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10 Time-Saving Rental Tools for Do-It-Yourselfers

Every homeowner needs a well-stocked tool arsenal for making home repairs and maintaining lawns and gardens. The number and types of tools you’ll need varies, depending on the age and condition of the home, the size of the property and your skill level.

However, regardless of whether you’re a novice do-it-yourselfer or professional contractor, it’s not practical—or even possible—to own every tool you’re ever going to need. For example, you may only need a tool for a short period of time or for a very specific purpose. Plus, certain jobs might require an expensive machine or specialized piece of equipment. In those cases, it makes much more sense to rent a tool rather than buy it.

Listed below are 10 of the most useful DIY rental tools, which are available at most home improvement centers.

Power Auger

Power auger digs post holes quickly.

If you’ve got two or three holes to dig, a shovel or manual posthole digger will suffice. But what if you’re installing a new fence or deck and have to excavate 20 or 30 holes? Save yourself a ton of time and trouble and rent a gas-powered auger, which resembles a giant corkscrew. The one-person auger shown above can dig an 8-inch-diameter by 30-inch-deep hole in 60 seconds. It rents for about $75 per day.

Tool Rental Tip: To dig really large, deep holes, rent a two-person auger. It can dig holes up to 18 in. in diameter and 48 in. deep.

Tile Saw

Tile saw make quick work of cutting ceramic tile.Home Depot

Tile saw make quick work of cutting ceramic tile.

Tiling used to be the exclusive domain of professional tile contractors. But with the widespread availability of tiling tools, materials and instructions, more and more homeowners are tackling tiling projects like kitchen backsplashes, bathroom floors and countertops. However, to achieve professional results, you must cut the tile accurately and cleanly. The best tool for that is a motorized wet saw. The saw uses a diamond-grit abrasive blade and water bath to smoothly slice through the toughest tiles, including granite, porcelain and glass. The model shown here cuts tiles up to 14 in. sq. and rents for about $49 per day.

Tool Rental Tip: Install full-size tiles first, and then rent the wet saw to cut the remaining tiles to fit. That will reduce the rental time and save you a little money.

Demolition Hammer

Demolition hammerHome Depot

Demolition hammer does a great job of breaking up a concrete slab.

An electric demolition hammer looks and works a bit like a mini-jackhammer. Its rapid-fire hardened-steel bit quickly blasts through poured concrete, brick, stone and tiled surfaces. Grasp the tool with both hands to prevent it from bouncing off course, and be sure to wear tight-fitting safety goggles as protection against flying debris. The demolition hammer and its larger cousin, the breaker, come in various sizes, but the medium-duty tool shown here is sufficient for most DIY jobs and rents for about $60 per day.

Tool Rental Tip: Need to remove a boulder from your lawn or garden? Don’t bother digging it out. Use a demolition hammer to break it up into small pieces.

Leaf Blower

Walk-behind leaf blower hastens yard cleanup.

If you love raking leaves, skip ahead. For all others, consider renting a walk-behind leaf blower to clear leaves, twigs and grass clippings from your lawn. This gas-powered machine produces hurricane-force winds between 160 and 180 mph to blast away even the most stubborn lawn debris, including wet, matted leaves. It’s also great for removing standing water from driveways, patios and other large, flat surfaces. Walk-behind leaf blowers typically rent for about $63 per day. Smaller backpack and handheld blowers are also available for rent.

Tool Rental Tip: Walk-behind blowers are available in both push-style and self-propelled versions. The push type is fine for small, flat yards, but if your property is hilly or expansive, rent a self-propelled model.

Drain Cleaner

power drain augerHome Depot

Power drain auger clears clogs and blockages from drain pipes.

You can save a considerable amount of money by clearing common plumbing clogs yourself. The only problem is that your plumber’s helper—the plunger—is only effective on very small clogs. To clear large obstructions, especially ones located deep inside a pipe, rent a portable drain cleaner. This easy-to-use tool consists of a 35- to 50-foot-long flexible steel cable attached to an electric drill. It’s specifically designed for use on sinks, tubs, showers and other small-diameter drains. When using it, be sure to wear work gloves in leather, not cloth, to protect your hands.

Tool Rental Tip: Run the tool in the forward direction when advancing and retrieving the cable. Only shift into reverse if the cable becomes stuck.

Floor Sander

Orbital floor sander is a must if you intend to finish your own wood floors.

