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. 

6 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Moving Into a Dorm

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Moving to college is a big deal. Take it from me, emotions are running pretty high, you may be nervous, you might have traveled pretty far and you have a lot on your mind.  Mistakes happen. Fortunately, there are several ways to make moving into college a whole lot easier. It won’t take away from all of the emotions of leaving home, but you can at least transition with simplicity, so you’re just prepared to enjoy your new life.

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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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The 7 Most Essential Tools to Begin Your Collection

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While we certainly are not tool experts (we’ll leave that title to Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor), we do like to get our hands dirty when DIY’ing projects over on our blog. Over the years our tool collection has slowly grown, but we had to start somewhere!

If you’ve ever walked into a home improvement store and were overwhelmed by the task of starting your own home tool collection, we’ve got your back. Today we’re diving into the seven basic tools that we firmly believe every homeowner should have. These tools really are the most essential, so they’ll always come in handy when you fix common issues around the house.

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Don’t Try to Beat the Heat: Tools for Knowing When it’s too Hot to Work

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[Synopsis: We have to work, no matter the heat. Let’s just make sure we don’t get beat by it.]

In our industry, business is busiest when the heat is hottest. Yes, the crazy days of summer are coming fast, and it is time once again to put it in high gear.

But as our days fill up and our crews are stretched to the limit, let’s not forget that even superhumans like us are still human. Even while we tell ourselves to keep cranking no matter what the thermometer says, our bodies can only put up with so much. If we don’t pause to take care of our bodies we can lose a lot more than a few minutes of daylight.

As the Omaha World-Herald reported in August of last year, a moving company employee who was packing and loading boxes inside a truck on a day with a heat index of 112 suffered a heat stroke and, though transported to a local hospital, died that same day.

“If you’re working in those extreme triple digits, you’ve got to train your workers to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and seek immediate medical attention,” said Darwin Craig of the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In this article WebMD covers symptoms, treatment, risk factors and prevention as related to heat stroke. They also give information for recognizing and treating heat exhaustion.

There is also an app provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Association called the Heat Safety Tool, which provides the heat index and risk level of any given work site. It’s a free download for both Android and IOS, and is available here.

We’ve all been out there, sweating it up in the heat, kicking butt without thinking of slowing down until the job is done. But hey, that sun and that heat don’t care how strong and determined we are. So let’s take this issue seriously so we can all get our jobs done safely.

How to Save Screws and Nails When Moving

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HAH-moving-baggieI’m currently packing up our rental and that means I’m spending lots of time taking everything off of our walls. Even though we’re renters, I went above & beyond to make our home…well, homey! I hung shelves, I hung window treatments, I hung picture ledges,  and it’s safe to say I made lots of holes in our drywall along the way. (Good thing I followed this tutorial to patch those holes up fast!)

Here’s 3 simple steps to save screws and nails as you take down your TV wall mount, floating shelves and custom coat rack. (more…)

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