Epoxy application - the tools of the trade - Part 1
I’ve come across a lot of contractors over the years just starting up their resin flooring business and found many of them are underprepared as far as equipment goes.
They often have the right attitude and basic skills to make a good fist of their new career, however, due to inexperience or perhaps even expense, they simply don’t have all the gear. It’s a tough game as it is and not having the necessary tools certainly puts them behind the eight ball, so to speak.
With that in mind, I thought I’d try to save them some heartache and provide a basic “tools of the trade” checklist. I’ll start by covering the must-have power tools and hand tools, and follow up soon with PPE, consumables and some other stuff a contractor might have lying around their vehicle or back in their shed.
Preparation equipment – every job will involve surface preparation in the form of grinding, sanding, or a combination of both. If you want to do it properly, you must have a suitable grinder and sanding machine with you at all times, including a full range of diamonds and discs to make sure you can handle all substrate types.
Vacuum – most contractors will use dustless grinding systems to reduce the generation of dust, however they are never 100% effective and should be followed up with a separate pass of a vacuum. Investing in a good wet-dry vacuum is a sensible option here so it can be used for other tasks, such as the collection and disposal of degreasing solutions.
Mixer – a quality power drill with a mixing paddle designed to minimise air entrapment is a good starting point for floor coatings, e.g. Jiffy-style paddle. If you’re working with mortars or trowel-down flooring systems regularly, then geared or even static-arm mixers that can handle higher loads will also be needed.
Blower – an electric blower vacuum might sound like an unusual addition for a resin flooring contractor, but it can actually be a very useful tool for decorative applications. Specific examples include blowing loose flake around on flake floors and creating mottled patterns in metallic finishes.
Multi-tool – a powered multi-tool is a versatile tool that can be used for small-scale cutting, trimming, sanding and grinding applications, making it an extremely valuable piece of equipment for any contractor.
Heat gun – a heat gun is your best friend whenever you need a small patch of coating to harden quicker than it otherwise would. These are typically repair or in-filling scenarios, however it can also include firming up soft spots. Applying heat can also work the other way and soften films that are about a day old, which can allow clean cuts to be made if tape isn’t pulled immediately.
Extras – any business relying on power tools should use an earth leakage circuit breaker (ELCB) and have no shortage of extension cords with them at all times to ensure there are no problems with power safety or supply.
Application tools – how much of each you carry will depend on your “bread and butter”, but every contractor will have brushes, rollers and trowels of all shapes and sizes in their vehicle. This broad category also includes associated gear such as spiked shoes, extension poles, stand-up spreaders, wet film gauges, moisture/temperature/humidity/dew point devices etc.
Straight edge tool – a straight edge tool measures the flatness of concrete and the importance of that to a resin flooring contractor is summarised well in a previous post I wrote on common decorative flooring defects.
Pole sander – if there are only a few bubbles and other small protrusions to smooth out between coats, a pole sander with 80-160grit paper is much easier than putting a sanding machine on the floor.
Scrapers and knives – scrapers can be used for tidying up small areas by “knocking off” unwanted bits and pieces that can occur through splatter, drips and even overflow situations. Scraping can be hard work at times, so if you’re looking to make things easier on the back and hands there stand up varieties are available. Stanley knives are needed for making all sorts of cuts, however one that isn’t always obvious is cutting the film to get clean edges as discussed in the comments on heat guns.
Flat mop – as a contractor you can’t do without a good-quality vacuum, broom and dustpan combination to collect the bulk of dust. To pick up the very fine stuff however, like the final layer between coats, I’ve found a microfibre flat mop (or dust mop) to be the best way to go. You can see what I mean in this quick Handy Hint video on the Epoxy School resources page.
Spatulas – proper mixing is extremely important for any type of coating and a key tool in this regard is the spatula. A good selection of shapes, sizes and even stiffness is essential, including one with a flat bottom to reach the base of containers. By the way, if you’re looking for somewhere to store all of the smaller hand tools and accessories mentioned here, I’ve seen some creative contractors cut out a 20 litre cube and convert it into a custom toolbox.
Common tools – with all the specialised tools being talked about it would be easy to overlook the importance of common tools such as screwdrivers, shifters, nuts and bolts. These will always be needed for general repairs to your own equipment and you never quite know what handyman work might be required on a job, e.g. fixing or removing doors. A special mention here has to go to the humble tape measure – it’s pretty hard measuring up and quoting without one!
As mentioned at the start, I’ll follow up this post soon with all the other core gear contractors typically have at their disposal. While it’s very hard to cover every item used by all contractors in all fields, the two lists together should form a reasonably thorough checklist for any start-up contractor wondering whether or not they are prepared for their new career.
Take care and keep smiling,