Thursday, February 15, 2007

Should I Buy a Power Drill?

As fin_indie warned me, I may be developing an addiction to tools. For a long time, I have had a basic toolkit consisting of some screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and a hammer. I've also had various hooks and screws and tape-measures lying around. And that was usually enough to cover my DIY needs, which basically consisted of hanging framed pictures... until now. So far, my home improvement projects have consisted of painting, caulking, sawing myself a new towelbar, installing a new doorknob/lockset, and tightening a loose wire in my circuit breaker panel (don't worry, I knew how to do it without electrocuting myself!) I've already probably saved myself a couple thousand dollars by not hiring people to do these things for me. And I've only had to spend maybe a couple hundred dollars, mostly on painting supplies and a hacksaw.
But now I have projects in mind for which I'll really need a power drill, namely installing some curtain rods and shelving systems in my closets. So should I buy one?
It might be a nuisance to have to borrow a drill, as I'll need it over a period of a few weeks, probably, and I don't know if my uncle can spare one that long. And since he is a professional, he might have heavy duty drills that would be a bit unwieldy for me to use. And I don't think any of my friends could lend me one. And how much could a power drill cost? I had this idea in my head that it should cost $30. Or maybe $50. Whenever I get these kinds of ideas, I'm usually way off from reality-- like I tell myself "socks should be $2!" when I'm shopping in places where they're $7-10 and up.
However, at Home Depot, there were actually some drills starting at $29.97 and $49.95, though many were quite a bit more. Almost all of them are cordless, but I actually don't think I want that-- the battery packs seem to add a lot of extra weight, and given the size of my apartment, I can reach almost anywhere without an extension cord! I did a little research on the Consumer Reports website, which mainly rated cordless drills. There was a lot of talk about how many volts you need to have enough torque and all that, but nowhere do they say how much torque one really needs to just put a few sinkers in drywall or tile. So I'm not quite sure what to do. I'll probably talk to my uncle about it this weekend and get some advice. I don't want to spend extra money and clutter up my closets with unneeded tools... but then again, sometimes it's just handy to have things, and a drill is pretty basic-- it's not like I'm shopping for a bench saw or a lathe. And my $7 hacksaw made me so happy, I think I'd just be over the moon if I bought a power drill. My apartment would probably look like swiss cheese within a week.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are right on to buy the regular drill instead of a cordless unless you will be using it(like a contractor) everyday. You will get more than enough power. Once you establish what your price range is you may want to check out a pawn shop or two if one is near you.
You will want to purchase a bit set that has screwdriver heads as well as general use bits. If you do drill into concrete or some tile you may need to get a masonary bit or borrow one from your uncle.

Anonymous said...

Another tip is to look online at QVC.com. They often have great deals on craftsman tools and such and since you have already done some pricing, you will know what is a good deal vs. not.

Anonymous said...

Get a cordless drill. Unless you're doing heavy duty drilling/screwdriving you only need a 9.6 volt battery which doesn't add that much weight. You'll love the flexibility of moving around and not messing with a cord. I have a 9.6 volt $30 job and it works perfectly. Get the cordless.

Handygal in St Paul said...

Personally I think one of the best housewarming gifts that anyone can give (if the new homeowner doesn't already have one) is a drill.

A drill is very practical. Every homeowner has a need here and there when this tool comes in handy even just for curtains. Maybe I should mention I'm a 30 some yr old single gal. I also have other tools--I purchased a house that needed more than paint.

The cordless drills are nice and in my area (new) run from $40 on up. I would think the ones with cords would be similarly priced. The cordless ones can be heavier as you mention. If you decide to get a cordless one I'd suggest another battery for back-up--for my use this has been handy at least. I have had frustration in changing out the bits if someone else (a guy) screwed them in too tightly, but other than that have been very happy and use my drill frequently.

I've bought cheap and mid-priced cordless and been very happy with them for intermittent use. I'm on my second drill in nearly four years and I purchased both of them used. One from a pawn shop and the other off Craigslist. I've used 14-18 volt models. Good luck.

Cheryl said...

Try Sears, all Craftsman tools have a lifetime warranty, and they have good sales. If you can wait til Father's day, they will probably have good tool sales then. I got mone 50% off!

Chuck said...

Cheryl - Craftsman lifetime warranty only applies to hand tools. Power tools usually only have a 1 year warranty.

That being said, you can usually pick up a 19.2v Craftsman Cordless Drill at Sears on sale for around $40 which is a great deal and more than enough power for home use.

nick danger said...

Dude, you haven't "saved" yourself any money so stop kidding yourself. If you cant do things like hang pictures, saw a towel rod and replace a door lock without hiring someone, then you shouldnt own a house to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Nick,
People do hire so-called professionals to perform these tasks. Also, in NYC many people opt to live in a building with a large service staff that includes a handyman (or handywoman!) who can take care of mundane projects like the ones Madame X performed. It may be convenient to have such a service in your building, but you certainly pay dearly for it via higher monthly maintenance fees.
Madame X did save herself a pretty penny.

