There are a few devices that come into play during any home renovation project that make you say "Wow, I don't know how I could even begin to take on this project if I didn't have one of these." Saws, drills, and sanders are often a given necessity, and ones that make me feel lucky to live in the age of power tools and electricity. Though I didn't realize it early on, another such staple tool is your run-of-the-mill wet/dry vacuum. Honestly, other than divorced, I don't know where we'd be without it.
To the newbie home owner or DIYer, Shop-Vacs are loud, cumbersome, and a pain to deal with. Their filters clog, they blow dirt around as much as they suck up, and they are extremely loud...did I mention they're loud? But to the DIYer among us, they are a workhorse godsend, just waiting to pick up your sawdust, spilled dirt, demolition debris, or pretty much any other mess you've decided to throw at it.
Quite honestly, I've put my vacs through the ringer, calling on them to do everything from draining the pond in the back yard, to being my primary dust collection mechanism while wood working, to being my plaster/drywall dust vac during my attempts to smooth out my bumpy mud jobs. I've been so hard on my Shop-Vacs that I'm actually on my third one, having burned up the motor on the first two (you know you're vac is dead when the smell coming from the motor is a mixture of burning wires and a sweet odor.
Since I've now purchased three Shop-Vacs, and have received a gift of a fourth (you can't have enough), I hope my experience can be your benefit and will help guide you in your Shop-Vac and accessories purchase.
First, let's take a look at our main vac. I opted for and really like the 10 gallon vac with 4 HP motor. The one I'm using handles the smallest or biggest messes without issue and is able to do double duty as primary cleanup device and dust collection system for woodworking.
I chose the 10 gallon version since it seemed large enough to pickup and store enough debris that I wouldn't be constantly emptying it, but still small enough to be adequately portable. The larger vacs seemed to take up too much room for our modest home.
The 10 gallon decision I made has worked out really well. It's easy enough to cart up and down the stairs, inside and out, and wherever I need it to go, but is large, stable, and able to go for quite a while without being emptied.
Next we'll look at a few of our sucky accessories.
After an early attempt to sand some joint compound, and using the standard filters that came with the shop vac, I was left with a slightly less than desirable result. Well, I actually ended up looking a little like "Powder." And let me tell you, the dust was not confined to the room where I had been working, it was EVERYWHERE! Wendy was not pleased.
It was shortly after this event that I learned of two key items necessary for just about any major job, especially that one involves vacuuming fine dust particles. The first involves the replacement of the supplied filter with a HEPA filter. And the second was the use of drywall filter bags inside of the shop vac. These two items together have been invaluable in the fight against dust. This dust fighting duo is actually so effective that I can sand entire walls of skim coat, an amount that would normally induce a blizzard like cloud of fine and chalky dust, with little more than a fine layer left on the floor under the wall I'm working on.
I'm not kidding you, buy these two items if you have any fine particles to vacuum up. The best part, after we're done vacuuming and the bag is full, I just remove the old bag, throw it away, put a new bag on, and I'm ready to go on another project.
Last Christmas Wendy surprised me with a very unexpected gift. The more work I'd been doing upstairs that involves sanding or demo, the more annoyed I kept getting about dragging the Shop-Vac upstairs and then back to the basement. I probably complained for a few months until Wendy had the ingenious idea to purchase a second Shop-Vac. Seriously, that basically didn't even occur to me.
Wendy bought me a smaller model that would be perfect for the small rooms or projects I had been complaining on. This brilliant idea has been an amazing thing for me. I've been able to easily use this super portable vac on the vestibule and bathroom projects without the worry for dragging the big boy and hoses all around. And the drywall filter bags I mentioned earlier, they have a five to eight gallon model that work well in this smaller vac.
Take it from me, I've been doing this for years, don't skimp on the Shop-Vac. If you use filter bags and a HEPA filter you'll save yourself a ton of time cleaning up after you're done cleaning up. There's no sense in vacuuming with something that's just making your area a mess all over again. And there's not much I can do about how loud the Shop-Vacs are, but if you keep them working right, they are well worth all of their noise.
How about you? Do you have a Shop-Vac that you'd be lost without? Maybe you have two or more in your house, or perhaps you have a great trick or accessory that works well for you. Let us know, we always love to hear your stories of what does and doesn't work for you.
Did you enjoy reading this post? Want to learn more about our first-hand experiences with other tools, devices or items used throughout our renovation? If so, check out our complete list of product reviews in our Toolbox Tuesday section.
Note: We weren't compensated for this review. We simply want to share good products when we see them, and hope that learning from our mistakes can help save you time, money and frustration.