Our last two articles were about swimming pools which are, admittedly, a very big DIY decision. One type of DIY project that some people have been known to knock out over a weekend (depending on the amount of help from friends and bribery necessary to get that help) is the building of a pool/deck. You can preorder the materials, get them delivered to your house, and do whatever preparatory work you need to before the big weekend. Before you announce said big weekend we need to think about which structure to build: deck or patio?
Broadly speaking, patios and decks are the same in that they are both outdoor spaces which allow you and your guests to enjoy each other’s company and conversation while experiencing the joy of the great outdoors. Both can give you the sense of that outdoor “room” that’s just another part of your your house. Both, depending on your municipality, may require permits and an identification and flagging of buried water, gas, and electric lines. But that’s where the similarities end. One can make an argument for one being cheaper than the other, but the price difference is not significant enough to be the deciding factor. Hence, we’ll talk about construction a bit more first.
Of course “deck” refers to ships and how they were constructed. And home decks, like ship decks, have been traditionally made of wood. But as technology has pushed us forward we’ve found that composite materials can still deliver the look and feel of a traditional deck, while delivering a longer-lasting structure (doesn’t need to be powerwashed and resealed) and being “green” (many of those composites are made of recycled plastics). What’s the catch, you’re asking? Well, those materials are often cost double their wood cousins. Whether you choose composite or wood, you’ll need concrete footings to stabliize the structure.
That being said, you have to keep in mind that you are “limited” to standard lengths. If you start looking at or ordering non-standard lengths for your deck, the price starts to move up pretty quickly.
Decks have the sense of “elevation” about them – even when you talk about them. Patios are always imagined as flat structures built on the ground that can be made of differing types of materials – from paving stones to brick. There is no “sealing” or “resealing” but you can count the grass and weeds that you have to be vigilant about as its own type of “sealing.” You also have the luxury of having a fire pit, if you’d like (not a deck possibility).
Unlike decks, if you ever decide to change the look and feel of your paving stones, you can simply pull up your old ones and reuse your existing leveled base with new paving stones or bricks. You also have the freedom to make it as large as you want as you are only limited by the “standard length” issue we discussed with decking.
Think about the sort of social events that you have and enjoy. Do they involve a fire pit (patio is best)? Do you have an inherent love of wood? What materials make up your home? What kind of maintenance do you want to do/are prepared to do? Once you’ve sketched out some ideas, price out possibilities so you know what you are getting into.
Whether you decide to build a patio or deck, remember that at the Rental Center of Monticello we are always here to help counsel with advice; we can also rent you things like an excavator that can either help give a different shape and structure to the deck you want to build or help you to level and flatten an area you want to use for a patio.
So, interestingly enough, there are two schools of thought on this. Let’s start the the assumption that if you’re one of our customers or you’re the sort of person to frequent an equipment rental place, like ours in Monticello, that this is a DIY project, which changes the price from $25,000+, which is what a professional contractor might charge, to something between $5000-$15,000. Now the reason for this variance is because you can choose to build natural or artificial.
These kinds of pools have been the vogue in Europe for some time but are only now starting to catch on here in the United States. The idea stems from a number or principles:
1. Having a more “natural” look in which water and stone blend in with your existing landscape rather than a strange, alien structure.
2. Having plants and some bacteria do the cleaning for you instead of expensive (and possibly harmful) chemicals.
3. Being more environmentally oriented while saving money.
Some things to keep in mind – you can have the plants take up a segment of your pool on one side, or you can have them surround the pool on all sides. Just keep in mind that 50% of the surface area of the pool has to be dedicated to the plant areas and these are not places you should swim. yes, the plants are pretty to look at, but you also need to keep in mind that they need to be left in peace to do the work of keeping your water clean. And it’s not 100% maintenance free, either. Remember, it’s a pool, not a pond, and so you will need to make sure the water is properly oxygenated, which can be done by installing a pump and some PVC pipe. We aren’t trying to make this sound simple – it’s not easy, but it can be easily done – and certainly as easily done, if not more so, than an artificial pool.
