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Installments: Proper subfloor prep requires the right tools

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By David Stowell

When it comes to a challenging subfloor, you don’t just need the right team for the job; you also need the right materials and tools. Incorporating the right tools and equipment can make a monumental difference in job productivity, application ease and, ultimately, subfloor quality.

Choosing the best tools can be tricky. Luckily, there are some tried-and-true recommendations from flooring industry experts.

Stainless steel smoother. The Smoother’s 24-inch blade allows for clean, even coverage of material. This stainless-steel blade smooths underlayments for a seamless, flush finish. A sturdy laminated wood mounting can also be used to apply and spread material, ideally self-leveling material. An aluminum bracket can be easily attached to the Smoother using the included hardware. This bracket fits onto any standard broom handle making it an extremely practical tool.

Gauge rake. The 24-inch gauge rake allows for an even distribution of materials, such as self-levelers. This rake is designed to be durable yet lightweight. It’s the ideal instrument for long hours of spreading. The two adjustable steel T-Skates attach directly to the rake and can be moved according to the desired depth of underlayment. This easy-to-assemble rake includes all of the necessary hardware upon purchasing. Its aluminum bracket is also designed to fit a standard broom handle.

Standard spike roller. The spike roller is used to easily achieve even surfaces in the self-leveling underlayment process. This particular rolling method breaks the tension in the material, allowing the smoothing agents to self-level. Each spike pierces the surface underlayment with a depth of 1¼ inches.

Gunite shoes. Wearing a flexible spiked shoe allows you to work on gunite, epoxy and sealers with ease of movement. The shoe protects the fresh surface from footprints and gaps while forcing air bubbles out of the application. Thirteen firmly attached ¾-inch (overall length) steel spikes cover the bottom of the shoe. Two adjustable nylon straps hold the gunite shoe in place. These shoes are multipurpose as they can also be used for aerating lawns.

Foam tape. This is essentially the ultimate barrier to stop product overflow. It acts as a dam in transition areas such as doorways. When working with Portland self-leveling underlayments (SLUs) or synthetic gypsums, contact to vertical structures can be avoided by installing a foam tape. It is important to prevent direct contact with metallic constructions, such as heating pipes, which can lead to corrosion.

Self-leveling kit. This all-inclusive kit holds every necessary element for a self-leveling installation: measuring and mixing utensils, gunite spiked shoes, a gauge rake, a stainless steel smoother and a standard broom thread handle. A self-leveling kit is an excellent asset when first establishing your tool assembly.

As you can see, many of these tools are practical and yet essential to the overall project plan. Incorporating the right tools and materials can directly affect the extent of physical labor and project timeline. Many of these items are available for purchase through distributors, manufacturers and supply outlets. For the best advice and tool recommendation for specific substrate material, contact your local company rep. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be for a seamless job well done.

David Stowell is the technical director at Schönox, HPS North America. He has 30 years of industry experience, beginning as an installer in 1988. Over the course of his career, he has worked for several manufacturers, including Pergo. For more information, contact Stowell via e-mail: dstowell@hpsubfloors.com.