Pools & Spas
On the Job: Out of the Mud
Hard to believe, but it's time to start thinking about
holiday gifts for your employees, subs, vendors, and customers.
If you're like me, you use every excuse in the book to put off
holiday shopping. Remember, though, that gifts with a company
logo take some extra time.
Here's a handy gift for employees and subs that won't break
the bank: the SuperKnife. The cool anodized knife accepts
conventional utility knife blades and — unlike a
traditional utility knife — folds up into pocket size.
It sells for about $15; for another $3 you can add a company
logo or inscription. (There is a 25-piece minimum for this
service.) Large orders earn discounts and small orders involve
a $25 setup charge. Engraving requires a vector art image, but
the company can convert print images and other electronic file
types for a fee.
Construction sites are tough on wrist watches, so if you're
looking for something useful for your lead guy (or your whole
crew), consider the new Guard Dog watch. This good-looking
timepiece clips to your belt and folds inside a plastic cover
for protection from job-site mishaps. Made from hardened
crystal that resists scratches, it features oversized numerals
that are easy to read. The company can engrave the back and
make custom dials that incorporate a company logo. The watch
sells for about $50.
Guard Dog Watches, 952/944-2100.
Sweeten your business relationships with treats from the Apple
Cookie & Chocolate Co., whose extensive line of
construction-themed gifts includes Sweet Tool Belts ($50),
Construction Drawings ($18), and Hard Hats of Snacks ($30 to
$60). The company can ship to everyone on your list and offers
JLC readers a 10 percent discount. If my workplace is any
indication, few holiday gifts generate more goodwill and
excitement than packages filled with cookies and sweets
Apple Cookie & Chocolate Co.,
Looking for a good way to spark long-term relationships with
employees, subs, and vendors? Try giving out the new-generation
Zippo MPL. This cool-looking refillable lighter comes packed in
a gift box that you can have engraved with your company logo.
The manufacturer's promotional-products division offers other
business gifts, too, including pocket tape measures, writing
instruments, and corkscrews. All can be customized with your
business name or logo. The MPL lighter goes for about $14 and
the pocket tape measure for about $11. Both prices presuppose a
50-count minimum order and include one-color surface imprinting
or laser engraving.
Jingle Bell Rock
If you're looking for one gift that you can give to the whole
crew, check out this job-site radio. The Power Box from Bosch
not only sounds great, it has four GFCI-protected outlets, a
12-volt DC power supply, and a Bosch battery charger. The
digital tuner has 10 AM and 20 FM pre-sets and an integral
antenna that won't break or bend. It's available with a CD
player for about $180, or without one for $150. DeWalt and
Milwaukee make similar job-site radios, if you're on one of
their battery systems.
No matter how small, a holiday gift can make your company look
better than the stingy competition. And if you choose something
people actually use, so much the better. Take the 14-ounce
Thermos Travel Mug. It keeps that daily cup of coffee piping
hot — and your company name right in front of
everyone's nose, literally. The maker, 4imprint, specializes in
custom-printed merchandise. It offers hundreds of items and can
make your logo print-ready for a $50 setup fee. The mug sells
for $5.49, at a minimum quantity of 48. Prices drop with larger
Stay in Touch
During the holidays, make sure to send a card to subs and
former clients. Oxman Publishing specializes in
well-illustrated and humorous Holiday Cards for construction
types, from plumbers and GCs to excavators and electricians.
The card designers seem to grasp the idiosyncrasies of the home
building and remodeling business, and their humorous images
will give recipients a good laugh. Prices depend on quantity
ordered; 100 cards sell for $110. The company will add your
business name and message for no additional cost.
