Tool Belts and Tool Caddies for Installers

Cabinet installers discuss efficient ways to keep their basic tools handy during installation jobs. May 20, 2009

Tools always seem to flop out of a belt when crawling around cabinets. What's best? Just have a bag of tools at the ready, use a tool belt, or carpenters apron? Cargo pants? In other words, what tools do you always want to have on your person, and how do you keep them there when working on the floor or inside a cabinet?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor J:
I keep an open faced tool bag at the ready. I keep my spirit level in rear pocket and tape on my hip.

From contributor Z:
I have a Fastcap tuff nylon version of a carpenters apron and a tool box and/or bags on the floor.

From contributor D:
The only thing a tool belt will do is damage the cabinets you're crawling around in/on.

From contributor F:
When I quit general contracting and went full time into cabinets I swore I'd never put on another tool belt. I find it isn't the right thing for a cabinet builder or installer anyway. A bucket buddy or the like is best. And I use Festool Systainers to organize and store small tools and fasteners.

From contributor R:
I am pretty much fed up with tool pouches so I stopped using them. Another issue is that they can potentially damage the cabinets and the interiors of the clients home so itís prudent not to use them for cabinet installs or any kind of finish carpentry where the interiors are complete or when you have sensitive finish material like fancy wall paper. For my personal use I have adopted the occidental leather oxypro work vest in combination with a Gary Katz style wooden tool tote.

Tool Tote

From contributor A:
I prefer a cloth type apron that ties in the back. Its frontal features a couple large pockets for incidentals, a slot for a nail set and a loop for a hammer to hang from. It also has an upper bib which houses enough pencils, glasses, etc. Using a cloth apron does not scratch anything and I don't fill it up to weigh me down so I am still mobile and flexible plus a bit cleaner at day's end.

From contributor F:
Another thing to consider is safety. When you where anything with loose material it can potentially get tangled in a circular saw, miter saw, table saw, etc. A friend of mine was wearing a sweat shirt with a hood on it and the string for the hood got caught in his table saw blade bringing his head down hard onto the cast iron table top. Luckily he didn't hit the blade with his head. I remove those sweat shirt strings and don't wear aprons at all. It's one thing to accidentally slide your finger into a saw blade but quite another to have your arm dragged into it, or your head for that matter.

From contributor D:
Some people will probably think I am crazy but I wear a toolbelt with a monster hook on each side. My impact driver is one side and my drill on the other. I will admit that it is heavy and starts to cut into my hips during a long day of installing but I never have to look for my impact driver or drill. My pouches on my toolbelt consist of:

utility knife
combo screwdriver
5 in 1
paddle bits 3/8 1/2 3/4
nail set
square drive and #2 Phillips bits
needle-nose pliers
tape measure
assorted installation screws

This works best for me.

From contributor J:
With that kind of weight on your hips, I can understand why you have some long installs.

From contributor E:
I also wear a belt - I'm at a loss without it. I do a lot of trim work and general remodeling type stuff too - and the first thing I grab out of my truck is my Occidental adjustable finisher tool belt - it's light and organized although I don't carry a whole lot in. I also have a Gary Katz type tote and have tool hooks on my drills, drivers, nail guns and they hang on the front hammer loop - my hammer is on the high mount in the back. Sure, occasionally I have to take it off to get somewhere, but I don't wander around the job site looking for my tape, or square, or scribes, etc. If you want a belt - check out Occidental Leather.

From contributor C:
A good carpenter's apron is the only way to go. There is lots of room for the things you need constantly. Another thing that has revolutionized my installs is using a Rubbermaid rolling cart. All the basic install tools and my bucket fit on it and it rolls along with me as I install. Incredible! Who needs a helper with everything right next to me at all times. Roll it away or closer easily with my foot if my hands are tied up, plus it has a cup holder!

From the original questioner:
When I've used rolling tool boxes, customers complained that I was scratching or marring their wood floors (which I was) so I stopped using them. How do you keep those wheels from scratching?

From contributor C:
I never, ever work over bare floors. I have two dozen heavy moving pads that I put down anywhere that I walk or work when I start a job. They keep the floors safe and impress the customers. The Rubbermaid carts have big 5" rubber wheels as well. The one I bought is 18" wide by 36" long with two shelves. They run about $120-$150 depending on size.

From the original questioner:
I also use the moving blankets but not so systematically as you. I'll have to reconsider this process. When you work up stairs, I assume your rolling cart stays behind and you just take up what you need?

From contributor C:
I usually leave it down yes. Although, if there is a whole other house upstairs, I usually do the install in two phases and move all my tools up before starting the next phase. For really big jobs (one month) or more, I bring in a folding table and try to set up shop. Every install is different and versatility is key!

From contributor W:
I have used a tool belt for years. I like to have my tools and supplies ready at hand never having to waste time looking for them. The only time I have damaged a cabinet during an install is when moving a base in to place while wearing knee pads with hard plastic covers.