Commercial property construction as an investment


When performing construction work to a commercial property it only makes sense to consider these expenses as an investment.

  • Will that investment pay off?
  • Are there other, better, investment opportunities?
  • Will I be able to get this same work later for more or less expense?
  • Will delaying this work accrue extra damages if not performed promptly?


These are some of the important questions a property owner needs to consider. At soco construction your concerns make a lot of sense. Many contractors will explain that investing in your building is always a good idea. But I would like to talk about why this is not necessarily true. To break this down better lets divide this discussion up into three major factors affecting your work.

  1.  The scope of work
  2. The quality of the work
  3. When and how fast


The scope of work is a key consideration. If you are a an end user the scope of work might be dictated by the business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save money! Frequently innocent and relatively small architectural mistakes lead to big cost increases. If your project is over 50 thousand dollars in size and you don’t have a contractor you use regularly it would be wise to pay a contractor for a constructability review. A few hundred dollars could save you thousands down the road. Furthermore it may be wise to pay a consultant for a price estimation on the plans. Often times contractors will submit very different prices. However after choosing the less expensive option a customer can find out that a major scope of work was left out and that cheaper option was actually more expensive and less experienced! Lastly if you are a landlord or other type of non end user you have greater simplicity and flexibility. Most tenants prefer core building features such as electrical systems and high security doors to be functioning. They would also typically prefer a credit for the cost of painting the building to do with as they please than to have the building painted.


Secondly is the quality of the work. This is a double edged sword as I will explain. Frequently customers will focus on an end product with little concern for sustainability. For example installing an expensive tile over a terrible substrate. The install will look poor and will fail very soon only to be redone at a greater cost. It would have been better to pay twice as much for a job that would last 10 times as long. Or building an expensive new office around a failing electrical or plumbing system. In these examples the customer will achieve short term results but will pay a far greater cost in the long term. The other side of this is putting too much money into something that nobody cares about. To rehash the tile example someone once paid soco construction to install a very expensive tile in a not so great warehouse office despite our suggestion of a sealed concrete floor. The tenants moved in and filled the office with boxes and furniture and there it sits completely covered up. Frequently fixtures and finishes used by tenants will be quickly worn down. Time and time again customers request expensive commercial toilet paper dispensers and paper towel dispensers. But after the lease is expired I come back to find them all broken and the paper products resting on the fixtures. Why not install the simpler cheaper and more attractive versions? For most people they just don’t know any better.

Lastly is when and how fast. Unfortunately the best time to invest in your building is also the best time not to invest in your building. When rents are high and opportunity seems abundant contractors are busy and expensive. When work is slow for contractors it benefits both you and the contractor to keep a steady work flow. Prices are lower and availability is better. However it is during these times that you can frequently make good investments in other property or the the stock market for example. Don’t just invest in your property without thinking. If your money can be put to use elsewhere do it. Wait until the timing is right. Also there is a certain value to be had by planning ahead. Many people will wait till the last minute to contact someone about their project. Then they will set moronic bid dates that squeeze everyone’s time or make unreasonable deadline for finishing the project and therefore drive up the price. Now obviously, there may be other financial circumstances driving these decisions. But countless times customers call and ask for some arbitrary work to be done right away or in a meeting a group of corporate executives will sit there and talk about the project for 3 months and they pay through the nose during the 3 months of construction timeline as everything is rushed to the job instead of working themselves harder to make decisions in the first month and give the contractor 5 months. It benefits the customer to call early and ask the contractor for a price and let them know there are no major time constraints.

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Crossfit Gym Construction

This was a gym construction in which I did the majority of the work and the owner pitched in or used friends for certain things he could get done at the friend price.

