Ask a building-products pro what's
new and wonderful in the world of products for do-it-yourselfers,
and, unless he has an endorsement deal that requires
him to wax poetic about self-closing toilet lids, the
chances are very good the first words out of his mouth
will be "cordless tools."
themselves have been around for a while, but what's
new is the variety, the power and the battery life.
If you think your cordless drill is wonderful, check
out cordless circular saws, impact wrenches, rotary
hammers, planers, routers, nailers and screw guns. Those
are just a few of the tools now available. The newest
professional-grade tools are of the 36-volt variety,
more than double the power of many of the products currently
on the market.
"To be able to have the freedom from
the cords with a reciprocal saw and a circular saw is
great," says Jeff Wilson, a television host for
Network and HGTV.
"They come with two or three batteries so you can
keep swapping them out. This summer, I was using my
old Makita drill and it kept running out of juice."
Ed Del Grande, a master plumber and contractor
and host of several DIY
Network shows, including "Ed the Plumber,"
is another huge fan of the new wave of cordless tools,
which use lithium batteries to power larger tools and
hold charges longer.
"The newer ones will run full power
until it goes off," he says. "It's not that
steady declining we used to have."
Plus, he says, some battery chargers are
now also radios.
"If you're looking for a new battery,"
he says, "just follow the music."
If there's a drawback to a big power tool
with a big battery, it's the weight, says Thomas Winter,
receiving manager at Lowe's Home Improvement in Sandy
Springs, Ga. For the general homeowner, he recommends
a bare minimum of 12 volts of power but prefers at least
14 volts. You can use that level of power for any project,
from hanging miniblinds to building a deck.
Another popular item in the area of tools
is the laser level, Winter says.
"It's fairly universal," he
says. "You can lay tile or hang pictures with them."
Some are single-position, providing one
line, while others shoot additional lines of light left
to right, floor to ceiling or even around corners. Some
also have stud finders and tape measures built in, and
some will stick to the wall or hang from a pin for hands-free
Here are some items from other product
categories the pros mentioned:
Painting kits. Ten
years ago, there were artists' schools for faux finishing,
Del Grande says. The first time he saw it done, he says
it was like watching someone paint a canvas. Now, there
are kits for do-it-yourselfers with textured rollers
that make quick work of the project and look pretty
darned good. "I never thought a DIYer would come
close," Del Grande says, "but it looks pretty
decent, unless you're comparing it side by side, and
then the difference would be obvious."
biggest advance in flooring in recent years, Del Grande
says, is pre-finished hardwood floors.
"You don't even have to empty
the room to put them down," he says. "The
finishes are put on in a controlled environment, and
they're just gorgeous."
Installing hardwood floors is still
a job that's primarily tackled by professionals. Not
so with hardwood laminates, which provide a reasonable
substitute at a much lower cost. Plus, most people can
install the laminates themselves.
Interior designer and author Sharon
Hanby-Robie says she was "against the stuff five
years ago," but with improvements in the product
-- it now looks more like wood and it's quieter -- she's
a convert. "I've done so much of it throughout
the entire home," she says. "It's amazing.
It's doing a much better job of looking like wood than
looking like a piece of plastic."
Posted: April 12, 2006