Over the years, there have been several articles regarding the proper installation techniques of flash coving and heat welding. In recent months, I’ve been approached by several installers who are having issues with heat-welding flash coving under toe kicks so I decided to address their concerns.

Anyone who has heat welded a flash coving installation knows that it’s more challenging than just heat welding on the floor, and to top that off, toe kicks have you working in a very confined area with your hot air tool. Not only is the tool in a confined area, but in order to heat weld under toe kicks the installer is laying down on his or her stomach to be able to see where to weld.

The installers who were having difficulties that I spoke with all had the standard-sized hot air tools, which average 1600 watts with a speed nozzle. Is there a tool that makes it easier for an installer to heat-weld toe kicks? Yes. What I use is a smaller hot air tool with a specially designed tip and nozzle for my flash coving detail work, including toe-kicks and inside/outside corners.

I had the opportunity to meet up with Leo Martinez, owner of Turbo Tools, during a trip out to Southern California and asked him to build me a mock up of a toe kick that we could use for a photo shoot and add several grooves for heat welding (Photo 1).

Here you have two types of hot air tools: the bottom one is a standard 1600-watt hot air tool that is used on the majority of heat-weld installations. The upper one is a smaller Leister Hot Jet S 460-watt hot air tool that is used primarily for detail work (Photo 2).

Can you use the larger standard hot air tool for toe kicks? Absolutely. One thing you can count on is for installers to adapt to whatever the situation. Installers have cut the small metal extension off at the nozzle to be able to get further up into the toe kick. They will also reduce the temperature so they have more time to work the welding material into the groove. The possible downside to reducing heat is the weld itself may not be as strong as it should be over the long term and may pull out easier.

Here are three nozzles (Photo 3). The two on the left are nozzles that are commonly used for heat welding. The one on the right is a detail nozzle. The detail nozzle comes in different diameters to accommodate the different thickness of welding rod.

The smaller Hot Jet S with the L-shaped pencil tip and the Turbo detail nozzle (Photo4-5) allows the installer to hold the hot air tool at a right angle to the heat-welded seam. This allows the installer a better view while welding and allows the tool to roll with the wrist. It also allows for the heat weld to start at the very top of the coving whereas with a standard tool this is difficult to achieve. The tool can also be used with maximum heat for a strong weld. The standard hot air tool requires having to pull the hot air tool and the chance of scorching the flooring due to its size. (Photos 6-8).

Next we took a standard-sized 1600-watt hot air tool with an angled pencil tip and speed nozzle and heat welded the seam using the same temperature that would normally be used for floor welding (Photos 9-11). We used a standard hot air tool with an angled pencil tip and a Turbo Tool detail nozzle for the last seam with the normal temperature for melting the rod (Photos 12-14).

All right, let’s compare the seams. Notice the clean melt and the melted rod to the top of the cove done with the Hot Jet S with added detail nozzle (Photo 15). Now look at the two in the center with the standard hot air tool, where two different nozzles were used (Photo 16). Notice the scorch marks and the inconsistency of the rod.

Remember, we kept the heat setting at the same number we normally would to install welding rod on the flat area of the flooring. Also, the welding rod doesn’t reach quite to the top of the coving. Here are the seams using the standard hot air tool with a detail nozzle (Photo 17).  Looking at the completed seams, one can see the difference in how using the proper tools can assist in making great-looking heat-welded seams, even under toe kicks.

If you are an installer who has heat welded, what’s the first thing we look at when we see a heat-welded installation? We look at the seams to see how clean they look, along with any scorch marks and a consistent weld up the flash coving and the heat-welded corners. You either think to yourself that the installer did an acceptable job, an unacceptable job, or a greatjob.

Does this mean investing in another hot air tool and the nozzle attachments if you don’t already own them? I think it would be an investment well worth the money. Think of the positive aspects and time saving because you have a tool that is well adapted for the job, with the potential for more work if you can make beautiful heat-weld seams. Add in the fact that you can take pride in you work.

Right after doing the photo shoot with Leo Martinez, his team found by doing a slight modification to the detail nozzle they were able to improve its performance, and it is already available to installers. Thanks to Leo Martinez and his staff for the photo shoot. Aside from Turbo Tools, here are several other manufacturers with heat-welding tools available. Look them up, and if you are going to Surfaces Jan. 28-30, 2014, in Las Vegas and they happen to be exhibiting, stop in and see them for more information: Crain Tools, Sinclair, Taylor Tools, Winkelman Sales, and Zinser.

Visit the FCI website at www.fcimag.com for short videos of the tools in action, operated by Leo Martinez himself. These videos will also be available as an exclusive extra page in the digital edition.