How to Choose the Best Power Drill for Building a Deck

Power tools can be extremely hard to learn about and purchase, especially if you’re new to woodworking and DIY crafts. They can seem complicated if you don’t know the different traits each drill can have, and they can seem dangerous if you’ve never held or used one yourself before. Learn how to choose the best power drill for building a deck.

Thankfully, it’s very possible to find power drills that perfectly fit your needs, something especially important if you need a power drill for deck building. With the right power drill and proper instructions, you shouldn’t have any trouble with making a stable and comfortable deck, and you can surely find countless other projects to use it for once your deck is complete.

These are just a few of the things you should look for in a power drill, and also a few of the things you should keep in mind when purchasing one for your deck project.

Drill & Driver Kits

This might seem obvious to expert crafters and drill users, but those who are buying their first power drill should know that it’s important to buy a Drill & Driver Kit, rather than just a drill on its own. Products listed as “Tool only” will usually only include the base drill, meaning it lacks any of the drill bits that actually spin into materials.

This can definitely be more costly, but it’s still far less expensive than buying the different pieces separately, especially since each drill may not fit third-party drill bits and driver kits.

As a result, gravitate toward any products marked as having both a drill and a driver kit, which usually have names and appearances similar to this Dewalt 20V Max Cordless Drill / Driver Kit.

Drill Voltage

Perhaps the most important thing that makes power drills different from each other is their power, which can usually be determined from their voltage. This is the amount of drilling power it uses on average, with corded drills taking that power directly from an outlet and cordless drills using specific battery types to hit that strength.

For building a deck, the best drill voltage you should look for is around 12V to 20V. You’ll want something a little more heavy-duty than a household chore drill, but you don’t really need a powerful corded drill since you’ll be mostly drilling through light, standard wood. That said, the higher your voltage, the more stable and effective your drill will likely be.

Drill Torque

The other reason to avoid drills with overly high voltage is that they can often have far more strength than you need, especially for beginners who aren’t as experienced using power tools.

You don’t want something too weak, either, though, as something that doesn’t work effectively or efficiently can lead to a lot of uneven holes and create frustration.

If you want the most ideal amount of drill torque, you’ll probably want to aim for around 18V. This will ensure your drill works consistently and fast with each hole you need to make, as well as not being alarmingly powerful. Drill torque can usually be identified by their battery, as they traditionally use fitting 18V batteries to match.

Adjustable Clutches

Speaking of torque, it’s important to mention that drills traditionally have what’s known as a slip clutch, which you can twist to increase or decrease the speed of the screw head. This means you can adjust the strength to fit your needs and performance level, but it’s usually a waste for you to purchase a drill when you only use the highest or lowest option.

The general guideline is that lower settings are great for inserting screws safely, while higher settings are needed for drilling holes.

You’ll also get significantly more out of your drill if it has a wider range of options, since you may be at higher risk of needing to return or toss out drills that have singular uses.

Make sure your drill has a fairly solid range of 20-30 units on its adjustable clutch, and when you first use it, try to work mainly in the middle of the clutch’s range of numbers to ensure you get a good feel for the drill’s potential power early on.

Chuck Size

The last power drill trait to keep in mind when buying one for your deck project is the chuck, which is the clamp that holds the spinning end of the drill in place. These range from about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, so it might seem relatively minimal, but this will be another indicator of how powerful the drill is, since it needs a wider base to remain stable.

For building a deck, you’re going to want something around the middle range at about 3/8 inches, but with good adjustments you’re welcome to go with a ½-inch chuck instead.

This is common for general power drills, and many will even feature adjustable or replaceable chucks if your power drill has a higher maximum torque, but you don’t need anything higher than 3/8 inches for this particular project.

Best Power Drill Brands

For the most part, there aren’t a lot of mistakes you can make when it comes to power drill brands. Most of the top brands are fairly indistinct, unless you’re doing heavy-duty projects or use it extremely frequently, but you’ll find a significant difference between unrecognizable small brands compared to the best and most popular power drill brands.

