POWER SANDING DRYWALL By Myron Ferguson
One of the best ways to increase profitability is production based:tools, materials, and processes in the field.
I didn’t always use a power sander and I don’t always get one out on a smaller job but I couldn’t work without one on larger job. I wish I knew the percentage of tapers sanding with power sanders. I would guess that it is well under 50%
There is typically quite a bit of sanding on a drywall job. A 16’ by 16’ has over 600 sq ft of drywall to sand and over 100 ft of seams and inside corners. How much faster is sanding with power sanders? I would say as much as 30% but that would depend on job conditions. I think that one person with a power sander could stay ahead of two or three people touching up. So every person sanding would not need to have the tool.
I have found that in my chosen profession, and maybe this is true for other trades, we sometimes have trouble doing math. That reminds me of what a friend told me a few years ago. He and I are very frugal (cheap). He said that the lottery is for people who are bad at math. We use our 2 dollars a day to buy coffee. A good power drywall sander can cost between $500 and $1200 dollars. That’s a lot of money and it would be difficult for anyone to spend. The sanders do make the work easier and do reduce the amount of dust ,but if they don’t help complete the job significantly faster than I just can’t see too many people buying the tools unless dust control is a must. If using a power sander helps me complete sanding 30% faster. I could send less help to that job today and send the extra help onto the next taping job. If I do the math correctly the sander will pay for itself in no time. Factor in physically easier work and less dust and it is a no brainer for people who can do math. Also if you don’t spend the money on lottery tickets(or coffee) you will save up for the sander faster.
Compare to pole sanders:
Sometimes it is the same old story which I know is often valid today because many drywallers are not exactly over paid. “I have plenty of help that can use pole sanders and an inexpensive sanding sponge and knock it out quick enough.”
Pole sanders are lighter but require much more physical pressure against the drywall surface in order to sand the joint compound. Yes a power drywall sander weighs more because there is much more too it but the sander does the work and just has to be glided along the surface.
For the first half of my career I just sanded with the rectangular sander with the 40 inch handle. The diameter of the handle was 1 inch or less, (bad ergonomics). When using the rectangular pole sanders I would sand the ceilings while standing on stilts, even when sanding 8 ft high ceilings. This is because I can get better leverage when working closer to the ceiling. I guess I was tougher back then.
Quite a few years back I switched to the Radius 360 sander. I could attach an extendable painter’s pole. The round sander combined with the extendable pole made a world of difference.
Today my sanding tools consist of a Festool Planex power sander, a Radius 360 sander, a small hand sander, and a sanding sponge. Whether sanding with a pole sander or an electric drywall sander hours will be spent sanding so a tool has to be easy to grip and to switch from hand to hand as one arm gets tired or when changing sanding directions.
Keep in mind that power sanding or pole sanding has to be followed up by touch up sanding with a small hand sander or sanding sponge. This is done by hand and is necessary because there are a lot of places that a larger sander just can’t get into, such as inside corner intersections, close to electrical boxes and many other tight places.
Dust extracting power drywall sanders eliminate the majority of the airborne dust. Using a regular pole sander creates airborne dust that settles on the floors and later has to be swept and vacuumed which creates a second wave of airborne dust. Does anyone need a tool like this?
Only buy tools that you need. If you don’t really need the tool it is unlikely that you will use it enough to have it pay for itself and become a profitable resource. Tools that don’t make you money will do nothing but cost you. Is this true? I think this is true in most cases, but what if a tool is safer or in the case of the drywall sander also sucks up dust? Does it have to be faster? The Planex drywall sander is faster than hand sanding which will help it pay for itself. It is faster so less time will be spent having to sand which is good news even if it didn’t increase profits. It is also easier to use than a sanding pole. I worked with a young strong contractor who didn’t care if something was harder to use as long as it was faster. Let’s see if he has the same attitude when he is older.
If a tool increases production don’t lower bids. I have switched over to using automatic taping tools which dramatically increase production. I can use this increased production to get more work done in a day or to maybe go home early but I don’t use it to lower my prices. I invested in the tools which should make me more money.
Remember: “One of the best ways to increase profitability is production based:tools, materials, and processes in the field”