Tool Rentals for the DIY Weekend Warrior:
Tools to Maintain Your Lawn, Garden and Landscaping

by Joseph Truini

One of the most popular sections of any tool-rental department is the lawn and garden section, which carries dozens of different types of laborsaving landscaping tools, machines and equipment. Here, I've chosen to highlight seven of these DIY rental tools, and will discuss ways that they can help you maintain your lawn, trees and gardens.

Tree trimming

Got trees on your property? If so, sooner or later you'll have to trim their branches. There are two commonly available tools for trimming trees, and you might already own one of them. The reciprocating saw is commonly used in home remodeling and construction, but it's also an ideal tool for cutting tree limbs. However, to optimize the saw's speed and power, replace the standard blade with a 12-inch pruning blade. Most people aren't aware that you can rent reciprocating saw blades that are designed specifically for cutting branches.

To trim a branch without damaging the tree, use the three-cut method:

  1. Make an initial undercut into the bottom of the branch, positioned several inches away from tree trunk. Cut about one-third of the way into the branch.
  2. Next, cut down into the top of the branch, a few inches beyond the undercut. Cut clean through the branch.
  3. Trim the remaining branch stub flush with the branch collar.

If you attempt to cut through the branch in one pass, there's a good chance it'll rip the bark from the tree as it falls, thereby exposing the tree to disease.

A reciprocating saw with pruning blade is fine for cutting low-hanging branches, but to trim limbs higher up in the tree, rent a pole pruner. It's essentially a mini-chain saw mounted on the end of a long, adjustable pole. It provides a safe, secure way to reach high into the tree while standing safely on the ground.

A gas-powered pole pruner has a mini-chainsaw mounted onto the
end of its long telescopic shaft. Use this long-reach tool
to safely trim tree branches that are too high to reach any other way.

When using a pole pruner, be sure to have both feet firmly planted on the ground and keep the area around the tree clear of all obstacles and people. It's important to have a clear path of retreat when the severed branch starts to fall. Most DIYers find it easier and safer to drop long branches with two or three cuts, instead of just one.

Tree cutting

If you need to cut down one or two small- to medium-size trees, rent a chainsaw—but only if you feel comfortable with using a chainsaw. If you've got several trees or large trees to cut down, call an experienced arborist or landscaper. The risk of injury or damage is just too high. When using a chainsaw, be sure wear a logger's helmet with face shield, Kevlar chaps, work gloves, work boots and hearing protection.

  1. The first step to felling a tree is to look up to see if it's leaning in any particular direction. If it is, then that's the direction it's going to fall. Make sure there's a clear, open area for the tree to drop to the ground. If the tree is relatively straight, you can choose which direction to drop it, but again, be sure the drop zone is clear.
  2. Start by cutting a V-notch into the side of the tree that faces the drop zone. Cut the notch about one-quarter of the way through the tree trunk.
  3. Next, move around to the backside of the tree and make a felling cut straight into the trunk toward the notch. When the tree starts to fall, pull out the chainsaw and immediately back away several feet.
  4. If the tree doesn't fall, use a sledgehammer to drive a wedge into the felling cut. Again, back away as soon as the tree begins to tip over.
  5. Once the tree is on the ground, use the chainsaw to cut it up into either firewood or manageable-size pieces for disposal. Be careful not to hit the ground with the saw; dirt and rocks will quickly dull the chain.

Grass trimming

I was surprised to learn that my local home-improvement center rented string trimmers, but the rental associate told me that homeowners rent string trimmers all the time because either they can't start their trimmer or their trimmer is in the repair shop. Regardless of the reason, if you ever need a string trimmer, go rent one.

When using a string trimmer near trees, work very carefully.
The spinning line can cut into and damage tree bark!

String trimmers are easy—and fun—to use, but there are a few rules to keep in mind to ensure you're using it properly. First, be sure to wear pants (not shorts), work boots and safety goggles. String trimmers may look benign, but improper use can cause painful injuries.

Never start cutting until the motor has reached full top speed. And to produce the cleanest, neatest results, hold the cutting head at a consistent height. Otherwise the grass will be cut unevenly and you run the risk of scalping the lawn down to bare dirt.

String trimmers with pivoting heads can be used as an edger
to neatly trim the lawn around the perimeter of the property
and along sidewalks, driveways, patios and curbs.

Work carefully around the house and other obstacles to prevent the whipping string from causing damage. Steer clear of the house siding, corner boards, deck posts, porch lattice and other wood surfaces.

