Tag Archives: tools

Tools you may need

While it is possible to build with as little as a hammer, square, handsaw, tape measure and level, it is big advantage to use modern power tools and electronics. Of course, if you are only doing the general contracting, about all you will need is a cell phone. I am going to try to list some of the tools you need, and some that you could use. I am going to use some pictures, but if a brand is obvious, it does not mean I am endorsing it.

In some cases, you may want industrial quality, and in others, ordinary homeowner quality will be sufficient

Take good care of you tools, they are extensions of yourself.

Hammers are the symbol of builders. You will need several. A framing hammer ( usually 22 or 24 ounce), a 16 ounce claw hammer, a sledgehammer and possibly a couple different sizes of ball peen. Buy reasonable quality and keep more than one. They are easy to lose. The ball peen could be handy if you work any metal or do masonry work.

Saws are essential.

circular saw

circular saw

A decent quality circular saw will be used constantly. One that uses a 7.25 inch blade is good. You can buy different blades for different purposes, but a good combination type blade with carbide teeth will likely come with the saw and be used most. Keep a spare blade of this type.

reciprocating saw

reciprocating saw

A reciprocating saw is not an essential tool, but can be worth many times it’s cost when the need arises. It need not be an expensive one, but should have a quick change for the blade. Keep a variety of blades of good quality.

Power miter saw

Power miter saw

A power miter saw is very handy tool for making accurate angle cuts and square ends. Best when equipped with a stand, which you can purchase or make. Again, there is a large choice of blades. The combination blade that likely came with the saw is fine for framing. A smooth cut blade will be needed for cabinetry or finishing work. Sliding compound miter saws are the most versatile, but are expensive.

An inexpensive jigsaw with a variety of blades should be in every toolbox.

Job site table saw

Job site table saw

A table saw can be useful, but may be quite expensive. Consider one of the portable, fold down, job site saws available today. The low priced ones seem to work well, but don’t hold up as long.

There is a large variety of special power saws available, but most would find little use outside of a shop.

You will need hand saws. If you choose low cost hard point saws, you will not have to sharpen them, and can just replace them when they no longer work. You may need a hacksaw, jab saw or drywall saw, coping saw and back-saw with miter box. These are inexpensive enough to keep, in any case.

You will need levels. A 4 ft., a 2 ft., a pocket spirit level and a plumb bob. Possibly a laser level, transit, or water level. You can rent laser levels or transits as you won’t likely need them for long periods,and they can be very expensive.

Buy a good set of wood chisels, and keep them sharp.

Cordless drill and impact kit

Cordless drill and impact kit

A good cordless drill and impact driver is a worthwhile investment. The impact driver drives long screws easily with much less stripping. You need at least two batteries. Go with lithium-ion batteries. They are much superior. An 18 or 24 volt is excellent. These are a relatively expensive investment, but you will use them for many things for years. Cordless saws etc. are excellent as well, but you probably don’t need them very badly. Buy a cheap corded drill for back up, and perhaps a heavy duty ½ inch corded for mixing drywall mud, mortar, or thinset cement.

Squares are a must. The minimum would be a 24 x16 steel or aluminum square. Very handy is a 12 inch tri-square that has a lip on one edge. It will make for quick marking, and can be used as a guide for your circular saw when making 90 or 45 degree cuts. You might also want a 4 ft. T square for cutting or marking drywall.

Tape measures are needed. A 25 ft. is good, and you will have occasion to use a 100 ft. or more. Chalk lines and straight edges are very handy.

Needed as well are a multitude of other hand tools such as shovels, brooms, bars, paint brushes and rollers, pole and other sanders, drill bits of many sizes and kinds, nail sets, and the list can go on and on.

