Floor Covering Removal
September 19, 2007
Flooring removal and surface preparation is one of the fastest growing areas of the flooring industry. With the rise in new construction quality standards, the renovation industry has been forced to modify their techniques in order to provide modern day standards when renovating an older structure. As buildings grow older, it has become more popular, as well as economical it most cases, to restore a structure as opposed to teardown and rebuild. Historically demolition is labor intensive and extremely time consuming utilizing hand held tools. However, present technology offers various methods, equipment and machine types in order to save time and increase your profit.
When considering floor removal and surface preparation in the demolition and restoration process, the method and equipment utilized, will determine the amount of preparation required. If prepared with the proper equipment and accessories you can decrease time and labor dramatically.
The following paragraphs provide a broad overview of methods, equipment and cost justification of the floor removal and surface preparation industry. We’ll review various removal equipment, types of applications, accessories, methods, noise factors as well as tips to successfully complete a job quickly and profitably.
When selecting equipment, several key factors should be examined. Noise level is crucial, quieter machines create less disruption. Surfaces like ceramic or wood create noise as they are being removed as opposed to the removal of carpet and VCT. In addition, government regulations regarding noise grow increasingly more strenuous. A large number of restoration projects take place in occupied buildings. Consider the noise level to those working or living in the building being restored. For instance working on a fifth floor of a building can cause disruption throughout the building if using a machine with an oscillating head. The machine vibrations can easily penetrate to the floors above and below. A non-oscillating head can eliminate vibration allowing access to a jobsite at anytime.
Power is another consideration. It is important to review local regulations to determine governmental restrictions for operating various powered equipment inside enclosed spaces (i.e. propane, gas). Electric powered equipment is an option. However, consider voltage requirements and availability in various jobsite locations. Although effective, electric machines can require an extra employee to handle the cords while the machine is being operated. 110-volt power is always available in the U.S. compared to 220-volt which is rarely found and usually requires an electrician’s assistance. A battery operated machine gives you freedom of movement without having power cords or need of a generator. While the machine is being operated, a second set of batteries can be charging eliminating potential down time. With major advancements in battery technology, battery powered equipment has quickly evolved into the best option for both the commercial and industrial markets.
Logistics is also a primary concern. Consider how the machine will be transported to and from the jobsite as well as loading and unloading the machine. Will the machine fit through a standard door frame? The machine should be large enough to handle aggressive applications, however not too big for jobsite movement such as in an elevator. Size and weight restrictions are determined by sub floors and access options will determine which machine will best fit a job. Heavy machines are not recommended for use on wood sub floors and the weight and size of a machine can restrict the job itself.
Dialing in the machine is a combination of matching the correct cutting head, blade size, blade angle and adding weight if needed, to make removal as easy as possible. There is an optimum blade width, thickness, sharpness, angle and bevel for each job application. The shear point is where goods to be removed will come up cleanly. The shear point is lost if the blade is too wide, dull or at an incorrect angle for the application. In most situations the blade should be set at a low angle. The exception to this would be for re-scraping. For this application, the blade is usually set at a steeper angle.
With concrete sub floors, the bevel of the blade should be up. For wood and soft sub floors the bevel of the blade should be down and weights removed to keep the machine light. The blade should be as level as possible. When using a regular flat blade, bending up the corner of the blade will prevent the blade from digging into the sub floor. It is helpful if the machine approach is at a 45-degree angle to the floorboards.
Machines that have changeable cutting heads are designed to swivel to keep the blade in contact with the floor. This is extremely helpful when sub floors are not level. .
Let’s examine Ride-on equipment and work our way to walk-behind and hand-held. Ride-on machines are designed for commercial applications however, have the versatility to be used residentially. They offer tremendous performance yet are compact enough to use in confined areas. These machines will remove just about anything adhered to surface including ceramic and wood. An assortment of swivel cutting heads and angle shank attachments are available. In addition to offering significant production capabilities, ride-on machines require less physical exertion. Ride-on machines have become the workhorses of the floor removal industry and are specifically designed for removing the toughest of coverings in large quantities with fewer employees. All of which leads to larger profits!
A variety of self-propelled walk behind machines are also. The operator walks behind the machine, however, being self-propelled the machine does the work reducing operator fatigue. All the self-propelled machines have variable speed control and are quiet running machines. The heavy-duty machine has a swivel head and will remove tough applications like ceramic and wood. Its primary design is commercial and industrial applications. .
Investing in equipment can be confusing. Knowing how to calculate your return on investment can make major decisions easier. Consider; how fast you can get your investment back. The following information will help in making an equipment purchase decision. How will you know when to buy or upgrade? Cost justification for any equipment is based on utilization. In other words, will a machine be used enough to not only pay for itself, but make money? And, is its life expectancy after payoff and depreciation long enough to generate the profits your company requires? Also, consider production rates. Will the purchase of new equipment allow you to become more productive? Will a job that previously took five days to complete, now only take four? If so, you have added 20 percent to your overall production capability. Another factor would be potential labor savings. If what previously took a crew of five now only takes a crew of four, you’ve reduced your labor cost by 20 percent. The caveat is not only that you are saving money in labor and adding profit with additional production, you have most likely given your customer a higher quality product which enhances your reputation. In short, new equipment offers various avenues for bottom line profitability.
History can help you with the time/cost so that you know the correct type of equipment to purchase. Sometimes speed is critical to get a job and to stay competitive. As you increase machine size so does the cost of the machine, but your cost per square foot goes down. How much time and how much manpower can be devoted to a job? Large footages in a day can be done by a single Ride-On machine or a multiple of walk behind machines. Fast turn around time might mean that you get the job instead of someone else. Also, consider if you are doing or want to do wood or ceramic jobs.
Example: difficult glue-down carpet removal:
200# Stripper, expect approximately 900 square feet per hour.
400# Stripper, expect approximately1800 square feet per hour.
Battery Ride-On, expect approximately 3500 square feet per hour.
These figures are based on average difficulty, direct-glued carpet over concrete, fairly open areas or halls with no furniture to move.
Renting a machine for a while could help you make a decision on which machine might be best for your business. Does the machine do everything you want it to do? The best way to find out is on your own jobsite. Rental is a safe way to try different types of equipment.
To figure your return on investment, take the machine price divided by square feet per day times the price per square foot of the material being removed. This calculation will tell you how many days it will take to pay for your machine. For example, with a Battery Ride-On: VCT at $.25 per square foot times 20,000 square feet per day equals $5,000 per day. Machine cost of $29,000 divided by $5,000 equals six days to pay for the machine.
Are jobsite demonstrations or a trial period available? Does the machine you are interested in have an attractive finance program? Where does the machine have to go to be serviced and/or can you do it yourself? Is there a local service center?
Your savings come from being able to do a job faster and in some cases with less man- power. Down time creates a cost not only for you, but especially for your customer. Having the right equipment is imperative to be able to bid a job competitively and to do it better. Businesses that have added demolition to their services have successfully increased their sales and profits. Companies that can offer installation and removal are much more attractive to the customer.