Tower Time

‘Twas a beautiful, sunny day in Georgia, and the sunshine found me around a hundred feet up in a tower. Some fellow Amateur Radio operators and I teamed up to resolve a weak transmit issue with a local repeater system, and while I freely admit that the rest of the team did all the technical work, I was the only who got high on this mission ;P.

All kidding aside, there were a couple of interesting parts to touch on. The first one, as my faithful readers will have guessed, is safety. I am aware that many thousands of people have climbed a tower in the past, perhaps many times, without all the standard safety gear, and it’s ‘been fine’. Whoopie. Rule #1 is safety, so I was there in full ‘battle rattle’; harness, with suspension seat, helmet, toolbag, and assorted doo-dads and gizmos to help me stay tied off to the tower. I recommend you always use all of the required safety gear, and a little more than when needed, because it’s not fun to get your radio system up to snuff on the tower, only to not be able to play with for a few weeks or months while you’re a body cast.

The second part i’ll touch on was the key issue here: Water. Water had gotten into the connector between the hardline and the jumper. I know, I know, ‘But what about the sticky tape stuff that seals up the connections???’ Yes, what about it? Well, it was on there, and it was sticky, but it still let water get inside. Fun fact: Water will always find a way in, eventually, so the best way to handle this is seal it up as best you can, but leave a way for water to drain out. In order to facilitate this, I set the connection up in a vertical fashion (see pictures below) and the sealed it up to the edge of some heat shrink tubing on the jumper, leaving the tiniest little path for water to drain out, should it ever find it’s way in there.

Lastly, i’ll touch on one of my favorites: Quality. Yes, it took more time for me to clean everything up before putting it all back together. Yes, it took more time for me to line everything up just right so the antenna is vertical, and is blocked the least amount by the tower footprint. Yes, it took more time for me to wrap the tape down and up, instead of just one pass. But you know what? It’s worth every minute spent on it, because that antenna will be up there for a long, long time, and the extra 20 minutes I spent on quality work is a big part of that longevity. In this vein I would urge you, too, to take the little bit of extra time needed to do a quality job, the first time, and every time.

The connection from hardline to jumper is veritical, with the hardline coming in from the top. This helps to prevent water from getting into the hardline.
The first of two layers of the ‘sticky stuff’, you can see I aimed to overlap it 50%, and got it right most of the time.
Keeping an eye on that bottom level, lining it up just right with the bottom edge of the existing heat-shrink tubing on the jumper.
The second layer went on nice and tight.
All wrapped up nice and tight!
I wrapped the vinyl tape around, first layer sticky side out, second layer sticky side in; this helps keep the sticky off the stretch tape beneath, and makes a better seal. It’s also well-secured to the tower so the chafing or banging don’t cause issues.
The antenna looks good out on that standoff, doesn’t it?
The view from up there is great, but not to die for. 100% tie off, stay safe, and enjoy many more days!

Sagging gate 23APR19

This poor gate was dragging on the ground with every swing, causing more damage to the fence and gate as it was forced along the concrete below it.

I got my hands on a ‘gate anti-sag kit’, installed it, and shored up the rest of the hardware and surrounding boards to bring it back to life, all for less then $50 in materials!

Order of Operations – Flipping

The typical Order of operations in New Construction are the same across most facets of building construction. The Order of Operations for other projects (which we’ll touch on later) will vary some, but let’s talk specifically about flipping houses.

When you’re flipping a house, the goal is to get in, get done, and get out with the least amount of time and money needed to get the house rented or sold. I’ve flipped several hundred houses, and in doing so I found that many people stress themselves far to much by getting into a big rush. If they would just stick with the order of operations, they could alleviate an awful lot of stress from the project.

I always start with a simple review of whatever documents are available, and a walk-through of the house. I often times had an inspectors report that showed everything that was not up to code, which certainly made life a lot easier for me, but I also found things in my walk-through that needed to be address, either for safety, common sense, or my investors wishes.
If needed, i’ll get a landscaping crew to come out first and knock back the growth so I can see all the parts and pieces of the house; nothing like trying to see the exterior window conditions when you’re being attacked by thorny bushes after wading through three feet high grass!

Once i’ve completed my review, I set specific goals for this project, specific things that need to be addressed in a large scale. Notice I did not say ‘Planning’, I said ‘Goals’.
I will usually get a dumpster delivered, perhaps a porta-john or two, and other job-site necessities.
This is also where I lay some ideas down about where to store materials, and other parts of managing my overall job-site.

This phase is all about getting all the old crap out of the house and out of the way. The goal is to get all the garbage out of the house and directly into a dumpster, anything that we need to keep out of the way and into some kind of storage.
Demolition is taken as far as needed to uncover all the problems.

Now that I can see all the parts and pieces I need to see, I can start planning my work. I’ll lay out my plans, select my materials, and start getting things ordered based on Lead and Need times.

This phase is where we get back to ‘real construction’, and closely match the normal order of ops for new building. Having removed ALL of the crap we want gone, we can now start from the bottom up.
This includes all Framing, Sub-Flooring, HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Low-Voltage, and get any inspections needed for work up to this point.

I always make a point of double-checking my rough-in work before I start closing things up; nothing worse than having to tear down freshly hung sheetrock so I can fix a little thing in the wall left behind!

An often overlooked step, I build in time to PREPARE for an awesome finish.
We make sure all the framing is level, plumb, and even for the material going on it, which usually means removing all the nails, screws, and junk left behind, as well as evening out some places by planing away some sections, or building up others with wood or cardboard strips.

With all of my rough-in done, it’s time to get the finish work happening. I’ll turn a sheetrock team loose and keep everyone out of their way until they’re done. Then i’ll get the rest of the people in there to finish all the parts and pieces!

Punch List
There’s always a few little things left to deal with at the end of the job, called a ‘Punch List’. I used to have a team of Handymen who I split between handling Punch Lists, Service Calls, and small jobs.

I’ll go over each of these in more detail, as well as the planning and logistics of jobsite and project management.

As always, stay tuned for more, and remember, why do it okay twice when you can do it great once?

Order of Operations

No matter what we’re working on, there’s always an order of operations. In Math we have PEMDAS, in baking we have GCMMBT, and in CPR we learn ABC.

In construction it’s no different, we have an order of operations, and it’s important we follow it so we can keep making progress, and not have to go back and undo or redo work already done.

I’ve seen people get in a hurry and skip steps, usually in an effort to satisfy a hasty investor or homeowner, and they find themselves with much more expense than estimated, so now someone has to eat that extra cost.

I’ve seen projects where drywall had to be ripped down so the plumber could finish installing some pipe, or worse, so an inspector could check an electrical junction, and now that drywall had to be set, taped, mudded, sanded, mudded, sanded, and primed a second time (or third, YIKES!).

I’ve also seen damages inside houses where finish work was done in some rooms, but rough work was not, and damage was caused by materials coming through the finished areas.

No matter how big a rush you’re in, it’s always faster to take your time and do things right.