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Our most rented machines: the John Deere 160C excavator

One of our earliest blog articles was on the John Deere 200D excavator.  That is a big tough machines for serious jobs.  If you don’t need something that serious, but a backhoe isn’t going to get the job done, then the C-series from John Deere is right for you.  Despite being small they are very productive and have that “big machine feel.”
The C-series comes with the PowerTech engines, heavy-duty cooling systems, reinforced booms, and user-friendly (and comfortable!) operator stations.  Today I’m going to focus on those engines and cooling systems as well as the operator stations.  As someone renting from us those are probably your primary concerns, as we will take care of all the maintenance for you, and you probably already know the legendary reliability of John Deere, even if you haven’t experienced it for yourself.
john deere 160c monticello rental center
Engines
Inside the 160C is John Deere’s exclusive Powerwize II engine.  Its hydraulic management system balances hydraulic pressure and flow.  This helps to save fuel, maximize engine output, and enable multi-function operation with no hiccups.
The engine itself is charge-air cooled which improves fuel economy and engine durability while being “green” by reducing emissions.  How exactly, ask my construction junkies.  Fair enough.  There’s wide fin spacing in the cooling system which allows trash to pass through the cores.  But there’s also a removable trash screen to eliminate plugging.  The top and bottom tanks of the heavy duty cooling system are heavy wall extrusions that are TIG welded to the core so they will be long lasting and durable.
Did we mention the hybrid steel-and-plastic fan?  It has an airfoil-blade design which leads to better cooling performance using less horsepower.  It also runs quieter, which is never a bad thing when you’re out on a project.
Operator Stations
Inside the cab you will see a diagnostic display unit which allows techs to read diagnostic codes (fuel pressure, coolant temperature, manifold temperature) so there is no mystery if something does go wrong.
The operator station itself sits on six silicon fluid-filled elastic mounts.  These take the shock out of the cab and allow the operator to sit back and relax.  While doing so you realize that there’s adjustable lumbar support!  My car doesn’t even have that!  Look up and you’ll see a smoke-tinted sunroof hatch that allows you to have an eye on the sky during your jobs and there’s a retractable shade for when the glare gets too bad.  Charge your phone with our 12-volt phone jack, put your drink in our oversized cup holder, and keep the next beverage in our beverage cooler.
There’s a lot of glass surrounding the operator, which makes for great sight lines in almost every direction (it’s described by many as “panoramic visibility”).  If it gets muddy the wiper blade cleans 25 percent more of your viewing area before tucking out of sight.  There are also adjustable vents everywhere which makes the “blend air” climate control system a dream to operate.

DIY Patio or Deck? Part I: Decision

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.

Decks

rental center monticello deck

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.

Patios

rental center monticello patio

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.

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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.

Should I build a swimming pool in my backyard? Part II: Construction

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.

Natural pools

natural-pool-two-rental-center-monticello

natural_pool_one_rental_center_monticello

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.

Artificial pools

backyard-artificial-pool-rental-center-monticello

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!

Should I build a swimming pool in my backyard? Part I: Decision

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!

backyard_swimming_pool_monticello_rental_center

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!

Iconic Construction Projects: the Brooklyn Bridge

It’s the Fourth of July today and all week both our customers and employees have been restless.  It’s hard to focus when there’s a big holiday in the middle of the week, we understand!  As we thought about what made sense to write about during this week we celebrate America, I thought that we should celebrate a really important construction project right here in our great state of New York: the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s iconic, it’s well-recognized, it often makes appearances in movies, and it has a great history.  There are plenty of places you can get a deep history of this monument but we thought we’d give you the Rental Center of Monticello version: short, sweet, and to the point!

brooklyn-bridge-monticello-new-york

Don’t give up

John Augustus Roebling designed the Brooklyn Bridge.  He was a German immigrant who was well-known for other suspension bridges he had done in his new country.  However, while doing surveys for the bridge he sustained an injury which led to a tetanus infection (which in those days, could be fatal).  He did indeed end up dying from the tetanus, but not before he managed to pass on the entire project to his son Washington Roebling.

Washington Roebling worked down in the caissons – which you will recognize as the towers of the bridge – and before the US Navy had developed its diving tables which dealt with the problem of working at certain depths – and developed decompression sickness.  This was such a problem that Washington was unable to physically supervise the work.  His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, became the link between her recovering husband and the work site.  She spent the next 11 years supervising the construction, while learning higher mathematics and suspension bridge construction, among other things!

Crush rumors of your demise

The bridge opened on May 24, 1883 to much fanfare.  President Chester A. Arthur himself crossed the bridge with the first crowd of people to do so – but not before Emily.  You would figure all that hard work would count for something, and indeed, she was the first to cross it!

But just 6 days after the bridge opened there were rumors spread that it was about to collapse, which led to a stampede that got about a dozen people killed!  P.T. Barnum (yes, Barnum & Bailey’s Barnum) had enough of that and led 21 elephants across the bridge in a show of solidarity and to calm the citizens down.

Persevere

Why is the Brooklyn Bridge standing, 130 years after its construction, when so many other bridges built around that era are no longer with us?  Firstly, Washington Roebling planned ahead.  Aerodynamics of bridge building had not been discovered as a discipline (and indeed, wouldn’t really be known until the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse: the bridge used to be called “Galloping Gertie” because of the way the bridge moved!) until the 1940s.  Despite not knowing about the aerodynamics, since Washington wanted the bridge to endure he built the bridge 6 times stronger than it needed to be.  Well, at least he wanted to.  A man had sold him some inferior wiring that compromised that and since it was still 4 times stronger than it needed to be, even with the compromised wiring, Roebling proceeded.  When you aim higher than your target, even when you fall short you hit your mark!

The bridge today is an iconic part of New York and whenever we take friends into the city, most of them ask to at least see it, if not also cross it.  They are in the midst of a “strengthening” project now which should be done next year (the approaches onto the bridge were deemed to be “poor” and are being redone) so there is some construction work on there but you can still walk across.

Crossing the Bridge

Lessons we take with us as part of our everyday work here (and lessons we share with our customers when they call in, halfway through a project):

1.  Be bold with your projects.  Dream big!

2.  Don’t give up even when obstacles get in your way.  Be creative with how you solve your problems.

3.  Build with quality and thoughtfulness so your work will outlast you.

A very Happy Independence Day to you all from all of us here at the Rental Center of Monticello!