Air tools can speed a job up considerably. Some are expensive, but can be rented cheaply if you plan your job so you don’t need them for too long. You can buy cheaper brands, but they are often considerably heavier. Roofing nailers and framing nailers are the most expensive, and require a compressor that can deliver at least 4 cubic ft. of air per minute at 90 lbs. per square inch along with 50 to 100 ft. of good quality hose. Brad nailers and narrow crown staplers are cheaper and often come as a combination. They can be operated with a small compressor that can cost as little as 100 dollars. A brad nailer should be capable of driving an 18 gauge 2 inch brad. Use the stapler for putting up soffit and tacking down carpet, and the brad nailer for baseboard and casing.

small rolling scaffold

small rolling scaffold

You will need ladders and scaffolding. Buy high grade ladders. Your safety depends on them. You will need an extension ladder, and at least one stepladder from 5 to 8 ft. long. I like to have one each of 5 ft. and of 8 or 10 ft. Scaffolding can be rented, or you can go whole hog, and rent scissor lifts or man lifts. A good investment, though, is one or two of those small rolling mini scaffolds that can be bought for about 90.00 dollars each. Very handy tools when painting, dry walling or wiring, if only as a rolling shelf.

Heavy equipment will surely be needed for some jobs, but are too expensive to buy for one or two projects. A backhoe, skid steer, or loader may have to be rented or hired for land shaping, or back filling. Hire unless you have experience operating this type of equipment. You might want a crane for lifting rafters, or perhaps a whole roof section into place. You might need a concrete pumper for floor or wall pours. Expensive to hire, but sure makes life a lot easier. For excavating a basement, nothing is much better than a track hoe, if there is one nearby. Moving costs are quite high for this type of equipment.

If you can borrow tools, do so. Just be prepared to replace what you break and bring them back clean and sharp or your circle of friends might grow smaller. Buy used tools if possible, but don’t pay too much. Renting is good, but consider the time and gas spent picking up and returning stuff.

Most of you are do it yourself types and already have most of the tools you need, or won’t mind adding to your collection. If you decide to sell the bigger items after the project is finished, there is always a market for good quality tools. Don’t expect more than ½ new price, though.

A rule to follow, if the cost of tools needed is less than the cost of hiring the job done, buy the tools.

I can buy them on credit while tradesmen almost always demand cash. I don’t blame them, I demand cash for work too. In future posts we will suggest more tools when relevant and try to explain their uses, and how to use them.


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Working safely

 It is difficult to over stress safety, whether it is working safely, or safe design, when building your house.

The most important measure for working safely on the job site, is to always be aware of your surroundings, and the locations of your co-workers or employees. If you see dangerous situations or practices, correct them or at least point them out. Some situations present an immediate peril, while other are a threat to general health. As an example, smoke or dust can be a threat to future health, while missing saw guards and open stairwells are an immediate peril. Before starting work, look around carefully to identify possible dangers.

The most obvious dangers are less likely to be the cause of accidents, than the more subtle and less noticeable ones. Workers are aware of a roof edge, but may not expect a hole in the floor, such as a stairwell, where a step backwards can hurt.

A proper  saw guard for working safely

a proper guard

Missing or inoperable guards on saws, or other spinning equipment, is extremely dangerous. Get them fixed immediately, or discard the tool. The missing fingers you see on some carpenters are usually the result of a saw without a guard. While it is true that modern medicine can often reattach severed digits, they will probably never work the same, and they will hurt for a long time. I once ran a finger between a belt and pulley. Luckily the belt was quite loose so I still have that finger, but it “sho nuff did pain me some, pard”.

Keep the work area clean. Working safely amongst a mess is impossible. Debris creates tripping hazards , and dust to get in your eyes and lungs. Piercings from nails are are painful, and can result in infection or disease. Discarded knife blades are still sharp enough to be dangerous. Cleaning up after yourself is the simplest safety measure of all, and the most often neglected. Tradesmen are often the worst offenders. Leaving their messes for others to clean up.

A messy desk may only be a sign of poor organization, but a messy construction site shows a disregard for worker safety.

Be careful when handling long material. It is quite easy to whack someone alongside the head when you have a 16 foot 2 x4 over your shoulder.

Whats overhead? Make sure everything up there is secure, and try not to have some one working directly under another. Don’t leave heavy tools such as hammers on ladders, ledges, or on the top of walls. They usually shake loose when your head or toes are directly underneath. Poorly secured and braced walls or trusses are also a hazard.