Rock on with your power tool aspirations, Madame X!

Hannah in NYC

tommyv said...

I'd be careful. I got a drill. Then I thought, what the heck, why not a sander? And then since I had a regular sander, I also needed a groove sander for corners and edges. And a jigsaw. And...well now I have 4 power tools that I will hardly use. The upside is that I also refinished stairs inside my condo which would have cost about $2000 for about $300 including the tools. So, if you can justify it, they are great to have. But just watch out, it's addicting!

Debbie said...

I've always heard you should get a corded drill because you get more power for the same weight and they tend to be better built. That's what I have and I like it fine.

I got it when I first got my house, and I used it for curtains, blinds, and built-in shelves and that's it. It has sat unused for years. Now I'm thinking I just should have borrowed one. I wouldn't be surprised if every homeowner you know has one, not just people who use one for a living, so you probably know people who could loan you one for several weeks at a time.

Or you could buy one, use it for a couple of years, and then sell it once the projects wind down.

Also, there's such a thing as a hand drill (versus a power drill) which intrigues me, but I have no idea how easy one would be to use.

As far as the slippery slope thing goes, I bought some very good useful tools like a hammer, screw drivers, nail set, measuring tape, and levels. However, I also bought a very crappy sander, which worked even worse than just using elbow grease, and I bought a circular saw which is great but which I probably should have just borrowed for that one shelf-building project I did.

Anonymous said...

We usually hire a drill from the handware store around the corner when we need to use it. It costs $5 to hire a really good one. We have done that twice. Total cost - $10. But then again we move different countries a lot and don't want to buy a drill we can't use outside of the US.

Bitty said...

You also might want to visit bejane.com for a discussion of pros and cons of power drills and other tools, projects, etc., although that site could send you right down that slippery slope and next thing you know, you own a table saw... :)

Jay said...

The place to go it harbor freight. or harborfreight.com These are high quality chinese import products. I've been using them extensively. I got 4 12V cordless drills for $10 last year and they have held up great under heavy use. They don't sell that model anymore but they usually have a 14V drill for $15.

They also have stores around the country.

I've also found Black and Decker cordless drills for $10 at the local black and decker store in our outlet mall. The B&D drills are made in the same factories as the harbor freight (and actually all US domestic drills are made in chine, with the exception of the really high end dewalts) ...

So, why pay more for an american sounding name?

Anonymous said...

My drill-gun is the most useful power tool i have ever owned! Anything from hanging curtians to building bookshelves. Be sure to get a set of bits with screw heads.

If you go cordless, get two batteries so one can charge while you work.

googoo said...

Every household should have the basic tools. A cordless drill is one of them. A Dremel type tool is another. In fact, if you are just looking for more hobby type stuff, then a dremel tool (it has drill bit attachments) is probably more than sufficient.

Madame X said...

Wow, great comments all! I'm intrigued by the idea of being able to rent a drill from a hardware store, I may ask around about that!

and Googoo, an ex of mine had a Dremel-- that was another fun little toy! But luckily I can't think of any way to use one right now!

Madame X said...

And yes, I definitely do not live in a full-service building that comes with handyman service! One of the reasons I bought a new condo was to minimize the DIY stuff I'd have to do, though I do agree that everyone should learn to do small basic repairs, barring any physical disabilities that might prevent them from doing so.

fin_indie said...

Thanks for the mention! I do think you should get a basic cordless drill and I'm surprised no one else has mentioned it yet: 99% of these cordless drills double as electric screwdrivers. You won't want to be drilling or screwing in drapery hangers with a cord pulled tight from the outlet -- cordless is just so much more convenient.

Also, don't be lured into thinking you need an 18 volt -- that's pure "bigger is better" marketing at work. Someone else mentioned that 9.6 volts was fine, and I totally agree. What ever you wind up iwth, good luck!

ted said...

A cordless drill is a highly useful tool. As a previous poster mentioned, you don't really need a fancy one. I have a 12v deWalt cordless which I use for a lot of tasks. I also have other, more aggressive drills, but for most projects which don't require some sort of permit the small cordless drills are fine. The good drills grab onto the bits much better, so they are worth the extra money.

The cordless drills are great for assembling IKEA furniture, driving fasteners into walls. You won't get RSI (repetitive stress injury) from using the drill instead of a screwdriver.

Tony Tiger said...

Also realize that when you get a cordless drill, the battery pack acts as a counter balance and provides a more stable drill that doesn't twist your wrist like a corded drill will.

Anonymous said...

I would be wary about a used cordless drill...once the battery has been recharged so many times(80-2000x whatever it can take), it's dead & they cost more than a new drill! Our 1st drill (wonderful wedding gift from mom-in-law which I asked for!) lasted 6 years including 3 years of daily use tearing out & rebuilding a kitchen and many other projects. Now we're on our 2nd one. Ha ha, maybe having a power drill could save you lots of $$$ on not needing carpal tunnel surgery!!!
- Cheryl