A backpack cooler is a great place to carry and store items at a jobsite.
A backpack cooler is a great place to carry and store items at a jobsite.

The buzzword “lifehack” positively describes handy time- and money-saving techniques, simple methods for increasing productivity, or ways of making regular tasks easier.

Here are several concrete lifehacks for you:

  • Do your new trowels leave marks? Set your trowel on a hard surface. Center a dime under the nose of the trowel, leaving the very edge of the dime barely visible, and gently tap the rib near the foremost rivet with your framing hammer.
  • Stubborn slurry in your five-gallon bucket? Knocking dried residue out cracks your tool bucket. Instead, after washing your hand tools for the last time of the day, leave about 3 inches of water in your bucket and drop two handfuls of gravel in the bottom. Holding your bucket straight down at arm’s length, vigorously twist the bucket back and forth (like opening a combination lock). Then, swish the gravel in a circular motion as you tip over the emptying bucket.
  • Messy pipe-bollards? Cut off the narrow end of an old traffic cone to fit into your bollards. Pour right from the ready-mix truck’s chute, using the traffic cone as a funnel. Use scraps of Visqueen to finish the concrete on the top of your bollards, swiping back and forth like you were polishing a shoe.
  • Is the face of your risers pulling off? Used motor oil is the best form-oil on risers. Also, hold your float down lengthwise on the tread near the nose of the step and lift your form up before pulling out. Dilute old motor oil with diesel fuel for other formwork too. When you can’t use a petroleum-based release-agent, try liquid dish soap.
  • Searching for a great used work vehicle? Ambulances are auctioned off with relatively low mileage, and they have been meticulously maintained. They typically have powerful diesel engines, dually rear ends, and are equipped with electrical outlets. They are also outfitted with great shelving, so organizing your tools and hardware is a snap.
  • Have you lost the keys to your old skid-steer? In an emergency only, hot-wire your skid-steer with your Estwing hammer. I used an 8 penny nail to force the ignition to the ON position, and then I jumped the connection of the starter’s solenoid with my Estwing, holding the rubberized handle to avoid being electrocuted.
  • Is your body overly sore? Buy expensive work boots. Don’t ever skimp because your boots affect more than your feet. The impact from walking radiates through your knees, hips, back, and shoulders. Grease your boots regularly so they will last longer. Are your rubber boots hard to slide over your leather work boots? Put a plastic grocery bag over your work boots before sliding on your five-buckles.
  • Information overload? Carry a composition book to record your hours, directions to the next site, and information needed to prepare for your next pour. They only cost a dollar and are very durable. The inside cover has helpful multiplication tables, conversion tables, and formulas.
  • Occasional difficulty placing concrete? Muck your jitterbug angled somewhat horizontally into a pile of concrete, squat down some, and walk backwards, tugging the jitterbug toward you. Similarly, to move more volume while grading a footer, face the opposite way you are shoveling and use a rowing motion.
  • Hard time carrying your rubber boots, sliders, bucket of hand tools, and lunchbox onto the site? Free up a hand by buying a backpack-cooler. Freeze bottled water for your ice packs. Things to pack in the spare pockets of the cooler include spare phillips head bits for your cordless drill, bandages, restaurant towelettes to clean cuts, aspirin, and disposable poncho. Carry a book in your cooler too—leaders are readers.

E-mail me your concrete lifehacks.