Pay particular attention when trimming close to flowers, shrubs, hedges and trees. String trimmers are indiscriminant cutters, and they can damage and even kill plants and trees.

When renting a string trimmer, ask the rental associate if the tool can also be used as an edger. Many string trimmers have a pivoting cutting head that converts the trimmer into an effective lawn edger.

Leaf Blowing

When you've got a lot of leaves to move, rent a backpack blower.
Its powerful gas engine can produce a left-blasting air stream of nearly 200 mph!

Since leaf blowing is ordinarily a seasonal chore, many homeowners choose to rent, rather than buy, leaf-blowing equipment. That makes economic sense, especially since most tool-rental departments stock expensive, professional-grade products that few homeowners would be willing to buy.

Tool Rental Tip: Another advantage of renting tools, as opposed to owning them, is that you don't have to store and maintain them. "Think of the rental department as cloud storage for tools," suggests carpentry pro Steve Willson. "Instead of warehousing tools in your basement or garage, just rent one whenever you need it."

The two most commonly rented leaf-blowing tools are backpack blowers and handheld blowers. Depending on your yard, you may need to rent one or the other, or both.

Handheld leaf blowers are very lightweight and highly maneuverable,
making them ideal for clearing leaves and plant debris from flowerbeds
and hedgerows.

Tool Rental Tip: Handheld leaf blowers are now commonly used by contractors to clear sawdust, dirt and construction debris from jobsites. When homeowners clean out garages, sheds and other outbuildings, they often rent handheld blowers to blast out dust and dirt because it's faster than using a push broom.

Hedge Trimming

Trimming hedges is another one of those landscaping chores that most of us do infrequently enough that it may be smarter to rent rather than buy a hedge trimmer. Many rental departments carry both electric and cordless models.

Electric hedge trimmers provide a quick, precise way
to trim hedges and shrubs. For safety's sake, keep
both hands on the tool at all times!

I didn't know I could rent that!

Here are just 12 of the many odd, unusual and surprising items that are available for rent. Keep in mind that tools and machines =are added all the time, so be sure to stop by the rental department of your local home-improvement center every now and then to see what's new.

  1. Drainpipe inspection camera - Take a peek down plumbing pipes for a live view of clogs and obstructions. This tiny camera is also useful for checking the condition of pipes and fittings.
  2. Appliance dolly - Need to move a refrigerator, clothes washer or other major appliance? Save your back and rent an appliance dolly with adjustable strap clamp.
  3. Submersible pump - Wet/dry vacuums are fine for slurping up small spills, but the only practical way to deal with flooding is to use a submersible pump.
  4. Insulation blower - Rent a cellulose insulation blower and install your own energy-efficient insulation.
  5. Stump grinder - Got a stump? Get a grinder. In a matter of minutes, you can reduce the gnarliest stump to a pile of wood chips.
  6. Power trencher - Slice a trench across your property about 1,000 times faster than you could ever dig it by hand. Caution: Just be sure to call the utility companies (or search for the "Call Before You Dig" service for your state" first to make sure you don't hit a buried cable, pipe or gas line!
  7. Aluminum brake - This pro-duty tool is used to bend aluminum, copper and galvanized metal up to 10 feet long. It's ideal for complicated fabrications when installing siding, gutters, roofing and flashing around windows and doors.
  8. Garden-bed shaper - Still using a shovel to cut borders around your gardens and flowerbeds? Rent this gas-powered, walk-behind miracle machine and cut perfect borders—straight or curved—at a rate of 100 feet per minute.
  9. Loading ramps - Make light work of moving heavy items in and out of trucks and sheds and up and down stairs with a pair of 8-ft.-long aluminum loading ramps.
  10. Wallpaper steamer - The quickest, neatest way to strip all kinds of wallpaper—even vinyl—is with an electric steamer.
  11. Extension ladder - Don't have the space to store a 32-ft. extension ladder? No worries, simply rent one whenever you need it.
  12. Thermal camera - It's not X-ray vision, but it's close. Use a thermal camera to "look" through walls, ceilings and floors to detect cold spots, indicating missing or inefficient insulation. It can also tell you if an electrical outlet is overheating or where clogs are located in hot-water pipes.

Read more rental tool tips in these informative articles:

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About the author: Joe Truini is a home improvement expert who writes about a variety of topics related to carpentry and plumbing. Joe is also the author of numerous DIY books, including the best-selling "Building A Shed". To learn more about renting tools like those referenced by Joe, please visit the Home Depot website. All photos courtesy of Joe Truini or Makita.