Here is a picture of day 1. Someone else did the demo and we just showed up to take a look around.

building a gym

building a gym

Our starting point was to get some underground plumbing done. We had an existing nearby restroom and are merely moving it over about 25 feet.

building a gym

building a gym

We had to relocate some mechanical lines. Material was delivered right away as well.

building a gym

building a gym

Here we had some windows being covered by a wall. So we painted some drywall black and attached it into the window frame to obscure the view from outside.

blacking out window with drywall gym construction

After we reworked the mechanical and poured the underground we started framing.

gym metal stud framing

gym metal stud framing

gym construction metal stud demising wall


Here the panel has a bunch of new electrical runs hanging from as we still work.

gym construction electrical

After we double drywall and insulate we are spraying some texture. Some walls are fire tape only because they will be covered with wood.

gym construction drywall texture

Rear wall fire tape


Don’t forget to patch the roof!

crossfit gym construction roof patch

The owner and his buddies put in a lot of the finishes such as the high bay lighting, the foil, the paint and the wood. Which is fine with me. Here is the finished product. I think it looks great.

gym construction complete

gym construction complete


gym construction complete

gym construction complete



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Waterproofing second floor restroom

2016-06-24 13.40.45

This job was in Carson a. A customer from a previous job asked me to waterproof a new bathroom installation because of a leak that had gone into the IT room below.

Whenever someone installs a toilet there is a question of whether to caulk or silicon around the base. Here is my two cents. On a first floor concrete installation you should always caulk or silicon around the base of the toilet. This isn’t necessary but it looks nicer and if the ring ever fails you have a second line of defense.

On a wooden sub floor you should never caulk or silicone around the base because if the ring fails water will be trapped and hidden in the sub floor and will cause damage even if there is water proofing. End rant.

2016-06-24 12.59.43

On this job there was a lightweight concrete deck on top of a plywood sub floor. In order to water proof this we used a product called hydro ban. Hydro ban will waterproof a solid surface by merely painting it onto the surface. Judging by the condition of the existing concrete I could determine there was no cracking or deflection in the floor. If the floor is flexing this need to be corrected before attempting to waterproof.

2016-06-24 12.57.55

A plumber had just installed floor drains before we came. It was obvious that any water leakage was around the toilet flange or where the floor meets the wall as naturally there is a small seam at these points. We used a cloth fabric designed for water proofing to cover these points plus the new floor drain and create a completely solid surface to water proof. Then we gave the floor two coats of water proofing material.

Now all the need to be done is too make sure the tile installers do no carelessly or purposely scratch the floor when installing the tile.

This method will stop minor flood or leaks. Obviously if water runs out from the restroom into the hallway the water proofing stop at the threshold of the restroom door.

2016-06-24 13.42.52

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Rain water leaking into side of building

This warehouse is built against a small hill. As you can see in the pictures there are existing rain gutters that run into a concrete v gutter. This is how the water is supposed to tun away from the building. However you can clearly see that soil erosion keeps falling into the gutter and blocking the path of the water attempting to flow away. The long term effect is water pooling along he v gutter and flowing into the space between the building and the hill.

This warehouse is built against a small hill. As you can see in the pictures there are existing rain gutters that run into a concrete v gutter. This is how the water is supposed to tun away from the building. However you can clearly see that soil erosion keeps falling into the gutter and blocking the path of the water attempting to flow away. The long term effect is water pooling along he v gutter and flowing into the space between the building and the hill.

This is the hill funneling all water towards building.


rain water intrusion

This downspouts is buried under dirt.


Here you can see the gutter and downspouts


For whatever reason the owner did not like my suggestion of removing the tree replanting Ivy and building a new curb and gutter. But this was an expensive route so I understand their concerns. My second suggestion was to seal the existing concrete as best as possible and to focus on diverting the water away from this area. The roof drains from this 20+ square foot building all drained into this narrow corridor and essentially had nowhere to go.

The water from the hill was minimal so I focused on a solution that relieved a majority of the problem in an attempt to comprise the budget and the objectives.

sealing water intrusion

The application above is a typical roofing cement. Its not a great solution because even though we injected it into the cracks there will be future movement that will open them back up. But this was a cheap stop gap measure.

Secondly we installed the following.

commercial rain gutters

These are irrigation pipes with custom sheet metal spouts covered by a 1/4 inch screen. These are not pretty by any stretch of the imagination but they serve two purposes. The first is the sloped rain head with the screen allows leaves to flow right off the top and it prevents clogging which is a problem at this address. Second, the piping at the bottom can be run a long distance before draining to a location where it cannot be blocked by soils from the hill.

rain gutter distance run

rain gutter distance run

As you can see every drain or scuppers dumps into this piping system which is secure from clogs.

