One question I’ve been asked on MyFixitUpLife is “I see carpenters on TV using impact drivers. They look cool but do I need one?”
My answer is: depends.
Cordless impact drivers are pro-grade and one unit I’ve used that I like quite a lot is Makita’s BTD 141. If you’re only doing a few projects a year, well, you may be nicely served by a nice-quality drill/driver. If you’re cranking out larger remodeling projects, well the money spent on a professional-grade impact driver will come back to you in time saved. Of that, I have no doubt.
Cordless impact drivers mostly do what drill-drivers do–except faster and better–especially 18 volt Lithium Ion-powered units like the BTD 141.
Small, Fast, Big. The BTD 141 is smaller than most cordless drills and delivers way more RPMs (0-2,300) with about 1330 inch/pounds of torque, making it a fast powerful driver for every fastener from wimpy drywall screws to fistfuls of 3-inch deck screws and even ledger or seismic bolts (like LedgerLok or Simpson screws.) You can even use them to fasten deck hardware: A 1/2 by 6 inch lag for a deck ledger boards is definitely pushing the tool, but for socking up carriage and through-bolts, it’s hard to find a more efficient tool. The BTD 141 did great work fastening pergola hardware on a Western Red Cedar pergola I built.
But there’s finesse too. Because the variable speed trigger is so well designed, snugging a single screw into a vinyl replacement window or cabinet back just right is easy. So is blasting decking screws into rock-hard Doug Fir framing (which I just did for a bathroom remodel, integrating new framing into existing structure). The RPM/impact power combine for another benefit: they generate a great connection between the driver bit and the fastener–less reaming out of screw heads–which I feel makes working with them easier on me than muscling a cordless drill all day.
Very small screws aren’t an impact driver’s bailiwick (like setting cabinet hinges) because you can shear the screw off but anything beyond a drywall screw is fair game. It’s worth pointing out that the BTD 141 has enough umph to shear off larger screws which happens more in hardwoods (like a hardwood deck package or cabinet face frames). It doesn’t take much to figure out when you’re pushing the screw too hard, though, so this isn’t a drawback in my book.