Corded recip saws, cordless drill/drivers top contractor preferences

Feb. 3, 2012
Contractors have decided with which battery pack they are most comfortable for cordless power tools and it’s 18V. An 18V power pack is used by 91.0% of contractors responding to CONTRACTOR’s 2012 Power Tool Study, conducted in January.

CHICAGO — Contractors have decided with which battery pack they are most comfortable for cordless power tools and it’s 18V. An 18V power pack is used by 91.0% of contractors responding to CONTRACTOR’s 2012 Power Tool Study, conducted in January.

The 18V power pack was followed in popularity by 12V at 26.5%, 14.4V at 19.6% and 24V at 19.1%. Other voltages came in at 10% or less. A mere 0.8% of contractors use a 36V battery.

The contractors spend an average of $12,144 per year on tools. A bit more than 41% said they spend from $1,000 to $4,999 on tools, while 32% spend less than $1,000. Contractors who spend $100,000 or more a year for tools constituted 2.4% of respondents.

Usage patterns for corded and cordless power tools differ. For example, 89.3% of respondents use a corded reciprocating saw, while 75.7% use a cordless version. The corded reciprocating saw tops the usage numbers for corded products, while the most commonly used cordless tool is a drill/driver at 83.5%.

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Among corded tools, circular saws came next in popularity at 89.2%, followed by hammer drills at 87.4% and demolition hammers at 82.8%. Those were followed by drills, 80.9%; rotary hammers, 74.4%; and drill/drivers at 74.0%. Heavy equipment that must be corded, such as pipe threading machines, were also commonly used.

On the cordless side, drills are used by 77.4%, hammer drills by 66.5%, and circular saws by 66.1%. A minority of contractors use cordless rotary hammers or demolition hammers.

Contractors have been telling the magazine that they are seeing less variation in quality between so-called professional tools and those available at retail, and that‘s reflected in where contractors buy their tools. Sixty-two percent buy tools at home centers, 55.9% at industrial supply houses, 44.2% at plumbing wholesalers, 38.0% on the Internet and 27.1% from hardware stores. Fifteen percent still have catalogs laying around and bought from them. Responses in the “other” category included auctions, other tradesmen and pawnshops.

The most common types of work for respondents included plumbing (62%), followed by hydronic heating, warm air heating, air conditioning and bath and kitchen remodeling, all of which were performed by more than 50% of the contractors. More than 43% install radiant floor heating. Other common types of work listed were private water systems, green mechanical contracting, process piping, snowmelt and solar. Many contractors listed a wide variety of work in the “other” category, such as electrical contracting, controls or commercial refrigeration.

Nearly 88% of the contractors work in the residential market, followed by commercial at 74.5%, industrial at 30.1% and institutional, 21.4%.

Most respondents identified themselves as the owner, president or general manager of their firms.

Slightly less than 73% of the contractors said they work in the remodeling retrofit market, while 27.1% said they are involved in new construction. The new construction figure seems oddly high after Rheem COO Chris Peel told CONTRACTOR in December that only 10% of water heater sales were going into the new construction market and 15% to 17% of HVAC sales are new construction. Rheem and its competitors, Peel said, are figuring on new construction sales to be a minor factor.

Plumbing, hydronics and HVAC contractors are the epitome of small businesses. A bit more than 52% said they employ one to four persons, while 21.8% employ five to nine. Contractors employing 10-19 make up 11.2% of firms, and those employing 20-49 are 8%. Categories for firms larger than that garnered results of less than 3%. Big contractors of 500 or more persons are at 0.6%.

The average number of trucks in contractors’ fleets came in at nine. A plurality of contractors, 31.3%, run three to five trucks, while 23.0% have two trucks. Slightly more than 1% run more than 100 trucks and 18.8% have just one.

Many of the contractors, 30.7% are in the New England or Middle Atlantic states. Almost 26% are in the Midwest in the East North Central or West North Central regions. The South Atlantic region is home to 15.6% of the contractors and 10.4% are in the Pacific region.

The survey was conducted via email in early January by CONTRACTOR’s research staff and had 514 responses.

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