This is a scene that some Americans are familiar (and comfortable) with. Plants are on the outside of the pool – but not too far away, and while the pool is clearly artificial it still beautifully fits in with this backyard (you could argue that it creates the backyard, but that’s another story).
So, whether you’ve decided on an artificial or a natural pool, you’ll still have to dig. We’ve written about some of our most rented excavators on our blog before. If you want a huge pool, perhaps you might get the John Deere 200D. If you have a smaller space or want a smaller pool, you could rent our Yanmar SV08. You’ll want to maintain a 3:1 ratio – 3 feet down for every 1 foot wide. You can make your pool as deep as you want – just remember you have to keep digging to get there!
This may seem rather obvious, but also make sure you’re doing this work during a time of the year where there is little to no rain. Oddly enough you’re eventually going to fill this hole with water, but water falling into your giant hole in the ground before it’s ready can lead to a lot of mud on the bottom of your pool (which will have to be removed) and a series of collapses along your carefully created wall/side of the pool (which may have to be redug or you might have to change your product scope.
One last thing we want to talk about in today’s post is the different types of artificial pools you can have. This is what you’ll be concerned with after you’ve dug that hole in ground.
You can get a concrete/gunite pool, a vinyl liner pool, or a fiberglass pool.
We’ll start with the last one first, as it’s the easiest by far. These are preconstructed and are brought to your place ready to install in one piece. They are also the “low maintenance” option (around $50 per month) because fiberglass will not rip, tear, crack, chip, or leak. Because it’s a non-porous surface, fiberglass is algae-resistant and this makes cleaning an maintenance a breeze. You also never have to drain it for maintenance.
The vinyl liner pool is very popular these days. It is the “middle” option between the cost of a fiberglass pool (cheaper) and a concrete/gunite pool (most expensive). It does have some drawbacks. The liner is subject to algae and tearing, which can lead to you having to replace it. Maintenance is still going to be around $100 per month but sometimes the upfront cost (less than concrete/gunite) and the particular situation (we won’t have sharp things in the pool and promise to maintain the liner!) might lead one to go this route.
The concrete/gunite pool is the traditional type and has been around for a long time. It’s most frequently used for public and commercial projects these days. A framework of steel rods and mesh is sprayed over by concrete and gunite, then coated with plaster. The plaster can chip or crack easily and because it’s a porous surface, algae can find a home to grow. The maintenance on this type of pool will be at least $100 per month and will also require an annual draining and an every other year acid wash or re-plastering.
Whatever option you end up going with, remember that you are building something that should last many years. When doing your calculations, make sure you include maintenance as part of your cost consideration. As time goes on the savings may be large enough to affect your final decision on what to do.
We hope there’s some water near you this weekend where you can swim without having to worry about building a pool!
It’s getting towards the dog days of summer and as it gets hotter people might be looking into their backyard, considering just how much better life might be if they had a pool back there. We’re a rental company so when we get the initial phone call for an excavator for someone who wants to possibly work on (at least part of) a project like this, we ask the originating question: why do you want to build a pool in your backyard?
Reasons to build:
1. It’s a cool, relaxing feature. Yes, this isn’t really disputable, is it? When you see a pool in a backyard you automatically reach for a cold beverage and wonder if there are any lawn chairs. Whether you are single or have kids a pool is always an option for a day off and when you have one in your backyard it’s just that much easier to get to. You can add waterfalls to get that zen feeling or to have an added feature to play with in the pool.
2. I love swimming and the water. If you want to swim for exercise you can configure your pool in such a way that you can do that well. You can also build it for floating and relaxation. And, as we said above, during the dog days of summer, something cool is the best remedy for the heat. Whether you’re splashing around or just building your tan, a pool is a great answer to the question of “what to do on a free day?”
3. It’s great for entertaining. Who doesn’t love pools? People can bring kids, people can swim themselves, you can add a cookout, and very often visiting a home that has a pool is a treat for those who don’t have one. You get to be Santa!
