It’s a simple fact of life that every home improvement project requires tools of some sort. As a result, just about every homeowner has a toolbox — or at least a kitchen drawer — with a decent assortment of hand tools. But what happens when your project requires a jackhammer, an airless paint sprayer or perhaps even a tractor?

It’s a simple fact of life that every home improvement project requires tools of some sort. As a result, just about every homeowner has a toolbox — or at least a kitchen drawer — with a decent assortment of hand tools. But what happens when your project requires a jackhammer, an airless paint sprayer or perhaps even a tractor?

Rather than shell out the money to buy a tool or a piece of equipment that you’ll probably use only once, you’re better off turning to your local rental yard instead. The typical rental yard has a pretty astounding assortment of tools and equipment available, and because they don’t make any money if their tools are in the repair shop, you will generally find late-model equipment in very good working order.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU NEED?

The first step in dealing with a rental yard is deciding exactly what you need to rent. That may sound pretty obvious, but if this is a tool that you’ve never used before, you may not know exactly what it’s called or what variations of it might be available. For example, you may know that you need to drill some holes in concrete, but you may not know if you need a small hammer drill, a larger rotary hammer, or perhaps even some diamond-tipped, core-boring equipment. Don’t despair and don’t feel embarrassed. Rental yard personnel are well acquainted with the tools they have available, and exactly what they can and can’t do. Simply explain what your project is, and they can steer you to the right tool to do the job.

HOW LONG SHOULD YOU RENT FOR?

Some equipment can be rented by the hour, often with a two-hour-or-longer minimum. Other choices typically include a per-day rate (24 hours) and a per-week rate (seven days), and sometimes you’ll find half-day and monthly rates available as well. The longer the rental term is, the cheaper the rate will be; for example, a tool might rent for $10 per hour, but be just $75 for a full day, and perhaps drop down to $350 for an entire week.

Try to figure out about how long you’ll need the tool for, and then add some time to that estimate to account for your unfamiliarity with the tool’s operation, as well as the problems that almost always creep up on home improvement projects. You may be pretty sure that you can get the job done within their two-hour minimum, but you’re probably money ahead if you opt for the half-day or even the full-day rate, so you don’t feel rushed. And don’t forget that the rental time also includes the time it’s going to take you to pack up the tool and drive back to the rental yard with it.

Once you have a rough idea of how long you’ll need the tool, be sure to ask what the yard’s policy is for returning it earlier or later than expected. Most yards will charge you only for the actual time you have the tool, and will work with you on what the best rate is. For example, you may tell them you want it for a whole day, but if you are able to get it back within just a couple of hours, you will typically be charged either an hourly or a half-day rate, not the more expensive full-day rate. Where you might run into problems is if you need the tool longer than expected — if someone else has it reserved for the following day, you may be required to return it before you’re done.

Also, ask what days the rental yard is open. The yard might be closed on Sundays, so if you rent something on Saturday, your one-day rate will usually extend all the way to Monday morning. The same thing may apply if the yard is closed over a holiday.

TRAINING AND TRANSPORTING

So, how do you get that big trencher home — and how do you use it once you get it there? One thing rental yards have lots of is trailers, in all different sizes. If you rent a larger piece of equipment from them, the rental price may include the trailer as well, or they may give you a trailer at a discounted rate for the term of the rental. If you can’t or don’t want to tow a trailer, or if the equipment is too large to be towed, the rental yard can deliver it directly to your job site for a nominal fee, and then pick it up when you’re done.

As to operation, the rental yard staff will show you the basics of what you need to know. They’ll show you how to start and stop the tool or equipment correctly, all the safety features, how to change bits or blades, how to clean it, and other pertinent information.

CLEANING AND DAMAGE

When you rent a tool from a rental yard, there is the practical and legal expectation that you will return it clean and in the same working order as when they gave it to you. That doesn’t mean that the tool or piece of equipment needs to be absolutely spotless — the yard will clean, check and service it before it goes out again — but if you return it in a condition that will require extra cleaning or servicing time, you’re likely to be charged for it. This is especially true for painting equipment, concrete tools, and other items can be hard to clean if you allow material to harden on or inside the tool.

Another thing you will be asked when you rent is whether you want a damage waiver, which is available for an extra cost. With most types of equipment — especially complex or expensive items, or tools you’re not familiar with — this small charge is well worth the peace of mind it brings.

Always ask what the yard’s expectations are for cleaning, and what the damage waiver covers. Remember, when you rent a piece of equipment you are signing a legal contract, so be sure you’re comfortable with what it says.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.

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