For years, drywall contractors and finishers have debated the best way to finish drywall, using either automatic taping and finishing tools or hand finishing methods. Drywall finishing by its very nature is a craft. Most finishers and contractors agree that a highly skilled drywall finisher has “the touch”-that special ability to work with tools, tape and compound to transform gypsum wall panels into a monolithic surface, free of any apparent defects and ready for final paint. The standards and requirements for the finished product do not change; the skill of the finisher behind the tool (hand or automatic) is what makes the difference.
With that said, the application method used to achieve the end result makes a substantial impact with regard to timing, job scheduling, resource management, personnel, productivity, and, most of all, labor cost. Make no mistake, a skilled finisher using hand methods produces incredible work. Combine that skill set with automatic taping and finishing tools, however, and the same finisher can experience a dramatic increase in productivity, all the while maintaining the quality of the finish. Experience has shown that in areas where hand finishing has been predominant, the best hand finishers also become the best automatic taping and finishing tool users.
A skilled drywall finisher will blend and incorporate the speed and efficiency of automatic tools with the finesse of hand finishing for a highly productive and near flawless drywall finishing system. The use of automatic tools allows the drywall professional to double productivity over hand methods alone. Any true professional using automatic tools can tape and finish by hand; however they use automatic tools to speed the process and accelerate each part of the operation, allowing plenty of time to handle the fine detailed work. In essence, they use automatic tools to take the fight out of 95 percent of the taping and finishing process, which, in turn, allows them to complete the project in less time or complete more work overall.
Automatic tools by design create a consistent, high-quality finish. Flat finish boxes and corner finishers are designed to coat, feather and leave a uniform finish over flats and angles. The Bazooka can simultaneously apply mud and tape to any flat or angle and cut the tape to the precise length. The system as a whole is designed to improve the consistency and productivity of the tape, coat and finish coat processes.
Converting finishers from hand methods to automatic tools can be challenging. The most common objection is resistance to change. A personal favorite is the following, “Automatic taping and finishing tools will put me out of work because they are too fast.” The simple truth is, yes, using automatic taping and finishing tools will help you complete the job more quickly. However, when this happens, several positive things occur:
• The company makes more money
• The company is more competitive in the marketplace
• The company can bid on and “win” more jobs
So you see, instead of losing work, the company actually has more work-and that means more finishers for more jobs. Automatic taping and finishing tools won’t put you out of work. Instead, automatic tools will help you stay productive and on-the-job. It’s a win-win for everybody.
In areas where finishers have taped and finished by hand for years, converting to automatic tools requires patience and persistence. The transformation requires some changes in a process that has been perfected by hand. Experienced hand finishers must develop the “touch” with a new set of tools. As they complete their training and work through the learning curve, they must make the tools work for them.
When we speak of “converting” to automatic taping and finishing tools from hand finishing, it’s really about adding to a finisher’s skill set. As in any trade, the most highly skilled workers tend to be the busiest and most productive.
Companies that have made the conversion to automatic tools have reported savings of three to five man-days per week/per crew. Others have reported production increases of 50 percent or more. Most companies that have used automatic taping and finishing tools over a period of years report crew production twice that of finishing by hand.
What if each of your crews could finish just 30 percent more drywall per week using automatic tools vs. hand finishing? You do the math-and consider converting to automatic taping and finishing tools today. W&C