Security Installation Tools Guide - 22 Tools ListedBy: IPVM Team, Published on Feb 19, 2019
In this guide, we cover 22 tools that security installers frequently use. This is one part of our upcoming Video Surveillance Installation Course that starts next month that will teach installation in great depth.
Personal Installer Tool Inventory
Installing security equipment often requires a variety of hand tools to be easy to reach so work can be done quickly and safely.
The most common installation tasks like hanging cameras and running cables require tools like strippers, knives, screwdrivers, crimpers, and electrical tape.
In general, the price to assemble a tool kit stocked with the common tools costs ~$200 - $500, but installer novices often use the same tools as they progress to even advanced jobs.
In the sections below, we explain each of these tools and share why they are important for installers:
- 1 pair small Diagonal Cutters
- 1 pair Linesman's Pliers
- 1 full set of screwdriver, both 'slot' flathead and Phillips types
- 1 'Stubby' short #2 Phillips screwdriver
- 1 set/brick of Security/Tamper Drivers and Bits
- 1 battery powered/cordless screwdriver and bit set (often included)
- 1 medium Hacksaw, with metal cutting blade
- 1 Tape Measure with 20' - 40' (6m - 12m) length
- 1 set of Allen Keys, various smaller metric and inch sizes
- 1 pair of 26 AWG - 10 AWG Wire Strippers
- 1 medium Hammer
- 1 Combo/ Rafter Square
- 1 small Torpedo Level
- 1 battery powered cordless drill with wood/metal and masonry drillbits
- 1 handheld or hatband LED flashlight
- 1 retractable Utility Knife
- 1 general purpose RJ45 crimp tool
- 1 pair safety glasses
- 1 pair workgloves
- 1 pair earplugs
- 1 hardhat
- 1 nonconductive/fiberglass 6' - 8' (2m - 2.5m) stepladder
The actual mix and configuration of tools carried is typically optimized for each installer based on the jobs and equipment they install, and a 'starter' list may include specialty or advanced meters, safety equipment, and cabling tools not mentioned above.
Diagonal Cutters, Often Called 'Dikes'
Used for course cutting and trimming of cable, wires, and cords. These should not be used to strip cable jackets in the place of specifically sized cable strippers as cut material deformation, damage, and personal injury can occur. Usual prices range $10-$20 per cutter.
These heavy-duty pliers are used for the firm gripping and grasping of cables, and cutting or trimming small metal components like connectors, or punching out conduit knockouts. Usual prices range $15 - $35 per set.
General purpose set of screwdrivers in various sizes, lengths, and bit driver types. For general construction, '#2 Phillips' fasteners are common, but security installers often use a variety of flathead/slot sizes for installing wires into devices, including small 'jeweler' sized drivers. Regular sets run ~$25 or less, but highly insulated or ergonomic sets can cost ~$100 or more.
Short 'stubby' #2 Square and #2 Phillips Drivers
In addition to general screwdrivers, two less common but especially useful types are 'Stubby' sized #2 Square and Phillips drivers, on account of commonly needing to secure electrical boxes or components within those boxes where clearance is too tight for regular screwdrivers. These specialized tools typically range ~$5 - ~$15 each.
A handheld hacksaw with metal / wood cutting blade is often needed to cut down lengths of conduit, tubing, and other metallic components like cable trays. Hacksaws are ideal for occasional cuts, but more substantial or frequently cuts should use a powered angle-grinder or hacksaw to prevent fatigue and take less time. These saws range ~$25 - $45 dollars with blades.
However, where gypsum, acoustic tiles, or particle board needs to be cut, a smaller and more coarse saw is needed for easy, clean cuts and minimal dust. Handheld drywall saws often are priced ~$5 - $15 each.
Triangle Rafter/Combination Square
In many applications, a right angle, straight edge, or straight mark is needed for accurate placement of devices. 'Combo' square also include coarse angle marks for irregular mounting purposes. A triangle 'square' is lightweight and ideal to scribe reference marks or straight lines. These tools often are ~$5 - $15.
As noted in our Measuring For Security Installation Guide, portable measures for length and location is best handled by a tape measure. Installers often use a 16' - 30' length tape more most security install measurements. Tapes usually cost ~$10 - $30 each.
Another 'reference' tool for establishing squareness/levelness is a small 'Spirit Bubble' or Torpedo level used to make sure devices are hung in level or flush orientations. Small levels cost ~$5 - $15.
Medium Framing/Ball Peen Hammer
Certain tasks are simply resolved through the application of brute force. Medium hammer sizes are ideal for security installs and sized with enough mass to be effective. Larger hammers are too unwieldy and awkward, while small sizes do not weigh enough mass. Hammers in this size typically cost $15 - $35 each.
Small AWG UTP/CAT Wire Stripper
Wire strippers come in numerous sizes, but sets optimized for 26 - 14 AWG sizes are best for security install work and coincide with the most common conductor sizes used. A set of security AWG sized strippers range ~$10 - $25 each.
Tasks from cutting cable jackets to opening packages to trimming tape, the utility knife is indispensable for having an easy to handle sharp edge. Blades typically cost between ~$1 - $15 depending on quality.
In terms of attaching terminations, an RJ45 compression tool is the most lightweight method of crimping the ends, costing $20 - $50 each. We cover various crimpers in detail in our Favorite Network Termination Tools post.
Many industrial and security fasteners use hexagonal 'Allen' head fasteners, especially for rack mounted, rail, and tamper-resistant devices. A collapse-able set often costs ~$15 - $25 each.
