Contractormag 3055 Tools2

Contractors still prefer to purchase tools from wholesalers

May 2, 2016
56 percent of survey respondents go to their wholesalers to make such purchases — last year’s survey reported that 54 percent of survey respondents go to wholesalers to purchase tools.    Respondents are then most likely to purchase their tools from home centers (54 percent) and industry supply houses (47 percent).  33 percent of respondents buy them online. 
Photo: iStock/ThinkStock.

CHICAGO — Last month CONTRACTOR surveyed its readers to find out what tools they use most, where they go to purchase tools and what size battery packs they prefer to use.

Invitations to participate in this survey were sent to a net 38,774 CONTRACTOR subscribers, and by April 10, Penton Research received 754 completed surveys — a response rate of 1.9%. Respondents are involved in residential construction (81 percent) and commercial construction (72 percent).

The majority of construction activity is dedicated to remodeling/retrofit (70 percent) while 30 percent is dedicated to new construction. Regarding fleet size, the majority of respondents are at companies with fleets comprised of one to five trucks (63 percent), yet, a smaller contingent of respondents with much larger fleet sizes put the overall study average up to eleven trucks.     

Respondent firms are most likely to be involved in air conditioning (64 percent), warm air heating (60 percent), plumbing (55 percent) and hydronic heating (48 percent). Firms are also engaged in radiant floor heating (38 percent) and bath kitchen remodeling (34 percent).

Survey respondents still prefer to purchase their tools at plumbing/HVACR wholesalers — 56 percent of survey respondents go to their wholesalers to make such purchases — last year’s survey reported that 54 percent of survey respondents go to wholesalers to purchase tools.   Respondents are then most likely to purchase their tools from home centers (54 percent), and industry supply houses (47 percent) and 33 percent of respondents buy them online. 

Regarding use of cordless power tools, the most commonly used power tools are power drills (81 percent), drills drivers (76 percent), followed by reciprocating saws (68 percent), and half of respondents use cordless hammer drills (57 percent) and cordless circular saws (53 percent).  

The most commonly used corded power tools include reciprocating saws (84 percent), hammer drills (82 percent), power drills (82 percent), circular saws (77 percent), rotary hammers (68 percent), pipe threading machines (64 percent) and drill drivers (61 percent).

A popular tool for plumbing contractors is Milwaukee Tool's PEX Expansion Tool Kit.

When it comes to the preferred voltage of battery packs, respondents are most likely to use 18 volt battery packs for their cordless power tools (79 percent), followed by 12 volt (27%) and 24 volt (21 percent). 

New products 

According to Paige Bovard, senior product manager at Milwaukee Tools, the most popular Milwaukee tools plumbing and hydronics contractors use are PEX expanders, plastic pipe shears, press tools, copper tubing cutters, thermal imagers, the M-Spector, M12 Hackzall and M12 Drilling and Fastening products.

Also, Milwaukee Tool’s new One-Key is making plumbing and hydronic contractors’ jobs easier and more efficient. As lithium-ion, motor technology and advanced electronics continue to push the innovative solutions on the market, the tool manufacturer noted a need among users for more customization options.

“Users want to interact with their tools in numerous ways,” explained Paige Bovard, senior product manager at Milwaukee Tool. “One-Key is the first digital platform for tools and equipment. By integrating industry-leading tool electronics with a custom-built cloud based program, One-Key provides a new level of control and access to information that will revolutionize the way work gets done – and fundamentally change the way users interact with their tools.”

One-Key offers functionality, including Tool Reporting, Tool Control, Inventory Management, and Integrated Tool Tracking.

Bosch's reciprocating saw in action.

“The ability for us to deliver more functionality over time, through the app, will provide great value to contractors well after they’ve already purchased their One-Key enabled tools,” said Bovard. “The availability of One-Key will unlock the functionality of contractor’s tools. Through Inventory Management, Tool Reporting, Integrated Tool Tracking and Tool Control, contracting companies, and their contractors in the field, will be able to track and customize the tools they use every single day to better address their specific needs while on the jobsite.”

According to Bosch Product Manager Tim Truesdale, the most popular Bosch tools for plumbing and hydronics contractors are hammer drills, corded and cordless impact drivers, reciprocating saws and general 12V cordless tools.

“Of course, cordless flashlights are always a good fit, too,” said Truesdale. “But reciprocating saws, impact drivers and rotary hammers like the Bosch SDS-Plus Bulldog are very popular with plumbers.”

As far as future tool trends, Truesdale said that cordless impacters and drill drivers will become more powerful and stronger to better suit contractor needs.

The DeWalk U-Type Died Crimper (DCE300) in action.

“A lot of power tool companies like Bosch are working to help these contractors go cordless on the jobsite, so I see the trend moving in that direction – more power and more runtime,” explained Truesdale.

Just recently, DeWalt announced its further expansion into trade-focused products with tools dedicated to the electrical, mechanical and plumbing trades; categories DeWalt plans to continue to develop as the brand expands its line in the future.

Specifically for the plumbing contractor, the new DeWalt Press Tool (DCE200) is capable of pressing pipe fittings from 1/2" to 4" in copper and stainless steel pipe. The Press Tool is capable of completing the full range of presses listed above and is compatible with a wide range of crimping heads and attachments for different materials and applications. The head of the tool pivots 320° to maneuver in tight spaces and the crimping jaws are protected from corrosion with a black galvanized coating.

This tool also features the Crimp Connect System, a bright LED work light that helps to illuminate the workspace and an LED panel which powers on or off the tool, indicates battery state of charge, cycle completion and if recalibration or service of the tool is needed. Finally, this tool also includes a shoulder strap for convenience when transporting around the jobsite.

A new tool for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractor is the Threaded Rod Cutter (DCS350). It is capable of quickly and cleanly cutting a range of threaded rod sizes including 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" mild steel rods and ¼”and 3/8” stainless steel rods. The four sided rotatable cutting die allows the user to cut each of the three different sizes of threaded rod with the same tool just by rotating the cutting dies to the size needed.

The unit does not create chips or sparks while cutting, providing a burr-free cut that can easily be threaded onto fasteners. The Threaded Rod Cutter is part of the DeWalt Perform & Protect line of power tools, which is designed to provide a high level of one or more of the following: control, dust containment or low vibration, without sacrificing performance.

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