My parents taught me pretty much everything I know about DIY. They took their 1980s home from a pretty rough shell (smelly dog carpet, chewed windowsills, and squeaky floors anyone?) to a beautiful space, including a massive great room renovation. And they did most of it themselves. When they bought the house, the basement was unfinished. They framed, drywalled, painted…you get the point. They’re basically awesome. They have a wonderful saying though, “The right tool makes the job so much easier.”, and they are so right. Especially when it comes to power tools.
I’m from the kind of family where you get tools for Christmas and it’s really exciting. One year my Dad got a shop vac and was PUMPED. My grandpa loves getting tools, and between them, I think they have pretty much every tool that has ever existed, including power tools. If I ever needed to borrow something, they have it. But…I’m about 1,000 miles away from my parents so hopping over to borrow the circular saw isn’t really a thing. (Below is my Dad’s shop. Now you see where I get my knack for DIY from! Also, I’m so jealous of his tools and organization.) I’ve had to build my own little collection over the past 3 years that we’ve lived here, and I’m really proud of it. Without further ado…here are my 5 tips for choosing the right power tools.
Pick A Company (And Therefore a Battery)
If you’re going to invest in cordless power tools, you’re going to want to stick with a system. The batteries are expensive, guys, so try to avoid mixing companies up since their batteries usually aren’t compatible. If you’re falling in love with a system, double check that they have the range of tools that you want. I love my Ryobi system, since they have pretty much anything you could ever think of, and the batteries have been great for me so far. It helps that Ana White, queen of furniture building uses them, too. And Ashley and Whitney at Shanty2Chic. Plus…they’re pretty.
Buy The Right Tool For The Job
We laid 900+ square feet of flooring on the second floor of our house with just a miter saw and a jigsaw. We got it done, but it was not fun. The miter saw made quick work of whatever board needed cut, but jigsawing all of the boards that needed ripped was really time consuming. That means every board that was incomplete around the border of every room was hand cut by a jigsaw. I wouldn’t do it again. Something in my mind told me that a table saw was too much and too expensive for the job. Oh, how I wish I could go back and tell November of 2016 Catherine to just buy the dang thing. It would have saved us so much time and the result would have been a much higher quality.
Buy Middle of the Road
If you’re only building a small table, don’t spend the money for a top of the line miter saw. If you’re planning on building an entire tiny house, maybe spend a little bit more. I think this is good advice not only for tool buying but life buying. Middle of the road (not too cheap, not too expensive) is usually safe. Generally, you get what you pay for. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Cost per Use
Another thing I like to do is look at the time vs. cost comparison. For example, if you’re spending $100 on a tool that saves you 100 minutes, you’re paying $1/minute. If it saves you 1000 minutes, the cost is much less. Decide what your time is worth and go from there. Are you going to get your money’s worth out of it? An electric drill…absolutely. A floor nailer if you’re only doing 100 square feet of flooring? Maybe not.
Storage is Everything
Having a table saw, miter saw, etc. are all great for the project, but then…you have to store them. Don’t buy something if it’s going to sit in your living room with no place to put it. It might be worth it to rent it instead. I am super lucky to have a big garage with lots of storage space, but many people do not. If you aren’t willing to turn your garage into a workshop, think twice about buying that big piece of equipment.
Great. You know how to buy them, but now, what to buy? My best advice is to buy the tool for the project, not the hope that you’ll use it someday. That being said, you can save a little by buying a bundle of tools all at once when you’re starting out. I bought a bunch of basic tools all at once and saved around $100 compared to if I have bought them separately. Below is what was in that basic package, and how much use I’ve gotten out of it.
Electric Drill: All. The. Time.
Impact Driver: Haven’t used this one at all yet. Someday!
Circular Saw: We used this to cut through the beams in our office wall when we knocked it out, and a bunch since then.
Reciprocating Saw: Lots and lots during the office reno, and it’s come in handy a bunch of other times too.
Multi-tool: Yes. Buy this right now. This is the only reason we EVER finished the flooring on the second floor of the house. Every door jamb up there was cut with this.
Flashlight: Haven’t really needed it yet, but everyone needs a flashlight eventually.
Sander: Yes. Our bathroom had drywall sponge texture over wallpaper over drywall, all covered with metallic gold. My mom helped me redo this room and spend a solid day sanding all that texture down. I also used it when refinishing our coffee table.
Jigsaw: Yep. Really great for ‘fussy’ cuts, and notching things out.
I’ve bought a few more tools since then, but only because projects called for them. They were definitely bigger purchases. Our miter saw was indispensable in laying our bamboo floors on the second story of our home, and our table saw has been a godsend for finishing the stairs. I also bought a nail gun for the baseboards/stair trim, but haven’t gotten around to using it much yet.
What was your first power tool? Did you opt-in to a single brand, or did you hop around and have a little bit of everything? Tell me all about it in the comments below!