Volume 10, Issue 1                     January/February  2006

Architectural Area

by Ron Jones

The Difficult Installation Dragon

Wouldn’t life be grand if we could spend all day applying film to 2- by 3-feet windows at waist height? Well I haven’t come across any homes or buildings with that set-up. What are these architects thinking? They make little windows and big windows, both of which make our lives more challenging. 

Sliders are great. Three- by five-foot rubber gasket windows are also great. What about 58-inches by 16-feet tall (prior to 72-inch material)? Oh yeah, it’s tinted glass, pressure sensitive (PS) adhesive on safety film, and just to make it that much more fun, let’s put the bottom of the window ten feet off the ground, an arch at the top, vault the same and put popcorn ceilings around it. Okay, so now it starts to get fun. 

Would You Like to Super-Size That?

Window size affects the difficulty of an installation. Sometimes they’re too big, sometimes too small. I guess you might say, “size matters.” Any time you have to stick a piece of film that is wider than your arm span or taller than you are, it gets dicey. Big windows? An extra pair of hands is nice, but if they’re not available, reverse roll. 

My first solo job was a 4- by 9-foot wood framed window … 4 feet high, 9 feet wide. Let’s just say that one took me a while, but I persevered. I had never heard of the term ‘reverse rolling.’ I now live by it.

Reverse rolling is also known as a “California roll,” which I just thought was sushi. This is a technique that all flat glass tinters should know, and know well. It consists of rolling your rough-cut film with the liner in. The tighter you roll it the better. Separate the liner a few inches and stick it back to the outside of the roll. As you unroll your piece of film, the liner is peeled and sticks (static cling) to the back side of the film. Nice clean installation, and it acts as your extra pair of hands. Try it with some scraps around the shop; it’s a very cool technique. Don’t ever let a window beat you.

Also, spray your mounting solution from the bottom up; this will reduce the chances of the top drying before you have a chance to lay the film. I’ve yet to install in a zero gravity environment; water runs down, not up. 

Small windows? Two words: paper cutter. Go to the office supply store and get a good one. I’ve done windows as small as 2-inches by 2-inches and had to squeegee them. Of course they were painted wood frames in a door. Big fun. Patience, patience, patience and use as little water as you can get away with. 

You’ve Been Framed

Don’t you just love old flaky painted wood frames? They’re just about as much fun as a root canal. At least you get paid to do French panes. Some of the wood frames can be almost nice when the owners maintain them. The higher end frames usually are the nicest. They’re starting to make some wood composite/laminate windows, which will look like wood but should install like aluminum or vinyl. 

Rubber gasket aluminum framed storefront is a piece of cake to work, but take out the rubber gasket and add in some silicone and oh what fun we’ll have. 

The absolute worst frame to have to deal with (which luckily is rare these days) is heavy metal framing with putty or grout. Foul language can be expected when dealing with a water-based application. Water + putty = mud … and lot’s of it. We should all be grateful it’s very rare these days.

High Flying Days

Ever feel like Spiderman? Those of you who have done some of the custom or higher end homes, or large commercial projects, know what I mean. If you’ve ever thought, “What would OSHA think of this?” you know what I mean. 

And for the record, OSHA no-no’s include: ladders on top of scaffolding, lack of safety harnesses, 8-foot long, 2- by 12-inch single plank for a walkway 20 feet up, duct taping a core to the top of an extension ladder and leaning that up to the frame only of a window 20 feet up, and anything that requires another person to hold your belt while you lean out over an abyss. I really can’t tell you what makes me think of these things, vivid imagination maybe, because I just couldn’t see myself doing them … again.

Spiral staircases with three-story glass walls right next to them, skylights, sloped glass on an exterior application, boom lifts, scissor lifts, scaffolding, window washer platforms. You get the drift? Gripping a ladder rung with your toes through your work boots is tough on the leg muscles. As I’ve advanced in years, I’ve learned to appreciate life and gravity.

Be safe. It really isn’t worth it not to be. Think about how much time and money you’ll lose if you’re laid up in the hospital.

Steal My Sunshine

Obviously you want to try not to hang film in direct sunlight but this is not always possible. In the case that you have to, try getting your film pre-cut and ready to go before you ever touch the glass. If you prep three windows, the first is hot again by the time you get done with number three. Every time you wet the window you reduce the glass temperature slightly. Think about this: wet the glass to scrape, wet the glass to squeegee, wet the glass to mount. If you put film to glass right after that, your glass will be as cool as you can get. Unless of course you have someone outside hosing down the side of the building, in that case pay no mind to the little man behind the curtain.

PS: Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen. WF

Ron Jones is the former owner of Film Solutions Unlimited Inc. in Sarasota, Fla. In 2005 he was named World’s Best Architectural Tinter at the International Window Film Tint-Off.

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