Photo: Nedjelko Matura

It's no use getting under the sink to fix the pipes if you can't see what you're doing. You need a light — and it had better be bright, stay cool to the touch, leave your hands free, and be able to take a beating.

Work lights differ mainly in their size and the type of bulb they use. The best small lights have tiny, bright-white LEDs (light-emitting diodes), but to cover larger territory you need the power that comes with a hanging or standing light. The old standby — an incandescent bulb in a plastic cage — is the least expensive option in this category. If you need more light, halogen lamps are the brightest, though their intense heat is a risk near construction materials. Fluorescent lights burn cool; the downside is a greenish hue that may skew colors. For any work light, the most important feature is a sturdy case. "Be sure it can survive being thumped by a 2x4," says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. "A job site is a rough place."

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