Category Archives: Tools

What is the Difference Between a Plasma Cutter and a Welder?

Difference Between Plasma Cutter and Welder (Blog Cover)

When people think of welders, they tend to conjure up an image of a man with something that looks like a sci-fi mask being showered by sparks as he joins two pieces of metal together. And while this is not an inaccurate picture of what a welder does, there is much more to it. 

Over the years, welding technology has advanced – big time. Today, there are traditional MG welders and plasma welders, but many people still don’t know the difference. 

And that’s understandable because the differences will only be apparent to tradespeople and those with first-hand knowledge of the industry. But to help clear things up, Contractor’s Society of America presents a guide on the difference between a plasma cutter and a welder. 

The Basics of A Welder

One of the significant differences between plasma cutters and welders is their use. While welding apparatus can cut certain metals, in general, the traditional use for welders is to bind two pieces of metal together. 

Also, there are different kinds of welders. For instance, there are arc welders, MIG welders (metal inert gas), and TIG welders (tungsten inert gas). 

The debate as to which type of welder works best in different applications rages on. Still, the basics are simple: all these different types of welders are used to either join two pieces of metal or cut metal. 

Welders generally work by joining two metals together using an electrode. In the case of Tungsten Inert Gas welders, the electrode is protected and stabilized by an inert shielding gas that creates a barrier against the surrounding atmosphere. 

Welding is an efficient way to join two metals and cut softer metals. However, welding is the older of the two technologies. In fact, plasma cutting may be more efficient and effective for some applications. Let’s take a look at the basics of plasma cutting.

The Basics of Plasma Cutters

Plasma cutters use heated plasma to make cuts in electrically conductive metals instead of using inert gas and an electrode. The cutter blasts out plasma, creating a jet that effectively cuts and etches metal. 

Plasma cutting is used in various industries because it can create clean, precise cuts in metals that welding may not be able to handle. 

Plasma cutting is only viable if you work with electrically conductive metals like steel, copper, brass, stainless steel, and aluminum. 

Plasma cutting is used in various industries for its versatility and ability to produce precise cuts. Here are just some of the sectors where plasma cutting and plasma cutters are common:

  • Metal fabrication shots
  • Metal salvaging
  • The automotive industry
  • Industrial construction
  • The aerospace industry
  • Military construction
  • Electrical equipment manufacturing
  • Industrial machinery manufacturing
  • Medical device manufacturing
  • Robotics
  • The art industry

The Difference Between Plasma Cutter and Welder

Now that you have a general idea of each type of welder (and cutter), it’s time to go over what separates them. The differences between a plasma cutter and a welder include:

Technology

Plasma cutting is a more recent and advanced technology. It blows a highly-propelled jet of plasma through a nozzle. The nozzle then processes the plasma and uses it to create an arc capable of making cuts in electrically conductive metal. On the other hand, a MIG or TIG welder uses inert gasses to produce the angle that makes the cuts. 

Setup

The plasma cutter will generally be easier to set up, accounting for its higher on-site usage than traditional welders. In addition, there are fewer variable components in a plasma cutter than in a MIG or TIG welder. For example, achieving clean cuts and pristine finishes with a welder requires precise tuning.

Usability

Again, speaking in general terms, it is easier to cut through thick metals with a plasma cutter than a TIG or MIG welder. Plasma cutters are also more commonly used to make precise cuts, accounting for their frequent usage in aerospace and robotics manufacturing. 

The concentrated plasma jet allows for more precision cuts. Traditional welding is less precise. With a conventional welder, getting good cuts and clean welds takes much more skill and experience. 

The Final Verdict on Plasma Cutters vs. Welders

Some consider welding to be more of a craftsman’s trade. In contrast, others believe plasma cutting is the inevitable future wave. No matter what side of the debate you land on, we want you to know that we are on the contractor’s side.

Here at Contractors Society of America, we help contractors of all kinds connect with more customers in their area. We also provide a wealth of resources that allow them to administer their services.

7 Best Construction Management Software Tools

Construction Management Tools (Blog Cover)

Taking a firm charge of any construction project can help tremendously. Knowing what the project goals are, setting exact performance parameters, and selecting project participants are a few of the challenges of successful construction project management. 

It’s a full-time job, which is why many construction companies hire experts to deal specifically with project management. According to TrueLook, some of the biggest challenges regarding construction project management include hazard management, jobs going over budget, and poorly defined goals. 

And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why the construction project management software has been booming as of late. Experts estimate that the construction project management software industry will be worth well over $2 billion in just eight years – which is double the $1.2 billion it was worth in 2018. 

