Floor-covering demolition contractors have long had their work cut out for them. While technologies have improved for removing tile, hardwood and other tough floor coverings, there are still many applications that require contractors to get on their hands and knees, using a rotary hammer to slowly chip away at the covering.

For Mark Jones, president of Spokane, Wash.-based Commercial Tearout Services, and his crew, a large percentage of time was spent on their hands and knees. His company has been in business for 16 years. Jones has a partner and, together, they employ two part-time workers. “We remove glue-direct carpet, sheet vinyl, ceramic tile, vinyl composition tile and wood flooring,” said Jones. “Occasionally, we remove specialty floor coverings, too.”

Like most other demolition contractors, Jones has an electric-powered ride-on machine equipped with a front-mounted, two-inch-wide carbide blade, which is designed to quickly knock up tile. However, the unit weighs approximately 2,000 pounds, so Jones is limited to using it on slab-on-grade floors and other levels that can be easily reached by elevator.

These limitations came to a head during a job at a local Air Force base where Jones was removing tile from a dormitory floor. Of the five floors in each building, only two of them could be accessed with the ride-on machines. Therefore, Jones and his crew used hand-held rotary hammers to remove tile from the remaining three floors. The team would then run a diamond grinder over the area to flatten the surface. “There are about 4,000 square feet of tile per building,” said Jones. “That’s a lot of square footage to do on our hands and knees.”

Jones heard of a new type of tool carrier on the market, designed to hold electric-powered breakers rated in the 35- to 45-pound class, which are engineered to offer the direct-impulse force needed to break through the bonding material between the floor covering and the surface. He quickly tracked down one of these machines, a CTS12 from General Equipment Co.

“When we first used it at the base, I think we took up between 1,600 and 2,000 feet of tile,” he said. “The machine hits so much harder than a rotary hammer and, because of the way the breaker sits in the carriage, the operator doesn’t need to manhandle it.”

He added that the machine also offered ergonomic advantages to the crew. “It takes a lot of load off your knees and back, so an operator can run it for longer periods of time,” said Jones.

Besides the airbase, he has also used the machine in a hotel and a local spa. “I’d like to try it on quarry tile, because that’s the toughest tile to remove by far.”

Jones said the machine hasn’t replaced his existing tools; rather, it complements them. “We still have to use hand-held rotary hammers in tight quarters,” he said. “The CTS12 is great in open areas, but it is too long for some small commercial bathrooms and closets.”

For more information, visit www.generalequip.com.