Stuck between sizes?

Machinery manufacturers have developed equipment that can mix up multiple units of smoothing compounds in one vessel, which can then be easily moved to where it needs pouring on the floor. Martin Cummins explains

A QUESTION for flooring contractors: With respect to applying smoothing compounds, how many of your jobs fall into the category of ‘too big for traditional hand application, but too small to pump’?

Most small jobs can easily be accommodated by a gang or a single person mixing the smoothing compound in a bucket with a mechanical mixer/whisk.

It’s old hat but very effective with little equipment needed – and a breeze compared to the stick-and-bucket method used by contractors of yesteryear.

The use of a trowel and spiked roller is then often enough to provide the smooth floor that’s required. A pin rake may sometimes be employed if you’re trying to achieve a specific thickness.

However, when it comes to large areas, especially those that are very open plan, using the traditional method requires lots of hands or a back breaking few days, followed by extensive rubbing down where wet edges haven’t been maintained.

A wet edge is important to ensure adjacent mixes of smoothing compound combine and mix to give an integral finish, rather than a poorly bonded layered finish.

The market has reacted to this problem and as a result pumping machines are now often a much more effective way of achieving a quality finished floor.

The pumping machine effectively mixes up the powder and water in a chamber before feeding it along a hose to an outlet. The hose is moved across the floor depositing the product on the way, often followed by a spike roller or pin rake.

The use of a pumping machine does however need a fair bit of technical understanding. There are many companies specialising in this aspect, which leaves the flooring contractor to prepare and finish the floor in question.

If you haven’t pumped before then please source an experienced team as you can end up with a bit of a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing – think blocked hoses, over watered products, disposal of waste etc. etc.

So, when does a job become suited for pumping? This is often determined by sq m per day requirements but also by location. Some pumping equipment, on the dry days we occasionally have in the UK, can pump product from outside a building up onto second or even third storeys. Some are small enough to set up and do less than 1,000sq m.

But what about those jobs that fall in between? A pump may be overkill, while hand application may simply be a ‘killer’. Fear not, as machinery manufacturers have developed equipment that can mix up multiple units of smoothing compounds in one vessel, which can then be easily moved to where it needs pouring on the floor.

The benefits of this include the reduction in manual handling of product and much less time spent on mixing. Some machines also have the ability to restrict airborne dust from the smoothing compound, enabling it to be used in areas where other trades are, or even in occupied buildings.

These machines come in all shapes and sizes varying from stations that hold the standard mixer to high quality, robust machines on buggies with safety features to enable ease of movement and ultimately ease of use.

They don’t have to be massive machines either. A product we recently trialled comfortably fitted into an estate car, so would easily go into the back of a small van.

There are solutions out there, so why not give them a try? It could save you valuable time and money in the long run.
Martin Cummins is UK technical support manager, Bostik
01785 272625