A DIY’ers Guide to Essential Power Tools

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As DIY’ers, we always get a little giddy when it comes time to chat about tools. (Yes, we’re nerds like that.) So, it should come as no surprise that we’ve covered tools here on the HireAHelper blog before. We outlined the 7 essential tools that EVERYONE should have in their toolbox, and we even showed you our tips to keep all of your tools organized and accounted for.

Now it’s time to move up a level … to power tools! Just that word “power” may sound a little scary and overwhelming to the DIY newbies out there. But we promise there is nothing to be scared of because if even we can handle these tools, then pretty much anyone can.

The Power Tools To Own

If you’re looking to spruce up your home, add to your tool collection, and just be an all-around rock star homeowner, then these are the first five power tools we suggest adding to your collection with the general range of prices you can expect to pay for each.

Cordless Drill

This tool was already covered in our list of seven essential tools to own, but it’s a power tool too! And it’s quite possibly the most important tool to have, overall.

In fact, we believe every household needs a power drill (even if you’re a renter) because it can be used for pretty much anything.

How do we know? So many people in our lives have asked to borrow our drills (and we always oblige), but we quickly emphasize how they really should invest in their own. It’s a necessity! Trust us, it’ll make putting together Ikea furniture a heck of a lot easier.

Price: $30-50

Shopping Tip: Power is measured by battery voltage and ranges from 6-18V. Higher voltage models come with extra power but are quite a bit heavier. We suggest going with a nice, middle-of-the-road 12V cordless drill.

Also be sure to also pick up a variety of drill bits when you buy your cordless drill.

DIY Projects:

  • Hanging curtains
  • Building shelves
  • Drilling holes
  • Anchoring
  • Pretty much anything

Miter Saw

This was the first “real” power tool we ever bought and we’ve used it so many times since. Are you ever going to be touching wood? Don’t think you won’t use this because you absolutely will. It makes straight cuts, sure, but it’s also able to make incredibly accurate cuts at an angle.

Price: Average 8-10 inch saws range $140-250

Average 12+ inch saws range $250-500+

Shopping Tip: Consider the blade size when buying a miter saw (8, 10, or 12 inches).

Yep, larger blades allow for longer cuts. We have a 10-inch compound Miter Saw. Oh, and be sure to pick up safety glasses and an extension cord when you invest. That way you stay safe, and your saw can reach any outlet when working away!

DIY Projects:

  • Board and batten siding
  • Wood planter
  • Shiplap wall
  • Smoothing

Nail Gun

Instead of using a hammer and nails for a project, you can use a nail gun and get the job done 100 times faster. There’s a wide variety of nail guns out there, but we suggest going with a finish nailer. These come in handy when securing wood together or to a wall, and you can easily putty over the holes for a seamless look.

Price: $30-100

Shopping Tip: Nail guns can be gas-powered or air-powered, but we suggest going with an air-powered one. (Here’s the one we own.) When it’s plugged into an outlet, compressed air is used to drive the nails.

Make sure you also pick up extra brad nails for your project and that they’re compatible with the brand/size of your particular nail gun.

DIY Projects:

  • Installing baseboard
  • Creating decorative wall
  • Adding trims
  • Hanging anything

Sander

You’ve probably used sandpaper or a sanding wedge for a project before. And if you have, you know that your arm can get pretty tired when going back and forth over and over again.

It’s time. Get a sander. You add sanding pads to the sander and when you turn it on the pads move in a circle, sanding the surface as you go. We’ve also ended up using sanders when refinishing old pieces of furniture.

Price: $25-80

Shopping Tip: There are various types of sanders (palm, detail, belt, etc), but we use an orbital sander.

Orbitals are lightweight and because they’re not too heavy-handed, it’s very difficult to damage the piece you’re working on. Be sure to buy extra sanding pads for your sander, so you always have a fresh one for your project.

Oh, and a dust mask may come in handy too!

DIY Projects:

  • Refinishing furniture
  • Smoothing DIY picture ledges
  • Sanding down excess paint on a wall

Jigsaw

What’s compact and relatively inexpensive?

abeautifulmess.com

A jigsaw can be used to make both curved and straight cuts in a variety of materials (metal, plastic, wood, particle board, etc.). Whenever we are tackling a woodworking project, we almost always get out the jigsaw because there are bound to be some “wonky” cuts that don’t need to be straight or angled.

