essential tools for property developers
a cordless combi drill
An absolute must, this is your workhorse for putting holes in timber, metal and stone. Get a cordless jobbie, try to get one with a lithium-ion battery as they run longer and don’t suffer from battery charge memory (you charge to a point and take the battery off charge before it’s fully charged and then the battery will only charge to that point… forever). Try to get a “system” drill, one that will match its batteries to other gizmos you may wish to purchase, one where the batteries are interchangeable between the devices you lust after. Try to get one with high power output (over 18v) a metal gearbox and maybe even a brushless motor – this is not a deal breaker though.
I use and love Makita, however, De Walt, Bosch and Milwaukee seem to have a lot of followers too.
Try to get a long warranty too and there are offers with drills coming with a spare battery, this is a must – even though I don’t have one 🙂 – you can have a spare battery on charge for when the one you’re using runs out. I just make a cup of tea instead and put mine on charge.
Don’t buy cheapo at this stage, cheap means useless, cheap means batteries that run down in no time, cheap means no torque or power, cheap means huge useless excuses for a drill. Shop around and pay at least £80, you can get them really cheap without batteries – you will need a battery… obviously. Actually a tip is to buy your first power tool with a couple of batteries then just buy the other power tools you need without, you’ll be amazed how cheap you can get them without a battery in tow.
Note battery life is indicated in amp hours, the bigger the number the longer the battery will last, 3.0Ah is pretty much as long as you’ll get, they’re really good for long drilling sessions.
make sure: lithium–ion, cordless, interchangeable batteries, power output over 18volts, a large selection of torque settings, lightweight, well-known manufacturer, long warranty, spare battery, high-speed charger, carrying case
My idea of good drills:
a Henry vacuum cleaner
This may sound like a mad tool to have to purchase, but don’t make the mistake I made, get yourself a Henry now.
I suffered for three years without one and in that time I sent five vacuum cleaners to the great vacuum cleaner graveyard. It’s not like they were bad at doing their jobs it’s just the were bad at sucking up building dust and detritus.
I had a lovely Dyson, I remember my Mum and Dad had turned up with it after Christmas one year as a thank-you for the presents they thought I’d overspent on them. I remember it particularly as such a lovely gesture that my then-time partner shed a tear or two over them doing it. It was a vacuum with sentimental value – would you believe – and it is still working but only after having the kiss of life fifty times.
The Dyson died on so many occasions that it became second nature for me to be able to strip it down, clean it out and put it back together again. It was akin to those movies where grunts strip down a rifle and rebuild it blindfold, well maybe not as exciting a piece of kit but just as monotonous a thing to do.
The Dyson would suffer from the dustiness of the dust, the largeness of the items it attempted to consume, just about everything, it really wasn’t a happy puppy.
I had a Hoover that had emphysema and too tiny a dust bag.
My sister brought over her treasured Miele, she was aware that dust was a problem and her Miele was there to save the day. It didn’t even last the day, a bit of work and there was a burning smell and that was that.
I even had a Vax, just a cheapy but it was terrible, suction was awful and it didn’t last long.
Anyway, one day my sister returned, this time touting her toughie Henry Hoover. It made quick work of the dust, it gobbled up huge lumps of stuff, it was just unstoppable. I was so impressed that I invested in one and since then I’ve not looked back. The times it’s eaten something it couldn’t swallow I can count on one hand. The times its suction has backed off due to something it’s eaten has never happened, it’s just great.
The tools are good too, the vacuuming pipe is enormous and reaches onto my dado rail when it needs a good clean down.
The only downside is that it needs disposable bags but as they bags are part of the solution to the machine being highly suckable and highly durable, well then that’s not a downside at all. In fact, I’ve only used two bags since I purchased it and that’s a lot of vacuuming going into these bags.
I’m sure there are more elaborate dust control systems out there, but at around £100 and a bit more for some bags they’re an absolute bargain and should mega-outlive any other domestic solutions at double the price.
an impact driver
As with the Henry vacuum cleaner ,I left my purchase of an impact driver far too long. My combi drill had doubled up as a screwdriver for two years and it had done a good job, what use would an impact driver be? I even consulted with workshop-tech’s where I worked and they offered me the advice “just buy one” and I ignored it.
