Buying the right tool for the job

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ February 16, 2011

Everyone has heard the old cliche about having the right tool for the job. But the best tool for any home improvement or home repair project is ultimately only as good for the job as the person handling the work. Hand and power tools are generally sold in one of four grades: cheap, homeowner, serious Do It Yourself (DIY) and contractor quality.

You won't need a contractor grade screwdriver, for example, if you're just replacing a wall plate. I'm not trying to be glib. But having a serious DIY grade power tool won't mean much to you if you're a neophyte over your head in challenges.

Look around the range of tools at a home improvement or hardware store and you can find prices that leave you breathless. Unless you're a contractor buying top-grade tools and materials, why pay too much for a weekend warrior product? Manufacturers grade their tools by the distinctions for light, moderate and heavy use. And the prices tend to match the grade.

Finding the right tools

Don't be impressed by absurdly high prices for a tool you're going to leave in the toolbox most of the year. Even so-called "light use" grades may be sufficient for straightforward home improvement projects. But always beware of "cheap" grades. I bought an inexpensive pair of needle-nose pliers at a home improvement store that came apart at the first use. Sometimes, we only learn by trial and error. General remodeling projects may simply require homeowner grade tools.

However, it's good to realize that more often than not, the higher the grade, the better the manufacturer's warranty or ease of tool repair. When it comes to power tools, the higher grade products undergo more rigorous testing by the manufacturer.

Map your tools to the most-common jobs

Plan on spending the middle or upper-middle prices on the more sophisticated tools with serious DIY and contractor grades if you want them to last you through years of home improvements. If you have the remodeling bug, you already know about reviewing the step-by-step instructions for a project along with the materials list. You know whether you have the proper tools straight away.

In some cases, you can get away with middle-grade materials and power tools. But if you're a light-repair enthusiast that leaves the heavy lifting to others, it can be simpler to choose a contractor who brings both the proper tools and know-how to the effort.

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