For example, if you’re adding shiplap to a wall and need to make room for an outlet … the jigsaw is the tool to get the job done!

Price: $25-90+

Shopping Tip: If you’re planning to use your jigsaw on tough materials, then you may want to buy a jigsaw with a cord. Here is the one we use.

By far the most important thing to remember is that you need to buy the right blade based on the material you’ll be cutting!

DIY Projects:

  • Curved headboard
  • Holes for outlets
  • Shaped signs
  • Personalized crafts

A jigsaw is isnt just useful and easy to learn, it’s pretty fun!


We hope this list gets you excited to start creating and building things around your home! Getting power tools means you can ditch the builder-basic look and customize a home that looks all your own.

How to Store Garden Tools, Gas Tools and Backyard Barbecues (So They Don’t Break)

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Putting the lid on another barbeque season means more than polishing off the potato chips. Storing garden and gas tools, as well as your trusty barbecue, takes some know-how if you want them to be ready to go next spring.

Putting all your toys and tools into self-storage involves a bit of work as well. Slightly different work, since the rules in a self-storage facility are probably not the same as the rules in your garage. (Disclaimer: I’ve never seen your garage.)

So before you stash everything and shut those doors, properly prepare your items for the dark, coming months. When it’s time to let it all back out into the sun, you’ll be happy you did.

Garden Tools

Cleaning the blades of your shovels with a piece of burlap or an old rag before winter makes good sense. Sure, tools were made to get dirty, but leaving clumps of dirt on those metal surfaces and even any wooden handles can expose them to moisture, resin and sap, which is not good. There is also the chance that you’ll be allowing some creepy little critters to fester and incubate – not good for your garage, and certainly not endearing to self-storage facility management.

Making sure your tools are dry before you store them is a given. You might also spray a little WD-40 on those metal surfaces and wipe them off with a clean rag or a paper towel, to get them extra clean and rust-resistant. (Note: Avoid that lingering odor of oil; Go easy on the WD, go hard on wiping it off.)

Hedge clippers, pruners and other tools with moving parts will benefit from a little extra lubricant to keep those parts moving freely. If you spot any rust, it would be a great idea to get rid of it with a wire brush. Again, wipe clean and dry and let it all air out.

Before you close up shop, drain and dry out your garden hoses and lawn sprinklers. In your garage, water can do some damage to a hose when it freezes and expands. In your garage as well as in a climate-controlled facility, there’s the potential for rust, not to mention the minor hassle of having water leak out onto some of your other stuff. Get all of that taken care of before storing.

Gas-Powered Tools

Gasoline is like milk, not wine. It goes bad over time.

The gas you leave in your lawn mower or your chainsaw can turn into something like varnish over the winter, potentially corroding the engine’s lines and clogging up the carburetor. If you’re not savvy with tools, I’ll translate that for you: that’s not good.

Luckily, prevention is simple. Experts like our friends at Popular Mechanics advise pouring some stabilizer into a gas can, mixing in some fresh gas, and pouring the mixture into the tank. Let the engine run a couple of minutes to work it through the system and you are good to go (for about three months). Check the manual for your mower (or chainsaw, or leaf blower or weed whacker), but generally, for longer-term storage, it’s advisable to run the tank–which is exactly what you’ll need to do if you are putting these things into self-storage, or onto a moving truck for that matter.

5 Sweet Garage Upgrades That Up Your Home’s Value

Garage additions and upgrades like the five in this list can produce an estimated 65 percent return-on-investment.

You might also consider changing the oil in your mower if you’re storing it in your garage for the winter. For a self-storage facility, you’ll want to drain (and properly recycle) that old oil. And be sure to also check and clean the underside of your mower. All the grass, dirt and gunk under there does your mower no favors over time. Give that blade a good cleaning too, in the same manner as with your garden tools.

Warning: Disconnect the mower’s spark plug before putting your hands anywhere near the underside of your mower!

Barbecue Grills

All you hardcore winter grillers up north and year-round barbecue fans down south can skip this part. The rest of us have more work to do.

Outdoor grills should be cleaned well before storing for three reasons:

  • Mice and other critters looking for a warm, dry place to hunker down can be lured in by leftover bits of food stuck to the grill and sitting at the bottom of the grill’s interior.
  • Mold can and will grow on any organic matter over time, even if you totally burned those Labor Day burgers. Cleaning out any food and greasy residue in the Fall will minimize the chances of a tougher cleaning job in the run-up to Memorial Day.
  • Moisture can lead to corrosion and oxidation, not only of the wire grill but all your big bad barbecue’s components. Cleaning out all those food remnants will reduce the chances of moisture collecting over the winter. This includes any drip pans, ash catchers and charcoal grates.

