Epoxy application - the tools of the trade - Part 2
Today’s post is the second part of a “tools of the trade” checklist I compiled to help start-up contractors make sure they’ve got all the necessary equipment their new career demands.
In Part 1, I covered the must-have power tools and hand tools; below I take a look at the personal protection equipment (PPE), consumables and some other stuff a contractor might have lying around their vehicle or back in their shed.
Gloves – latex (or nitrile) outer gloves with cotton inner gloves are a good combination for comfort and easier changing. You can see more in this short Epoxy School Handy Hint video. If you’re not a fan of constantly replacing disposable gloves and would prefer something a little more specialised, it may be worth looking into Ninja gloves or similar alternatives.
Clothing – I’m a strong believer in long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants while working. If you want to enjoy a long career in our industry, free from rashes and other sensitivities, you simply have to cover up and work clean. Clothing isn’t just about protection either – a clean set of clothes for meetings and inspections will always look better than soiled work gear. As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance at a first impression!”
Ear muffs and goggles – taking the health and safety theme further, the machines we use generate a lot of noise and it only takes a flick of a paint brush to cause a serious eye problem. Force yourself into the habit of wearing eye and ear protection and you’ll be much better off for it!
Knee pads – whether you’re doing trowel-downs day after day or only working on your knees occasionally, a good set of pads will save you from a great deal of punishment and maybe even permanent damage. You can find another good tip on knee pads in this Handy Hint video.
Safety vest/hard hat/steel-cap boots – most contractors will already be working in a pair of steel-cap boots, however not all might think to pack a high visibility safety vest or hard hat in their van. Many sites require this type of equipment nowadays, so make sure you have a set otherwise you could struggle with access issues.
Mixing area – establishing a clean, orderly mixing area is a great habit to get into and that involves a host of consumables such as mix buckets, drop sheets, rolls of plastic and rubbish bags. A roll of carpet and sheets of corflute are good alternatives for protection against accidental spills and splashes.
Measuring jugs – splitting a kit of two-pack epoxy should never be a guessing game. Using incorrect mix ratios can lead to all sorts of problems, so buy yourself a set of solvent-resistant jugs with clear markings and measure out accurately every time. To make things even more foolproof, I measure out Part A and B in different jugs with different sizes so that there’s absolutely no confusion and no cross-contamination can occur.
Tape – there are many different types of tape, however a resin flooring contractor will almost certainly need to stock three: masking tape, Gaffa (or cloth) tape and electrical (or PVC) tape. Masking tape comes in many types and is the standard option for taping; Gaffa tape is a good option if you want something stronger that gives sharper lines; and, electrical tape is the classic fix-it tape that can be used for all sorts of running repairs.
Rags – in my experience, you can never have enough lint-free cotton rags at your disposal for clean up purposes. You only need to run out of them once to know what I’m talking about!
Cleaning solvents – for clean-up of epoxies, I’ve only ever relied on two types of solvent: methylated spirits/denatured alcohol for fresh, uncured product, and acetone for partially cured, gummy product. A neat trick I learnt a while ago about the economical and mess-free use of solvent can be seen in this Handy Hint video on Epoxy School.
Hand cleaner – citrus wipes are a good option for cleaning without solvent or water, while it’s always a good idea to carry powerful hand washes such as Solvol to remove more stubborn gunk from your skin.
Booties – as a contractor you spend a lot of time making sure the floor is as clean as possible and you don’t want to undo all your hard work with dirty footwear. Some carry a pair of boots specifically for application, however I think keeping shoes clean doesn’t get much easier than using a pair of plastic booties. You can see more about them in this short Epoxy School Handy Hint video.
Job folder – I put this one at the top because I know project management is a weakness in our industry. The best tip I can ever give about achieving greater client satisfaction and getting paid is to work hard at getting your processes right. Set up job folders with daily task sheets, project outlines, inspection and test plans (ITP), job safety and environmental analysis (JSEA) work sheets, handover sheets, duplicate books for variations etc. If you tick all the boxes while doing a floor then you’ll have a robust system that gives you every chance of a positive outcome.
Lights – there are no guarantees that every room you come across will have sufficient lighting. Carrying a set of lights not only takes care of situations where general lighting needs a boost, but low-level lighting in particular is a key weapon for spotting things that are easy to miss with overhead lighting alone, e.g. protrusions or hollows on a slab.
Sealant gear – joints, coves, skirting boards and other gaps are a big part of resin flooring application and you have to be suitably equipped to deal with these properly. Items such as a caulking gun, sealant spatulas and backing rods will come into play, as well as supplies of standard sealant products, i.e. grey PU, black PU and white acrylic.
Degreaser – many floors are contaminated with oils, fats and grease that need to be removed with a suitable degreaser before you start mechanical preparation. The type of degreaser you carry will depend on the work you do – contractors dealing with light stains in domestic garages might favour a biodegradable, citrus-based degreaser, while those at the ugly end of commercial and industrial contamination will need a more powerful caustic solution.
Spray bottles – spray bottles can be used for all sorts of things, but for contractors their value is all about “slicking off” and smoothing out. For instance, spraying detergent is a popular way of smoothing PU sealants, while methylated spirits/denatured alcohol is the go-to solvent for trowel-down epoxies. It’s not a good idea to share bottles however, so make sure you have one for each type of spray you use.
Marketing material – nothing happens in a business without sales, so you should be carting around as much marketing material as you possibly can to win over potential clients. At the very least, I believe all contractors must have a complete set of quality sampleboards and colour swatches to show because most floor owners will need something to touch and feel before they jump.
That just about does it for PPE, consumables and miscellaneous items. As I touched in Part 1, it’s tough to cover every bit of gear based on the tremendous variety of work out there and the infinite individual methods contractors come up with over time. The aim was to give start-up contractors a better idea of the basic equipment requirements so they could avoid the pain that comes with being unprepared.
Take care and keep smiling,