Things to consider:
1. Owning a pool is not cheap to build or to maintain. Should you get concrete or vinyl? Aboveground or inground? What kind of chemicals should you use? Should you use a heater? Yes, you can do the maintenance yourself if you make sure that you know everything about your pool – but make sure you do! Add up the costs over a year and divide it up over 12 months so you can get an immediate sense of what it will add to your monthly bills. Also keep in mind that depending on where you live, having a pool might make a home more difficult to sell. On the flipside, if you live someplace like Florida (much warmer than Monticello, year-round) having a pool might be a “must” for homebuyers.
2. The flipside of entertainment is liability. Many people don’t know that having a pool immediately increases your homeowner’s insurance. Want to add a diving board or a slide? Get ready to increase it even more. What happens if someone gets hurt? What are the safeguards you are taking to protect your guests, in particular, small children? Don’t let these questions scare you off: just make sure you have good answers for them.
3. You will give up a portion of your yard that you cannot reclaim easily should you change your mind. If you are going to go to the trouble of excavating, leveling, pouring concrete, landscaping, etc., keep in mind that this is a semi-permanent decision. It’s going to cost you almost as much to get rid of a pool as it cost you to build one. Keep in mind that you will also want to add landscaping, rock, etc. to make the pool “fit” the rest of your yard.
You’d be surprised, but we go through variation of these questions and answers with each of our potential clients who calls in to build a pool. This week we wanted to stir these ideas through your mind so that next week (see what we did there – hooked you for our next blog article!) we can talk about the nitty-gritty of excavation and maintenance.
Stay cool as we head into July, whether it’s indoors or poolside!
Labor Day is 5 weeks away and if you don’t have a company picnic planned (either for the end of the season or the end of the quarter) for that weekend you still have time to plan – not just for that weekend, but for any time in September.
Planning for your company picnic is like planning for any regular picnic, but probably on a much larger scale than many are used to. You also want to make sure you’re giving people the freedom to be themselves without feeling that they are “at work.” Having a picnic is a form of employee appreciation and you want them to feel appreciated!
We are often called upon to provide rental equipment for company picnics and we wanted to give you some important considerations so that you can have a great event.
1. What’s your budget?
It’s annoying, perhaps, but you have to start with this question. Think about what the maximum number of people who could come to the event, take your budget for the event, and divide by the maximum number. This is your “per person” budget. Keep in mind that while everyone is not going to “consume” equal amounts of food, entertainment, giveaways, that this is often a helpful and *concrete* way to examine your spend. Many small businesses say anywhere from $25-$50 a person is a reasonable figure.
It’s a picnic so you want food that’s easy on the utensils – burgers, hot dogs, and bbq items are easy and expected. Catering will drive up your cost but may please the employees. On the other hand, don’t presume you don’t have a “grillmaster” among your staff – someone who lives to grill who might volunteer his/her skills in exchange for a door price or something fun. Then your cost here will go down.
How big of a tent will you need? How many tables and chairs? Do you need fans? We can help you with the visualization and planning of this – we’re always just a phone call away: 845-794-0100.
Remember – you are with work people but it’s not work! You wouldn’t believe the excitement and chatter that a giveaway generates, especially if you can tie it into work prior to the event. For example, people could get “raffle entries” by being nominated by other employees for particular actions/activities at work. The small prizes are easy: movie tickets, gift cards, gift baskets. Have the big prize be substantial, but not overly so!
A DJ? A band? Magicians? Games?
The answer is yes – to whatever makes sense for your group. Music of any kind in the background really adds to a relaxed atmosphere and can also lead to watching little kids dance, which is always a fun sight!
2. Who’s going to help with this?
Not all your employees will want to help with this event, but make sure they have the opportunity to help! Ask for volunteers for a planning committee, with perhaps paid lunches for the meetings as an incentive (pizza is easy and inexpensive). They know who eats what (I didn’t know Jan was a vegetarian), whose secret hobbies might be a great part of the entertainment (Bob’s a ventriloquist?), and what kids will like for entertainment.
3. Where do you want to be?
Crowds are bad. You want to be able to manage your party and sometimes visitors (welcome and unwelcome) can mess with that. You don’t need to go to someplace desolate, but you also shouldn’t be at a very crowded place. It will make the event less special, and ultimately, less of an event, even.