The higher you are, the more likely you are to get hurt, if you fall. The steeper and more slippery the surface, the more likely you will fall. For working safely, utilize safety harnesses, and/or guardrails when appropriate.

Weather can create dangerous situations.

Visibility can be compromised, surfaces can become slippery, poorly secured walls can blow down, and material might be blown around. A sheet of plywood carried by the wind is extremely dangerous. Your balance may be affected by wind, and you could be blown of a roof. Avoid working, or find a safe area when the weather is threatening.

Power nailers can give painful wounds, and nails can fly a good distance. Wear eye protection at all times. My wife was once working in a hospital, when part of a floor was brought in, with a fellows foot nailed to it. Happily, they sawed out a piece of the floor instead of taking off the fellows leg. In either case, the boss was not a happy man.

working safely with electricity

A shocking situation

Electricity can kill. It is hard to imagine working without electricity or power tools today, but electricity must be handled with respect. It is equally dangerous whether supplied from the grid, or by portable equipment. Be extra wary, when working on wet ground, or when on a roof. Look above you before moving ladders, or lifting equipment, to be certain they will not contact overhead wires. Utilize insulating footwear, and use fiberglass ladders, when working around electricity. Most of us have sawed off our electric cords at some time, and the usual result is no more than sparks and annoyance, but if you were standing in a puddle of water with a poorly insulated tool, the results could be worse. Water and electricity can be a dangerous combination.

Once as a young buck, I dropped a tool after getting a shock from it while standing on wet ground. For some reason, I decided to turn the switch off with my foot. Wet ground, wet boots, the result was a severe jolt running from one foot to the other. Besides the pain, it could have adversely affected my reproductive abilities.

Death is often the result of being run over, or crushed by heavy equipment.

Be extra careful when working near, or operating heavy equipment. Make sure there are no children nearby. Use the safety belts, if they are supplied. I have been left hanging from a safety belt when I slipped into an excavation with a skid steer, but I could have been ejected, and crushed beneath it. When leaving the unit,, always make sure that buckets, blades or whatever are secured,  or firmly on the ground. Children are fascinated by these huge toys, and can inadvertently lower bucket or blade on someone.

Hard hats, safety glasses, steel toed boots, gloves, and sturdy, well fitted clothing are important.

Tool belts are very handy, and used by many workers. They can, however, be hard on your back and often get caught on things. For my self, I prefer a vest with shoulder straps, or suspenders on my tool belt. It also helps keep my pants on. Overalls with a bib and many pockets are also a good choice.

ladder safety

Look out below

Working safely with ladders and scaffolds is essential. Falls can be deadly. Learn the proper way to set a ladder and do not overextend yourself when working off them. It is pretty scary to ride your ladder to the ground, and not as entertaining as the rodeo. Ladder accidents are often used in the movies for comedy, but are not so funny when they happen to you. Secure your ladder when working on a roof. I have spent considerable time trying to get someones attention when my ladder blew down. Pretty unproductive.

Make certain that scaffolding is properly set up, and sturdy enough for the job. You might come through the fall alright, if a scaffold should collapse, but all that crap falling on top of you can be really painful.

Use your tools as they were intended. Trying to cut rebar with a circular saw can result in lots of flying teeth, perhaps your own.

Watch your eyes around lasers or welders. The intense light can be damaging.

Splinters are a common hazard that are not often dangerous, but are always painful. Use a firm grip when handling wood or steel, and avoid sliding your hands, or other unprotected body parts, over the material. Use gloves when you can.

Wear dust masks or respirators, when working with insulation, sawing material that could contain hazardous ingredients, or when using dangerous and volatile chemicals. Try to work in well ventilated areas.

Always be wary of fire ,and possible sources of ignition.

Remember that any injury large or small, means reduced efficiency, wasted time, and money lost, as well as discomfort and risk to life and limb.

Accidents can happen, in spite of the level of care, so it is wise to have paid up workers compensation, or other appropriate insurance. Working safely will keep your claims down, and your costs low.


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