That said, there are definitely some popular brands that many veteran woodworkers and crafters will quickly recommend. Dewalt is one of the biggest of these, having great lightweight options like the Dewalt Atomic 20V Max Compact Drill, which comes with a great range of drill bits and accessories alongside a lightweight drill that should provide what you’re looking for.

Alternately, similar drill and driver kits exist from big brands like Milwaukee, with its 2801-21P M18 18-Volt Lithium Ion Compact Brushless Drill having similar effectiveness with a slightly lower stable price point. You should generally aim for major brands like these to ensure your power drill is worth the cost, but their quality is high enough, compared to smaller brands, that you can’t entirely go wrong with any option.

Power Drill Types

a yellow drill

We’ve mentioned a lot of different types of power drill features and traits you should look out for, but there are a few larger-scale types of power drills that you should also be aware of when starting your deck project. Many can function quite differently and can have some fairly unique appearances, so it’s worth knowing the other unique options you can go with.

Cord Drills vs. Cordless Drills

As mentioned before, the main difference between cord drills and cordless drills is the amount of power they can use. Since cord drills don’t run on a battery, they usually have significantly higher voltages of around 120V and are also described in amps based on their motor.

For an example of a corded drill, the SKIL 7.5-Amp 1/2 Inch Corded Hammer Drill is an excellent option for those in need of this drill type.

However, for building a deck, you’ll be moving quite a lot and won’t need anywhere near this amount of power. This isn’t to say cordless drills are useless, as many have unique features to resemble other power tools that need greater strength.

But for the most part, you’ll be much more satisfied with a cordless drill, as it’s just as safe and significantly easier to use.

Brushless Drills

One of the more deceptive drill types has to do with brushless drills like the 2801-21P M18 18-Volt Lithium Ion Compact Brushless Drill, which tend to look quite similar to standard drills despite being only becoming popular and common around the 1980s. The word “brushless” refers to the motor inside the drill, in that it features a motor that uses magnetic parts to provide a direct electric current instead of a friction-based brush.

This might seem complex, but the short version is that brushless drills are less likely to overheat and have much cleaner adjustable speeds. This makes brushless drill much easier to use for large projects with lots of drilling, such as deck building, but slightly more expensive on account of their more complex parts.

That said, this type of motor is also much less likely to break down or absorb dust, making it much more long-lasting than many classic brushed drills.

Impact Drills/Drivers

One of the more visible types of drills has to do with impact drills, which tend to have much shorter heads and a small grip instead of a traditional chuck. An example of this is the M12 Fuel 1/4 Inch Hex Impact Driver Kit from Milwaukee. While impact drills and traditional chucks are mostly quite similar, impact drills tend to weigh slightly less and are significantly easier to control while using.

This comes at the cost of their power, making an impact drill often weaker than most traditional cordless drills, and with significantly fewer adjustable speeds. Since deck building usually requires a fair amount of use and decent strength, you’ll likely want to avoid impact drills for this project, but that’s not to say these are completely useless if you’re interested in getting a drill for more delicate projects.

Right-angle Cordless Drills

Right-angle cordless drills like the Dewalt 20V MAX Right Angle Cordless Drill/Driver Kit are easily the strangest looking drill type you can get, but they might be the most worthwhile alternative you can go for. This is because their light weight makes them significantly easier to hold, similar to an impact drill, while still having the potential strength of a standard cordless drill.

This can make them a little awkward to hold if you’re new to them, but their unusual shape allows them to be more compact and reach more unusual angles, which can be really helpful when building a deck.

It’s not necessarily superior to a standard cordless power drill, but if you want to try something a little different with a less intimidating shape, it’s a totally valid option with great functionality.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the best power drill for building a deck will be the one you think fits your needs and skill level best. Getting an expensive and overly complicated drill is only going to make your project more difficult, while getting an inexpensive one with little range is just going to take up space after you’ve finished the job.

Power tools are an investment, and something that you can always find more to do with as a crafter or woodworker. With the right power drill, you can absolutely find more projects to make use out of it, and the more practice you get with a versatile and worthwhile power drill, the easier it’ll be to find projects where you can make great use of it.

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