The tool revolution – five innovative pieces of equipment making DIY easier
1. Impact drivers
My builder once described his beloved impact driver as a “pocket Hercules”. It’s easy to see why. Impact drivers deliver a strong, sudden rotational and downward force, effectively punching in screws, with a far greater torque than a screwdriver. In addition, they can be used to loosen screws or bolts that have corroded.
(A word of warning: they are very hard on screwdriver bits and socket sets, so purchase toughened versions of these.)
Decent impact drivers start from around £60. There are a range of high-quality manufacturers including Ryobi, Bosch, Makita and DeWalt. Read online reviews to ensure you get the features you need.
If you are likely to be a heavy user, make sure you get one with two batteries. Lithium ion batteries offer more power, better battery life and can be recharged much faster. Look out for brushless technology too. Brushless motors help power tools run cooler, deliver more power and use less energy.
2. Joist/stud finder
Most DIYers will have experienced that sinking feeling of putting a nail through a pipe or snagging an electrical cable. The effort and cost of rectifying the damage can be considerable. However, modern stud finders can detect more than timberwork. They can also pick up metal and electrical wires.
When using these devices carefully read the technical specifications, as they will detail how deep substances can be detected. Always choose the fixing accordingly.
How to use a stud finder
3. Laser level
Laser levels project a fixed red or green laser beam along the horizontal and/or vertical axis. They can be fixed to the wall, placed on the floor or attached to an upright device, such as a tripod.
Laser levels are used when the object being built or hung needs to be level (for example, when installing ceiling timbers). They are more accurate and can cover greater distances than their traditional cousins.
However, unless you’re building an extension or loft conversion, this is probably a “nice to have” gadget. It’s certainly not essential for minor home improvements, as the best models are expensive.
How to use a laser level
4. Cordless jigsaw
Lithium ion battery technological developments have also made cordless an option for far more power tools. Cordless jigsaws are a good example. Better versions are lightweight, durable and powerful. More importantly, perhaps, as there is no cord to worry about, they are more versatile and much safer. Expect to pay £60 for a decent jigsaw.
How to use a cordless jigsaw
Multi-cutters can be fitted with a number of cutting discs that cut through wood, metal or plastic. This oscillating power tool enables you to cut in tight spaces that other power tools can’t reach.
Until October 2008, when the patent expired, there was only one model on the market, the Fein Multimaster. Yet again, the onset of competition has driven innovation. Multi-cutters are now available with cutting discs, saw blades and sander sheets. I prefer the cordless models.
If you’re going cordless, consider sticking to the same manufacturer, as the batteries, which are often the most expensive part, are usually universal. This means you can buy “body only” versions and interchange the batteries.