It doesn't make sense to pay a lot of money for a tool you may only use once or twice a year or for one specific project, leaving it to sit in your garage the remainder of the time. Sometimes you're better off renting. You get a high-quality tool that'll help you ace a project and maybe even save you time.
You can now buy a tile saw for as little as $50 at home centers, so it might seem like a good deal. But the cheap saws have limited capabilities. They're designed for ceramic and porcelain tiles, so they're not a good choice for cutting marble or thick tiles. The small deck and adjustable arm also have trouble accommodating large tiles. "Cutting 16- or 22-inch tiles at a diagonal may not work on small saws," says Paul Phelon, co-owner of Timp Rental Center, which has stores in the Provo, Utah, area.
Phelon rents commercial tile saws that retail for about $1200. The high-quality saws handle virtually any tile without chipping the edges, come with a stand, and typically rent for about $50 per day. The sliding deck lets you set the tile in place, then push the deck and tile through the blade as one unit rather than pushing just the tile. This gives you more control for precision cuts.
If you're still dead set on buying a tile saw, talk to rental centers, which typically sell used tools and equipment. "The rental store industry constantly rotates its inventory to keep up with the new tools," he says.
Instead of plopping down $25 or more for a manual, clamshell post-hole digger, rent a power auger the next time you're putting in a fence or building a deck. You can rent a one- or two-person power auger, or even a Bobcat skid-steer with a hole-digging accessory to dig all the holes you need in a half-day or so.
Phelon says rental centers can recommend an auger type based on your soil; sometimes a one-person power auger isn't powerful enough for hard soils. "It all comes down to how rocky or hard the ground is you want to dig through," he says. Just don't forget to have your utilities marked before picking up the digger.
(See more: 10 things you should always buy used)
Every once in a while when you're boring a 5-inch hole in your foundation to run a dryer vent or knocking old mortar out of a masonry wall for tuckpointing, you need more power than your ordinary drill can provide. "You can buy masonry bits, but if you don't have the hammer action, you can drill and drill and push and push and not go anywhere," Phelon says. "You have to have that hammer action, and in 30 seconds you're done."
You need a rotary hammer, but they're expensive, with starting prices of a couple hundred bucks for a quality tool. So rent one instead, for about $35 for 4 hours.
Unless you're a gardening fanatic who's constantly turning up the soil, you probably need to till only once or twice a year. The rest of the time, the tiller is gobbling up room in your garage. "If you only use something for 2 hours a year, it takes a long time to get your investment back," Phelon says. He rents $5000 hydraulic rear tillers for $90 to $100 per day.
The beauty of paint sprayers is they quickly apply an even coat of paint or stain without leaving behind ugly brush or roller-overlap marks. Home centers sell handheld sprayers for only $50, but they have drawbacks. You have to refill them constantly, and because you're holding the entire unit loaded with a container of paint, it gets heavy. Plus, they're a royal pain to clean. And if you don't do a good job cleaning, don't plan on using it again—the old paint will clog up the mechanics.
Commercial HVLP sprayers take a little practice to use properly, but once you have the technique down, you can get a professional-looking finish. "It's a lot finer spray. This is what professional use. When it dries, it looks different," Phelon notes. "You can paint a whole room in an hour, if that. All you've got is a gun in your hands and 50 feet of hose." The sprayers are particularly useful for doors and closet doors that are tricky to paint or stain without ending up with lap marks. Phelon rents his $1500 sprayers for $60 per day.
Diamond Saw Blades
You can buy diamond blades at home centers, but the prices are all over the place—from under $10 to more than $1000. "Diamond blades have a huge discrepancy in quality," Phelon says. "Throw-away blades wear out fast." Cheap blades can also cause the saw to kick back, which poses a danger to the operator. They also don't cut very well, and you'll probably burn through several to complete a project. But you also don't want to spend a small fortune for a top-of-the-line blade that you may never use again.
"You have to know what you're getting and what you're cutting," Phelon says. If you want to cut masonry materials or concrete, then rent a quality blade.
Handheld snakes aren't terribly expensive, starting at under $30, but you need the right length to reach a clog. "You might buy 25 feet of cable but find that you need 50 feet," Phelon says. "If you rent 25 feet and need 50 feet, or 100 feet, you bring it back and we give you the longer one. And we only charge the difference between renting the two."
When renting, you can upgrade to a mechanical unit ($40 for 4 hours for 70 feet of cable) instead of a manual version ($25 for 4 hours for 50 feet of coil) for a minimal cost. Buying the power version typically costs more than $250, making it cost-prohibitive for most DIYers.
DIYers aren't going to spend big bucks on a floor sander, but they do shell out hundreds of dollars on a floor stapler. Rental centers have all the tools for a hardwood-floor install, which you can rent as you need them for stages in the floor-install process. The stapler rents for about $45 per day.
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