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WHO DO YOU WANT WORKING ON YOUR PROPERTY
Picture your garden, its a sunny spring morning and all you need to feel complete is a new patio, walkway or wall. You might hop on social media and ask your friends for a referral or perhaps head to the Landscape Ontario website to look for a qualified contractor near you.
BUT HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT ALL THAT GNARLY DUST
If your reading this blog post chances are you have given some thought to smog, and may have even made a snarky comment to a construction crew about the amount of dust they kick up when they are doing their work. I must confess, I really care about air quality but up to now I have done my fair share of contributing to the dust clouds around our fair city. Here is why: its easy to just put on a mask and start cutting, deal with the mess later and wait for someone to complain. Its perfectly legal and for a long time that is what most of us did (and still continue to do).
THE STATUS QUO IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH: CUTTING WITH WATER SUCKS
The truth about cutting stone with water is that its a hard sell with my crew. They hate getting wet on cold days, the water/stone dust slurry is super icky and hard to cleanup (especially on small downtown properties). If any of that splatter gets on the house or the plants it tends to stick and form a thin white crust that is very difficult to remove. The other thing is you are stuck using gas powered tools (electricity and water don’t mix very well) so some of the fine detail cuts we need to make must be made with grinders that have no water attachments.
STONE DUST REALLY SUCKS
So it lowers morale, can’t be done in every situation and creates a different type of but still time consuming mess at the end of the day. To say nothing of the serious health risks to humans of breathing in the dust from stone cutting! We are now starting to wake up to the fact that this stuff is super dangerous and should not be allowed to be produced indoors or outdoors in large quantities ever.
WAIT WHAT?! SUCKING IS A GOOD THING?
Safe and clean point of source DRY dust extraction. Yes ladies and gentleman you can demand more from your landscape contractor, dry dustless cutting is possible but only a few of us have made the leap.
I am sure you can relate that change can be very difficult to implement and costs a lot of money. I am sure the majority of landscapers reading this are making a very basic calculation. Dry cutting = zero dollar cost. Wet cutting = $10 attachment and a clients hose. So why would anybody ever invest thousands of dollars into dry dustless cutting?
DRY CUTTING SUCKS AND IS COSTING YOU A LOT OF MONEY
Saying that dry cutting costs nothing leaves out all kinds of externalities that are probably pretty important to you and should be taken into consideration. Lets have a look at the dry cutting is zero cost argument. Basically this argument has no basis in reality at all. Everybody knows that cutting dry makes huge clouds of dust, so at the very least we must pay for the labour to hose everything down everyday and pass that cost onto you. Not only that but what about the hidden costs? I don’t know about you but I would be pretty upset if my brand new car was blasted with dust or if I just had my windows cleaned and they were now covered in a fine dust that is dangerous to my health. Even worse if you forgot to close your window on a hot summer day and now a fine layer of that nasty dangerous dust has settled on every surface in the house. Not going to be sending any referrals our way any time soon I would imagine. So we can’t really measure the intangible loss of future business but we sure can gauge the drop in courteous relations when the dust bomb goes off at your house. Lets face it, your neighbours are already pissed that you are doing the work at all so its the least we can do.
WET CUTTING SUCKS AND COSTS YOU A LOT OF MONEY
Now lets take a look at wet cutting costs. Its pretty clear from the start that its going to cost more than ten bucks to cut wet. We still need to clean up that nasty cementitious slurry that got on your house and stained the brick and splattered the plants. So in fairness we should include the cost of cleanup in our original quote, another (hidden) added cost to you. At least you won’t have to deal with health concerns in and around your home so there is that small comfort.
THE TRUTH IS THAT ANYONE WITH A TRUCK AND A STONE CUTTING SAW CAN MAKE A MESS IN YOUR BACK YARD
What separates quality contractors from the rest of the pack is the quality of the work they do and how they invest back into their business in innovation to make your home safe and clean during and after construction. That is worth a little extra in my humble opinion. Anybody who wants to try this out be forewarned you need serious sucking action.
HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY SUCK
A regular dust vac is really not going to cut it. The secret is sucking enough air fast enough (measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM). Its going to take at least 200 CFM to make it work. That would be the equivalent of filling up this 26 foot truck and a cube van in ONE MINUTE!
WHICH VACUUM SUCKS THE MOST?
Clearly I spent way more time nerding out and figuring out how this was going to work than the average landscaper. I have to give credit to Gary Riesky at Terraform for showing me what was possible (dry dustless point of source collection on a monster stone cutting table saw, don’t even get me started). Researching the possibilities was pretty dry, so naturally I did a spread sheet to compare all the options. Here’s the lowdown on vacuums, they come in all shapes and sizes, cost from $60-$5000 and won’t really do any good for our application until you hit the $2000 and up models. Thats not including the investment in shrouds and hoppers to direct all that dust into the hose. More on those later.
Testing out the low and mid range models was a flop for chop cuts. Most of the larger commercial models are manufactured in the united states so paying the exchange rate and not being able to test them out was a deal breaker for me.
Special mention to this beauty made in the USA!
The Ruwac WNS2220 “little red’
I was so blown away by the power of this vacuum that after seeing it in action I literally told Steve from Domax to “load it in my truck right now” and gave him my credit card without another word.
No this is not a scene from die hard. I was very thankful not having to explain what this looks like to law enforcement on the way home. The next part of the story is all about shrouds and hoppers (point of source extraction for those of you keeping score). I am probably telling this story backwards but starting off with witty banter about shrouds didn’t quite have the same cache.
YOU HAVE TO CATCH IT BEFORE YOU CAN SUCK IT
I have to back up a minute here to explain that there are 4 common types of cuts we do on the job. Each type of cut has to have a different setup or you will have a mutiny on your hands and/or suck no dust.
THE CHOP CUT
By far the most common cut and the easiest one for sucking dust. (see video above). I bought a DustBull from Canadian Equipment Outfitters that attaches to the bottom of a quick cut saw (14″ Stihl 420 w/ diamond blade). They cost around $500 but it works and I am not the kind of handy to reverse engineer this thing and build one on my own. Still it really sucks when the attachment is almost 1/2 the price of a brand new saw.
THE RIP CUT
When you want to make a long cut, the dustbull gets in the way and forces you to cut at an obscene angle (see note about mutiny from the troops). I tried it and it literally sucked. So next up I tried the Husqvarna K3000 electric with 14″ blade.
With a couple very big exceptions this tool shows great potential. You need to have 20 amp power outlets for this to work reliably (something we rarely have working on old houses downtown). Also using quality electric cords are key to not ruining your saw. Options are to plug into a kitchen outlet or bring portable power to the jobsite. Also electric saws are slower than gas so there’s that. On the plus side that little boot attachment sucks up almost everything.
CUSTOM CUTS FOR WHEN YOU NEED TO DO THIS…
These cuts need to be total precision cuts and the Milwaukee 9″ Grinder works great for this. However the shroud I got for it from Makita is an absolute clunker.
Landscape crew chief and stone cutting savant Brandon overheards that day included “I am never going to cut with that”. The thing about this shroud is its sheer size prevents a great view of the cut and reduces the flexibility to cut in confined spaces. The muttering and rumbling were so loud that I took it to my metal guy for some serious modifications. What we ended up with was like the difference between a K car and a smart car.
SO YES ECOMAN ACTUALLY DOES SUCK
After 1 day of cutting we collected over 20lbs of dust on our first job of the season. Thats 20lbs of dust is not going into your lungs, plants, windows neighbours homes and surrounding air. I doubt we will ever fully eliminate dust from the equation but we’re working on it.