One day though my trusty combi decided to die on me and had to go back to the Makita doctors, it was suffering from stress and exhaustion and had a sick note from the doctors for at least three weeks. First I borrowed a huge useless combi from a friend and that took ages to charges, seconds to discharge, weighed more than a brick and was larger than a toaster, it wasn’t good – thanks for the loan though.. oops, gift horse and mouth spring to mind…
I wasn’t going to go out and buy a new combi, what with mine in the post soon and I did need one there and then so what to do.
Well you’ve guessed it I got onto Amazon and bought an impact driver, my corded ancient Black and Deckers would do for making holes and the impact driver would do for putting screws into bits of wood and stuff. I searched hard and found one sans-battery and this was as cheap as chips, Makita too and a good one at that. I still had my battery from my drill as this hadn’t been demanded by Dr. Makita so I was cooking and ready to go.
The impact driver is a revelation; it just sinks screws in with no bother at all. Ah but I hear you say, my combi does the same, well that’s what I thought, but it really is chalk and cheese, an impact driver fires them in.
You really notice it when you’re driving in a big long screw into a hard bit of timber, it just throttles it in. You also notice it when you need to get a difficult screw out, it just strangles them out.
They are just brilliant.
Get one from the major players, the same brands stand for the impact drivers as do the combis.
Get one that shares batteries with the other kit you may already have.
Get one with Lithium Ion batteries, one with a brushless motor…. It’s much the same as the combi.
Oh I forgot! a word of warning, impact drivers are so powerful they chew up and spit out normal driver bits, invest in impact driver bits, I found a half dozen PZ2 and PZ3 bits went a long way.
make sure: brand, battery type (Li-Lion is best), brushless motor, cordless – I think they’re all cordless, spare battery – if required, high-speed charger, long warranty, same brand of battery as your other kit, compact, lightweight, carry case, spare impact driver bits
The days do drag on when you’ve not got something to entertain you.
Ideally, you could have a really nice smartphone with your chosen apps of choice on them, you would then happily listen to your favourite podcast, your playlists… well whatever you can conjure up and all would be well in the property development game.
However, it’s not that simple, my guideline in life is “everything is simple until it gets difficult”
Smartphones are expensive and fragile, a whack with even the dinkiest of power tools will see them off to the great smartphone graveyard in the sky. Dust is everywhere, it is pervasive, it’s like sand it’ll get to the corners you’d least expect it to get. So if you’re going to use a smartphone use an industrial case, I use OtterBox, they’re great, make sure you get one of the heavy duty ones if you do as my daughter as a little girl managed to wreck my iPhone with one flick of her wrist while playing with one of the lesser-tough Otterboxes.
Headphones for a smartphone, DO NOT use corded headphones, they can and will get wrapped up in drill bits, they will get caught in mitre saws, they’re not good. There’s another thing about headphones too, you tend to miss deliveries (you will have many) you tend too to get absorbed in the music a little too much and one can get… bzzzt bang…. easily…. yank splosh… distracted. I only use headphones when I’m sanding, sanding is so noisy you wouldn’t hear the doorbell anyway and unless you’re teetering on a ladder, then sanding is pretty forgiving. I’ve still yet to sand myself into accident emergency. I have a pair of Bluetooth cheapies that are loud enough to cut out the sanding noise and cheap enough to suffer the cost of a failure should they get clogged up with dust.
A good simple thing to have is a radio, take a leaf out of builders’ essential kit lists, if you have a builder or contractor over then they’ll have a plaster encrusted radio in tow. A radio isn’t ideal as you can only listen to what is on but hey there is lots on if you get a good radio. Actually don’t get a good one, get a cheap disposable one, one that can run on batteries too should you need to switch the leccy off. Don’t get one of those mega-expensive DeWalt or whatever jobbies, they look cool but really all you need is a cheap trannie.