Another key tool is a small hatband strap flashlight or handheld. Usually LED styles using common battery sizes are best for security, ranging between $5 - $35, but high end models often cost $100 or more.
Security installers often work with devices using Tamper-Resistant or Security Fastners with uncommon bit patterns. Many installers carry a set of different bits with various security patterns, usually costing ~$15 - $50:
Even a set of 'most common' security bits may not fit all devices, and in some cases manufacturers furnish drivers specific to the patterns they use. In this case, even novice installers can quickly find themselves needing and carrying 'odd' tools meant for specific uses, like this ~$25 Axis Security Bit Driver Set:
Non-Conductive Electrical Tape
A roll of black PVC adhesive tape is often used for temporary attachment of spot insulation of wires and cables. Rolls of tape are a 'consumable' item, typically costing $1 - $5 each.
One of the primary power tools security installers use are battery powered drills. We examine them in detail in Power Drill Selection Guide, and the best model and type selected depends on the variables like typical camera install location, common power tools used for battery compatibility, and length of use between charges.
Drills (driver, hammer and rotary) are available in cordless, or battery operated, and corded. A cordless drill is far more convenient on a job site. However, the drill becomes less efficient as the battery depletes, making it more difficult to drill holes as the charge level drops. A corded drill requires power, which is not always available on job sites. Even on sites where electricity is present, managing extension cords becomes another challenge to be dealt with.
Cordless drills come in a variety of voltages. 18 V and 20 V tools (the differences are negligible) are standard for professional grade tools. 12v and 14.4v tools are mainly designed for DIYers, but they can still be useful for driving screws and cutting holes in sheetrock. 12.v and 14.4v drills tend to be much lighter and have ergonomic designs, making them very comfortable to work with for long stretches of time. We recommend buying one of each, and bringing out the appropriate tool for the job.
When purchasing cordless tools for heavy use, we recommend sticking with lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries. These batteries are lighter and offer longer runtime. The average lifespan of a Li-ion battery is two to three years, so plan to replace the battery at least two or three times over the lifetime of the drill.
Cordless drills can be a big investment, with prices ranging from ~$100 - $350 depending on brand, battery type, jaw collet size, and power tool system.
However, using full power drills for sensitive tasks like tightening screws often damages them.
For fine work, where torque must be applied carefully and power limited, using a smaller cordless screwdriver is ideal.
The units have interchangeable or disposable batteries and have simple collets fitting typical hexagonal bits. In general, cordless screwdrivers do not have the torque or power need to drill holes, but instead, are power limited to avoid damage to fasteners and devices.
Cordless Drivers often range from ~$30 - $150 depending on battery system and included accessories.
The most common ladders used for security install are step ladders, which consist of an A-shaped frame with steps for rungs on one side, usually the most ideal mix of height and being light enough to carry onsite.
These units are available in many sizes, from small 2' step stools to high reach ~20' models, and are popular for their ease of use and often, but not always, lighter weight. They are best for heights ~16' or less, but may also be necessary when lifts or extension ladders are not an option, such as servicing a ceiling mounted camera at ~20', not uncommon at big box stores.
For more details and other ladder types, see our Ladders For Installers Guide.
Onsite Tool Storage
For installers, having tools on your person will save time and frustration. Wearing a toolbelt or tool sheath held installers wear the most important tools they use most often for easy access. Going up and downa ladder or walking around a job site to fetch tools is inefficient and unprofessional:
Many toolbelts range from $25 - $100 dollars, with construction materials, webbing type, and pounch or loop adjustments driving prices.
Toolboxes and Cases
However, for more secure but still portable tool storage, 'packouts' or modular soft and hardcases are useful, as they often can be locked but are still portable via integrated dolly:
Packout systems are not ideal for permanent site storage, but for installers who need to locate tools far distances from vans and trailers, rolling tool cases are a welcome stopgap.
Many tool brands offer 'packout' systems, with base kits starting at ~$150, but with additional boxes, crates, and bags costing ~$30 - $200 each.
Employee or Company Purchase
The financial responsibility of buying installer tools generally falls to the installer to purchase, and can be a significant barrier to beginning work as a professional installer often requiring thousands of dollars in investment.
In most cases, this requirement will be overtly stated as a hiring criteria, that installers 'must furnish own tools'.
However, some integration companies may provide a stipend of tool allowance as part of a salary, while other integration firms may reimburse installers based on years of service or choose to purchase (more expensive) power tools while leaving manual handtools to the installer to purchase.
Because tools are often stolen and mistreated, many firms view installer responsibility of tools as a management method of minimizing theft and abuse.
IPVM Tools Guides
For optional reading and deeper analysis, IPVM has a library of individual guides dedicated to common installation tools:
- Drills: Power Drill Selection Guide
- Cable Installation Tools: IP Camera Cabling Installation Guide
- Measuring Tools: Measuring For Security Installation Guide
- Ladders: Ladders For Installers Guide
- Safety Equipment (PPE): Technician Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Guide
Upcoming Installation Course
This report is just one part of our upcoming new installation course where, in 6 weeks, with live classes and demonstrations, we teach how to install security equipment:
Tool List Adds, Changes, and Recommendations?
See a tool missing the list that is important for technicians? We want to include the basics, but the list could contain far more. Post in the comments and give a short explanation of why. We will add good submissions to the report's list. Thank you!
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