Finally below you can see a painted section of the gutter where the pipes carry the water far away from the building where it should have been running in the first place.

rain gutter

rain gutter


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CNC Plasma Torch and Laser Diode

Here is the video I talk about my plasma cutter

This video is great for instruction but has no video of plasma cutter working

Truthfully after i did the test cuts, and forgot to video them I put my plasma cutter assembly away and haven’t had a chance to use it again. If you are looking to cut steel you can order a cheap plasma cutter for less than $300 on the internet.

CNC plasma cutter

These supposedly pull 20 amps and I haven’t checked but its thrown every 20 amp breaker I’ve tried it on. I ended up wiring a 30 amp breaker to two outlet to supply.

You will have to custom build a method to turn the plasma on and off but this is fairly simple. The only extra advice I have is to make sure your whole system is grounded and to put your power, on/off relay connection and computer cables through ferrite cores. Because the plasma cutter will generate generic radio frequency style interference it can actually disable your computer. The computer case itself if properly grounded and kept away from the plasma cutter will help. The ferrite cores will stop the plasma cutter and computer cords from acting like broadcasting or receiving antennas.

ferrite cores for CNC


I cut out some ninja stars


Laser Diode

The laser diode is very easy. It uses the regular 120v power relay like all the other tools and can cut or burn depending on what you need.

Here I cut out a storm trooper stencil. Black paper works best as the light cannot escape and become heat.

storm trooper stencil


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CNC milling with router

Here is my video with general info


For my milling set up right now I’m using a 2 horsepower harbor freight router with the harbor freight speed control. Its definitely on the cheapest end of the setup but so far I am moving forward nicely.  This whole setup is basically operated with a relay controlled by the mach 3 system. I have to adjust my speed between 18k and 28 manually and I had to make these measurements manually with a tachometer and then draw them into my adjustment knob with a marker!

Wood Milling

Wood working is done on my vacuum table. Here you can see me making some stuff with my new router holder. The vacuum table is super easy to make and I wont go into it. Im ordering some really nice $30 dollar bits from and they cut through wood like a hot knife through butter.

CNC Vacuum table

Aluminum Milling

Here is my machine milling some aluminum to make the holder from the video above.

As you can see I have a sump pump pumping cooling fluid onto the bit as it works. Also you will notice that there was massive water spraying everywhere. I have remedied this since then by building walls onto the box containing the vice.

CNC milling Box

The inside of the box is painted with red guard which is a waterproofing for showers. The bit stayed ice cold despite slow movement of tool tip and 28k RPM spindle speed.

Here is the finished product below. Not up to the standards of a large machine shop but that cuts looks fairly decent to me.

CNC milled aluminum



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Building the 3D Printer Temperature control from an arduino prototype

So I decided to build my own temperature control unit. Here is my, Errrr masterpiece.

3D printer temperature controller


Here is the layout of my circuit board.

3D Printer Temperature Control Circuit

This layout above doesn’t show some things on my board like my voltage regulator for 5v power or my electrolytic and ceramic capacitors plus inductor for decoupling. I realized I needed those after I had mounted all this. YIKES!!

soldering the build


My micro controller has 3 tasks on a continuous loop.

1- Check the temperature of the thermistor

2- Use a mosfet and pwm to adjust the heating element

3- Check a potentiometer to determine user input of target temperature

4- Update the screen


Here is my current code. I plan on changing it in the near future but even if I forget this may help someone get a bit closer in the right direction

// include the library code:
#include <LiquidCrystal.h>
#include <SmoothThermistor.h>
#include <PID_v1.h>

LiquidCrystal lcd(12, 11, 5, 4, 3, 2);
SmoothThermistor smoothThermistor(A0,

double actualTemp;
double detectedTemp;
double outputPWM;
 double desiredTemp;
 long previousMillis = 0;
 long interval = 1000;
int mosfetPin = 6;

PID myPID(&detectedTemp, &outputPWM, &desiredTemp,2,7,1, DIRECT);

void setup() {
 // put your setup code here, to run once:
 //some communications crap


 //mosfet controll
 pinMode(mosfetPin, OUTPUT);


 // LCD set up
 lcd.begin(20, 4); // this is setup nt line selection
 lcd.print("Temperature is : ");
 lcd.print("Target Temp set at : ");



void loop() {
 // put your main code here, to run repeatedly: 

 unsigned long currentMillis = millis();

if (currentMillis - previousMillis > interval)
 previousMillis = currentMillis;
 detectedTemp = smoothThermistor.temperature();

