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Problem-Solving Tools & Materials


Ideal Seal


Most building scientists agree that typical sill sealers don't do enough to prevent water and air infiltration. In fact, the foundation-to-mud-sill connection is one of the biggest energy wasters in most new homes. Triple Guard Energy Sill Sealer improves the water resistance and air-sealing qualities of typical sill sealer by adding a T-shaped piece of sticky adhesive membrane to the closed-cell foam. The membrane, which adheres the sill seal to the foundation, extends up the sheathing 3 1/2 inches and down the foundation 1 1/2 inches, effectively waterproofing and air-sealing that difficult area. A two-part release paper protects the adhesive while the floor is framed and sheathed. The 2x4 triple seal sells for $19, and the 2x6 triple seal sells for $29. Both rolls are 25 feet long.

Protecto Wrap, 800/759-9727,


Flood Damage Prevention


Flooding causes billions of dollars in property damage annually. Especially susceptible are floodplain crawlspace foundations, which can buckle inward when subjected to the extreme pressure of floodwater. The all-stainless Smart Vent Foundation Vent is designed to prevent that sort of damage by equalizing the pressure. When water reaches the vent, a float-activated release opens, allowing water into the crawlspace. A thermostat-controlled louver automatically closes the vent when temperatures approach freezing. Single Smart Vents sell for about $150, and the maker provides discounts for higher-volume purchases.

Smart Vent, 877/441-8368,


Brace Yourself


Made from 1-inch square tubing, the Plumb-Jack Adjustable Wall Brace replaces temporary lumber bracing with reusable and adjustable steel wall bracing. When placed on 8-foot centers, the bracing can be used with walls as high as 10 feet and can withstand winds of up to 50 miles per hour. Heavy-duty turnbuckle-style adjusters can bring the waviest of walls in line quickly, even when you're working alone. They sell for $24 each. Vinco Manufacturing, 618/268-6244,


Better Ledger


Detailing a ledger board to adequately prevent water infiltration is a job that's hard to get right. Rick Jewell, a builder who's repaired dozens of homes with rotten band joists resulting from poor ledger installation, has come up with the Maine Deck Bracket, an efficient way to make that critical connection. Mounting the I-shaped spacer directly to the home's band joist creates a standoff for the ledger and leaves the siding behind it intact. Brackets can be spaced a maximum of 8 feet on-center and can handle up to 1,000 pounds each. They work with most siding types and cost $21 apiece, plus shipping.

Maine Deck Bracket, 207/212-0888,


Big Rig


You seldom find a carpenter or tradesperson who has no complaint with his tool rig. Most complaints center on two general areas: insufficient capacity and inadequate comfort. The Tool Chest from Occidental Leather addresses both problems. The vest-like bag reduces strain on your lower back, and numerous pockets keep everything organized while offering greater freedom of movement than more traditional, apron-style bags. Special pockets for hard-to-locate tools and large fastener pockets make the Tool Chest ideal for carpenters and tradespeople who find themselves working on many different tasks during the workday. Prices start at $205. Look for a comprehensive test in Toolbox in an upcoming issue.

Occidental Leather, 707/522-2500,


Graph Panels


Don't throw away your tape measure just yet, but Martco's Grid Panel System could give it a little more downtime. This system of plywood and OSB panels uses a grid-style set of markings with 1/2-inch increments in the field and 1/8-inch marks along the edges to make cutting and nailing faster as well as reduce missed fasteners and bad cuts. According to the manufacturer, grid-stamped panels cost about $1 more per sheet than standard panel products. So far, the system is available only on Martco's OSB and plywood sheathing, but the company plans to license the technology to other mills in the near future.

Martco, 800/299-5174,


Tool Transport for Pros


With their undivided interiors, toolboxes and gatemouth bags require constant rummaging around and sorting through to find the tool you're after. Bucket organizers are slightly better, but they're tippy and their cavernous interiors inevitably become a catchall for fasteners, random hardware, and trash. The Veto Pro Pac is the first tool-carrying system that keeps your tools organized, protected, and within reach at all times. Thirty large and 32 smaller pockets keep everything visible, and empty pockets tell you when something's missing before you need it. Instead of a single lid with latches, two separate flaps with smooth-acting zippers provide access to the bag's interior and fold out of the way when the bag is open. The luggage-like bag includes a padded shoulder strap, leaving your hands free to open doors and carry other tools. In a JLC review, the XL Pro Pac ($120) swallowed all of the tools from the tester's 22-inch plastic toolbox with room to spare.

Veto Pro Pac, 877/847-1443,


Organizational Plan


Carrying and organizing a large set of plans is a constant struggle, and the inevitable coffee stains and dog-eared pages that result add little to your professional look. But keeping blueprints neat and presentable is all in a day's work with an Easi Carrier. The folding nylon bag, available in 24x36-inch and 30x42-inch sizes, keeps your important construction documents safe and protects your plans from job-site mishaps. It unfolds to create a hard surface for making notes and revisions, and smaller pockets keep track of things like change orders and shop drawings. Prices start at $100.

Easi File, 800/800-5563,


Switch Hitter


Changing the contact foot on the Bostitch N88RH-MCN-2 nailer converts the tool from a standard framing nailer to a positive-placement, metal connector nailer. Both feet are included, and they can be swapped, without tools, in a couple of seconds. The adjustable-depth framing nosepiece includes a no-mar plastic cover for exposed-fastener applications like decking. According to the maker, the 7 1/2-pound, round-head nailer has the industry's highest power-to-weight ratio, making it easier to drive nails into dense engineered lumber. The $330 two-in-one nailer costs about $70 less than a traditional single-purpose, metal connector nailer. If you already own an older N88 full-head nailer, you can purchase the positive-placement contact foot separately for $40 (part no. MCN-KIT).

Stanley Bostitch, 800/556-6696,


Super Slicer


Versatile and razor sharp, an ordinary utility knife is one of the handiest tools around. Unfortunately, though, it's too big and bulky to make a comfortable pocketknife. The Super Knife is an anodized-aluminum utility knife that folds into a compact shape about a third the size of an ordinary utility knife. It accepts standard and heavy-duty blades, comes in five colors, and sells for about $25. A new, even smaller version uses mini-sized blades and sells for $12.

RDR Tools, 480/348-0544,