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But whether you want to make that one door squeak less or you’ve decided this is the year you build a cabinet, you’re not going to be able to tackle any home improvement projects if you don’t have the right tools for the job. Fortunately, we asked some professional handymen what power tool brands offer the best value — info that will come in handy before you start your next project.
Best Cordless Drills and Screwdrivers
If you’re not sure if home repairs are for you, it’s a good idea to start small with relatively inexpensive tools instead of paying several hundred dollars on an item that you’re just not going to use. Cordless drills are no-brainers because they’re affordable, practical for any number of jobs, and easy to use. Stephany Smith is a handyman with the London-based company Fantastic Services, which services thousands of customers each month, and he recommends a Black+Decker combo cordless drill-and-driver.
“It’s is an affordable, multifunctional assistant for every drilling project,” he says. “Your Black+Decker combi drill is the ideal tool that every homeowner should include in his toolbox, wrench, or tools belt. It’s a light, well-balanced combi drill with two-gear variable speed, so that you can enjoy precise and no-fail work for any home/garden drill and screwdriving projects. It’s especially useful when you need to do some quick fixes around the home or there is no power outlet near you.”
WORX 4 Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Screwdriver: From $80 (unavailable at Amazon)
Even if you decide that you’re ultimately not the handy sort, everyone needs a cordless screwdriver. “Compared to a traditional hand-held screwdriver, a cordless motorized screwdriver can save you a lot of hassle and time to screw/unscrew fasteners of any size and form with just a simple push, while preserving the perfect finish,” says Smith. “Cordless screwdrivers are easy to handle, perfect for light-duty use at home, and in spaces with limited access to a power supply.”
Smith recommends the WORX brand, especially the WORX 4 Volt Lithium Ion. “Great flexibility distinguishes this product from the large screwdrivers and saves you time and hassle, especially if you want to work on hard-to-reach places. You can choose to remove it entirely if you want to rely on better control and the ability to drive screws straighter,” he says, adding that “LED lights give you the option to brighten poorly-lit areas.”
Milwaukee M12 12-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill Driver/Impact Combo Kit: $From 149 at Home Depot or from $169 at Amazon
Who doesn’t like a good deal? Absolutely no one, that’s who. That’s why you might want to consider investing in a combo kit. According to Michael DiMartino, Senior Vice President of Installations at the Philadelphia-based Power Home Remodeling, they’re the best value you can get for your tool money.
“For a couple hundred dollars, you can purchase a two-tool combo kit or, for a few hundred dollars more, a 10-tool combo kit. The tools incorporated vary, but typically the kits contain a cordless drill, impact driver, multiple batteries, and a charger,” he says. “If you need more than that, you can buy additional tools a la carte or purchase a larger kit.”
According to DiMartino, that kit could potentially include a reciprocating saw, a grinder, a palm sander or even a radio. He’s personally partial to the Milwaukee combo kit, widely available at Home Depot, Amazon, and other retailers. “They have proven reliable, and I’ve owned my cordless hammer drill and impact driver for many years. They fit in a duffel bag along with extra batteries and the charger which I keep in the toolbox of my truck,” he says. “However, it would easily fit in the trunk of a sedan or even the backseat.”
More of the Best Power Tools: Updated September 2020
If you’re looking to do a little bit of yard maintenance, John Crider of the Chattanooga, Tennessee, lawn maintenance company Criders Landscaping, recommends the Ryobi systems for battery-powered tools.
“For a homeowner, these tools will last a lifetime if remotely cared for,” he says. “They take a beating on our sites whether we are building pools or pergolas for clients. We feel the value and versatility can’t be beat as there are so many interchangeable options for the batteries and tools.”
Bostitch Cap Nailer Model N66BC-1: $287.42
Hammers are so last-century. If you’re feeling like taking on an ambitious project, such as sprucing up your roof, you’ll need a way to take care of a lot of nails in as little time as possible. Mark Soto is a San Antonio-based roofer, and he loves the Bostitch Cap Nailer Mode for how much time it saves him.
“When you’re outside with the blazing heat on your back those minutes add up quite a bit,” he says. “It’s easy to set up so you require less time fiddling with it than other cap nailers. The cap loader is extremely easy to use which saves time on roofing jobs. The tool is also pretty lightweight so it doesn’t weigh down on your hand too much.”
One of the most important tools you’ll need is a good angle grinder, which is a versatile device that can be used to grind metal, cut tile and plaster and polish surfaces. As always, it’s worth it to spend a little more, because cheap tools tend to not last very long. Just ask Los Angeles handyman Mike Gmerch.
“The first grinder I got was a cheap one from Harbor Freight that died pretty quickly, so I highly recommend getting a good brand name angle grinder. I’ve been using a Dewalt for about three years with no problems,” he says. “Depending on the attachment you can do so many things like cutting metal, tile, or concrete to cleaning up bad weld jobs and stripping away paint or sanding wood without feeling like your arm is going to fall off. It also helps a lot with keeping my hand tools and lawnmower blades in like-new condition, since you can use it to sharpen them fairly easily.”
How ambitious do you want to get with your DIY projects? If you’re looking to put your electrician hat on and do some rewiring, you’re going to need a multimeter to measure voltage, current, and resistance — and to make sure you don’t accidentally electrocute yourself.
Blake Sutton is an Austin, Texas-based Journeyman Electrician with Electrical Knowledge, and he says “the Fluke 117 Multimeter is a work of art. It. Just. Works. Everything about this multimeter just screams quality. The crystal clear display. The LED backlight. The AutoVolt function (which autodetects AC/DC voltage for you). Its CAT III safety rating. Its intuitive and easy-to-use user interface,” he says. “And unlike many competitors, Fluke is standing behind the quality of their devices. The Fluke 117 multimeter comes with a generous three-year warranty.”
David Walter has been working as a tradesman since he was 16. Two decades later, he’s now a qualified Master Electrician and owner of the Phoenix, Arizona company Electrician Mentor.
A big part of his job is moving from one job to the next, and while that might not be too big of a concern for the casual hobbyist, no one wants a bulky item that’s a pain to carry around. That’s why Walter loves the WEN 4208 8 inch 5-Speed Drill Press, which he says “is loaded with outstanding features including on-board key storage, five speeds, ultimate accuracy in drilling and a 1/3 horsepower motor for extreme power. In addition to all that, it is lightweight and compact so it’ll fit in most work spaces and can be easily transported to and from job sites.”