And yes, disconnect the propane or LP gas tanks from your grill and leave them outside. They shouldn’t be stored in your garage and your self-storage facility people won’t let you keep them in your unit. To keep them protected from the elements and potential rust they should be placed on cement or brick, or even some metal grating, not on the ground where they could end up with wet feet for three months straight. Covering them up with a nylon tarp or some durable plastic will help keep the nozzles and valves from rusting as well.

Remember, no matter how incredibly smart you are about cleaning your things, self-storage facilities ultimately have their own policies for storage. Old Man Winter plays by his own rules. Either way, taking a little time now can save you some trouble down the road, when it’s time to bring your backyard back to life. 

Want Your Stuff in Self-Storage to Be Safe? Here’s What You Need to Ask

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Imagine you’re standing outside a self-storage facility. What do you see in front of you? Thick-walled buildings with metal doors bolted and locked up tight? Security cameras? Access code keypads? A tall fence with iron spikes? Heavy front gates and a sign warning would-be burglars about the 24-hour surveillance system?

All self-storage facilities have … some of this stuff. Some places have all of it and even more, providing maybe some peace of mind to anyone storing there.

That’s the idea anyway. But that’s not how it always works.

Colorado’s KDVR News tells us that a certain Denver-area self-storage facility has been burglarized at least fifteen times since January of 2017. That’s right, fifteen! (Which is exactly how many games the Cleveland Browns have won since January of 2013.) From the report,

“In many of the cases, the locks had been cut off and people renting the units weren’t aware their things had been stolen until Public Storage alerted them.

One renter told us he lost everything from leather chairs to sports equipment in February while another renter even lost her deceased parents ashes.

Another man lost $8,000 in items.”

The facility in question? They have iron gates that will not open without the required code. They have surveillance cameras in place. Some of the units are located along the interior corridors of the restricted-access building, providing an even extra layer of security.

So how does even one theft occur, let alone fifteen thefts?

For starters, in at least one instance the facility’s security cameras were, according to the police reports, “not plugged in.” In many instances, the locks on the doors to the burglarized units had been cut, which requires nothing more sophisticated than a stout pair of bolt cutters.

But come on … fifteen times?

We see two possible explanations. Someone who is renting a unit, and therefore has the necessary codes to get into the place, is going in at night (or maybe even the middle of the day) and popping other people’s locks. Assuming the facility’s management is interested in putting a stop to things, they would have checked their security footage and shared what they saw with the authorities.

In terms of that place in Denver, according to KDVR’s report, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Which leads us to our second possibility: the series of thefts could just be an inside job by anyone from a low paid employee to a corrupt head of the company.

No, we don’t have proof of either of these happening at the facility in question, and we aren’t making any direct accusations here. Maybe there are a couple of guys out there who are really good at hopping fences and slipping into locked buildings – and then slipping back out and hopping back over the fence carrying their loot which, in one of those cases, included leather chairs. I’m just saying.

So how can we protect our stored belongings when we don’t even know who we’re protecting it from?

The simple answer to how to best protect yourself is to eliminate as many potential culprits as humanly possible. Look for these things in mass in a self-storage facility:

  • Serious exterior security
  • High fences with iron spikes
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Code-controlled gates and doorways

But even these offer varying degrees of security. Questions to consider include: Do the cameras record grainy still-shots of moving objects or HD video resolution? Is the footage monitored in real time by a human being (who is not sleeping) or does it just get stored somewhere until a theft has already occurred? Are the codes for the gates and doorways changed regularly? Is each customer assigned a unique code to detail who has come and gone when?

You should even ask if a facility records the license plates of vehicles entering and exiting the premises, or whether they check photo IDs of people on their way in. Also, is there is a backup power supply for all those codes and cameras in case of an outage? Don’t be shy about asking such questions. These are things you are paying money for and need to know.

What else should I know?

Other important variables (which you don’t even have to ask about) include

  • If the facility is well-lit at night
  • If the facility is located in a higher-crime area
  • What the surrounding environment consists of, such as, does it stand in developed suburbia or out in a landscape of abandoned lots and industrial parks?

