Drones In Commercial Coatings

It was a great honor to get to write this article featured in CoatingsPro magazine:

https://nace.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=615325&ver=html5&p=28

Summary:

Drone history runs deeper than you might think, dating back to the early 1900s. But, what does the future hold for drones in commercial coatings? I talk with Tom Walker, founder and CEO of DroneUP, a commercial drone services provider to discuss. The multitude of potential applications is truly amazing.

Some of My Ecodur Test Videos

Here is a playlist of some of my Ecodur test videos. I’ve always been impressed with the results. I have more in the works, but I’m always looking for more ideas. If you would like to recommend a test, please leave a comment, email, or tweet me.

A Quick Look at Cementitious Roofing

Cementitious roofing can provide years of great protection with a high R value but poses significant challenges for most coatings. Here’s a quick overview and a great solution using Castagra’s Ecodur.

Anatomy of A Sample Board

A 4 X 8 sheet of plywood will yield 48 6 X 12 boards and 32 6 x 6’s

I’m a big believer in using physical representations to showcase your products. I’ve always found it easier to explain the benefits of a roof coating system using sample boards. With Ecodur, I like to have clients beat, hammer, scratch, and generally abuse my samples to help them see how strong the product really is. Now that I am working with other contractors and helping them get started with the Ecodur roofing system, I needed a bunch of sample boards. So, I set out to make more boards than I have before. Making them is time consuming and there are costs involved, but I definitely believe they are worth it.

For these samples, I wanted to demonstrate how well both acrylic and silicone adhere to Ecodur as well as having some with pull tape embedded and some of the product alone. I always start my sample boards with SBS self adhered cap sheet on plywood. The peel and stick is a lot easier than torching and represents the most common substrate in my area.

The Ford Ranger is not a commonly used adhesion tool, but is effective when available.
My assistant lines up our boards and makes sure every inch is pressed.
The boards are pressed and ready to go
Once fully adhered, we start planning and taping off our work area.
For these boards, the base layer is Ecodur 201M colored light gray just for contrast.
With the base coating cured, we tape off and mark which areas will be coated in silicone or acrylic.
First we applied the acrylic.
While the acrylic cures, my assistant is carefully applying the silicone.
Once the products start to set up, we remove the tape.
After the products cure, we make the long cuts
Then the short cuts.
Having a few extra blades is a great idea. The asphalt / rubber / glue really gums them up. I like the Diablo Demo Demon blades.
The combo board features both silicone and acrylic.
The embedded tape allows clients to feel how strongly the Ecodur bonds.
The basic board represents the product with no top coating, which is also an option.

Creating Winning Company Cultures in the Trades

Photo by Skitterphoto courtesy of Pexels

Every company has a culture. Top performing companies have winning cultures that encourage quality, respect, accountability and more. These values help to create an environment where clients feel confident in the value of the services or products delivered. However, culture is an often-overlooked aspect of the trades. So, let me ask you this. Why would anyone want to start work with you and your company? More importantly, why would they want to continue working with you and your company?

If the answer is, “They need a job, and I’ve got work”, prepare yourself to be constantly hiring and training new employees. Companies with weak cultures will have retention issues. Because they do nothing to create loyalty, their employees are easily poached. Because they are constantly training new employees on the basics, they never develop skilled labor and struggle to meet client quality demands.

On the other hand, if you intentionally create an environment where your employees feel appreciated, and trust that you are doing everything to look out for them and their best interests, you may look forward to great longevity with your employees as they continue to grow and bring more value to your company.

A common myth is that working in the trades is naturally stressful. Wrong! Hard work is normal, but bad managers create the undue stress that is exceedingly common in tradespeople. Have you ever noticed that the bosses who yell the most, explain the least? I was on a job site a while back where another trade was also doing work. As I set up for my day, I noticed two of the guys arrive. They waited around for about 45 minutes until their boss finally arrived. He then berated them for at least 15 minutes for being lazy good-for-nothings for having not started working before his arrival. Their explanation that they did not know what he wanted them to do and were unable to get a hold of their boss fell on deaf ears.

The following day, the guys again arrived before their boss. Fearful of being humiliated in front of everyone on the job site again, they found work to busy themselves. On this day, their boss was an hour late and again upset with his crew. Calling them names and yelling, he said that they were idiots and if they knew anything, they would have known that what they were doing for the past hour was a waste of time.

Luckily, my portion of the project was a small one, and I was soon off to a different project. However, the few days I spent on the same site with the yelling boss were very uncomfortable, even though I didn’t have to work with him. I could only imagine how little his employees cared about the quality of their work given the circumstances.

While this was an extreme example, there are plenty of things managers in the trades may do to create a negative work culture that are not as obvious. Employees will thrive in consistency. Mixed signals and chaos create uncertainty. Organization and planning create clarity. Creating a positive company culture is intentional and begins with a plan. Laborers and office staff alike prefer to have clear expectations and a good idea of what success looks like. Feedback is vital in creating trust with employees.  And, it goes both ways. You should encourage your employees to voice their opinions. They are your eyes and ears in the field. As Andy Stanley said, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”

A great leader can motivate their crew to achieve great productivity. Top Service in North County San Diego is a perfect example.

