Campbell Hausfeld Home Improvement Project Kit Review
There are Pro and DIY products, but some tool kits are just plain fun to incite your creativity and generally get your home improvement and DIY wheels turning. Campbell Hausfeld Home Improvement Project Kit is one of those. With the extremely portable 1 gallon compressor and included brad nailer/stapler and pneumatic caulk gun – this is one home improvement kit that’s well-rounded and a great solution for the casual user who wants to tackle a number of different projects.
We don’t recommend it to the consummate professional contractor or home renovator, but for those looking for an occasional use solution, Campbell Hausfeld’s Home Improvement Kit is a great starter system and should provide you with the basic tools to accomplish lots of around-the-house projects.
Campbell Hausfeld Home Improvement Project Kit Features
The Campbell Hausfeld Home Improvement Kit includes a 1 gallon air compressor. This compressor’s most endearing attribute has got to be its extremely compact size. I mean, it’s small. While a larger compressor might be a bit unwieldy to carry around, casual DIYers can now opt for a truly portable solution that even your small child can carry (we enlisted our 7-year old to lift the twelve pound tool with much success).
Like most compressors it has two gauges – one for the tank pressure and one for the line. It takes a good amount of recycle time to fill up the tank, so any sustained air tools will need more volume. For smaller finish applications, however, this compressor will drive most finish and brad nailers without any major difficulties.
The major components of the kit include the compressor, 2″ 2-in-1 brad nailer/stapler, pneumatic caulk gun, and a 25′ coil-style hose. It also includes a box each of staples & nails, a molding bar, angle finder, plastic speed square, plastic torpedo level, putty knife, 5-in-1 utility knife, blow gun and nozzle, plug, and a coupler. There is even a small storage bag for the accessories and a project DVD for installing chair rail and other projects.
All of the tools were of the very basic (made in Taiwan) variety, and you’re not likely to get long term use out of many of them (the speed square being plastic, for example). The included molding bar, for example, had some rough, imperfect edges on the notched “cats paw” claw end.
For the price, this wasn’t the least bit surprising and we found it hard to complain, given how much there was to use. Missing were features like high quality rubber overmold and protective surfaces to guard the tools when they are set down in between uses. It was also interesting to note that the 1 gallon compressor was made to be connected directly to the included 25-foot coiled air hose. That means that if you need a longer hose, you’ll literally be connecting them end-to-end, rather than simply using a longer hose and connecting it directly to the tank outlet. It was also a bit hard to make the connection as the hose is incredibly stiff by design, and the connecting male threaded end doesn’t freely rotate. If you’re going to use the included hose, this is only something you’ll have to do once, so it’s not a major hassle. For those looking to upgrade, you can pick up a quick-connect NPT coupler and set yourself up.
In the Field
We actually felt that the brad nailer did an admiral job. Our biggest criticism was with the very inexpensive rubber covering on the handle which moved a lot and looked like it would last about a week before beginning to tear apart.
Loading the tool was a simple process of releasing the slide and adding the nails or staples. In terms of flexibility, the Campbell Hausfeld SB504000 2″ 2-in-1 Brad Nailer/Stapler is a great starter tool. The fact that a single tool can handle nailing and stapling is a definite plus for this kit and the tool seems perfect for home projects such as installing window and door trim, upholstery, building furniture, or other small projects. We liked that it handled 3/8″ to 2″ 18-gauge brad nails as well as 1/2 to 1-1/2″ crown staples (1/4-inch width).
The trigger is a very elementary system with no means of changing from the default mode to bump action (not that you’d want to for this type of tool). We liked the easy depth adjustment screw which was a nice feature on such an entry-level tool. The adjustable exhaust, which is all but standard on nailers these days, can direct airflow away from your face when using the tool close-up. The entire tool seemed to cut several corners overall, but for a starter kit – and the fact that the refurbished version of this tool retails for $20, it was hard to bit terribly critical.
We performed testing on mostly scrap pieces of wood this go-around, having just finished up several projects, but we grabbed pieces that simulated one of the more common jobs we’d use this tool for – setting fence slats onto pressure-treated posts. We found that the brad nailer/stapler had a slow recycle time, but did a great job setting the nails – we didn’t even have to set the depth dial. We configured the compressor for 100 psi and got off a bunch of shots before it felt the need to recycle, so the pairing of this nailer and compressor felt like an overall good fit. With just four staples, our test slat of wood was all but impossible to dislodge from our pressure treated board. After repeating our tests across several boards and several pieces of lumber, we felt satisfied and moved on to the TL1600 pneumatic caulk gun.
The TL1600 pneumatic caulk gun is a very basic tool that simply uses 40 psi or less of air pressure to force a gasket of rubber to seal around the end of a tube of caulk and add forced air to move the tube’s piston forward, releasing the caulk. There are pressure overflow valves in the bottom of the handle to allow overpressure from the tank to escape and the tool allows for a very regulated flow of air to push out the caulk in a very steady manner. It’s a consistent bead, but it;s also interminable slow with no way to speed it up (you can’t adjust the pressure rate from what we could find). If you’re doing a lot of caulking, the trade-off for the slower speed is a hand that won’t cramp on you from applying constant pressure to the mechanical feeder. If you’ve ever used a caulk gun for a long period of time, this tool will save you tons of hassle – just make sure the ends of the caulk tubes are kept in decent shape so the tool can create the necessary seal.
As with most of the tools in this kit, the TL1600 pneumatic caulk gun cuts corners, mostly in terms of ergonomics of the grip (no rubber overmold) and the quality of the spring clip used to hold the caulk tube in place. It’s a cheap tool, with a cheaply made trigger and inexpensive parts that will undoubtedly fail sooner than a more robust model. With that said, it’s still a great starter tool and works well within the price point of this kit. We used the tool to apply a series of continuous 2-3 foot test bead of liquid nails along several of our test boards. It was a very consistent feed and we found the gun to be nimble and easy to use. The pressure-release system worked well on two fronts. One, it released over pressure when we set the compressor line at too high of a setting. Two, it correctly exited air when we let go of the trigger so the liquid nails stopped when we did.
Conclusions & Recommendations
There’s a lot to say about the Campbell Hausfeld Home Improvement Project Kit. It’s nimble, functional, includes a lot of goodies, and it’s incredibly cheap for what you get. The individual tools aren’t very refined and there are no frills, so we definitely won’t recommend it to professionals. It does, however, make a lot of sense for occasional use, or if you only have a couple projects in mind. Once you know what you’re doing, then you can gradually step up to bigger and better tools. In that sense it’s not proprietary and you can upgrade it in pieces as you go. We can recommend it to beginners without reservation and the price makes it a great value for consumers.