There are also things you can do yourself to decrease your chances of being victimized. Using a lock the facility provides may be convenient, but your better bet is to get your own lock. Law enforcement types and criminals alike will tell you that a padlock is no match for the well-equipped thief. A disc lock or a cylinder lock (if the facility can accommodate one) is much more difficult to cut.

While we don’t recommend it, if you must put certain valuable or irreplaceable items into storage, put them in the rear of your unit to make them less visible and thus less vulnerable. And for the protection of everything you are storing, be aware that while a self-storage provider may offer some kind of coverage against fire, flood or catastrophe, they are under no legal obligation to do so. What’s more, they will, by and large, refuse to be held accountable for any loss due to theft. Most facilities will require renters to have their own insurance policy for their belongings, but your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, even if it covers stored items, may not allow for reimbursement for items damaged by mold, mildew or infestation, regardless of who may be at fault.

And finally, do a little searching at home.

A quick Internet query may turn up some bad news about the self-storage facility that looked so good in person. Now, whether one incident at this or that place may not be grounds for outright rejection in your book. That’s your call. But fifteen thefts in ten months?

You might want to keep on searching.

The Must-Do’s for Having a Successful Garage Sale

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Camping, family vacations, gardening, baseball – summer is chock full of activities that pair well with that laid-back nature of relaxing. Another summer staple? Garage sales!

Now with summer upon us, it’s officially garage sale season. This simple tradition is a win-win for both buyers and sellers because it allows the sellers to get rid of the “stuff” that has been cluttering their garage for far too long, all while making some extra cash. It’s also great for the buyers because they can score items that aren’t always on the market or stuff they could buy elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.

If you’re thinking about hosting your own garage sale this season, we’ve compiled a list of tricks that will help you increase business by bringing in more customers. That’s more profit and less stuff to haul back inside after it’s all over.

You Might Need to Get a Permit

Some cities or villages require a permit in order for you to hold a garage sale, while others do not. It’s important to check with your specific town to see what the protocol is before you start planning your garage sale. (Just do a simple Google search.) We would hate to see your’s actually get shut down after you put in all that prep time, just because you forgot to snag a permit. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Get Your Stuff Organized to Go

Once you have your permit and a specific date set, it’s time to start combing through every nook and cranny of your house (don’t forget the attic!) in order to get rid of any items you don’t use or love anymore. From large furniture to small accessories, there should be almost nothing that is “off-limits” for a garage sale. You also want to take this time to start clearing out your garage. The piles of stuff you hope to sell don’t necessarily have to be organized during this stage, but it is important that everything is located in one spot so you have a sense of how much stuff you hope to sell.

Borrow Some Large Tables

If you don’t have large fold-up tables, you may want to ask your friends and family if you could borrow some. Even small card tables will help you display the merchandise effectively, which really helps business! If your family and friends don’t have any tables, you can always ask local businesses or organizations like the VFW or Goodwill. They may be more than happy to lend you a table for a few days, especially if you’re a loyal customer or are willing to share some of the profits of the sale with their organization.

Put Your Stuff Out by Category

Once you have identified what you want to sell and have your tables, start organizing your stuff by category. If you have furniture, put all of that in one spot. If you have a lot of holiday decor, put all of that together on a table. You can even use Tupperware bins from the attic/garage to pair like-things together, such as children’s toys or stuffed animals. Grouping these items together will help the customers identify what you have to offer a lot more clearly.

Invest Time in Some Amazing Signage

Get the printable file for these “Awesome Garage Sale” signs HERE

The key to a busy and successful garage sale is getting the word out! Some choose to advertise their garage sales in the newspaper or on the internet, but you should also invest time in creating eye-catching signage to place at busy intersections nearby. Choose bright colors and make your signs big enough for people driving past to stop and take notice. It’s also important to make signs that lead your customers directly to your driveway. Some people won’t look at the address and put it into their GPS, especially while they’re driving. It’s huge to plop signs along the route with simple arrows and bright colors, so drivers can follow the signs right to your house without getting confused or frustrated.

Price to Sell

Even though many of the items you are selling hold a special place in your heart, it’s important that the garage sale price of this item doesn’t reflect this history. It’s important to price your items to sell! After you price everything, don’t be afraid to categorize items by price because this will make marking the items a lot easier. You can put a large $1.00 sign on a table and tell customers that everything on this entire table is a dollar. This will save you some serious prep-time and keep your life a lot easier on the day of the sale.