Construction management software could be your solution if you want to increase productivity and job success but don’t want to create a new salaried position within your company. Many of our members here at Contractors Society of America utilize construction management software successfully in their own business. But how do you know which would be best for your company? According to our members and community, these are the best construction management software tools:

1) CoConstruct

CoConstruct is a great management tool to use if you run a design-build firm. That’s because it’s incredibly adaptable. While other software more or less locks you in as soon as you set a timetable, materials list, and schedule, CoConstruct allows you to make changes on the fly. Some of its best features include tracking changes in orders and material expenses and single-entry estimating – making it easier to provide clients with estimate service.

2) ProContractor

ProContractor is geared more towards the financial management of projects. One of the coolest features it comes with is the profitable project management feature, making it much easier to see what you will net at the end of any given project. By merit of this useful feature, ProContractor is also extremely helpful for submitting bids. It will help you streamline the bidding process, know what you stand to make and gives you the best chance at a winning bid. 

3) Projectmates

Projectmates is a more comprehensive suite of tools for managing all aspects of the job – financial and performance. It comes with integrated tools like a document manager that stores plans, contracts, status report documents, and project photos neatly and conveniently. There are also scheduling tools you can use to help manage your team and the workflow. And there is a helpful capital planning tool to help you keep an eye on your bottom line and draw up estimates.

4) WorkflowMax

WorkflowMax is another comprehensive software suite best known for its client management tool, conveniently organizing client information, contacts info, and categorizing projects according to the client. WorkflowMax is also a handy program to track the time spent on jobs and keep an eye on how much the job is costing/making. But perhaps the best thing about WorkflowMax is that it virtually eliminates the need to cobble together management tools from other software providers.

5)Procore

We get asked, “what is Procore construction software?” a lot. T7his is a popular construction management software package because it automates many tasks like document delivery and team member revisions. Procore offers an easy communication platform so you can keep in touch with all the key players of a project. Procore is best suited for companies that already use (and want to keep using) other management tools because it can sync with many other popular construction management software tools. 

6) GanttPro

GanttPro is a great tool to use, especially if you are already using Gantt Chart. With the GanttPro software suite, you can easily breakdown projects into subdivisions or sub-tasks. The subdivision is an invaluable tool for contractors who regularly take on large-scale or nuanced projects. You can use GanttPro to define clear timelines, goals, schedules, and job parameters among the subdivisions. GanttPro also archives jobs so you can audit the work you have already done to see what needs to be improved. 

7) BuilderTrend

BuilderTrend simplifies estimates, proposals, and sales with a variety of features that will impress construction companies. Users can import Excel data and other integrated software while working from existing templates and accumulating digital signatures. The tool comes with a built-in email marketing feature allowing quick responses to leads and the ability to craft effective email blasts.

Keep it in Perspective

So what is the best construction management software of all seven that we have highlighted? That will depend mightily on what your specific needs are. For instance, if you find financial planning to be your biggest challenge, ProContractor would be incredibly helpful. But Procore is one that came up a lot when we were pooling insight from our contractors here at Contractors Society of America. 

At any rate, keep things in perspective. Be honest about areas of project management that you are struggling with and make a choice accordingly. And for more tips and resources, contact us here at Contractors Society of America. 

The Best Power Tool Brands for Contractors (2020 Update)

Best Power Tool Brands for Contractors Graphic

Knowing the kind of tools you will need for a job is only half the battle. If you need to procure tools for yourself and your team, you have a lot to consider as a contractor. Reliability, durability, cord and cordless options are all important factors with power tools. And oftentimes, a company will stake its name on these specific factors.

Contractors Society of America has comprised a list of the best power tool brands based on the firsthand experiences of other contractors, brand reputation and of course, personal experience. The brands we have chosen here also represent versatility. In other words, these are the brands that have the most use across a broad range of contractor fields. Whether you are an HVAC contractor, a roofing contractor a remodeling contractor or any type of contractor of the like, you will surely find a use for the tools made by the following brands.

Keep in mind that in this list, we are focusing on the brands that make the best power tools for professional use. While many of these brands also emphasize consumer and DIY usability, we are going to be focusing on professional contractor use.

Milwaukee

If you have been a contractor in the last century, then you know the name Milwaukee. Milwaukee was established in 1924, and they are innovators when it comes to cordless power tools. In fact, they were the first power tool manufacturer to integrate rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology into their power tools. 

This is one of the things we like best about the Milwaukee brand. As a contractor, we don’t have to tell you how handy cordless power tools are. But reliability and charging are always an issue. Milwaukee power tools charge quickly, stay juiced for a long time and the batteries don’t burn themselves out as quickly as other of the best power tool brands. 

We personally loved the Milwaukee 2896-24 18V Combo kit which includes an M18 Fuel Sawzall. This sawzall is a beast. Whether you are cutting through vinyl fascia or the nails that secure them, this thing maintains its power via the innovative M18 Fuel power system that Milwaukee has garnered tons of industry praise for. The set comes with interchangeable spare batteries which is always helpful on the job site. 

