Back when business was booming, our construction company subbed the foundation work, but these days our framing crew forms and pours footings and stem walls. Late last year we did the foundation for a 4,200-square-foot custom home. It was larger than the homes we normally build and presented the perfect opportunity to try out the RB397, a cordless rebar tier we’d seen at a trade show. I asked the editor of Tools of the Trade about the tool and he arranged for the manufacturer to lend us one.
The rebar tier is shaped like a large cordless drill, but with grapple-like jaws on its nose instead of a chuck. To use it, you hold the jaws against the rebar and squeeze the trigger. Faster than you can see it happen, the RB397 wraps wire around the bar three times and twists it off. It takes about a second per tie, and there’s no way we can match that speed tying by hand. And the ties are amazingly neat; each one is exactly the same.
The tool takes rolls of proprietary 21-gauge wire available in three types of steel: regular, electric-galvanized, and polyester-coated (for epoxy-coated rebar). According to the manufacturer, you get about 120 ties per roll. We paid less than $5 per roll for regular wire at our local supply house. It took about 10 rolls to tie the entire foundation.
I can’t overstate how much we preferred using this tool to tying rebar by hand. It took about an hour to scatter and tie all the rebar in the foundation. Tying the same foundation by hand would have taken three hours. And this tool didn’t just save us time, either. It was good for our backs — because we spent so much less time bent over — and a lot easier on our wrists than twisting wire with lineman’s pliers or one of those wooden-handled rebar tying tools.
The RB397 also makes it easier to tie bar in walls because it can be operated one-handed. You can hold the bar in position with one hand and tie it with the other — there’s no need for a helper.
Max’s rebar tier is a pricey tool, and we don’t do enough concrete work to justify the expense. But if we specialized in foundations, I’d find a way to buy one because it saves labor and does very neat work.
Tim Uhler is a lead framer for Pioneer Builders in Port Orchard, Wash., and a Tools of the Trade contributing editor.