It's easy to spend a lot of money on tools, but you don't always have to. Check out the top tool picks under $100 by the editors of The Family Handyman magazine. These are the tools our editors have been using for years and wouldn't trade for anything.
“If you're going to buy a corded drill, get a hammer drill,” said Joe Jensen, set builder for The Family Handyman and home improvement contractor. “It does everything a traditional drill does, but the hammering action lets you drill through tough materials faster—without burning up the bit.” When you don't want the hammer feature, simply turn it off and use the drill like a standard one. The model shown, the Hitachi No. FDV16VB2, costs about $80 at Lowe's or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
An angle grinder excels at grinding down metal or masonry, but it can do so much more. Fitted with a diamond blade it'll cut just about any stone or ceramic tile. And the relatively small blade is perfect for the intricate cuts needed for outlet openings or the curved holes around a shower faucet. Grinders cut metal fast, strip paint and remove rust too. For occasional use, a $40 to $50 angle grinder will work fine for all these jobs. Available at home centers or through our affiliation with amazon.com
This special clamping straightedge helps you make a perfectly straight cut with a circular saw. The built-in clamps adjust quickly to plywood or lumber—and they're great for cutting off the bottom of doors. Just slide the back clamp until it's snug against the wood, and then press down the lever to lock the straightedge in place. The whole process takes seconds and leaves you with a securely attached straightedge with no protruding clamps to get in the way.
The gripping rubber clamp feet even let you clamp at angles up to 22.5 degrees as a guide for angled cuts. Different lengths of straightedges are available, from 24 to 99 in. The 24-in. model costs $35. The BORA Edge Clamp from Affinity Tool Works is one brand (borapro.com). You can also find clamping straightedges at rockler.com or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Impact drivers remove screws that are impossible to remove with a regular screwdriver. When you whack the driver head with a hammer, it drives the tip deep into the screw head slot while twisting the screw 20 degrees. The driver also works with 1/2-in.-drive impact sockets. Impact driver sets (about $23) are available at home centers, hardware stores or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
“I bought a CleanStream filter 10 years ago. I've worn out two shop vacuums since then, but that filter lives on,” said Gary Wentz, senior editor. “Aside from immortality, the CleanStream is also easy to clean. You can rinse it off with water, but I usually just take it outside and tap it against a tree; 90 percent of the dust drops off in 90 seconds. And, it's a HEPA filter. That means it catches fine particles like drywall and sanding dust that pass right through other filters.”
You'll notice the difference in the super durable filter material when you touch it—the slickness keeps debris from sticking. A sturdy aluminum core maintains the shape of the filter when you tap it to clean it. CleanStream filters cost $20 to $36, depending on the model (be sure to buy the filter that fits your shop vacuum brand). You can find the filters at home centers, hardware stores or on the company's Web site at cleanstream.com or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
If you drive lots of concrete screws, save time with a concrete screw installation kit (one brand is Buildex Tapcon, buildextapcon.com). It contains the masonry drill bit and screw drive on the same shaft. You drill the hole and just slip the driver shaft over the bit and sink the screw with the attached screw drive. The whole operation takes about 30 seconds. You'll find the kit (about $22) near the concrete screws at home centers or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
If you use square-drive or star-drive screws, you've probably seen this happen a hundred times: The driver bit gets stuck in the screw head and pulls out of the bit holder. This happens with Phillips screws, too, but not as often. The solution is a bit holder that locks onto the bit with a spring-loaded sleeve, not just a magnet. If you can't find one in your area, get one online through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Put $11 nippers in your tool belt anytime you're removing trim and you'll make quick work out of pulling the old nails—without damaging the wood's surface. The sharp jaws bite into the nail, holding it firmly as you roll the nippers back to pull out the nail from the back side of the trim. Buy them at home centers or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
This $14 noncontact voltage detector may be the best value ever. Hold it in front of an outlet or switch and an LED light and alarm will let you know if the power is on. It's also a fast way to track down breaks in circuits. They're available at home centers or through our affiliation with amazon.com.