DIY Home Improvement – Bring Out the Power

As your DIY Home Improvement resume grows longer, add some power tools to your arsenal to make bigger and better projects.

It’s a do-it-yourself world, and it turns out many of us are handier than we thought. As the number and complexity of home improvement projects grow, it might be time to invest in some power tools.

“The whole concept behind power tools is to make your life and your projects easier,” says Lou Manfredini, construction pro and DIY home improvement expert. “And when you’re using them safely and correctly, they’ll deliver as promised.”

These industry professionals provide guidance on the smartest choices when upgrading to power.

Cordless drill

“If you’re only getting one tool, buy a cordless drill,” advises Spike Carlsen, carpenter, woodworker, and author of books including “Woodworking FAQ” Yes, you can drill holes with it, but with various bits and attachments you can also drive screws, stir paint and even bore through steel.

A cordless power drill is versatile for DIY home improvement because it can also drill nails and boreholes in steel with the right attachments.

For extra versatility, look for a hammer drill, says DIY Network host and licensed contractor John DeSilvia. The hammer function is great for working on masonry. Say you’re attaching brackets or cabinets to a concrete wall: With the push of a button, you can switch to normal drill mode, so you’ve got two tools in one.

Manfredini suggests DeWalt, Milwaukee and Bosch as good manufacturers of cordless drills. Plan to spend between $100 and $200 to get a quality product with lithium-ion batteries, including a spare.

While cordless tools offer flexibility, if you anticipate bigger jobs ahead, a corded version offers added power.


Reciprocating Saw

Another multifaceted power tool is the reciprocating saw, also known as a Sawzall, which is Milwaukee’s trade name for the tool. It’s cylindrical with a thin blade that sticks out the front and moves back and forth when in use.

This is the “perfect demolition tool,” says DeSilvia, who lists it as his choice for “most important power tool.” This tool can cut through wood to take down a wall, remove cabinets or trim branches outside.

With a different blade, it can cut through plastic or metal or even remove grout – making it a great tool for DIY home improvement.

Manfredini recommends Milwaukee, DeWalt, or Makita reciprocating saws in the $100 to $200 range. 

Circular saw

Rounding out the top three power tool choices is the circular saw. Though it can look intimidating, the latest versions are lighter, more affordable, and they’ll really speed up your ability to cut through lumber, Carlsen says.

Circular saws are useful for cutting through 2-by-4s, 2-by-6s, and plywood. The more teeth in the blade, the crisper and cleaner the cut, says Manfredini, who adds that choosing quality, carbide-tip blades is just as important as a quality tool.

“This saw allows you to make all the cuts you’ll ever need to build a bookcase, cabinets, and outdoor decks,” DeSilvia says.

For DIY home improvement, Manfredini suggests Skil, Black & Decker, and DeWalt as good circular saw manufacturers and again recommends looking for a tool in the $100 to $200 range. His preference for this tool is the corded version, for extra power and strength.

A set of foldable plastic saw horses is a nice accessory for your saw; just add a piece of plywood on top to create an instant workspace.

Other DIY Home Improvement Considerations

While you’re shopping, spend an extra 10 bucks and get a set of earplugs and protective glasses, Carlsen suggests. These will protect you from the noise and flying sawdust that power tools can create.

Think of your tools as an investment, Manfredini says. You can get a cordless drill for $39, but it may not last long. Choose a quality product and you’ll be happier with the results you get on your DIY home improvement projects, as well as its longevity.

However, if you’re purchasing more than one tool, several manufacturers make cordless multi-tool kits that offer some savings. Ridgid has an 18-volt lithium-ion four-pack that DeSilvia swears by – this pack includes impact driver, hammer drill, reciprocating saw, and circular saw for about $400. DeWalt and Milwaukee offer three-tool kits with a couple of extra lithium-ion batteries for around $300.