Another great thing about Milwaukee power tools is that all of their modern products run off of one of four battery systems. So you can use the same battery for your Milwaukee hex impact driver as you do for your Milwaukee hammer drill.

Craftsman

Craftsman may not be the first name you think of when you think of the best power tool brands for contractors, but that is only because they have brands under them. Craftsman is actually part of the Stanley Black & Decker family of products so right off the bat, you know they are manufactured to strict standards of quality. 

But the main reason we included them in our best of the best power tool brands for contractors is that they manufacture perhaps the widest array of power tools, hand tools and outdoor equipment of any other brand; which means this brand is useful for a variety of contractors. 

For instance, did you know that Weedwacker is actually a Craftsman brand? It’s true. Weedwacker has become a general term for all kinds of string trimmers but the specific name is a registered trademark of Craftsman.

If you are a landscape contractor then you couldn’t do too much better in terms of a string trimmer than a Weedwacker from Craftsman. 

Aside from tool versatility, Craftsman has also become known for power versatility. They offer a generous line of corded, cordless, battery and gas-powered tools. So no matter what your preference is or what your line of work calls for as a contractor, Craftsman will more than likely have a set of tools you can get great use out of.

Ridgid

We couldn’t forget about our plumbing and HVAC contractors out there. That’s why we have included Ridgid in our list of the best power tool brands. Ridgid is known for reliability. The company was founded in 1923 and began specializing in quality hand tools like pipe wrenches. But in our personal experience, Ridgid makes some of the best drill kits and impact drivers we have ever used. 

They last a really long time and maintain consistent performance no matter how hard you work them. But let’s get down to brass tacks. The Ridgid brand will be your best friend especially if you are an HVAC or plumbing contractor. Their hand tools for these specific trades are world-renowned and although they offer just a limited line in terms of power tools, even they are a solid choice. 

Ridgid is also an affordable brand if you are shopping for power tools. If you are looking for a basic set of power tools that can be put to multiple uses, Ridgid is a great brand to choose.

Bosch

Bosch represents one of the oldest companies on our list. The company began in Germany all the way back in 1886. Bosch made our list for a number of reasons. The first of which has to do with the brand versatility. Bosch is known for making power tools for virtually every trade. If you are in residential construction, Bosch has specialized tools for you. If you are a plumbing contractor, Bosch makes a power tool you won’t be able to do without. If you are an electrician, you likely already have some Bosch tools in your arsenal.

We have personally worked with Bosch tools a great deal and on different job sites we have noticed one thing about Bosch power tools: they keep a charge for a very long time. We have seen crews complete multiple projects on a single charge. In particular, we really like the performance of the 18V Bosch drill set. It delivers 1,500 pounds of torque which is enough for metal workers and professional construction contractors alike. And the hammer and anvil system that they innovated for their impact drivers is one of the most impressive we have ever come across. Again, with just one charge, we were able to use this impact driver on multiple projects without losing any impact power. 

In our opinion, their 18V tool sets are the best. The reciprocating saws and hammer drills pack enough power to get a variety of jobs done and you don’t have to fumble around with chargers and batteries as much as you do with other power tool brands. 

Makita

If you prefer to use pneumatic tools in your line of work, then you are probably already well-acquainted with the Makita brand. Makita makes some of the best compressed-air powered tools in the industry. Their family of pneumatic nailers represent the acme of durability, precision, and power. 

The interesting thing is that Makita didn’t even start making power tools until the 50s. They make a wide variety of power tools and equipment which were designed for the job site (their industrial fans and radios are some of the best we have ever come across) which is one of the reasons we chose to include them on our list of the best power tool brands for contractors. 

The cordless line of 18V power tools from Makita, which features the incomparable brushless XDT impact driver, is the way to go if you are just getting started with Makita tools. They are never underpowered and provide long battery life that any type of contractor will appreciate. They are designed very well too. We know contractors that have owned a single Makita power tool for over a decade and still use it to this day. 

But perhaps the most impressive thing about Makita power tools is the consistency of quality throughout their product catalog. They make rotary hammers that are the top-choice for many construction contractors we know, power sanders that woodworkers get decades of use from and circular saws that are considered the best by many construction contractors. In short, they are versatile. Many types of contractors can benefit greatly from the consistent performance of a wide variety of Makita power tool. And that’s why we like this brand so much.

Honorable Mentions

There were a few other brands that we wanted to include in our list such as Ryobi, Black + Decker and Kobalt. But if we added any more brands to our list, we would have composed an overly-long blog. Instead, our succinct list features the best of the best. Hopefully we have shed some light on these worthy brands and maybe even helped you with your next purchase. Here at Contractors Society of America, we are always looking to provide helpful resources to our fellow contractors and tradesmen. Feel free to get in touch with us for more helpful information.