Refinishing wood floors to like-new condition is now well within the capability of the average homeowner. Home-improvement centers rent a wide variety of floor-refinishing machines, including the upright orbital sander shown here. Unlike a drum sander, this vibrating machine is easy to control and maneuver with virtually no risk of damaging the floor. The model shown here can be used on all types of wood floors and is also great for refinishing outdoor decks. It rents for less than $10 per hour. However, you must purchase the abrasives separately.

Tool Rental Tip: Before renting a floor sander, confirm that it has a dust-collection system. If necessary, rent an accompanying vacuum, hose and fittings.

Floor Stripper

floor stripperHome Depot

Power floor stripper furiously removes old resilient flooring.

Removing old, glued-down flooring is virtually impossible to do by hand. However, if you rent an electric floor stripper, you’ll be able to scrape up the flooring in an average-size room in about an hour. This compact machine has a powerful motor, long handle and wide steel blade that vibrates back and forth at high speed. Power floor strippers, which rent for about $10 per hour, can be used to remove vinyl sheets, vinyl tiles, wood parquet, even carpeting and carpet padding.

Tool Rental Tip: Be aware that many flooring products manufactured before 1980 contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. If you suspect the flooring contains asbestos, don’t scrape it up. Instead, call a licensed asbestos abatement company.

Brush Cutter

brush cutterHome Depot

Brush cutter chops through thick grasses and brambles.

Tame the wildest, densest, most overgrown property in a matter of minutes with a hydraulic brush cutter. This powerful self-propelled machine plows down and slices through the toughest, thickest underbrush, brambles, berry bushes, tall grasses, weeds, vines and even saplings. The 26-inch-wide brush cutter shown here is ideal for running across rough terrain and up and down hills. It rents for about $10 per hour.

Tool Rental Tip: When determining how long to rent the brush cutter, keep in mind that you should be able to clear about an acre of brush in one hour.

Rotary Tiller

rotary tillerHome Depot

Rotary tiller plows the soil for gardening.

A rotary tiller is the ideal rental tool because most home gardeners only need it twice a year: once in the spring to loosen the soil prior to planting, and again in the fall to till amendments into the soil. The easy-to-use mid-tine tiller shown here is perfect for small to medium-size gardens and flowerbeds. It rents for $10 to $12 per hour.

Tool Rental Tip: Rinse off the tiller before returning it to the rental store. It may not be required, but it’s the considerate thing to do.

Pressure Washer

pressure washerHome Depot

Pressure washer comes in handy for a variety of do-it-yourself tasks.

Pressure washers provide a fast, effective and fun way to clean virtually any outdoor surface, including decks, vinyl or metal siding, fences, patios, cars, trucks, RVs and boats. Rental stores carry both electric and gas-powered pressure washers. Electric models, like the one shown here, are lightweight, easy to use and highly maneuverable; they’re ideal for small, light-duty jobs and rent for $40 per day. For medium- to heavy-duty cleaning chores, rent a gas-powered pressure washer. Note that these are powerful machines that can damage surfaces and harm people if not used improperly. Ask the rental associate for detailed safety instructions.

Tool Rental Tip: When renting a pressure washer, be sure to also buy a jug of detergent or degreaser, which you can add to the machine’s reservoir for superior cleaning power.

Note that this list represents only a small fraction of the items available. From bolt cutters to backhoes, if you need it, it’s probably available for rent by the hour, day, week or month.

 

Joe Truini is a home improvement expert who writes about a variety of topics related to carpentry and plumbing. Joe is also the author of numerous DIY books, including the best-selling Building a Shed. Please visit his Tool Rentals Guide to learn more about renting a wide range of tools.


How to Hammer & Pull Nails

The face of the hammer should strike the nail’s head squarely.

To start a nail, hold it just below the head between your thumb and forefinger, place the tip end on the surface, and then give it a few light taps with your hammer.

Once the nail is started, make sure it is perfectly straight, and then remove your fingers and swing the hammer more fully, with a fluid stroke that combines wrist, arm, and shoulder action, as shown in the illustration at right.

When the hammer’s face strikes the nail, the handle should be perpendicular to the nail’s shank. If it is not, this can cause the nail to enter at an angle, which will compromise the security of the connection.

 

Toenailing involves driving nails at an angle through one board into another.