4. What kind of entertainment/games?
Make sure everyone is included! Have physical games like volleyball, but also fun skill games like a bean bag toss. Having children and grandparents at this event will be a given so make sure that they can participate in the festivities too!
In all of this planning don’t forget that this event is a chance for your company culture to shine. Have fun, let your employees relax a bit, and reward them for their hard work throughout the year! The more planning you do for this event, the more fun it will be and the more your employees will come back to work refreshed, with good memories, ready to get back to work!
Before the age of information (and the age of reliable worldwide shipping), one of the great things about a vacation in a far-off land would be bringing back some foodstuff or drink to share with friends that could not otherwise be bought here in America. One of our staff here at the Rental Center of Monticello spent a semester abroad in Italy many years ago and he shared a recent ad campaign from Haagen-Daaz centered around “limoncello.” For those who don’t know, limoncello is a drink that’s probably around 100 years old that is created by steeping lemon zest in grain alcohol until the lemon oil releases – that yellow liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. It is amazing, and you should try it.
The ad focuses on people’s mouths pronouncing the word “limoncello” and closes with a shot on the ice cream from Haagen-Daaz flavored as limoncello. Our employee showed this to us with two intents: 1) to reminisce about how great limoncello was and how he felt “cool” that you had to go to Italy to get it (not anymore – you can find it at some liquor stores) and 2) to wonder how silly an ad campaign would be for us to have people saying “Monticello” into the camera!
This led to a discussion about advertising and how people learn about our business. Here, one of our staff had just shared a great story about a drink he had in his college days that the lemon producers in Southern Italy are grateful to have told. And after two decades in this business (we haven’t been in business as long as the limoncello people) we know one irrefutable fact: word of mouth is advertising that you just can’t buy. It’s priceless. It’s necessary. And without it, you don’t have a business. So for today’s blog post I thought I would focus on the three reasons why word of mouth is very important to our business (and hopefully give you some perspective and reflection points as either customers or fellow business owners).
It starts in conversation and isn’t pushy
There are a couple ways someone can hear about our business in conversation: someone has just completed a project and wants to share about how our equipment really helped them get the job done, or someone is thinking about doing a project and doesn’t really know how to start, what to get, or where to go.
Both of those are positives for us. In one case a happy customer shares a story about an experience with us. In another, a potential customer, already in a sense a “warm lead,” is asking for help that should lead right to us.
This sort of interaction is every business owner’s dream, but it starts with delivering great service to your already-existing client. Doing that pushes you to a greater spot of awareness in their mind, and hence an easier place for them to share with others.
It can’t be bought
Any business that wants to grow has to choose from many different channels of advertising. And while we’re writing an article about word of mouth, we aren’t trying to say that you can’t or shouldn’t advertise. But we are trying to say that you can’t buy word of mouth.
Over the years we’ve tried to incentivize some of our happiest and most loyal customers who were already sharing our brand with others but we found that many of them weren’t interested in the incentives. They were happy with our company and wanted to share with others.
This also means that the stories being told about your business are authentic and legitimate. Sure, you can “buy” fake reviews from people on various online forums, but after a while either Google will spot and remove those and/or people will become hip to what are “real” reviews and what are fake.
It allows us to continue a dialogue
Sometimes a current customer will say something about us to a potential customer like, “If only they had this one part” or “I definitely didn’t expect to pay as much as I did, but it was worth it.” This gives us an opportunity to call that customer back, check in with them and make sure that they are happy and satisfied – and more importantly, to ask for feedback. We never take happy customers for granted, and we never lull ourselves into thinking we can’t improve all the time.
Word of mouth – especially in the information age – means that we can have relationships with our customers across a much longer timespan – and this hopefully means not only a chance to help spur them to think about the next project they may want to do around their house – but also, as we said above – to stay in their mindspace so they think of us first when a friend is brainstorming about a project. We’d like to think that our rent-by-the-day, not the hour, pricing is cool enough on its own, but it’s always much cooler to hear a customer say that to a potential client for us!
Have a great weekend!