In this episode, Reuben and Tessa welcome Eric Houseman, Structuretech Home Inspection’s service manager, as a special guest. They discuss various topics, including truck organization for home inspectors. Eric describes his customized truck setup, making it an efficient and well-organized vehicle for inspections. He utilizes a roof rack to carry his extension ladder, while his collapsing ladder and other inspection tools are stored in ARB drawers in the bed. Eric’s truck also features a modular topper, MOLLE panels for attaching gear, and a yoga mat for comfort when transporting his dog. The discussion sheds light on how a well-organized truck can optimize productivity for home inspectors.
Eric’s extensive knowledge and experience in the vehicle industry are evident in his innovative and effective solutions for truck organization, making his truck one of the most customized on the team. He emphasizes the importance of having a well-thought-out setup for easy access to tools and equipment during inspections. By sharing his insights, Eric provides valuable tips and ideas for fellow home inspectors looking to optimize their inspection vehicles.
The episode concludes with Reuben planning to create a video tour of Eric’s truck setup for interested listeners, offering valuable insights for those seeking efficient and organized ways to optimize their home inspection vehicles.
Please see the link below for the said video tour.
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Reuben Saltzman: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk podcast, a production of Structure Tech Home Inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman. I’m your host alongside building science geek, Tessa Murry.
RS: We help home inspectors up their game through education, and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019, and we are also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom.
RS: Welcome back to the show, Tessa. Great to see you. How’s every little thing in your world?
Tessa Murry: Hey, Reuben. Things are going well. It’s been a busy summer, as you know, but I can’t complain. I’m just enjoying this, enjoying this warm weather and family and friends and work. There’s a lot of a lot of things going on in my work life. We’ll have to talk about that, in another podcast.
RS: We gotta do a show on that, ’cause you’ve got, you’ve got a new business to talk about. Maybe in a few weeks.
TM: Yeah. There’s some…
RS: That would be a good topic.
TM: There’s some new development happening over here, but yeah, we’ll save that for another podcast. But how are you doing? What’s new with you?
RS: I’m doing well, just getting done with one of those mud races. Not a race, a run. And we’ve got a special guest on the show today. I’ll bring him on right now. We’ve got our service manager, Eric Houseman, on the show today. And Eric and I did this run together. We did it just recently.
RS: It was the, the Tough Mudder in Minneapolis. We did the 10K this year. We had done the 5K the previous year. We did the, the 10K this year, and that was a blast. Had so much fun doing that. How you feeling after that, Eric?
Eric Houseman: I feel good today. I, unfortunately I did tweak my left knee a little bit. I’ve got it in a brace today, just a like compression sleeve to relieve a little bit of the pain, but…
TM: Oh no.
EH: It feels a lot better today than it did on Monday. Monday was pretty rough.
TM: Oh no.
EH: And the worst part, I’m ashamed to even admit it. I didn’t even do it on an obstacle. I did it while running through the woods. I tripped on a root.
EH: My left toe caught and I nearly biffed it into the weeds on the side of the trail.
RS: Oh man.
TM: It could have been much worse. Good thing you didn’t break any bones.
EH: Yes. Well, someone who will name remain nameless, last year got very injured and ended up needing surgery and PT after the fact. So thankfully nobody on the team this year got hurt.
RS: Yeah. Although that one was on one of the obstacles, that was on the big ramp, you had to run up and grab something. They didn’t make it to the top of the ramp and they had a bad landing coming down. Ugh. Yeah. So people do get hurt on those things for sure.
TM: Oh my gosh.
TM: I got out just in time.
RS: You got out just in… Yeah. We would’ve made you do it.
TM: So what’s what’s the topic of the pod today, you guys?
RS: Well, today we were gonna talk about truck organization. And this is another listener request. I think it was. Somebody had wrote in, one of our listeners was asking about how do you organize your home inspection vehicle? I think they said “truck”, but I mean, whatever it is, your pickup…
TM: Your Prius.
RS: Your Prius, whatever you drive around your motor… Your moped. Whatever it is, you take your home inspection.
TM: Listeners might think we’re joking, but we’re not. There are inspectors up here that drive those vehicles.
TM: And they make it work.
RS: And not that there’s anything wrong with that.
RS: Yeah. What whatever you can get away with, I guess it’s fine. I will say that most of the people on our team drive kind of larger vehicles. It’s more in the suburban/pickup category, but not everybody does.
RS: And I’m sure I’ve joked about this on the podcast where we had one inspector who was driving a sedan for a while. And it worked. He had ladder racks on there. He would he would put his extension ladder on top of his sedan when needed. But our office would frequently get calls from our client showing up to the inspection and then go, “Well, the inspector’s not here yet.”