A modern take on a radio is powered Bluetooth speakers. You can use one in conjunction with your smartphone and all its lovely apps. You can possibly hear the doorbell should that delivery of important widgets arrive; you don’t have the distraction factor of headphones – though there is still some distraction it is somehow much less when pumped through a speaker rather than directly into one’s ears. Speakers that are built for ruggedness and come with batteries are a super alternative. I made the mistake of using a rather nice Pure pair of radio/speakers and they did suffer a little, the dust did make a lovely pattern on the speaker covers though. I’ll see if I can dig out a picture.
By the way Podcasts of the Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review are the way to go, just say hello to Jason Isaacs – an in joke 🙂
Why not do what I’m tempted to do, check to see if your speakers come with an input jack and buy an Amazon Echo Dot to plug into them too – you’ll need wireless though.
an SDS drill
An SDS drill (special direct system) is an extremely powerful drill that can be used as a drill or as a hammer with various chisel and pointy bits. It is a must if you are going to drill into hard brickwork or do some job like removing tiles. Think of it when you’re trying to drill into a brick with your standard hammer drill and it’s just not moving or when you’ve got a chisel in your hand and you’re laboriously removing tiles, or chasing in a pipe by hand.
I discovered the wonders of SDS drills years ago, I was trying to drill into engineering bricks in my old flat with a standard hammer drill. I had got to that point when I was up a ladder and leaning on the drill with it going nowhere fast. It was one of those jobs where I needed to pop in a rawl plug and get on with the job, it was taking ages, I was constantly trying in plugs for depth and the drill was getting hotter and blunter while I was getting hotter and blunter too. For a rest I popped out to the car and met the flat caretaker, he recommended a loan of his trusty SDS, I poo-pooed his suggestion saying I had a good drill and a rather expensive masonry bit, no fancy dancy drill was going to be much better. Anyway insist he did and I went away with his huge SDS only to discover that the once impenetrable walls were literally like butter and rather than lean on the drill I now had to stop it drilling too deeply.
Later I used the same drill with a chisel to remove my bathroom and kitchen tiles, it did it in a trice, it was amazing. In fact so amazing was it that upon purchasing my new project I went straight out and bought a fifty quid cheapy. Since then I’ve used it for:
- Punching holes into difficult brickwork for rawl plugs – this recommendation was provoked by me using my SDS in place of my trusty combi this weekend when it refused to put holes into my shower wall for rawls. The SDS did it in moments – any brick in a moment.
- Chasing out channels for pipework and power, also putting in back boxes for sockets. I used this in conjunction with an angle grinder to get clean edges. I cannot express how easy this was, I always remember my very fit Dad hammering away for hours to fit four back boxes in my flat, he was dripping sweat by the end of the day.
- Demolition work
- Drilling that hole with a core drill bit through my kitchen wall, it took an hour but it would have been impossible with a normal drill. Another thing about this, you may be familiar when using wide drill bits that sometimes when they get stuck the drill kicks back and twists violently in one’s hands. My cheapy SDS has a clutch that prevents this, once it detects a kick it disconnects the drive, which is handy as I’m sure while drilling the wall hole it could have broken my arm on multiple occasions should it not have had the clutch fitted.
Generally, an SDS drill will have three settings: hammer (for chisels, the chuck does not rotate this is for chasing and demolition), drill (general hole drilling, the chuck spins, a good setting for core drilling), hammer and drill (drilling into tough materials, the chuck spins and hammers very violently)
An SDS drill cannot generally use standard drills, though you can get an adapter that allows you to do so. Best thought is to stick with SDS drill bits and chisels as they are designed for the tough job in hand, SDS drill bits do start at around 8mm though, anything smaller is tough or impossible to get.
make sure: weight – the one I have is cheap but weights a ton, make – I now wish I’d invested in the Makita(s) below, these are so cheap and usually retail for £200+. Get one with a clutch – make sure it has a clutch that will protect you should it get jammed. Cheap doesn’t mean terrible – the one I have is great and only cost £50, it is heavy though. Get a good accessory set with drill bits and chisels. Get a good case. Get an RSD just in case you should cut through anything dangerous. Get goggles, big gloves, a respirator and ear protection too, oh and wear a hat, my hair was so junked up with brick dust on Saturday it took some washing to get it back to its lustrous self.