McNeil: Yeah, my dad told me to dig around 20 of them about three feet deep.

Danny Lipford: All right, well, that’s a good bit of work. At least you’ve got the ergonomically correct design here going for you with these post hole diggers. You can dig those a little deeper, little wider. That’s just what you want. Dig a little deeper, huh?

Austin McNeil: Uh-huh. That’s what it is.

Danny Lipford: Well, see we could dig ’em deeper. Longer posts make for a stronger fence. What do you think?

Austin McNeil: Let’s do it.

Danny Lipford: All right, look, have you ever dug any post holes like this before?

Austin McNeil: I haven’t. This is my first time.

Danny Lipford: Well, you want to do it for a living?

Austin McNeil: I think I better stay in school.

Danny Lipford: Well, I’ll tell you what. I bought something by that’ll make this whole project go a lot easier. Help me unload it. I think you’re going to like this. It’s actually a one person auger. I’ll get you to grab the auger bit. And I picked it up at the rental center.

Austin McNeil: Well, this just looks like a big drill bit.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, exactly. Exactly what it is. And this is the drill motor. So, and all you have to do is line that up. Just put that right in there. Okay. All right, I think I got it lined up now. Let’s see.

Austin McNeil: There we go.

Danny Lipford: All right, now turn it around. And I’ll put this cleat back in. And we’re ready to try it out. Hey, we won’t tell your daddy about this. We’ll… You know, we’ll… He’ll think you’re just tearing it up out here.

Austin McNeil: Yes, sir.

Danny Lipford: All right? Why don’t you grab that side? There you go. We’ll do it just like that. You good? All right. All right, let’s see if we can get this thing going. Just set it right down where we want that first hole, there. All right. Let’s see. All right.

So, you just get balanced. Make sure you’re not bending over. Use your legs. Just like a motorcycle. You don’t have to go fast. And don’t let it twist you or anything. There you go. Just take your time. Stand up a little closer to it. There you go. Okay, just keep it straight, up and down. Keep going. It’s hitting a rock. Can you tell it’s hitting a rock?

Austin McNeil: It’s hitting a rock?

Danny Lipford: Yeah, but I think it’s okay. Go ahead. I think you got it. It’ll go about three feet down.

Austin McNeil: Keep going?

Danny Lipford: Might want to pull up on it just a little bit while you got it going. Pull up just a little bit. And now, back down. Okay, now all the way up. Take it up. Watch your foot. There.

Austin McNeil: Well, that was much easier.

Danny Lipford: So, we’ll go to this next one right here. I’ll help you carry it over there. Twenty posts, no problem.

Danny Lipford: Marla Asks, “How will I know when it’s time to replace my asphalt shingle roof?”

Depending on the type of asphalt shingle you have, you can expect to get anywhere from 15 to 30 years life expectancy from that roof. And there’s a few tell-tale signs that’ll let you know if you’re getting close to needing to budget a little money to save for that sizable investment of replacing your roof.

First of all, look for any cracks or any curling. That’s one of the tell-tale signs. But also, you can do a simple little test with a flat bar. Just let your flat bar lift right up underneath one of the tabs of the shingles. Then, very carefully, raise it up.

And if it creases or cracks in any way, it’s time for a new roof. But if it remains pliable and lays back down like this, that means you have a few more years before you have to start saving your money.

There’s more Today’s Homeowner coming right up. But here’s a look at what’s happening next week. We’re helping you to tackle your to-do list as we explore some weekend chores you can’t ignore. Right. I had no idea.

Danny Lipford: This week, we’ve dug into a bunch of tools that can make the projects around your home go quicker and turn out better.

Chelsea Lipford: Definitely a drill is the first thing that I picked up. Well, I got a hand-me-down from Dad.

Danny Lipford: Now, you may simply want to rent some of these for the duration of your project, but I know some of you are already itching to add another weapon to your arsenal of tools. You know, when you’re strolling down the tool aisle, you realize how many different options you have when you’re ready to buy that next tool.

Well, here’s an idea. Find a neighbor that has that very tool, and borrow it for a little while, and see if it does exactly what you think it should do before you make that big purchase. But, hey, be a good neighbor and return the tool.

Now, if you find a tool that you really like, works well for you, go to our Facebook page and let us know all about it.

I’m Danny Lipford. Thanks for being with us here on Today’s Homeowner.

Allen Lyle: Got a fish, Kendra. Going to get one… Want to know what kind it is?

Kendra Bennett: Will that do much?

Allen Lyle: It’s a sawfish. No drillfish out there.


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