Surface preparation: Grinding for profit
Surface preparation: Grinding for profit
10/31/2013

Offering the right surface preparation equipment

Surface preparation equipment can be profitable for rental organizations of all sizes. Knowledge and customer awareness are the keys to successfully renting and profiting from these products. By knowing surface preparation’s definition, the machines associated with it, rental opportunities for that equipment and the right qualifying questions to ask your customers, you can enjoy this success.

The rental explanation of “surface preparation” was generally defined in the 1950s in reference to early mechanical methods of resurfacing floors. At that time, the first electrical concrete floor grinders were coming into the market. Years later, other types of machines further defined the term.

Today, surface preparation in the rental industry loosely defines a group of equipment that is primarily used to fix mistakes or repair the surface of concrete and asphalt. We broadly categorize this equipment as grinders, scarifiers, tile removers, scabblers and shot blasters.

  • Grinders. Floor grinders use accessories rotating on a horizontal plane to level, profile, clean or polish a concrete slab surface. Both low rpm grinders and turbo grinders are valued rental items.

Low rpm grinders are designed for topical concrete applications, such as surface smoothing, cleaning, light leveling and thin coating removal. These machines are homeowner and DIY-friendly.

Turbo grinders spin accessories at much higher speeds than low rpm grinders, making them more aggressive for heavy-duty applications. These applications include leveling expansion joints and high spots, removing thick coverings and smoothing rough surfaces.

With an array of accessories for different applications, grinders are some of the most versatile pieces of surface preparation equipment available. They are constantly rented for the surface preparation jobs mentioned above, and are sought-after rental items for both residential and commercial job sites.

  • Scarifiers. Scarifier machines apply rotating drums with cutting accessories to handle concrete and asphalt surfaces. These versatile machines have various styles of interchangeable cutting assemblies that can be used for surface cleaning, light milling or heavy removal.

Scarifiers are popular for removal-based rental applications such as concrete and asphalt leveling, coatings removal, floor preparation, marking removal and sidewalk trip hazard repair. A trip hazard is where two concrete slabs come together and one is forced higher than the other, creating a lip over which a person could trip and fall. Trip hazards are reoccurring issues for municipalities, property management companies, universities, parks and any place with sidewalks. Walk-behind scarifiers quickly mow down these hazards. If you have sidewalks in your area, you have rental opportunities.

  • Tile removers. Tile removers use a rapid hammering action to remove a variety of floor coverings and are usually pneumatically or electrically powered. Mechanical tile removers also can be more productive than traditional hammers and chisels.

Rental opportunities for air-chisel scalers, floor strippers and ride-on tile removers are countless. Homes, stores and industrial spaces eventually require remodeling. Anywhere linoleum, carpeting, vinyl, ceramic and other floor coverings exist lies an opportunity for tile remover rentals.

  • Scabblers. Scabblers use compressed air to hammer piston-mounted accessories into concrete surfaces. They tend to roughen and remove surfaces more than grinding and scarifying. Depending on surface strength, scabblers can remove nearly ¼ in. of concrete per pass.

Scabblers are used for drastic removal jobs and are more specialized than grinders, scarifiers and tile removers. These machines can create wheelchair access ramps, break up deteriorated concrete and remove specific coatings. Requiring air power limits a scabbler’s reach, as large air compressors are needed. Despite their power limits, scabblers make a significant impact on the specialized tasks they’re designed to accomplish. Municipalities and clean air worksites are rental targets.

  • Shot blasters. Shot blasters propel small steel shot at high velocity onto concrete and steel surfaces. This process cleans and profiles the floor, leaving it ready for new coverings.

While the size of steel shot can vary, blasting essentially produces one type of surface profile. Although this sounds limiting, many thicker coatings only can adhere to shot-blasted surfaces. Professional shot-blast contractors use large models and charge premium prices for their services. It is much more cost-effective for homeowners and general contracting businesses to rent smaller shot-blasting machines.

Jason Stanczyk is marketing director for EDCO — Equipment Development Co., Frederick, Md. He can be reached at 800-638-3326, ext. 180, or jstanczyk@edcoinc.com.


Identifying opportunities

If you’re a rental store owner considering expanding into surface preparation equipment or looking to become more profitable with your current fleet, you may need to develop new business within your store’s radius. However, you probably already have businesses or contractors on your customer list who need surface preparation equipment.

The challenge becomes identifying common surface preparation needs within this customer base and then seeking that business. Here’s a small sampling of common customers and industries you may already be doing business with that rent surface preparation equipment:

Contractors

  • General
  • Landscaping
  • Masonry
  • Paving
  • Roofing
  • Tile
  • Waterproofing

Government and transportation

  • Educational facilities
  • Healthcare institutions
  • Military facilities
  • Road repair
  • Airports
  • Highway departments
  • Parking locations

Entertainment and retail

  • Hotels and resorts
  • Sports facilities
  • Convention centers
  • Swimming pools
  • Shopping centers
  • Grocery stores
  • Service stations

Property management

  • Office buildings
  • Apartment owners
  • Public spaces
  • Walkways and trails

Manufacturing and food processing

  • Refineries
  • Warehouses
  • Factories
  • Storage facilities
  • Mills
  • Dairy barns
  • Silos

By striking up conversations about surface prep applications with these daily customers, you can uncover new rental opportunities. Those rental companies looking to raise the return on investment for their existing surface preparation offerings can target market-particular businesses or industries already in their database.


The ignored rental

Proper vacuum systems are a necessity in modern surface preparation fleets. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently seeking stricter limits on silica dust, an agent found in construction sites, and known to cause lung disease and cancer. These new regulations could reduce the allowable exposure by 80 percent in the construction industry.

Silica has been a major health concern for years, yet surprisingly not all rental business offering surface preparation machines offer vacuum systems. Offering dust prevention allows your rental customers to comply with government mandates, work indoors and work cleanly. Many vacuum systems can be used for other applications not involving surface preparation, like drywall dust cleaning, wood shaving collection and general facility clean up.

You should note that there is a distinct difference between inexpensive “shop vacs” and vacuum systems. Widely used shop vacs will not keep up with the volume of dust created by surface preparation equipment. It’s important to choose the correct vacuum system with the surface prep machine creating the dust. There are multiple manufacturers that provide vacuum systems that can fit a rental store’s needs.