CONTRACTOR readers spend, on average, $20,000 a year on power tools, according to an electronic survey conducted among the magazine’s readers in January.

Most of those purchases still are made through traditional two-step distribution. Nearly 50% of power tools are bought at industrial supply houses and another 15% through plumbing wholesalers, the research states.

Retailers, however, are capturing 20% of the power tool market among CONTRACTOR’s readers. Another 12% is almost evenly split between purchases made through catalogs and on he Internet.

CONTRACTOR sent the survey by e-mail to 20% of its readers.

Among the goals of the research was to determine:

  • The level of use of various corded and cordless power tools;
  • The annual expenditure on power tools and where they are typically purchased;
  • The types of contracting work the reader is engaged in; and
  • The percentage of the respondent’s work that is new construction vs. retrofit/remodeling.

On the same survey, we also asked about the size of the respondent’s truck fleet. The results of that question can be found in a CONTRACTOR IN FOCUS infograph on pg. 7.

The reciprocating saw is the most popular corded power tool with 90% of respondents saying that they use the tool. More than half of respondents say they also use a cordless model of reciprocating saws.

The most popular cordless tools among respondents are power drills and drill drivers, with both tools being used by more than two-thirds of readers.

In the survey, circular saws finished a surprising second in the corded power tool category with just less than 90% of readers saying they use the tool. The survey also asked readers about the amount of usage for each tool, however, and reciprocating saws see much heavier action on the job than circular saws.

So, while 88.9% of respondents say they use corded circular saws, only 14.4% describe themselves as heavy users of the tool. In contrast, almost 54% say they are heavy users of corded reciprocating saws and just 11.3% characterize themselves as light users of the tool.

Other corded tools that get heavy usage from CONTRACTOR readers in the survey are: power drills (43.4% heavy use, 86.8% overall use); hammer drills (34.2% heavy, 87.8% overall); pipe-threading machines (31.3%, 75.4%); drill drivers (30.6%, 76.6%); pipe-cutting machines (30.4%, 67.1%); rotary hammers (24%, 71.8%); drain-cleaning machines (19.1%, 53.4%); and demolition hammers (16.9%, 76%).

In the cordless category, CONTRACTOR readers give both power drills and drill drivers a workout. Drill drivers get heavy use from 46.4% of respondents (66.6% overall use) and power drills receive heavy use from 43.7% (67.7% overall use).

Cordless reciprocating saws see heavy use from 22.6% of respondents (51.7% overall) and cordless hammer drills get heavy use from 13.2% (35.9% overall). Other cordless models starting to get more attention from CONTRACTOR readers are circular saws (4.4% heavy use, 43.4% overall use) and rotary hammers (4.1%, 17.4%).

The respondents to the survey say that 61% of their construction activity is remodeling or retrofit work and 39% comes from new construction. The average number of people employed by the respondents is 53.

With obvious overlap, 78.2% of respondents say they perform commercial work and 77.5% say they do residential. Results from the same questions show that 39.9% do industrial projects and 29.7% perform institutional work.

Almost 70% of respondents do plumbing while more than half (55.9%) perform hydronic heating work. Nearly 40% of respondents specify that they do radiant floor heating and 20.2% say they install or service snow-melt systems.

More than 40% do bath-and-kitchen remodeling; 26.6% do process piping; 22.3% derive business from private water systems; and 12.5% work on fire sprinkler systems.