Tool Guide: Latest Tile Tools Make Installation a Breeze
April 15, 2008
Like most of you, when it comes to tools, I’m like that proverbial kid in the candy store. I couldn’t wait to get to Surfaces, especially the bottom floor, this year! That’s where I found some of the most fascinating tools and gadgets I’ve ever seen. I knew in advance, though, that one of my stops had to be at the Pro-Knee booth.
I have been the proud owner of several pairs of Pro-Knees for some time now, but had heard that the new model 07 was now available. For those of you who don’t know, Pro-Knees are custom-fit kneepads – one size does not fit all. They are not your typical off-the-rack type of kneepad; Pro-Knees are designed with the professional installer in mind. As good as the original design was it did have issues. The liners had a tendency to wrinkle, becoming somewhat uncomfortable and the pads also had a tendency to twist on the leg. Pro-Knees model 07 now features the no-wrinkle liners and the new pads offer an “anti-twist” cuff, which helps the pads stay straight. The new 1”- thick foam inserts (in addition to the improved 5/8”) provide maximum comfort and protection, yet installers must adjust to the extra elevation involved.
I will warn you that if you’re used to wearing the traditional knee pads, it will take a little time to become accustomed to wearing the Pro-Knees. The experience can be likened to buying a high-quality mattress on which to sleep and the first night you sleep on it you’re wondering what all the hype was about, or even why you spent the money you did. It’s after you’ve slept on it a few nights that you recognize the difference and know you could never go back to that cheap old mattress you used to try to sleep on every night. This can be the case with the Pro-Knees, too; at first they seem a little cumbersome, but once you’ve worn them any time at all you realize that they are indeed the gold standard in kneepads. In fact, the Pro-Knees are so comfortable that I have even forgotten to remove them at times when I went to lunch.
Pro-Knees do not cover just the knee, but the entire shin, providing total comfort for not only the front of your leg but the back as well. The straps are at the ankle and the calf, eliminating that behind-the-knee pain. The design takes the pressure off the knee by distributing the weight along the full length of the shin and not just the knees. For those of us who spend most of our day on our knees the Pro-Knee is a very worthwhile investment.
Another tool sent to me for evaluation was the T3 Razor diamond wet-saw blade from Raimondi. This blade is designed for use in cutting porcelain tiles. This blade looked way too good to be on my 20 plus-year-old saw! The rich ruby color and the thicker center and the thinner edge on the blade make it look a little different from most blades I’ve used in the past. After making only a few cuts I could tell this was indeed a premium saw blade.
The T3 Razor blade was even a little less noisy than most of the blades I’ve used before. It didn’t take me long to realize why the core of the blade was thicker – the heavier core enabled the thinner edge to cut straight without warping even when cutting the extremely hard porcelain tiles. One thing installers must be prepared for with this blade, however, is that the thicker core could get in the way when trying to make certain “L”-cuts and adjustments must be made to technique.
Since being introduced to the Raimondi T3 Razor, I am looking forward to using it on future jobs.
The True Blue dressing stone also from Raimondi was sent with the blade. When cutting tile, residue builds up on the diamond edge of the blade, and this stone is designed to remove that build-up. With just a few passes into the stone, the blade is clean and ready to go again. The True Blue dressing stone is a must for every tile-setter’s tool box.
I first saw this revolutionary new tool, the Squeez-EZ by Wil-Gil, LLC advertised in FCI magazine and thought it looked like a really good idea. So when it was sent to me to evaluate, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I was a little disappointed, though. Since I install all types of flooring, I had four hardwood installation jobs scheduled to do before I could get to my next ceramic tile job. Unfortunately, the contractor’s schedule had changed and he was ready for us now.
This job consisted of roughly 1,000 square feet of porcelain floor tile in addition to a 6-by-9 walk-in shower (floor, walls, and ceiling). When I told the contractor that I had four more jobs to do before I could get to his job, he told me that if I could just get his guys started they might be able to do some of the easier stuff and go ahead and start to keep the job going. By the time I arrived to get them started, I found that they had already started and had quite a mess on their hands. They had used the wrong type of thin-set mortar for the job and it had to be taken up immediately – all 50 square feet they had just spread. It had to be scraped up while it was still fresh and the thin-set had to be cleaned completely off the floor, too. That is when I brought in the Squeez-EZ.
Wow! This is one cool tool! I know this tool is designed for cleaning grout and that thin-set is much tougher to clean, but this worked great. We really put the Squeez-EZ through the wringer on this job! There were three builders, six sponges, and my employee, Eric, who is also a certified floorcovering installer, manning the Squeez-EZ. The three builders together could not keep up with this amazing tool – it cleaned the sponges faster than they could use them. Eric even figured out a way to accessorize the Squeez-EZ, allowing especially dirty sponges to be automatically recycled.
This tool was so easy to set up – it was ready to go right out of the box. All that was needed was a 3-1/2 to 5-gallon bucket, sponges, clean water, and a power source. Designed for use with a standard type of sponge, it performed well with each of three types and shapes of sponges used that day. The standard sponge did appear to work best, though.
The contractor had planned to do the “easy” parts, but we all know there are no easy parts and he was reminded that day why he should let the professionals do the whole job. He was just glad we showed up when we did. This was also a lesson learned about why it is so important to keep up with the latest technology and tools. The contractor was indeed thrilled to see me that day – with the Squeez-EZ in hand!