 //create an average to display and run off of
 //Read Desired Temperature


 // set the cursor to column 0, line 1 
 lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
 //show current temp 

 lcd.setCursor(7, 1);
 //show current temp 

 //attempt to adjust temp



void adjustTemp()

if (desiredTemp > (detectedTemp + 15))
 analogWrite(mosfetPin, 255);
 lcd.setCursor(9, 1);


else if (desiredTemp < (detectedTemp -3))
 analogWrite(mosfetPin, 0);
 lcd.setCursor(9, 1);

 //Serial.print("PID # : ");
 analogWrite(mosfetPin, outputPWM);
 lcd.setCursor(9, 1);


void tempReading()
 int value = analogRead(A1);


 value = map(value, 0,1023, 25, 250);

 desiredTemp = value;


 if (value > 99)
 lcd.setCursor(0, 3);

 if (value < 99)
 lcd.setCursor(0, 3);
 lcd.setCursor(1, 3);

 lcd.setCursor(5, 3);

void averageTemp()
 // Serial.print("actual temp 1 ");
 if (actualTemp < 10)
 actualTemp = detectedTemp;
 //Serial.print("actual temp 2 ");
 // Serial.println(actualTemp);
 double temp = actualTemp + detectedTemp;

 actualTemp = temp/2;
 // Serial.print("detected temp ");
 //Serial.print("actual temp ");
 //Serial.println(" ");
 // Serial.println(" ");


The post Building the 3D Printer Temperature control from an arduino prototype appeared first on SignalHillTechnology.

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Converting a CNC to do 3D printing

Here is the overview videos

There are several parts you will need to convert a CNC to a 3D printer.


CNC 3D printer Extruder

This is a picture of my extruder. The bare aluminum is how I mount it to my cnc machine. The orange or copper piece hold my filament. As you can see there is a fan and a little stepper motor driving the filament into the extruder.

Filament Support

3D printer filament support

This is just some abs piping scred on to a little piece of aluminum that is mounted above the exteruder

4th Axis motor driver

3D printer motor driver

Here is the motor driver needed for your fourth axis. On the software side you may need to make some changes to drive your 3D printer, or at least I had to consider that most 3D software will insert an E into the Gcode and mine wanted an A prefix. This hooks up like an other driver with steps and amperage settings.

12 volt power supply

This is a 12volt power supply for the motor, the fan, the extruder heating element and the temperature controller.

Temperature Controller

3D printer temperature controller

Here is my temperature controller. If it is permanently mounted it will need an on/off switch. It will have a screen with an adjustment knob to control the bed temperature. Mine was homemade so I have a plastic food saver as the body right now. If you want to build one check out THIS post.

Print Bed

3D Print Bed

My 3D printer bed is fairly large. I constructed it with aluminum plate. The plate is made stiff be attaching aluminum angle to the back.

Backside of print bed

The top of the bed is 1/4 tempered glass held on with double sided tape. So far I have not needed a heated bed. I put down blue painters tape and sand it with a 40 grit paper. This has held all my prints quit nicely. Some are even tough to get off but most are just right.

Bed Heater or Compartment Heater

3D print compartment heater

Originally I was going to build a heated bed but after trying my bed above I realized it is not needed. However the other issue I faced is delicate parts curling because they cool down unevenly. This heat lamp was a cheap hack and way cheaper and easier to build than a large heated bed. It works great for small prints and at some point I might build an insulation blanket for the whole compartment as well as a temperature control for the lamp itself.




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CNC Software and Enclosure

Check out my video on Software


I use two computers, one for design and one for machine control. This allows you to run the machine and design stuff at the same time. Design software can cause your computer to slow down and should not be run on the same machine.

Software for controlling the machine is pretty straight forward. I dabbled with linux CNC and considered another option as well but by the time I got to this point I really was just ready for something to work without fighting it. So I ended up choosing Mach 3. It allows you to download a trial version to make sure it works and there is a ton of documentation/ user forums to support it.

CNC Parallel Port

As you know the software connect to my breakout board through a parallel port with is a 25 pin serial port. Many people are switching to USB which is the new standard but since my older computer had the serial port I chose that option.

