Tech Talk: What is One Challenge You Experienced in the Field Due to Equipment that Hadn’t Been Properly Maintained?

Michael Dittmer
As a contractor who sands floors on a regular basis, it is imperative to keep all of our tools in tiptop condition. We have two sets of tools, so in case of equipment failure, we can change out the nonworking tool with one that is up to speed.

It has been our experience that the edger is the piece of equipment that constantly needs attention. One recent resand project contained numerous edger defects due to the use of an old pad that was worn-out. Dishing out against stone surface caused by using two papers on the edger was unacceptable to the customer.

The replacement of the old edger pad would have left a smooth edge against the stone as ours had left after the resand. The line around the baseboard of the room would have been nonexistent if a new properly maintained pad had been used as well.

Jason Elquest
Dust is always our nemesis. We have had dust cause some major equipment failures on our belt sander. It builds up around the upper roller and everywhere else, and can inhibit the normal function of the machine. We had the honor of resanding a beautiful Brazilian cherry floor due to chatter that did not show itself until the floor was coated. This could have been prevented with a better maintenance system in place. It only takes a few minutes to clean and evaluate the condition of your equipment after each use so that it will be ready for the next project.

Lenny Hall
Loss of efficiency is the greatest challenge. Running any machine that is not finely tuned is simply not efficient. If blades are dull on any tool: circular saw, jig saw, band saw, table saw, router, etc., wood is burned, cuts/grooves are not clean, undue stress on the machines shortens their life span, and the cut can stray from the desired line, not to mention a serious potential for personal injury.

A saw not set up to cut squarely leaves gapped miters or unsquared end cuts. This is not critical if the saw is used only as a wall line cut saw, but if you are doing any higher level design work, then an unsquared saw will not deliver the precision needed. It’s my opinion that if you are presenting yourself as a quality contractor, all saws should be sharp, set up as square cutting, and in tip-top performance shape. This should be both a matter of principle and practice.

Compressors and hose connections that leak also shorten the compressor’s life span by making it run longer to charge up and cycle on more frequently and longer while delivering air to the air tools. Keep your connections tight and leak proof. Even simple things like cleaning your trowels at the end of use, so they are clean for the next time. That’s efficiency not being lost.

Scott Taylor
I was asked by a large national general contractor to meet about a report that I had written that found the job site to be the reason the floor was performing as it was (contraction). The project was a commercial restaurant that had a 3” engineered wood floor. The two of us met at the job site, and the general contractor disagreed with my findings of low RH (relative humidity) because he had a hygrometer that was 20 percent higher than my hygrometer (42 percent-22 percent). I was able to show him, using my laptop that his device requires calibration every six months. I asked him when the last time he had his 5-year-old instrument calibrated was. His response, “I have never had it calibrated.” That is all it took to show him that no matter the cost of the device, if you don’t know how to maintain it properly, then you don’t have a working unit.

Ben Totta
Maintaining equipment is something that is important, but not usually urgent, which often ends up making it very easy to overlook, or at least a low priority. As contractors, with ever-growing demands and expectations on us to complete work within the allotted time to please our customer, equipment maintenance often falls by the wayside.

The irony, of course, is that failing to maintain tools leads to unexpected failure, usually at inconvenient times during use, and we end up losing a lot of time when the job is brought to a halt to resolve a bigger issue. One example that I remember early in my career was when I first learned the reality of waves and chatter caused by my big machine. On a large project that we thought we had done a great job on, we came in to walk through with the customer and they objected to a slight wave. Through that, I ended up really digging in to how my machines were built, where they start to show signs of problems, and how I could maintain them myself. Tough way to learn, as it often is in our trade, but I learned the value of regularly watching and seeing what my machine is doing, making small or preventative steps along the way to avoid larger catastrophes or unexpected delays.

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