Another key step in planning for productive company culture is investing in your employees. Ensuring they have the proper training and tools will not only increase productivity but will make employees feel secure. When a company invests in its people, it fosters a feeling of being a valued human resource rather than a disposable asset. As they develop more capabilities, they increase their efficiency. Rewarding those skills with promotions and raises is a bargain for the employer. Happy, efficient, and loyal employees with well-developed skill sets will be able to increase your profits. Advancing your employees careers will always be more cost-effective than constantly hiring, re-hiring, re-training, and dealing with the lower quality work of unskilled labor.

High turnover is costly and reduces quality

A final morale killing trap to consider: Many companies treat their office staff and labor very differently. I have seen signs on restrooms that read “office staff only”. As someone who has spent a lot of time in the office and on the roof, I get it. Roofing can be dirty work. Perhaps a better sign would read “It is everyone’s responsibility to keep restrooms clean”. I don’t like the implication that one group of employees is better or more valuable than another. The entire team is responsible for quality and leaving your customers with a positive impression.

Roofing can be dirty work!

That brings me to benefits. There exists in the trades a giant chasm between the benefits offered to office staff and those offered to field staff. Do tradespeople not also have families to care for? If they’re not worth investing in, is your company worth their skills, efforts, and loyalty? I recently spoke with a manager at a struggling roofing company who explained that his retention issues stem from tradespeople being willing to leave for 50 cents more per hour. If that were the case, the answer would be simple: offer 51 cents more per hour. When I asked if they were truly willing to reset their benefits for 50 cents, he explained that they do not offer benefits of any kind. Aha! I think I found part of the real problem.

As a side note, keep in mind that your company should not be shouldering the cost of benefits. Your clients should be. When you create an atmosphere of quality work, you do not compete on price and your clients happily pay enough to cover your overhead and provide healthy profits.

Creating a true team culture can benefit your labor and your office staff. I recommend that sales staff and installers have joint training and lunches. They can learn from each other. Field staff can teach sales what techniques work in the real world and ensure that they know what they need to create accurate quotes. Sales staff can benefit field staff by sharing customer service techniques. After all, they often end up interacting directly with the client more than anyone else.

A well-integrated team working toward common goals that benefit them all will work well together, to the benefit of the client, your company, and you.

Simple Adhesion Testing

Coatings manufacturers mean well, but don’t always make recommendations that are practical in the real world. Some of the processes they prescribe are great on paper, written by engineers in a laboratory. One glaring example of this is adhesion testing. Most manufacturers recommend pre-cleaning, pressure washing, and drying before setting the test, waiting 3-7 days, and performing adhesion testing.

While this is a good process for preparing a whole project for most coatings, it is beyond impractical for simply determining if a substrate is a good candidate for a particular roof coating. Coatings contractors need to know a lot during the bidding process. Is the substrate harboring moisture? Is there remedial work that needs to be done before a project can be coated? Will the proposed coating adhere to the substrate properly?

Moisture meters and proper project walks can determine the first two questions, but how do you determine the latter in a real-world situation? First off, here are two things I absolutely do not want to do: (A) pressure wash a project that has not been sold yet, and (B) find out after the job is sold that the product will not adhere properly. What would you tell the client in that scenario?

My method for adhesion testing is simple and requires only a few items that are easily carried with you while you perform your roof walk. Here is a list:

  • Small wire brush
  • Can of compressed air or light brush for dust
  • Chip brush
  • 6” long by 2” wide strip of polyester seam tape
  • Small sample of the product to be tested

The process is simple: Scrub an oversized section with the wire brush, and blow or brush the dust away. Apply enough product to imbed ½ the length of the strip (for silicone 15 mils is good). Using the brush, make sure there are no air pockets. This step is important. Air pockets can give you a false reading. Apply a thin layer of product over the test strip.

If this is a fast cure product or accelerators are available, my test strips will be ready to check before I have finished measuring and walking the roof. Otherwise, I will schedule to come back in a couple days. The honest truth for most products is that they will either pass or fail the next morning. Allowing 7 days to achieve full cure typically does not alter these results. 

This method will not work in greasy or severely soiled areas, but is good for the majority of projects you may be bidding. It is also not intended to be a substitute to ASTM testing for evaluating coating properties. However, it will be a quick and easy way for you to ensure that a coating adheres to the prospective substrate.

Evaluating Results


The examples above were tested on new torch down.

Fail: The majority of the product separates from the substrate with little to no resistance. You will notice that very few of the granules were disturbed.

Good: A majority of the product remains on the substrate, with some granule disturbance.

Better: About 50% of the product remains, while there is significant substrate damage.