I use fusion 360 to do my design work. They offer it free to people who are learning to use it and when you start making some money its very affordable for subscription. They are competing with solid works and I suspect they will overtake them based on their business model of allowing students to use it for free.

I also use some different software for my laser to convert images into 2D cutouts and a slicer for my 3D printers .stl files.

I use a website called for sharing files between design and control computers.


Check out my video on the Enclosure

 The difference between many commercial and home built units is obviously some of the nicer finishes encapsulating the unit but mainly the enclosed work space. To enclose my work space I used a  1/8 acrylic sheet to enclose it with a cheap window curtain sprayed with a liquid rubber known an plasti-dip.

Rudimentary enclosure


CNC enclosure in the dark


Top Cross Bracing

Also you will notice that I used extra bracing on the main gantry. This is because I compared the bottom of the gantry with the top and decided that it needed more rigidity and support. Most unit are connected to several points along the sliding rails at the bottom and the tops are attached to just the gantry. By adding some lightweight angles across the top I great stabilized the entire machine.

CNC Gantry Supports

Open this above picture full size and you will see that I went from the standard 2 points of connection to  a new 6 point connection. I estimate the weight at maybe and extra pound or two which isn’t much considering I reduced my original construction by about 10 lbs by using 1/4 instead of 1/2 aluminum plate. Of course I am not weighing each piece or testing the vibration with some type of meter. Its a very qualitative experience using my sense of sight and sound. I highly recommend this extra support although I admit this things looks like a beast!

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CNC Motors and Electronics

Check out the video

Stepper Motors

I chose 425 O.Z. inch stepper motors because I wanted to have some strength to perform tougher tasks. They came grouped as a kit with a power supply and motor drivers.

Below is a visual representation of oz inch. It literally means that many oz at an inch away from center.

How does this help you? It probably wont because if you have ever worked with a router or table saw before you know that not much force is needed to push the cutting bit into the material.

When building a machine you have to realize that milling metals will be your most difficult challenge. You also have to understand that these motors could mill through any metal on earth if you use a low enough feed rate. But this low feed rate will depend greatly on finding a proper spindle. Not only that but you have to consider the ball screw break away which keep the machine parts from deforming quickly.

Just for fun consider this formula I found for calculating the force your ball screw might be able to supply.

T = L*P/5.65

T= torque in oz inch you need to provide

L = inches the lead screw will move forward for each turn

P = axial load in oz. Axial load is the pressure

Some common motor sizes for the lazy.

166 oz inch for small 3D printing or engraving

250 oz inch for milling wood or larger 3d printer

400 oz inch for milling non ferrous metal

These of course vary depending on your thread pitch and the speed you want the machine to move.

Wiring Your System

Now I went with a kit but basically each stepper motor needs a DC power supply and a motor driver that can handle the amperage and voltage.

Here is a great diagram of how they should basically work. Your motors are wired to drivers. Your drivers decide which coil to power based on the breakout boards directions.

I used the 18 volt wiring you can get at the hardware store for air conditioning wiring.  The only thing I don’t agree with is the E-stop being integrated into your circuitry. You should have a regular 120v on/off switch that can instantly shut down your motors and spindle without relying on an integrated circuit.


Here’s me laying out the board originally. My wire colors mean nothing! Don’t try and figure them


Your motors should come with directions explaining which wires are paired. I had a 4 wire motor with Black/Green and Red/Blue. These get wired into the drivers.

My drivers are set up active low as opposed to active high. Active low means that a DC circuit is being switched by connecting or disconnecting the negative wire. Active high is done by controlling the positive wire. So in my active low setup I ran my positive 5 volt power supply into each of the drivers positive terminals and connected the 5 volt power supply to the breakout board which will control the flow of power to these circuits. In the picture above you can see the wires exiting the drivers – PULSE and – DIRECTION port into my breakout board.

Lastly set your resolution or steps per rotation. This will determine how many pulses your driver will need to make one complete rotation of the motors shaft. I set mine to 1600 which is fairly common.


You can use 28 gauge cat v wiring for your limit switches and 18v for everything else.

A computer power supply is a great way to get 5 and 12 volt power into the system

Never use the relay built into your breakout board. Add another circuit to help isolate it.

Always solder connections after you are sure they work. Wire nuts will fail eventually.




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