Credit: Bosch Tools

There's no kit you can buy from your supplier that says “deck builder's tools.” But there could be, or should be. From site work to finish details, these tools will make you money: hammer is a life-saver. Blast concrete from existing footings (with bull-point or chisel), then drill for lag shields fastening the ledger to concrete or masonry.

Site Work

Hydraulic equipment. The Bobcat MT52 or larger MT55 minitrack excavator has muscle. Skinny enough to pass through gates and — outfitted with a bucket, forks, or auger — it's ideal for site prep, hauling/lifting materials, and drilling post holes.

Combination hammer drill. For getting past gnarly obstacles on hand-digs, the Bosch 11241EVS 14-pound combination

Lay Out

Laser level. The best way to strike a level line for ledger boards, bar none. Dots are better than lines outdoors.


Circular saw. Skil's 8¼-inch wormdrive saw has a 2 7/8-inch depth of cut.

The front-heavy Skil Mag 77 or Bosch 1677 MD worm drives are awesome for framing and cutting joists (run long over the ledger) to length.

A Makita BSS610 6¼-inch lithium-ion 18-volt circular saw is a good multipurpose player for framing, decking, etc., it makes lots of different cuts, and it's the perfect size to move around.

Reciprocating saw. A recip saw completes notches in 6x6, but is also handy for cutting back tree limbs, bushes, and small stumps. Skil's toothy “Ugly” blade actually saves time over regular demo blades.

Slider. A sliding compound miter saw is the tool for a production cut station. Build a jig for gang-cutting 2x2s. Cut handrail and framing blocks like those specced by Moisture Shield or Lowe's ChoiceDek handrail systems. And get tight miters for a cedar, redwood, or PT rail cap.


Impact driver. An 18-volt (or corded) unit is king for lags; a 12- or 14.4-volt unit is light, fast, and merciless in securing ledger screws, cinching carriage bolts, and fastening decking.

Autofeed screwgun. If you're screwing down more than a couple of decks per year, your knees, back, and spirit will thank you for an autofeed screwgun and collated fasteners.

Odd Ball

Protractor. Site-built gates are always a bit different, especially the Z-brace. Starrett's ProSite Protractor maps out accurate angles. You can even use it to lay out short-run stairs.

Spiral saw. A Roto-Zip with the right bit cuts aluminum and vinyl siding — quickly — before you flash and install the ledger board. —Mark Clement is a freelance writer and former contractor based in Ambler, Pa.