Best: The product clearly out performed the substrate, leaving a bare spot where the test was performed.

Note: These methods are non-scientific and not intended to be a substitute for common sense.

Using A Wet Film Mil Gauge

Most of us know the manufacturers recommended mil thickness for specific coatings we may be using. But, do you actually know how to make sure you are on spec? A silicone manufacturer, for example, may require 24 dry mils for a 10 year warranty. If this is a 96% solids silicone, you will only need to apply 25 wet mils to cure to 24. If the silicone is solvent based and 80% solids, you will need to apply at 29 wet mils.

Manufacturers spec sheets will give you theoretical coverage rates, but do not account for age and other conditions of the substrate. Old, weathered TPO may require more product for the same mil thickness than newer metal. This is where your wet film mil gauge becomes a very useful tool.

The good news is, they are very cheap and easy to use. Common gauges are shaped either like a credit card or a hexagon and consist of various depth notches on each side. Many paint stores and coatings manufacturers offer them for free. Each notch represents a different mil thickness (each mil is 1/1000″). To use, set the gauge gently into the coating on a flat section of the project.

Wet mil gauge in silicone over Ecodur base.

Now, lift straight up without dragging and look to see which notches have product on them. For example, let’s say that your 24 mil notch has some silicone on it, but 26 is dry. Your true reading is going to be about 25 mils.

In this example, we were looking for 34 wet mils. A little over, but close.

So, why does any of this matter? For NDL’s and other manufacturers warranties, you must achieve the minimal thickness or they may reject the protection. Alternatively, applying too thickly will cost your project margins and potentially cause product shortages. Being a few mils over will likely not cause a problem, but your coverage rates will be way off if you apply with excessive thickness. Some products also will not cure properly if applied too thick.

Measuring your mils during application takes only a few moments and can ensure that you and your crew are staying on track.

A quick check with each new bucket can ensure proper coverage and consistent results.

Why Hire A Consultant? Property Managers / Building Owners

We have had many prospective clients ask, “Why should we hire a consultant?”. And, I totally understand the question. After all, consultants are just money suckers who have never worked in the industries the consult to, right? Not so with Coo Roo Co.

The top reasons to hire a consultant:

  1. To save money! Knowing the actual needs of your project prevents you being sold more than you need. Understanding a reasonable budget from the onset can help you eliminate outliers, and ensure you are only getting bids on products that will meet your needs. A consultant can help with realistic costing so you know what to expect before your first contractor bid. Also, having realistic expectations can help you to negotiate from a better informed position.
  2. To save time! Roofing bids can be complicated and convoluted. Did you know acrylic coatings have over a dozen different distinctions? A consultant who speaks the language can quickly help you to compare bids and organize effectively. I can’t tell you how many times a client has been a procurement agent, property manager, or IT specialist and found themselves so buried in the work of weeding through contractor bids, that their actual work has struggled. A consultant can efficiently take that burden off your plate.
  3. To prevent headaches! Chances are, you are not a project manager. Keeping your contractor on schedule and budget can seem like a full time job during your project. A consultant can help to manage the day to day, or even become the point person for your project, always ensuring your best interests.

Here, we will examine some of the services offered by Coo Roo Co and examine how we can assist on your project.

3rd party inspection / recommendations:

We are not bidding your roofing project. We have no reason to steer you toward a more expensive product than you need. Our consultants can help to identify the needs of your organization and match them with the appropriate solution. Planning to sell the building in 5 years? A 7 to 10 year product may be best, saving you money and ensuring the roof will still look great to potential buyers. However, if you plan to keep the building indefinitely, you may be throwing good money after bad going with a lesser solution. Often, higher quality products can save you a lot of money over time.

Estimate / proposal review:

Roofing estimates / proposals are full of jargon. Are you comparing apples to apples? It can be hard to tell. Even estimators in the same company will often use different verbiage. Because we understand the vernacular, we can assist in making accurate comparisons.

Assistance with contractor selection:

We are happy to meet with contractors,  walk the roof with them, and interview. Our detailed and easy to follow reports work like a digest of all we learn.

Budget estimating:

We know the costs. We can help by giving you realistic costs. Knowing what to expect is key to any negotiation, and can save you thousands. In my own career, I have had clients “negotiate” by asking for a 66% discount and telling me they “know” it is all just profit. Contractors are generally willing to budge some if your requests are realistic. Sometimes, a contractor will be happy to offer a percentage off in exchange for some flexibility in scheduling. Sometimes, you can save a lot by hiring certain subs yourself. Understanding these areas before you reach a negotiating table can save money.

Project planning:

With our combined decades of experience, we have become quite good at project management. Especially if your project requires multiple trades, a neutral point person can be a great assistance. Even smaller projects can spin out of control if not planned correctly.

Project oversight:

As with project planning, overseeing a project can be a lot of work. We are happy to assist remotely, or go “hands on” with your project.

Overall, we are here to help you gain control over your project.