An oversized lid caps the box so that water can't infiltrate the contents. A power strip's cord is fed through a notch near the top and connected to an extension cord. Handles recycled from a window delivery make the unit easier to lift.
An oversized lid caps the box so that water can't infiltrate the contents. A power strip's cord is fed through a notch near the top and connected to an extension cord. Handles recycled from a window delivery make the unit easier to lift.
Lined with 2-in. polyiso rigid insulation, the box provides ample room for all things sensitive to cold temperatures. A shelf adds organization.
Lined with 2-in. polyiso rigid insulation, the box provides ample room for all things sensitive to cold temperatures. A shelf adds organization.
A small 110V electric space heater is all that's needed to warm up the inside. An outlet strip powers cordless battery chargers and the heater.
A small 110V electric space heater is all that's needed to warm up the inside. An outlet strip powers cordless battery chargers and the heater.

Nearly every carpenter working north of the Mason-Dixon line knows the pitfalls of working outside during the winter months: hands so cold you can barely grip a coffee cup, too many layers of clothing, dead batteries that won’t take a charge, and pump jack poles frozen into the ground. Here in New England, I get to face these “inconveniences” when my schedule doesn’t work out well.

This happened last winter when I was left with no choice but to begin framing a house in the middle of January. There we were, day one of setting sills and down came the snow! For that project I needed to keep several cases of Tremco acoustical sealant on site for an airsealing detail. Like most sealants and adhesives, Tremco flows so much better when it is warm. To that end, I decided to make an insulated hot box to keep on site for just this purpose.

Constructed of scraps of plywood and lined on the interior with leftover 2-inch polyiso foam, it took me about 2 hours to throw together in my shop one night after dinner. The box is 48 inches wide, 32 inches tall and 28 inches deep, which is the size of the scrap I had to work with. I used ¾-inch plywood for the side, and ¼-inch plywood for the front, back, and bottom in order to keep the weight down. The thin bottom is reinforced by 2x4 skids, which also make it easy for one person to slide the box around on the ground.

I hinged the lid and added a lip that overhangs the sides to keep the water out, and recycled handles from an old window delivery. For heat I use a 110V space heater inside, which is fed from an extension cord. I made a little cutout for the cord of a power strip so that I could put the heater inside.

The original purpose was to keep the acoustical sealant warm without leaving it in the truck with the engine running. The sealant was being used intermittently, so it was great to have a place to store it close at hand between uses. By the end of the first day we built a shelf and put all of our batteries and chargers inside. As the job moved forward and the temperatures dropped we found more things that were happier in a hot box: building tapes, cell phone chargers, glues, meatball grinders for lunch, etc. On the colder days, we even brought in extra gloves and swapped them out so that we could enjoy warm hands several times a day! The next box will be big enough to fit a crew of four eating lunch, or even better, there won’t be a next time because the schedule will work out so much better.

Steve DeMetrick is a framing contractor in Rhode Island.