RS: They just, they just made an assumption that a home inspector’s not gonna be driving a sedan.
RS: If we had our vehicles lettered up, obviously we wouldn’t have that issue. And today when we do home inspections, we use these sandwich boards. We put a sandwich board in the front yard saying, “Structure Tech is doing a home inspection here.” So it eliminates all of that.
RS: But still, point is, you can really use any vehicle. It’s not like you have to be driving a big pickup truck to do a home inspection. As long as you can transport your tools, you can get your ladder. And I mean, Tessa, you had one of those extending climb ladders. Those don’t take up any room.
TM: Yeah. We’ve talked about, I know we’ve talked about our, our ladder preferences on this show before, and my favorite ladder is this collapsible ladder, the extending climb. And I think a lot of the inspectors on our team use it.
TM: But if you’ve got a house that has a roof that, you know, it’s like a single story or ranch house or something like that, I mean that, sometimes that’s the only ladder I would use. And so it’d be really feasible to just fit everything I needed in a small vehicle to go to those inspections.
RS: Yeah. Yeah. You definitely don’t need a big truck. But on that topic, Eric what do you drive?
EH: I drive a 2021 Toyota Tacoma.
RS: Alright. Got it. And is that considered a full-size truck?
EH: No, it’d be mid-size.
RS: Okay. What’s, what’s Toyota’s full size?
EH: The Tundra.
EH: That’s what [0:06:08.0] ____ drives.
RS: He’s got the full size. And then you’ve got, what do you have for cab space? Is that, that’s a full four-door, right?
EH: Yeah it’s a, it’s their double cab. So they make an access cab, which basically has the third door that opens the opposite way of the front door. Mine’s the double cab. So it’s a true four-door truck.
RS: Alright, cool. And as I’m, as I’m sitting here talking about it, I’m thinking, we ought to do a video of this. And it’s probably not gonna be a video that accompany is the podcast, but I ought to just meet up with you, Eric, bring a camera and have you walk us through how you store all of your tools in your truck.
RS: ‘Cause it… I don’t know. That’d be fun YouTube content.
RS: We will do that.
TM: Well, and I think yeah, having a visual is, for me at least, a lot easier than trying to listen and picture what you’re describing or going to describe.
RS: But here we go. But here we go.
TM: Here we go. We’ll give it our best shot.
RS: We’re gonna listen and describe. Alright. So Eric, we’re gonna ask you a handful of questions and kind of let you take it away. But first off, probably the biggest one, this is what everybody thinks about, is how do you transport your extension ladder?
RS: ‘Cause I remember that was kind of a thing for me. I used to drive a Silverado, full-size pickup truck, and I didn’t have any type of topper on there. So it’s like, alright, I’ve only got this narrow space, so how do you mount a ladder?
RS: You can either get one of those big things that you put at the end of your truck. Like a, what’s it called? It’s like a ladder rack or something?
EH: Yeah. I think I know what you’re talking about. My previous truck was a Silverado half-ton.
EH: And when I would take my extension ladder with me, I had a, it was almost like a Y-bracket that went into the hitch.
EH: And it would stick up above the tailgate. And then I would just slide the end of the extension ladder into the bed near the cab, and then the extension ladder would just stick out the back of the bed.
RS: Okay. Yeah.
RS: I remember that.
EH: And I couldn’t stand it. ‘Cause I thought it looked just goofy.
RS: Yeah. I agree. And it’s kind of clunky, too.
RS: You’ve got to have your bed open. Now so when I had the pickup truck, I had a ladder rack on top of my truck, on top of the cab. And the two bars, it was a Yakima system, or Yakima. How do you say? It’s Yakima, right?
TM: Yeah. Yakima.
RS: Yakima. Yeah. And the two bars would only be about 3 ft apart, but it was enough. I would strap it down really tight to those and the ladder would go absolutely nowhere. So that worked. It’s not like you need more than that. But what…
TM: That’s what I had, too. Did you use bungees, Reuben, or would you use something different to strap it to your Yakima?
RS: I used a heavy-duty strap that you would crank down really hard, and then I’d tie it a couple of times. It’s nylon webbing, basically.
TM: Okay. Yeah.
RS: There is somebody on our team who will remain nameless who would use, I believe it was 12/3 Romex.
RS: To secure their ladder. Yeah. That’s right.
TM: That’s creative and resourceful. [chuckle]
RS: Yup. Yup.
EH: Whoever that person was missed the patent on that, because now you can go to Home Depot and Menards, and you can basically buy those, they look like gigantic twist ties.
