LOWE'S COS., LIKE THE HOME DEPOT, HAS been making a push to win a bigger share of professional builders and contractors. In line with that purpose, it has developed a Web site called “For Pros Resource Center” (www.fieldmanual.com). It's a sweet little site, straightforward and easy to use, that has information specifically geared to small builders and subcontractors.

For example, press the “Material Take-Off” button and you can quickly access calculators to help you determine how much concrete is needed to fill a sona tube or pour a 4-inch slab. In the same section, you will find framing calculators and an “Insulation Package Estimator” that allows you to input the size of a room or attic, the R-value desired, and then tells you how many packages of insulation will be required.

Another section, “Business Form,” includes templates in Word format for basic necessities such as company letterheads, job invoices, itemized time/material quotes, and bid logs. If you've ever wasted an afternoon designing one of these necessary evils, you will be feeling very good about Lowe's after downloading these goodies.

Other useful tools on the site include job estimators, small business tax information, a glossary of contractor terms, and a rather archaic guide to tying knots, which might be more useful to sailors than builders. On the other hand, maybe a better knowledge of knot tying will keep a few 2x4s from blowing off the top of the pickup truck on the next trip to the lumberyard.