Toenailing

A very common practice when nailing, particularly during framing, is called “toenailing.” Toenailing is a technique of driving nails at an angle when you can’t simply nail through the face of one board into another. To toenail properly, drive a nail at approximately 30 degrees through the end of one board into the other.

The illustration at left shows how this technique works when nailing the bottom of a wall stud to the base plate in wall construction. Here, two nails are driven from each side where they won’t bump into one another.

 

When pulling stubborn nails, place a wood block under the hammer’s head to increase leverage.

Pulling Nails

To pull a tenacious nail, place your hammer on top of a scrap block, as shown in the illustration at right, to create more leverage. (Note: Wooden-handled hammers may not be strong enough for this technique.)

In rough construction, a cat’s paw digs in to grab the head of a nail.

 

To start the process of pulling a nail, you can drive a cat’s paw or prybar underneath the nail head, as shown in the illustration below right, and then pry it up.Because this will damage the wood’s surface, however, it is only recommended during rough construction or demolition.



Here’s a Classic Home Tip!

A nail pulled with an ordinary claw hammer will be bent in the operation, and, for this reason, the double claw is used to draw the nail straight out of the wood.

An ordinary claw hammer can be easily converted into a double-claw by filing out one of the claws, as shown. The notch is filed only large enough to slip under the head of an average-size nail.

After drawing the nail a short distance in the usual manner the small notch is set under the head of the nail, which is then pulled out straight.

This idea originated a century ago!

How to Hammer & Pull Nails

The face of the hammer should strike the nail’s head squarely.

To start a nail, hold it just below the head between your thumb and forefinger, place the tip end on the surface, and then give it a few light taps with your hammer.

Once the nail is started, make sure it is perfectly straight, and then remove your fingers and swing the hammer more fully, with a fluid stroke that combines wrist, arm, and shoulder action, as shown in the illustration at right.

When the hammer’s face strikes the nail, the handle should be perpendicular to the nail’s shank. If it is not, this can cause the nail to enter at an angle, which will compromise the security of the connection.

 

Toenailing involves driving nails at an angle through one board into another.

Toenailing

A very common practice when nailing, particularly during framing, is called “toenailing.” Toenailing is a technique of driving nails at an angle when you can’t simply nail through the face of one board into another. To toenail properly, drive a nail at approximately 30 degrees through the end of one board into the other.

The illustration at left shows how this technique works when nailing the bottom of a wall stud to the base plate in wall construction. Here, two nails are driven from each side where they won’t bump into one another.

 

When pulling stubborn nails, place a wood block under the hammer’s head to increase leverage.

Pulling Nails

To pull a tenacious nail, place your hammer on top of a scrap block, as shown in the illustration at right, to create more leverage. (Note: Wooden-handled hammers may not be strong enough for this technique.)

In rough construction, a cat’s paw digs in to grab the head of a nail.

 

To start the process of pulling a nail, you can drive a cat’s paw or prybar underneath the nail head, as shown in the illustration below right, and then pry it up.Because this will damage the wood’s surface, however, it is only recommended during rough construction or demolition.



Here’s a Classic Home Tip!

A nail pulled with an ordinary claw hammer will be bent in the operation, and, for this reason, the double claw is used to draw the nail straight out of the wood.

An ordinary claw hammer can be easily converted into a double-claw by filing out one of the claws, as shown. The notch is filed only large enough to slip under the head of an average-size nail.

After drawing the nail a short distance in the usual manner the small notch is set under the head of the nail, which is then pulled out straight.

This idea originated a century ago!

How to Drill a Hole

Drilling holes is a necessary task in many different types of repairs and improvements. You need to drill holes for screws, bolts, dowels, locksets, hinges, masonry fasteners, wires, pipes, and more. Electric drills are used for driving screws and other jobs.

A pilot hole for counterboring a screw is actually three holes.

An electric drill is classified by the biggest bit shank that can be accommodated in its chuck (jaws), most commonly 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, or 1/2-inch. The bigger the chuck size, the higher the power output, or torque.

Electric drills are rated light, medium, and heavy-duty. A heavy-duty model is only needed if you’ll be using it daily or for long, uninterrupted sessions. In addition to single- speed drills, there are variable-speed models that allow you to use the appropriate speed for the job-very handy when starting holes, drilling metals, or driving screws. Reversible gears are good for removing screws and stuck bits.[GARD align=”left”]

For most jobs, the 3/8-inch variable-speed drill is your best bet as it can handle a wide range of bits and accessories. Tool catalogs and hardware stores are brimming with special drill bits, guides, and accessories for electric drills. If you’re drilling large holes in masonry, you’ll need a 1/2-inch drill or a hammer drill; both can be rented.

