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Most popular tools? The survey says …

CHICAGO — Contractors are making more tool purchases at home centers, a CONTRACTOR survey has found. Additionally, contractors are increasingly working in the service, repair and retrofit markets, with the aftermarket accounting for 72% of their work.

CONTRACTOR’s annual 2010 Power Tool Study was completed by 446 readers this January.

Home centers continue to make increases, overtaking plumbing wholesalers and chipping away at the leader, industrial supply houses. Interestingly, Internet purchases were down from last year, perhaps because contractors prefer to see and handle the tool before buying it.

More contractors, 32.7%, bought their tools at industrial supply houses, but home centers were a close second at 30.7%. That number, however, requires qualification. Nearly 42% of small contractors (those employing one to four persons) bought their tools at home centers. The largest contractors, those employing 50 or more, made only 10.3% of their tool purchases at home centers, while buying 74.4% of their tools at industrial supply houses. Plumbing wholesalers sold about 17% of the tools, but that number fell sharply among the largest contractors to only 2.6%.

Overall, the Internet accounted for 7.7% of tool purchases and catalogs less than 3%. Results since 2008 show a continuing increase in remodeling/retrofit work and a significant drop off in new construction.

Contractors in 2008 reported that 65% of their work was remodeling and retrofit, with the rest new construction. The shift away from construction accelerated in 2010 to nearly 72% in the aftermarket and 28% in new construction.

Many or most of the contractors were involved in plumbing, hydronic heating, warm air heating, air conditioning, radiant floor heating and bath and kitchen remodeling. Plumbing, at 67.1%, was the most reported type of work. More than 22% identified themselves as green contractors.

Why bother to unscrew anything? The reciprocating saw is the most used corded power tool, the survey said, used by 90.1%, followed by hammer drills at 87.5%. Next came circular saws at 86.6%, power drills at 82.7% and demolition hammers at 82.0%. Those were followed in order of popularity by rotary hammers, drill drivers, pipe threading machines, pipe cutting machines, drain cleaning machines and floor drivers.

The survey also queried contractors on their level of corded power tool use, and reciprocating saws were the clear number one, followed by hammer drills and power drills. In the cordless power tool category, drill drivers were most often used at 83.8%, followed by power drills (77%) and reciprocating saws (73%).

Those were followed by circular saws at 65%, hammer drills at 61.5% and rotary hammers at 32.6%.

When asked which cordless tool they used the most, the contractors said drill drivers (55.9% reported heavy use), followed by power drills and reciprocating saws.

More than 86% of the contractors say they use an 18V battery pack for cordless tools, followed by 24V at 26.5%. The former mainstay 14.4V battery packs are used by 24.8%. The heavy-duty 28V battery packs are used by 10.9%.

More than 83% of the contractors said they work in the residential market, nearly three-quarters in the commercial market, while less than a third are in the industrial market and 21% are in the institutional market. They employ an average of 26 people, although more than 54% employ between one and four employees. They run an average of 10 trucks, although a plurality, 29.9%, run three to five trucks.

TAGS: Remodeling