Graduate School Business:
Peanut Buttering Your Basement

Did you ever wonder how peanut butter got into jars? It's not like milk running down a kid's chin. The peanut butter sticks on the chin which indicates it is not easy to get a thick, gooey substance to go places.

Pumps. High pressure pumps. Using a pneumatic ratio pump of 35:1, a 100 pounds of air pressure yields 3500 pounds of pump pressure. Such pressure will not only move or remove peanut butter but remove the kids chin. In fact, similar pumps are used on a small scale for needleless shots which makes similar industrial volume pumps dangerous. Too much peanut butter too quickly will make a diehard peanut nut never hunger again. Industrial accidents have involved the industrial pumps--also known as airless sprayers despite being driven by air--fatally injecting a worker with fluids. Technological advances have resulted in small portable pumps that homeowners can now afford and use.

In the early 1970's, the author acquired a pair of pumps along with an industrial air compressor as an easier way to paint fences on horse farms--see tar baby. While the pumps could push about up to gallons per minute, the biggest nozzle one could productively use was 0.7 gallons per minute.  One could paint more fence in a day.

When summer ended, the equipment was taken to northern Illinois where the author was attending graduate school. A new friend in construction remarked that the equipment could be used to waterproof basements. A problem was that the asphalt would not flow in the northern clime. A simple solution heated the tar.

The asphalt ware purchased in 50-gallon drums that had two-inch bungholes. A 1.5" PVC siphon would nicely fit in the the two-inch opening through which four loops of quarter inch copper tubing was run that circulated water from the trucks cooling system. With the engine block thermometer set at 170 degrees, the asphalt would run like water on a zero degree day.

Show me the money! With the capacity and pressure of the pumps, I could waterproof a newly poured concrete basement in about fifteen minutes. It took more time to get the hoses off of the truck than to complete the job. Normally, it took two laborers eight-hours to manually apply the waterproofing required by code. Whereas they slopped it on with a sealant quality equal to the peanut butter covering of a five year-old, the high pressure application removed the loose dust and concrete to give a better seal. I charged basically the same as it cost to pay two union-scale laborers for a better, faster job. At the time, 1974, I was earning $35/hour which was better pay than my professors were making.

The other, existing service used huge road tar trucks that required two workers to apply hot asphalt at a pressure of less than 100 psi. The cost advantage I had quickly began to eat into their business as I found contractors calling from adjacent towns and suburbs closer into Chicago.

Two notes:

  1. I would tape my lectures and notes so as to listen to them as I rode down the road. Three-quarters of  the work time was actually driving time.
  2. As I moved eastward toward Chicago, I got a visit. Two guys said they admired my ingenuity. However, if I did any work east of the western suburbs, they would burn my truck up with me in it.

Chicago, Chicago, that wonderful town.