When operating an electric drill, clamp down the materials whenever possible, particularly when using a 3/8- or 1/2-inch drill. Wear safety goggles, especially when drilling masonry or metal. If your drill allows, match the speed to the job, using the highest speeds for small bits or soft woods, and slower speeds for large bits when drilling hard woods or metals.

Don’t apply much pressure when you’re drilling, and don’t turn off the motor until you’ve removed the bit from the material.

When drilling tough metal, lubricate it with cutting oil as you go. If you want to stop at a certain depth, buy a stop collar designed for the purpose, use a pilot bit, or wrap tape around the bit at the correct depth to serve as a visual guide.

If you’re boring large holes in hard woods or metal-especially with oversize twist bits-or driving ordinary screws into all but the softest of woods, first make a smaller pilot hole. Back the bit out occasionally to cool it and clear out the waste.

A pilot hole needs to be sized properly so that it allows the screw to enter the wood without too much resistance but is small enough to give the screw’s threads solid material to grab and hold onto.

To counterbore for a flat-head screw, you will need to drill three separate holes, as shown in the illustration, unless you utilize a special “pilot bit” that drills all three holes-for the counterbore, shank, and threads-all at once.

What Is a Counterbore?

A counterbored screw

No, a counterbore is not a tedious bartender. Although the term “counterbore” is sometimes used as a noun, it is more commonly a verb that describes increasing a hole’s diameter by drilling a larger-diameter hole at one end to make room for the head of a screw or bolt.

In some cases, a counterbored hole is filled with a decorative wood plug to conceal the fastener’s head. To countersink a hole is slightly different: This means to drill a shallow hole that will allow a screw’s head to sit flush with the surface.

To counterbore a hole, it’s easiest to drill the larger-diameter hole first, then drill the deeper hole for the fastener’s shaft. You should use a spade bit-or, better-a Forstner bit, which will create a flat-bottomed hole.[GARD align=”left”]

It’s hard to say where the term counterbore came from. In early 17th century France, counter-or contre-was a fencing term, used to describe a circular parry around the tip of a competitor’s sword.

All uses of the word “counter” seem to have the same reference to opposition, except one: the counter used in a shop (perhaps this type of hole was first used in a bench top).

“Bore,” a word that both describes a hole and the process of making one, dates back to the early 11th century with roots in many languages, referring to auguring a hole as for a gimlet.

How to Cut with a Power Saw

Use a ripping guide on a circular saw for cutting lengthwise along a board.

A power circular saw allows you to make straight crosscuts much faster than you could ever do with a handsaw, and it is unparalleled for ripping along the lengths of boards. Common sizes are from 5 1/2 to 8 1/4 inches, which refers to the largest diameter of blade that will fit the saw’s arbor (also called an axle).

When cutting plywood or panels, clamp a straight guide to the piece.

The most common, the 7 1/4-inch model, will go through surfaced 2-by framing lumber at any angle between 45 and 90 degrees. Look for a model rated at between 8 and 12 amps.

Cutting Straight with a Circular Saw

To cut straight with a power circular saw, either use the ripping fence that comes with the saw, as shown in the illustration at top right, or fasten a straightedge to the surface you’re cutting, as shown in the illustration at right.

For the latter approach, measure from the saw’s base plate to the blade, and secure the guide that distance from your cutting line.

To make a plunge cut in thin materials with a saber saw, begin at a severe angle and slowly drop the saw’s base down until it is flat.

Cutting with a Saber Saw

The saber saw’s high-speed motor drives one of many types of blades in an up-and-down (reciprocating) motion; the blade on an orbital model goes forward and up and then back on the downstroke for faster cuts.

The tool excels at cutting curves, circles, and cutouts in a variety of materials, but you can also use it for straight cutting or beveling. Consider a variable-speed model for greater control on tight curves and different materials.

Choose the right blade for the job. Blades with 4 to 7 teeth per inch (tpi) are designed for rough, rapid cuts in wood. Fine finish work, tight curves, and scrollwork require blades in the 10 to 20 tpi range.[GARD align=”left”]

For thick metals, use 14 to 18 tpi blades; thin metals demand even finer teeth (24 to 32 tpi). Specialty blades also are available to cut other materials.