EH: And I’m pretty sure what’s in them is like 12-gauge wire.
RS: I think so. I think so.
EH: So I think the poor person is still stuck on the team rather than having this great patent and invention.
RS: I know, right? What do you do for your ladder, Eric?
EH: So I have, this is actually, I think it was probably the first purchase that I made when I bought my new truck, because I was so tired of having it hang out the back. I bought a roof rack for my truck. And should we be naming names on here?
RS: Yeah, absolutely.
EH: We’re not endorsed by anybody, but I do…
RS: I wish. [chuckle]
EH: A ton of research before I buy anything. I should be endorsed by someone. But I did a ton of research before I bought, and there’s a company called Prinsu, P-R-I-N-S-U, that makes roof racks for a number of different vehicles, but they’re really regarded as one of the best ones out there for the Tacoma. And it covers the entire top of the cab of the truck.
EH: And that’s what I put it on.
RS: Alright. Yeah. And then you’ve got more besides just a ladder rack. What’s that big tube, like a big PVC tube or something you’ve got?
EH: Oh, I’ve got an ABS tube, because I wanted it to match the black roof rack, of course.
RS: Of course. Yes.
EH: Yes. Yeah. And then I’ve got, I think it’s a 7 ft long ABS tube that’s attached to the roof rack that carries my 6.5 ft level.
EH: That I rarely ever need, but I keep it with me anyway.
EH: Yeah. It looks better in photos if you’re trying to show that a concrete slab is sloping to the tops, rather than you pulling out this dinky little 1 ft level out of your pocket. You got to show up with the right tools.
RS: Eric just likes to say that his is longer.
RS: Yeah. So anyways…
RS: That’s what you got on the top. Now, inside the bed…
RS: You’re not supposed to laugh like that.
TM: We are doing our own editing, so I think listeners, you’re welcome. We’re not gonna cut that out.
RS: No, we’re not. We’re not editing anything.
RS: What do you have in the bed, Eric? Tell me about your setup there, ’cause I think you’ve got a really cool setup.
EH: Yeah. So, the bed, it’s only a 5 ft bed, which is why I have a separate way of… I can’t stop laughing. [chuckle] I keep looking at Tessa, and I can’t stop laughing.
TM: I’m sorry.
RS: It’s okay.
EH: Alright. Composure.
TM: Pull it together.
EH: So it’s only a 5 ft bed on this truck, so I can’t carry that long of a level in the bed. That’s why I need another way to carry it. But the bed, I’ve got a RSI SmartCap topper, which for anybody, they make them for more than just the Tacoma, but most of the time, you’re going to see them on a Tacoma. They’re fairly rare. You don’t see ’em very often.
EH: It’s like a modular cap, so if you think of… Anybody that owns a pickup probably is familiar with a LEER topper or a Radco topper, where it’s color-matched to the truck. This is much more industrial-looking.
EH: It’s all-black. It has two side windows. Well, they’re not windows. They’re side panels that open up. They’re opaque. There’s no windows on ’em. And on the back side of those, there’s what are called Molle panels, so they’re basically like grates that you can hook things to, and that’s where I hook extension cords.
EH: I’ve got actually my Xtend and climb ladder is latched to one of them so that it’s not laying in the bed of my truck. And that just holds it upright. But then the back is glass so you can open that, tailgate drops.
EH: And then on the floor of the bed, I have ARB drawers, which it’s a pair of drawers. You can buy them single or double and you attach together. But they’re full pullout drawers. So all of my inspection gear is in there. One side is for Structure Tech. The other side is for inspection services.
EH: And then the nice part about those drawers is the top part, that you can just put things in and set on, you can actually, they act like a bed-slide. So you can slide them out so you have better access to the cargo that’s in the bed.
RS: And how long are these drawers?
EH: Probably 4 ft.
RS: Okay. Yeah. And it’s not like this little drawer that you just set in there. These are fastened into the bed, right?
EH: Correct. Yes. Yeah.
RS: Okay. And then how tell us more. How do you organize all of your tools?
EH: So ladder goes on one side, extension ladders go on the other. I do carry a…
RS: Wait a minute. Your extension ladder goes on top of the truck?
EH: Yeah. Sorry. Extension ladder goes on top. Xtend and climb ladder goes on the side.
RS: Okay. Got it.
EH: And then I have my Little Giant or multi-position ladder equivalent that just rolls in on one side. And then if you open up the drawers, the right side is all my Structure Tech gear. So I’ll have my Cougar Paws roof boots. I’ll have my back belt. I’ll have my tool pouches.