Paul Oxman Publishing, 800/228-0787,
We all know that
slapping on a bucket of foundation coating does little to
protect basements from water intrusion over the long term. For
a more permanent basement-waterproofing method, take a look at
the Tuff-N-Dri system from Tremco Barrier Solutions. The
spray-applied coating goes on much thicker (60 mils) than
brush-on coatings, and it can span small gaps and cracks. Rigid
fiberglass insulation protects the membrane from damage during
backfilling and prevents condensation on the interior wall
surface. The manufacturer provides a 20-year transferable
warranty with up to $10,000 in coverage on every
Tremco Barrier Solutions, 800/876-5624,
comprehensive foundation-waterproofing plan prevents vapor
transmission and seepage through the basement slab. In areas
with a high water table, where a layer of poly might not be
enough to stop water seepage, an air-gap membrane is extra
insurance. The manufacturer of the Delta MS air-gap membrane
suggests sandwiching the product between a "waste slab" and the
finished slab. The membrane creates an air space between the
two slabs that prevents water and water vapor from entering the
basement; a drainage system and a sump remove any water that
accumulates between the slabs. According to the manufacturer,
protecting a 10,000-square-foot-office and retail building on a
waterlogged site near the Hudson River cost $25,000 in
materials and labor.
Cosella Dorken, 888/433-5824,
membranes work according to a fairly simple principle: If you
give water an easier path to follow, it won't penetrate the
foundation. Products like Eljen's No Aggregate Drainage System
use a plastic dimpled mat that channels water to a foundation
drain. Eljen's version differs from similar products in that it
uses an integral filter fabric that prevents the foundation
drain from collecting sediment. The system includes fabric
straps for hanging the mat while the foundation is backfilled.
Eljen claims the product also works well for curtain drains and
similar water-management applications. It sells for about $1
per square foot.
Pools & Spas
Pets and children
drown in backyard pools with startling frequency, but the
Poolguard Underwater Alarm can help prevent such tragedies.
When the portable alarm detects underwater waves, it triggers
an 85-dB siren; a remote receiver located in the house also
sounds a warning. The company makes door and gate alarms as
well, which discourage kids from even getting near the pool. I
found the Underwater Alarm for in-ground pools (below right) on
the Web for $150 and the above-ground model for $120. The door
alarm (below left) sells for $40.
PBM Industries, 800/242-7163,
interested in learning more about swimming-pool equipment and
repair, check out the Ultimate Tech Manual, a well-written book
from our sister publication Pool & Spa News. It
covers repairs and maintenance of most pool mechanicals in
exacting detail. Plenty of good photography, charts, and
diagrams make it the best publication I've seen on the subject.
Even if you have no interest in pools and spas, the sections on
pumps and motors have lots of other applications and make the
book easily worth the $15 purchase price.
Pool & Spa News, 323/801-4900,
Plastic Spa Pad.
Most spas require
a pad or deck for support, but getting a short load of concrete
is expensive, and mixing some 30 bags of concrete isn't much
fun. Here's a practical solution: The EZ Pad is a 3-inch-thick
solid plastic mat designed as a base for portable spas. The
two-piece pad is available in five sizes, from 66 by 88 inches
to 96 inches square. Prices start at $500.
EZ Pad, 866/397-2370,
On the Job: Out of the
Mudby Thomas Payne
There is a saying we have here in Portland, Ore., where we
work in the rain nearly seven months of the year: "If you want
to eat in the rain, you work in the rain."
Recently I was brainstorming with the crew of Nathan D. Young
Construction, our primary remodeling subcontractor, to look for
ways to stay out of the mud. Specifically, we wanted a walking
surface that would make it easier to get around the job site.
The product would have to stand up to the wet weather, couldn't
be slippery, and had to be affordable. Nathan came up with the
idea of using jute landscaping fabric, which is commonly used
to stabilize new plantings on steep hillsides.
Jute landscaping fabric proved effective
at keeping carpenters from sinking into the mud at this wet
Oregon job site.
The first test came during a midwinter job when we were
putting on an addition. Getting around back to the addition was
a 150-foot walk over fresh backfill and existing grass. With
the frequent rain and regular trips back and forth, it wouldn't
be long before the soil was ankle-deep mud. But by spreading
three layers of jute in some areas and one layer in others, we
were able to stay on top of the mud all winter. The jute
survived the whole job and was pulled up at the end by the
You can find jute landscaping fabric at landscape suppliers
and rental yards. In Portland, a 4-by-225-foot roll sells for
less than $50.Thomas Payneis the owner of Craftsman Homes Group in