Praise for Impact Drivers

It's official: installers and cabinetmakers love cordless impact drivers. July 3, 2006

I've had several people tell me that cordless impact drivers are the best for cabinet assembly, versus a conventional corded drill or cordless. I've only used a cordless impact once and was terrified by the power in these things - a 9.6V completely sank a 4" lag screw in a hunk of SYP - I thought the thing had a demon or something.

Is it worth dumping $200 on one if you assemble, say, 20-40 boxes per week in a two-man shop? Are they really that much better than, say, a Milwaukee Hole Shooter? If so, what voltage would you get? Is it worth buying a cheaper one-off like the Ryobi?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
I've got a 14.4 Dewalt impact driver, and have had it for 6-8 months now. I wish I had gotten it years ago. I also have 4 other Dewalt standard cordless drills (14.4-18v) that neither I nor the shop guys will even use anymore. I guess I'll be buying a few more of them in the coming months. Bottom line, it'll probably be the best $250 you'll spend. Itís much lighter and far faster than a standard cord/cordless drill.

From contributor B:
I bought one for working on my snowmobile, used it for 5 minutes in the shop, then went and bought another, and the guys are still fighting over them! I will probably buy 2 or 3 more here shortly. I can drive confirmats with the large phillips #3 head with a small bit in and it wonít strip or spin out. We also drive 4-1/2 #14 mounting screws with no pre-drilling. Iím using the Makita 14 volt.

From contributor C:
I started using cordless impacts 12 years or so ago and have never looked back. I find the best application is for installation of upper cabinets mostly because, if you are using square drive screws, (another amazing product) you can align and hold the cabinet with one hand and drive the screw from an awkward position with the other. It takes a fraction of the pressure to drive the screw. I wouldn't install hardware with one however. It is a good investment.

From contributor D:
I also use the Makita 14volt, 200.00+ for impact, 2 batteries and extra hammer drill body. It is great for installs and assembly.

From contributor E:
I think any of the brand name impacts would be far better than not having one at all. Buy a brand and voltage size that is the same as your cordless drills so the batteries and chargers are interchangeable. I have six Panasonics but only use one charger in the shop for all of them. Two chargers stay in the case for installing. The others are back-ups if one ever fails.

From contributor F:
I recently bought the 12v for 200 dollars and the batteries (2) got or are fried after the first charge. What gives?

From contributor D:
I hope you didnít put the battery in backwards! Otherwise return to dealer for exchange.

From contributor G:
Impact drivers are hard to beat installing cabinets and counters. Makita 14.4 like mine have a small light that helps on counter tops and low light areas. My biggest gripe is there is no chuck to fasten bits. A 6" bit leaves about 3/8" play out on end and will jump off screw head. I have a keyless chuck but that doesnít help. The shorter the bit, the better. I tried the keyless chuck kit on hole saws up to 6" and that works, but is kind of slow. One thing about the hole saws is you won't break your elbows, arms, legs, knees or whatever body parts that might be close when the bit gets stuck because thatís where the impact comes in.

From contributor H:
My vote is for the 12V Panasonics as their battery technology is far superior to anyone else's. Their time between charges would leave that bunny rabbit dead by the side of the road. The 12V is more than strong enough for any cabinet work unless you have a flat on the way to the job and need to spin some lug nuts. You do need to check out Festool though as their interchangeable chucks allow you to get into some impossible places.

From the original questioner:
I've looked at Festool's stuff before and honestly they are fantastic quality, but they are way too proud of their tools for what I'm willing to spend. I don't think I'd ever pay what they want for a tool. We have a 14.4 Makita drill in the shop that's old as sin and still keeps plugging away.

From contributor I:
I actually bought an impact driver for cabinet assembly recently and ended up taking it back. It did drive the screws in easily but there was no feel to it at all. Sounds like I'm in the minority here though.

From contributor J:
The impact driver is a different world in power. Practice and an open mind can really tune your hand to the subtler uses of this tool. Like with a router or a rotozip, confidence comes with experience.

From contributor K:
I've had a Makita 12v for about 4 years now. It goes everywhere with me, in the shop and on the job site. They cannot be beat for driving square drive cabinet screws. I prefer the 12v because of its lightness and the batteries last a long time if they are nickel metal hydride. I would look at the Panasonic or Makita. I haven't had much luck with the Dewalt cordless tools.

From contributor L:
Run - don't walk - to the nearest store to buy an impact driver. They are so much easier and comfortable to work with than a drill but the biggest advantage is they are so much faster than a drill. I bought one impact driver and we all fought over it so I now own 4 of them and we still don't have enough to not have to use the drills once in a while. I have the Dewalt 18v drivers and love the way the work. I don't think it really matters what brand you get. I would just go with whatever brand of drill you have so that all the batteries and chargers work for everything.

From contributor M:
What accessories do I need to drive screws with the impact driver? Is there a lot of movement on whatever shaft you guys are using?

From contributor D:
I use no special bits, just regular inst-bits that lock in the shaft.

From contributor N:
I was installing a job and the door installer was there and had one. I used it to drive a couple of screws and went and bought my own.

From contributor O:
After reading this thread, I feel like I'm living in the Stone Age because I don't have an impact driver. So my question is, are you guys predrilling holes for your screws? And if so, you are using another drill to do that with I assume? And why are you using square drive screws instead of the torx style head?

We use Panasonic 15v drills with the reversible bits that will drill a 1/8" hole and countersink, then you flip it over and you can drive a Phillips or square or whatever. We're using the same drill for everything. Are we backwards or what??

From the original questioner:
Nothing wrong with what you're doing. It's what I did for a while and still do if I can't hog the impact driver from the boss. I only predrill for melamine using a countersink that I machined myself on the grinder (from a vermont american countersink I already had that was HSS). I use a 14.4 v Makita standard cordless drill for the countersink and the 14.4 Impact driver to sink the screw. The impact driver spins at 2800RPM and sinks the 2" screw almost halfway before the impact mechanism even kicks in.

The biggest drawback to an impact driver is in the installation phase, it's almost useless for sticking cabinets to metal studs. You have almost no feel as to when the screw has grabbed, particularly on wall cabinets, and you'll strip out more than you hit right. For that I still use the standard drill, I don't even take the impact driver onto sites where there's only metal studs.

From contributor P:
Look at the Makita Lithium Ion series Impact driver. It is 18V but as light and small as my 12V NiMh. It is the best out there right now. The Panasonic was in the lead but not anymore.