To make a cut-out, drill a hole for the saber saw’s blade in the waste area, or, if it is a thin, soft material, “plunge cut” with a rough-cutting blade. Rock the saw forward onto the front edge of the base plate until the blade is free at its full extension.

Turn on the saw and, with the nose of its base planted solidly, lower it slowly until the base sits flat on the surface. Then cut normally.

 

Tips for Buying Tools as Gifts

Trying to find the perfect gift for a first-time homeowner or somebody who’s just starting out on their own? How about pulling together an assortment of basic tools that are essential for all kinds of simple jobs around the house?

Tools Make Great Gifts

Tools become a gift that keeps on giving, year after year, every time the need for a hammer or screwdriver arises. And the beauty of this type of gift is that you can tailor it to meet your budget. For an extravagant gift, you can outfit a complete, basic kit, including a toolbox for storing and carrying the tools. Or you can scale this down by buying a few key tools.

Although you could spend hundreds buying all of the latest and greatest tools, most people don’t need a shop like Norm Abrams’. You can gather an excellent selection of tools capable of handling the bulk of do-it-yourself repairs for under $100. Watch for sales at Sears, OSH, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and similar home improvement centers. But don’t skimp on quality. Cheap tools usually don’t work properly and may not last past their first job. A poorly made screwdriver’s tip, for example, is likely to mangle under the pressure of driving stubborn screws.[GARD align=”left”]

Spend a few extra dollars to get quality tools that will last and be easier to use. I generally choose Sears Craftsman hand tools because they have a lifetime warranty. Which tools should you buy for a basic kit? Consider the varieties shown here as the “buy first” list.

A curved-claw hammer is an essential for every household.

Curved-Claw Hammer

 

Hammer

Perhaps the most basic and necessary of all tools, a hammer is a household necessity. A 16-ounce curved-claw hammer with a wooden handle is a good choice for the basic toolbox. You can buy a good hammer for under $20.

how to measure wall paper

Measuring Tape

Measuring tape

A good measuring tape is necessary for almost every type of home-repair job. For from $8 to $10, you can buy a 16- or 25-foot retractable tape measure.

Utility Knife

Utility Knife

 

Utility knife

Razor-sharp, a utility knife comes in handy for cutting everything from cardboard boxes to insulation or drywall. The good thing about this type of tool is that you simply replace the blade when it becomes dull. Most store extra blades in the handle. A utility knife costs about $5.

wrench for faucet repair

Adjustable Wrench

Adjustable wrench

For turning nuts and bolts in various types of construction, plumbing, and mechanical jobs, get an adjustable wrench. This type of wrench eliminates the need to buy a set of fixed wrenches. An 8-inch adjustable wrench is a good general-purpose size. Figure this will cost you about $20.

Tongue-and-Groove PliersChannellock

Tongue-and-Groove Pliers

Tongue-and-groove pliers

Pliers with jaws that can be adjusted to fit anything from nails to large pipes are often needed when working on plumbing and various other home improvement jobs. In fact, when my kids were little, we discovered that these were perfect for opening baby food jars. They run about $13.[GARD align=”left”]

Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers

Buy several sizes of screwdrivers with both flat and Phillips-style tips. Be sure their grips are comfortable. You can buy a 10- to 18-piece set for from $20 to $30. Another option is to get a 4-in-1 screwdriver–a screwdriver with changeable tips that fit into the shaft and handle–for about $4.

Paint brushes

Paint Brushes

Of course, these are always handy. Get brushes with synthetic bristles because they can be used for both latex and alkyd/oil-based paints and finishes. Choose long bristles that splay evenly and are frayed at their ends. A good brush starts at about $7. See the HomeTips article How to Choose the Right Paintbrush.

Drill / Driver

Drill / Driver

Variable-speed drill/driver

This is a power tool and, as such, considerably more expensive than the hand tools on this list. But a variable-speed cordless drill-driver is extremely handy. One of these will not only bore holes in wood, plastic, and metal, but will drive screws. The higher the voltage, the more powerful the drill. A 9.6 reversible model is a good choice. Don’t forget to get a set of drill bits and screwdriver tips.

Toolbox
Of course, you can buy a nice metal toolbox, but one of these may push your budget too high. Instead, consider an inexpensive polypropylene tub-style container with storage compartments or a lightweight polyester tool bag for toting tools around the house.

Happy gift giving!