What’s in a Contractor Estimator’s Toolbox?
Joe DiTonno, Contractor Estimator, Stewart & Tate Construction, York, Pennsylvania
Joe DiTonno stopped using power tools on the job 10 years ago when he took a job as an estimator for a commercial contracting firm after 20 years in the field.
But that has not stopped him from updating his toolbox when he sees a compelling innovation.
“My honey-do list is a mile long and not just for my home, but my family and neighbors,” said DiTonno, who just completed a remodel of his kitchen, living room and dining room. “So, I’m constantly looking for easier ways to do things, particularly as I get older. Anything that makes it easier — I’m all for buying it.”
DiTonno’s tool tastes were shaped during his two decades in the field, during which he worked as a carpenter and superintendent on commercial buildings.
“I don’t buy anything less than professional grade,” he said. “I’m very selective, and as you can see with my Hilti, I’m not scratching the bottom of the barrel. I want hand and power tools that will stand the test of time and will not wear out.“
In recent years, he has replaced both corded and cordless tools with models using lithium-ion batteries and brushless motors.
“Instead of lugging out my big miter box, I switched over to DeWalt’s 20V Max 7¼-inch circular saw that you can carry with one hand versus two people lifting it into a truck,” said DiTonno.
So, what’s next on the honey-do and shopping lists?
“I’m getting ready to tear into a laundry room and bathroom remodel,” DiTonno said. “I’m looking at plunge cut track saws for cutting doors and countertops, and I really like the Festool TS 75. My toolbox is constantly evolving. It never ends.”
For Joe DiTonno, these tools are essentials in his contractor estimator’s toolbox:
Estwing 28-Ounce Smooth Face Framing Hammer, Model# E3-28S
I purchased this framing hammer 25 years ago, and it remains not just my favorite hammer, but my favorite tool, even though I used to get a lot of grief for using it to do trim. It takes a gentle hand. I have it in my contractor estimator’s toolbox and use it for everything from demolition to trim.
Hilti Combihammer, Model# TE 60
This is one of the most versatile hammer drill/chippers on the market. It’s not oversized, which means it can be used all day for chipping concrete or drilling holes.
RIDGID 12-Inch Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw, Model# MS1290LZ
This was one of the best sliding miter saws for the money when I purchased it 14 years ago, and it’s still going strong. I use it primarily for cutting trim.
DeWalt 20V ½-Inch Brushless Cordless Hammer Drill Kit, Model# DCD995M2
This brushless cordless hammer drill kit is my go-to tool for running screws and drilling holes.
Fein MultiMaster Oscillating Multi-Tool, Model# FMM350QSL
With lots of blade options, this is very versatile and is the newest tool I’ve listed. I bought it about a year ago and it is still in my contractor estimator’s toolbox. I have used it to cut trim, subfloor, drywall and 2x material.
Milwaukee 13-Amp Rotating Orbital Super Sawzall, Model# 6523-21
This is the best reciprocating saw on the market. It cuts smoothly, and the handle rotates 360°. It has a twist lock cord, which is easy to replace, and the 13-amp motor gives lots of cutting power. I use it primarily for demo work.
DeWalt 18V 16-Gauge Angled Finish Nailer, Model# DC618K
I’ve used this cordless finish nailer for eight years. It doesn’t require gas and offers a great selection of available fastener lengths. It has good depth selection and driving power. I can use it all day and take it anywhere.