EH: I don’t keep any tools in there. All of my tools go into something that I can easily carry in and out of the house. And then the left side is where I have all of my like extra sewer clean out caps, all of my sewer access tools that are stored in like a bag so that I can just grab them and go into a house.
EH: And then I’ve got a backpack there too, which is what I carry my drop cloth and face mask for attics, or respirator for attics, that type of stuff. I carry that in a separate backpack for home inspections.
TM: You know, this sounds so nice. I’m thinking about moving in. The only thing I’m missing is some plumbing, some indoor plumbing.
EH: None of that.
TM: That’ll be next phase, right?
RS: And what about inside the cab? Do you have anything special set up inside the cab?
EH: So I absolutely hate having anything for work inside the cab of my truck.
EH: I hate it. Because we go so many places with the dog. And for the listeners out there, it’s just me and my wife. We don’t have any kids. Our pets are our kids.
EH: But the nice thing about the Tacoma is the back seat, the actual butt part of the seat like flips up and then the back rest folds flat, and it’s plastic on the back and it’s completely flat.
EH: And then what I did is I went to Walmart and I got a really thick yoga mat and I cut it to the size of the back seat. So that’s what we leave back there for the dog is like this, and I think it’s like three quarters of an inch thick yoga mat that I cut and put back there and it’s super comfy and it keeps stuff from sliding around, like the dog. And then that usually stays that way.
EH: Really the only thing that I have set up in the cab of the truck is I’ve got a, there’s everybody’s hands free with their phones nowadays, laws in Minnesota, you can’t have your phone in your hand. So I’ve got a, who is it made by? I’m trying to think.
EH: It’s Rago Fabrication, R-A-G-O. They make, again, Molle panels that go on the side of the center console. That’s M-O-L-L-E for the listeners at home. They’re panels that just go along the side of the center console or the transmission tunnel, and then there’s a arch that goes over the top of that directly underneath all of my climate controls, but above the cup holders.
EH: And then there’s a company called RAM Mounts, which makes a variety of mounting devices for your phone, iPad, whatever it might be. And I have two of those RAM Mounts in my truck, one for my phone and one for Crystal’s phone. If she’s in the truck with me, she can put it in there.
EH: But that’s nice because it’s just like a X-grip. You just pinch it, put your phone in and it pinches it. And then I plug it in and my Android CarPlay works flawlessly with Google Maps and…
TM: I am so impressed. I’m just sitting here listening to you talk about how customized your truck is. And for anyone that doesn’t know Eric Houseman’s history, you used to work in the vehicle industry, correct?
EH: I did. Yes.
TM: So you knew all the little tips and tricks for customizing things.
EH: Yes. And I’m also…
TM: But it was fate that brought you over to Home Inspection because your last name is Houseman.
RS: Nobody has a better name than him.
TM: I know. [chuckle] Yeah. I think you have probably the most customized truck on the team. Is that fair to say?
EH: I’d say it’s close. Yeah. I’d say it’s close. I mean I’ve… My old truck, I had like a real homemade… [chuckle] It’s embarrassing to say. It was very homemade. Made out of like scrap lumber that I had at home, so that I could stack my ladders in the bed of my truck and still have storage off to the side. But…
TM: That’s not embarrassing.
EH: It was… You haven’t seen it.
TM: Well, I think it’s cool. If you can build your own, like you know, customized like ladder storage system in your truck, more power to you.
EH: It worked. But I would say that I’ve spent, I mean all told just for like storage stuff, and granted, I probably would’ve bought this stuff even if I hadn’t been doing this job. But the ARB drawers, the topper, I’d say I’m somewhere in the ballpark of about six grand.
TM: Oh my gosh.
EH: Storage accessories. But the thing is, is I can leave everything in the back of the truck and I don’t worry about it. The topper locks and the drawers lock, and the tailgate locks. And you can’t get the drawers open without getting the tailgate open.
RS: Sure. Yup. That’s a nice system.
EH: Yeah. So it’s money well spent.
RS: Okay. Yeah.
TM: You don’t have any regrets? Every addition to your truck has made life easier for you?
EH: Oh yeah. For the amount of time that I spend in it, yes. Yeah. I couldn’t drive… No slam on my wife ’cause she drives one, I couldn’t drive a base model Toyota Corolla. I just, I couldn’t do it. It doesn’t do it for me. [chuckle]
TM: Ouch. Ouch.
EH: I love her car, it’s great. But I prefer a truck. My truck.
RS: Yeah. So Tess…
TM: So when can I move in?
EH: I do have a rooftop tent.
TM: Oh, yes. Okay. Have you, is that something you take with you when you go camping then?