Get a “Bank” Ready

Make sure you visit a local bank and cash in some large bills for singles, fives and coins ahead of time. Many of your customers may not have exact change and if they pay their $1.50 balance with a $20, you need to make sure you have enough change for them. Also, be sure to have this cash in a secure spot that is being supervised at all times. If you want to keep it on your body at all times, try using a cross body purse or fanny pack. If you feel more comfortable putting it in a cash box, make sure someone is sitting and supervising the bank at all times.

Enlist Some Friends

Speaking of supervising the cash, it’s best if you have at least two (maybe more) people working the garage sale. At times, it can become hectic with customers asking questions, paying for the merchandise and just coming and going. Having two people with specific jobs will help you avoid the chaos, help customers and stay attentive to the cash at all times.

Be Willing to Negotiate

You never want to take less money, but customers will definitely try to haggle the prices at garage sales. It’s okay to stand firm, but you also have to be realistic. Be open-minded to accept less for some of your items, especially when the garage sale is almost over. It’s better to make some money, instead of nothing at all!

Have a Plan for the “Leftovers”

After the garage sale is over, you may have a few items left behind that were not sold. It’s important to have a plan for this so that this stuff is not taking up valuable space in your garage, attic and closets anymore. Whether you plan to donate the items or try to sell some of the larger ones on Craigslist, make a plan of action before the sale is over so you know exactly what to do after the last customer leaves.


Although garage sales can be a lot of work and stressful at times, make a point to enjoy the experience! Invite over some friends to help so you can catch-up during slow times, turn on the music and soak in the sunshine. The more fun you have, the better your experience will be.

If you follow these tricks, we’re confident that your garage sale will be a big hit! And after it’s all said and done, hopefully, all you’ll have to worry about is where you are going to spend all your hard-earned cash.

Updated Garages Add Massive Value to Homes, so Here Are 5 Sweet Upgrades

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Your garage could be much more than a catch-all for excess junk accumulated over the years. It has the potential to be an aesthetic and functional extension of your home. That is if you’ve done the work to make it a usable space.

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Making Your Garage an Awesome Show Floor

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We’ve been there.

We have all been to someone’s house who has an immaculate garage. Their tools are organized, their lawn mower is shining, and everything is stacked neatly in place. If you’re anything like us, we usually leave those garages asking ourselves, “How do they do it?!”

But the real question is, have you ever been in a garage that has an epoxy finish where the garage looks way less like a garage and much more like a fancy showroom?

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Burglaries Inside Storage Units Are Becoming Common, but Can Be Avoided

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[Synopsis: In developing business relationships, quality is just as important as quantity.]

In our very first HireAHelper newsletter (Anyone out there remember?) we raised the idea of making friends with the folks at your local self-storage facility to develop a mutually beneficial business relationship. At any time of the year (and particularly during the busy season when so many people are coming and going) having a solid working situation with your industry colleagues can pay huge dividends.

But it also pays to know who you are shaking hands with. In any industry and profession, you are going to run across some bad eggs. The moving industry is certainly no exception. And neither is the self-storage sector.

Recent events in Independence, MO and Santa Cruz, CA remind us of this.

There in Independence, multiple break-ins of storage units left several customers feeling shaken and unsure of the industry.

“I always thought that if you put your things in something like that you are trusting those people to have security and watch over your stuff,” Hall said. “They just don’t.”

The situation repeated itself in Santa Cruz, CA. Dozens of customers had their valuables rummaged through and stolen, and multiple people were found living inside the storage units. That storage unit was eventually inspected by the city Planning Department and declared a public nuisance, but not before plenty of people got burned.

disclockTips such as not storing more than $5,000 in goods, purchasing insurance and using disc locks are offered when people get victimized. But the onus should ultimately fall on us within the industry for referring quality and safe services, as opposed to consistently pushing for maximum quantity. The latter is how we destroy our brand as an industry.

Business is all about relationships. And success in business is all about successful relationships. Successful relationships, in turn, require integrity and clarity from both sides of that handshake. If you hear there have been issues with a storage area, if you are dubious of your local storage units after seeing them, or if you are simply cramming as many customers into one place of business as possible, consider finding more alternatives.

As we continue down the roads of our own success, picking up people along the way, it’s important to remember to choose our friends – and our allies and business associates – wisely.

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