May 13

What I’ve learned in the past few months

I wrote a while back about my trip to the ASD retailer show in Vegas. We followed this up a few weeks later by returning to Vegas, along with Jeff of J & J Rentals, for the National Hardware Show.

We were looking both for new products as well as opportunities to buy items that we currently buy in case and pallet lots. We were not expecting to hit a home run on the latter as, although we purchase $25,000 to $35,000 of hardware, building supplies and paint per month, those number probably were not enough to interest large wholesalers.

We actually hit a home run on both as well as finding products for my wife’s event supply business.  Ironically it turned out my son was at the show too. He left radio and is now working for a public relations firm. They were there helping promote a fertilizer infused grass seed.

Cool new products found at the show

Number one has to be TeleSteps telescopic type 1 250# and 1A 300#  rated ladders with OSHA and ANSI certs. These were originally developed for military and law enforcement use. At the show they had a couple of the flat black anodized military versions on display.

The advantage of these over an extension ladder is they fit in the trunk of your car instead of requiring a truck with a ladder rack. What was happening is we would send a maintenance guy out and if the job required a longer ladder we would have to divert a truck with a ladder rack to deliver and then pick up the ladder.

I purchased one telescopic ladders and sent it out with a crew leader. He came back, said he loved it and asked if he could keep it. I said sure as long as he took good care of it. He said he would treat it as well as he treats his girl. I cautioned him not to bring my ladder back in the same condition as his girl, pregnant.

Now two other crews are requesting their own telescopic ladders.

Next cool item:

SaniSeal wax ring replacement. This is the “donut” that fits between the toilet and the sewer pipe flange. The problem with regular wax rings is if there is any movement they tend to leak causing the floor to rot or water damage to the apartment below. It a heavy person sits on the toilet the wax ring can compress and they do not return to their original form afterwards.

The SaniSeal product is made of polyurethane foam that does not permanently compress and is reusable if a toilet needs to be unmounted for things like drain cleaning.

We have purchased a case of these.

Speaking of drain cleaning:

General Wire was at the show with their sewer and drain cleaning machines. Not too much special there, but they have a new head for both small drain cleaners as well as sewer machines called the ClogChopper. It looks like it could handle roots better than a normal blade. We bought one and will try it the next time we run into roots, which is often as the city in their infinite wisdom tend to plant trees at the curb line right above the sewer.

We also found a couple of new tools for clearing sink drains.  Probably the best of breed is the “DRAIN KING” MINI-SNAKE


There is a tremendous amount of time wasted in set up and take down on painting jobs as tThey have to clean their brushes, rollers etc. I’m pretty sure I lose an hour a day per painter. In fact during the summer we run our paint crews ten hours a day four days a week to cut some of this cost, plus the guys like three day weekends.

We ran into a neat product that can cut the set up/tear down cost a bit. The Kovrd 3 IN 1 PAINT TRAY BAG & DROP SHEET is an air proof bag that just zips shut to keep the rollers, trays and brushes fresh. It also works as a mini drop cloth for painting doors etc.

No one in the upper Midwest carries the product, so we bought a case and had it shipped up to Milwaukee.

Water, water everywhere…

Milwaukee sewer and water costs are out of control, but you knew that.

We found some interesting water conservation products. One that may or may not save a lot of money depending on how well it is accepted by the tenant base are flush valves that convert standard toilets to dual flush, using half the water for liquids that solids.

A few seemed like well educated people would have a hard time understanding them and were expensive such as the Toilet Guardian, but one shows promise.

The One2Flush by is relatively inexpensive, in the $25 range in quantities, and appears simple enough that it will not confuse tenants which results in service calls. We are going to do a limited test on a handful of properties to see the results. The valve itself has been used in europe for many years.

In the past we’ve tried the FluidMaster water sentry. This is a fill valve that shuts off when it detects a running toilet. The results were not that encouraging, but it was a few years ago. Korky, has come out with their version of a similar product called WaterWISE™ We ordered a dozen of these for a test.


When it comes to faucets you can get cheap plastic faucets that constantly need replacing or you can get metal faucets that last but cost 3-4 times as much.

We found a distributor of good solid metal faucets at the price point of the plastics. These are made for the hotel industry, and weigh enough that you could probably take them to Miller Compressing, a local scrap yard, and get the price back in scrap metal. They have all the listings such as NSF, CSA, etc. and are approved for CA, which has some of the most stringent requirements in the nation.

We located a manufacturer of fire extinguishers and another of CO and smoke detectors. Both seem to offer a good price compared to what we are buying today. We are working out the shipping before placing an order.

Really cool thing

We were at the Frost King booth, you know, the weatherstrip, carpet bar and plastic manufacturer.  The salesman that spoke to us was no other than Mel, the founder and owner.  I like the product and was impressed that a guy of his position still works the floor, talking to even t smallest of buyers.  No wonder they have been so successful for so long.

Final thoughts

We also found a few general suppliers, but I feel those those will be of limited interest to the readers at large.

I’m sure I left out a few important points and will write more later.

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