EH: Yeah, we actually, we used it last year a few times. One time was out to Colorado and back. Yeah, that was, that was a lot of fun. So I’ve…
TM: Can you take all those… Oh, sorry to interrupt.
EH: No, go ahead.
TM: Can you take all those drawers and things out of your truck pretty easily then ask if you wanna use the bed for something else?
EH: Yeah. I would say clearing the drawers out of the truck, probably about 10 minutes.
TM: Oh. Okay.
EH: The downside would be the topper. The topper would probably take an extra person and about 20 minutes to get off.
TM: To take off.
EH: But I just, I have a trailer at home that I use. If I need to haul anything that’s too big for the bed, I just use the trailer.
TM: Trailer. Mm-hmm. Versatility.
RS: Well, Tess, do you have any tips or tricks that you picked up when you were in the field for vehicle storage?
TM: You know, I was the queen of just as long as my door could shut, I was good with it. [chuckle] I had a little space for my tool bag, a space for my tool belt, my levels, my ladders, and that was it. And I would put my back seats down.
TM: I drove a Hyundai Santa Fe and I put the backseat down and so I had this extra long kind of flat surface and I would just slide everything in and slide it out. And that worked for me. And then I had a Yakima roof rack like you were describing earlier, Reuben, on the top that I would put my extension ladder on if I needed it.
RS: Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha.
TM: I kept it pretty simple.
RS: Yeah. Mine was never super complicated either. I mean, I drove a Suburban toward… I mean, I had a pickup truck for a while and then switch to a Suburban around 2012. And it, I’d always be wanting to take stuff out because I’d wanna have the kids in there and load it up and, and put the third seats up and back.
RS: So I wanted it kind of modular so I could switch stuff out quickly. So I ended up having like a big plywood base to cover the whole back of the truck that was, you know, custom sized for it.
RS: And then I had the double decker system that Eric described for my ladders, where I’d put my Little Giant down and then I had like a platform that went over the Little Giant, where I’d put my little ladder on top of that. So I could, you know, just take up less space.
RS: And it was all very modular. I had these big pins that I embedded in the wood, so you just kind of throw it together and then it would stay together really well, but you didn’t need any tools to take it apart.
TM: That’s cool.
RS: You just take individual, each individual piece out if I wanted to flip the seats up. And then for my tools, it was pretty simple. I had a big plastic tor… Storage tote. Over my words there. And that would be all my infrequently used tools. Things like bolt cutters and a pressure testing device for water systems, and a bunch of other stuff that I would use a couple of times a year, but I’d always be glad I had it in my truck.
RS: And other than that, I would just have my big tool bag with the wheels on there and the little luggage handle that you flip up and I’d keep everything in there. So it’d be really easy if I wanted to take everything out and use my truck exclusively for personal stuff, loading up the family to go to the cabin, whatever.
RS: So my big thing was… I mean, for Eric, Eric’s is all permanently mounted. There ain’t no changing. Mine was the other end of the spectrum. It was totally, this can be all come out within five minutes. But I guess it, Eric doesn’t have kids, so he didn’t have that problem. He doesn’t have that problem.
TM: Well, you’ve got another vehicle in the family that you can fit everyone or, you know, nieces, nephews, cousins, whatever, in, and you can use a different car for that. So you’re, you know, you’ve got an exclusive like inspection vehicle and then you can have a family vehicle too, which is nice. Yeah.
RS: Yeah. Yup. Cool. Well, Eric, we gotta get together. I gotta, you know, maybe I’ll take the GoPro camera. That’s good for kind of closeup stuff like this, getting the wide angle view. Maybe we we’ll do a little recording with the GoPro and you can just give us all a little tour of your truck.
RS: And if we can, let’s try to meet up before this podcast airs, so that if anyone’s listening to this podcast, they can just go in the show notes and access that video. We’ll post it up on YouTube. Sound like a plan?
EH: I like it. We got the picnic coming up on Sunday.
TM: That might be a good time to do it. We’ll take five minutes. You can gimme a quick little tour. You’re gonna have to bring your tools then. You know this, right?
EH: Yeah, That’s fine. I’ll have stuff in it. That’ll work. Yeah. Make it happen. Yup.
RS: Okay. Alright. Cool. We’ll do it.
TM: Well, thanks Eric.
EH: Thanks for having me.
RS: Yeah, thank you sir.
EH: Thanks to you too.
RS: Sure appreciate it.
EH: Of course.
RS: Alright, well if any of the listeners have any questions, concerns, show ideas for future stuff, please send us an email. You can email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
RS: Otherwise, I am Reuben Saltzman for Tessa Murry, signing off. Take care.
TM: See you next time.