Power Tools

The three most common power tools -- circular saw, saber saw, and drill -- are all you need for most deck work. Here's what to look for to get all of the work done right:
Power saws
Circular saw Enlarge Image circular saw

A smooth-running circular saw equipped with a sharp blade will cut through lumber with ease and precision. Choose a saw that uses a 7-1/4-inch blade. The saw should be rated at 13 amps (1,560 watts) or higher and be built with ball or needle bearings. Pick up the saw and handle it -- it should feel comfortable in your grip. The knobs to adjust the cutting angle should be easy to use; make sure you can easily sight down the guide on the baseplate as you cut.

A 40-tooth carbide-tipped circular saw blade cuts rough lumber with ease and produces a fine, splinter-free edge.

A jigsaw, sometimes called a saber saw, is designed to cut curves. A cheap jigsaw will cut slowly and wobble, producing an uneven line. Choose a model with a large, solid baseplate that will stay firmly in place during cutting. The saw should draw at least 4.5 amps (540 watts). A sawdust blower is a useful feature: It clears sawdust off the guide line as you cut.

Purchase several jigsaw blades because they break easily. For most deck work, use medium- or heavy-duty blades, designed to cut through 2* material.

Power drills
Jigsaw Enlarge Image jigsaw

To drill bolt holes and pilot holes for fasteners, you will need a power drill. A cheap drill will burn out under the load, so get a 3/8-inch, reversing and variable-speed drill that draws at least 3 amps (360 watts). It will drive screws too. A corded drill is handy, but for even greater versatility buy a cordless drill/driver. For deck work, a cordless drill/driver should be at least a 14.4-volt model. Buy the drill/driver in a kit with two rechargeable batteries so one can charge while you use the other.

Drill bits become dull quickly, especially if they hit a nail. Buy a complete set of twist bits. Titanium-coated bits last longer than cheaper bits. You may also need spade bits of several sizes. Quick-change and magnetic sleeves are timesavers.

Optional tools

Some tools may make the work go faster, and they help achieve a more professional look to the deck. For seldom-used tools, consider renting rather than buying; a rented tool may be of higher quality than one you buy.

A power mitersaw, commonly called a chop saw, makes precise cuts of any angle. To make 45-degree cuts through a 2x6 (or 5/4x6 decking), you'll need a model with at least a 12-inch blade. A compound miter feature is not needed for deck work, but is useful for other work you may do with the saw.

A quick way to give railings and deck edges a custom look is to form them with a router. Use a self-guiding bit, which runs along the edge of the material and minimizes mistakes. A roundover bit produces a radius edge. Another woodworking tool, a biscuit joiner, is useful for some types of decking fasteners and railing joints.

When you're attaching a ledger to a brick, block, or concrete surface, a hammer drill can reduce labor dramatically. With the hammer feature engaged, it pounds the surface with rapid blows while it drills.

A nail gun drives a nail instantly with the pull of a trigger and can speed up a job. Different guns drive different sizes of nails. Most nail guns require a large air compressor. Some models are electrically driven or powered by a gas cartridge and a battery. If you want to use one for decking, experiment on scrap pieces of decking to make sure that the nails will not be driven too deeply.

Rent a power auger if you have several postholes to dig. A small concrete mixer is better than hand mixing if you have many piers to pour.


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