The range of tools and fixings on offer to specialist contractors is constantly evolving and growing, but for most site staff the type of equipment that is used for specialist interior contractors is limited. That limitation is not so much through choice but need. Steve Menary reports.

Pg14 Tools and Fixings1“Tools wise, we use a range but on a narrow spectrum and mainly gas cartridge or cordless equipment,” said Mark Grocock, the managing director at specialist contractor Bespoke Drywall.

“We mainly use cordless, like drywall guns. The collated drywall guns definitely give you more productivity. You can get stuff up in a third of the time than you can with screws. Lasers are also useful for spotting, particularly on bulkheads, and high impact drills for drilling against pre-cast concrete. I can’t remember the last time that I bought a tool that wasn’t cordless as the quality is there now.”

Reliability and power

Improvements in the reliability and power of cordless equipment have come through the widespread replacement of nickel batteries with lithium ion batteries, which are typically 30 per cent lighter.

Cordless equipment is also becoming the tool that main contractors prefer their supply chain to use for a variety of reasons.

“Many main contractors see the benefit of using cordless,” explained Dean Fewtrell, regional manager for interior finishing at tool supplier Hilti. “Not only are specialist contractors not trailing leads everywhere, but they are working independently when it comes to power and the cords are not being run over and damaged.”

Improvements to technology for the powering of tools and equipment have also made products more eco-friendly. MEP Hire’s low-level access team is offering eco-friendly access solutions, including the PecoLift for heights to 3.5m and the EcoLift for working heights to 4.2m. Both units operate without batteries or hydraulic oil and work using a patented Stored Power System.

Graham Haigh, MEP Hire’s business development director, explained: “We have worked very closely with leading fit-out companies and contractors to ensure that we can offer them added-value products.”

Right tool for the job

Demand for innovative products typically centres on improving productivity and that age-old adage of the right tool for the right job.

“When it comes to choosing the correct tools and appropriate fixings for compliant drywall applications, even the most experienced installer can fall prey to time consuming and ultimately costly errors,” said Lee Parker, category manager for Drywall and Accessories at CCF. “It’s no secret that having the right tools for the job makes delivering fit for purpose applications much more simple.”

Using the wrong equipment can also cause tools to malfunction. Most tool suppliers, such as Hilti, offer a back-up service and a two-year guarantee from the date of purchase, but when breakdowns do happen on the job, tradespeople without back-up kit can then cause delays.

Repair service

That is what has prompted  Midlands-based supplier Gypsumtools to launch a new  on-the-job repair service.

Gypsumtools will now collect faulty equipment and then return the repaired tools back to the workplace free of charge after a service and repair. The company will collect and diagnose faults on up to three tools for £25. Once the fault is diagnosed, Gypsumtools’ staff call with a diagnosis and cost estimate.

“We are making taping tool repair easier,” says Gypsumtools’ operations manager Callum Wilson. “We know how important a plasterer’s tools are for getting the job done. There’s nothing more frustrating than a tool breaking on the job, wasting time, effort and ultimately money.”

To reduce breakdowns, choosing the right tool helps but with a growing range of tools and fixings available to specialist contractors, that can, said Lee Parker, “be difficult”.

As a result, Mr Parker highlighted that specialist contractors are increasingly turning to branded products where the right solution is clear and reliability generally guaranteed. With demand for its Tradeline range of drywall fixings products strong, CCF has increased the range of products available.

Mr Parker added: “Despite brand promises, proof of regulated test performance and a full system warranty – in accordance with the project specific installation guidelines – are the only way to be confident of effective, long-lasting and fully compliant results.”

Meeting standards

A European standard that specifies performance requirements for mechanical fasteners used for fixing gypsum plasterboard means contractors buying fixings that meet EN14566 should be guaranteed reliability. Products in the Tradeline range all meet EN14566 through the Drivesure testing system, which incorporates reaction to fire and ‘flexural strength’ testing.

Mr Parker concludes: “By choosing a reputable brand, specifiers and installers have additional access to technical handbooks that highlight testing based on accredited UKAS Reports, whilst being confident that they are selecting engineered  solutions that are fully compliant with their requirements,” concluded Mr Parker.

Using non-branded products may be cheaper, but that is a short-term solution if the end result is not of the right quality.