Fechino Files: Covering Your Work, Materials, and Other Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

Words: Steven Fechino

Words: Steven Fechino

Covering your work has so many positives that I would run out of room to discuss each of the benefits. One of the biggest benefits is that this time of year, you can begin working earlier because frozen frost stays off your work and on the wall covering. Efflorescence and new wall bloom can be reduced if you cover your walls and prevent those quick late winter showers from saturating the masonry. Along with covering your work, there is a bit more to it.

It is easy not to cover everything, but covering everything really pays dividends. For example, starting at the beginning, keep your materials off the wet ground and use pallets as much as possible. Brick and Concrete Masonry Units (CMU), once wet, stay wet, and since you lay them as fast as they get delivered, there is not really any time for them to dry (maybe the outside of the hack will dry, but the interior of the hack will remain wet), so cover your materials when they arrive, it is so much easier than the night before a storm. Equipment: cover the saw, even if it is just a mortar pan over the electric motor, and keep the water out. It is easy to think that a saw that cuts wet would not need to be covered, but cover it, it will last much longer under day-to-day conditions. Dump the mixer tub and leave it dumped at the end of the day if you can; it will keep water from freezing in the bottom of the tub. Shovels and hoes; keep the handles from getting wet and put them where they stay dry. Why? Because there is nothing worse than using a half-frozen handle to move mortar when it could be prevented. One area that only one person on the site may worry about is the operator seat. Cover it; a wet butt really is a "pain in the butt" when it occurs at 6:30 a.m. in the early morning.

Starting fluid, I have mentioned this in several different articles; on a cold morning, please do not use starting fluid, even if it states it is for diesel engines. I have used either to start equipment, and it is a practice I got away with, but I could have easily damaged an engine and had to do a rebuild because of either. Either will increase the engine rotation faster than the normal starter and create a reaction that the diesel fuel will heat up faster to increase the chance of starting; the problem is that it does this with a dry cylinder, and that will destroy an engine ring quickly, among other damage possibilities. Glow plugs on a diesel engine are all or nothing; either they all work, or you have nothing because they are typically wired in series. When you need to heat the diesel fuel before starting, you can remove the breather and filter, use a heat gun, and blow hot air into the breather. It may take a minute or two, but it is a much safer way to start an engine than using either.

Top off the mixers with fuel the night before as the hot engine, when cooling, can increase the possibility of condensation in the fuel tank, making a cold start no fun. Check the oil while you are at it; checking the oil is NEVER DONE TOO OFTEN!

Since laying material requires water, if you are working off of a building supply, unhook your hoses at night and drain them, even if it is 200 hundred feet of hose, because a frozen hose will not thaw out when you turn the water on, it can take hours, this step will keep you on track, it only takes a few minutes, you know, the few minutes they would have stood around anyway looking at their phones.

The last thing I want to put out there is to have a 5-gallon bucket of dry sand in the trailer; this is useful for those slick spots that you encounter on the scaffolds, those spots that you lay over fresh concrete or over those rowlock sills you laid yesterday, whatever you choose, you will use it more than you might realize once you have it.

An old time taught me to never lay your gloves down, keep them under your arm or in your jacket, a cold glove will never warm your cold hands.

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