You need to read less and think more!

This blog is about getting stoked and getting worthwhile things done. There is a sea of useless information bombarding you, and this is a desert island where you beach your boat and build a hut. There are also some clever little construction tricks to be presented.



Saturday, February 28, 2015

A 17 hour day-in-the-life

I don’t fancy myself interesting, or especially insightful. However, I do enjoy my life more than anyone I know.  Friday, February 27th, 2015 held this for me. I hope in sharing this there is something that inspires you to re-arrange things to be as fun and productive as you can be.

  • 4AM, I woke up and planned out the day for the 3rd or 4th time. A great crew leader who has been with me for 8+ years called in sick, the forecast is super-cold. Pointing the 16 other guys on the front lines in the right direction means either creating $1000s of value, or devouring profits from an otherwise great month.
  • I plan on making a 6AM yoga class, but by the time I am ready, it is too late, and I have 3 projects I have been meaning to plan/estimate/bid for 2 days now. So, I decided to stay home and keep working. I know I am better all day if I take that hour in the morning, but I’m in great shape already, and think the extra 90 minutes of planning this morning trumps yoga.
  • I get to drop my 4th-grade daughter off at school. She makes me very happy.
  • I arrive at the shop. The “Red Team” and “Yellow Team” are already on the road. Those 2 crew-leaders have 10+ years experience each, and understand their projects well. Surely jobs are better when there is no need to deal with your boss. 
  • The lead for the "Brown Team" asks for the day off. It’s 30 degrees out, and likely won’t break 40 today. We can do what his team was to do Monday, so I give his him and his team the day off and re-adjust.
  • The “Blue Team” rolls out to a re-finish job for an architect’s personal house in Austin. I personally line him out with all kinds of oddball materials, as we don’t fully know what we are going to be up against there.
  • Today, I will be personally leading a project in Westlake. I am not on the front-lines too much anymore, but I usually come out for high-end placement projects. This one is a massive pair of fireplaces.
  • A few months ago, I developed a new product that resurfaces old concrete with post-consumer crushed glass, and need to square up with the company that trucked that material in from Austin and bagged it (no glass recycling pickup in Marble Falls). I manage to get one load back to the shop and pick another up before running to the site we will be pouring today (concrete ordered for 1:30PM)
  • Before we can leave the shop, the Blue Team calls with a serious challenge: the floor they were to re-finish was “stained” with some lame paint product. We can easily make it shiny, but the color comes off with a easy scrape, and we preach the gospel of concrete floors that are durable above all else. Cool thing is, after 100s of projects together, that crew leader and I almost form a nexus, and I can fully understand what is happening there in less than 2 minutes over the phone. I have revised our project worksheet template dozens of times over the last 5 years, and in 2 more minutes I can estimate the cost with a fair margin, and hand the deal off to Annie or Kathryn to write the paperwork to up the project from re-wax to complete re-finish. I have a 2 minute conversation with the owner/architect, and frankly admit that to strip off the paint, acid stain, chemically harden, diamond polish and finish out that floor costs more than I might want to invest in a home I was about sell. She is very bright and decisive and within 15 minutes of the first call from the Blue Team, we have a change order, a game plan, and another future fan.  I grab the material they will need to chemically remove paint and we race to pick up another load of up-cycled glass and meet the concrete truck on site.
  • We get on site at 12:50, and hustle to use the glass as filler in the form. It only saves $20 or so (between the concrete omitted and my cost for the bagged glass on a trailer there), but it means 90 cubit feet less stuff in a landfill, and energy saved in making cement. Frankly, the “Green-Building” ethos is a bit lost on this $4M house project we are a part of on Lake Austin.
  • Troy Lemon, the best straight-up artist in concrete I know is still down from Michigan and finishing the forms. He is very expensive as a hired-hand, but he is the only person I know that can do this job as good as I can (probably better).  I have paid him over $2,000 on this project alone, but it has freed me up 3 full days and the work is excellent. 
Here is a form with the glass, a floating form for the drop and Troy's head.

  • The “mud” shows up, we get the integral color in, it looks perfect, and we get the truck poured out in about an hour. 


Here is the leftover bucket of color. The architect, Eric Barth of A Parallel Architecture requested "Grey but warmer and elevated", and then backpedaled a lot thinking that he was not communicating completely. I understood perfectly, made 3 mockups that were all gorgeous, and scaled the lightest one from 1 cu. ft. to 4 yards. for this project.


  • The Blue Team picks up the chemical stripper. I realize after they leave that I should give them the 2 apprentice/laborers I had with my and track them down on TX 360.
  • I then hit up 3 stores in Austin to find more electric blankets for the fireplaces we poured. The temps are not forecasted to pass 40 in the next 48 hours, so keeping that concrete warm artificially is paramount. The challenge is that big retailers order x-amount of blankets and heaters/year and by late February in a rough winter Home Depot, Walmart, Target, etc. are all sold out. Chatting with my wife while driving I find out that Tuesday Morning had some on clearance. I’ve never been to a Tuesday Morning store, but it is like a Ross for Housewares, and there I find electric blankets marked down from $200 to $60 to $6.  I am stoked. I high-five everyone in the store I can and race back to the job site.
  • The Project Manager where we are pouring is a chatty guy and we are both stuck in Austin Rush Hour Traffic.  We talk about the day, and I was lamenting about the re-wax turn re-finishing job the Blue Team wrestled with. In that conversation, I realize that I am the only contractor I know that cares about concrete flooring that wears like blue jeans. I look forward to the economy going South again so all the chumps trying to make quick money will go out of business again. 
  • Once we are done troweling the concrete, we make our little hot-house around it with scrap lumber, plastic, and electric blankets.