Volume 10, Issue 1 January/February
Challenges and Trouble Spots:
Window Shapes and Location Bring Challenges
(Part II of II)
by Les Shaver
On first glance you wouldn’t expect Sandor Hodosi, owner of G&H Window Tinting in Coral Springs, Fla., to have many film jobs that he dreads. With many years of experience of the industry and a resume that includes a spot in the 2005 Flat Glass Tint Off, you aren’t taking a leap of faith to assume that Hodosi is at the top of his field. But even he has jobs that he dreads. In fact, the jobs he hates most are the highest—those that are 30 or 40 feet above ground.
“Every job has its own type of difficulties, but the toughest job is where you have to hang a big piece of 8-mil film 25 or 30 feet above the ground as you’re balancing on the top of the ladder,” Hodosi said. “That’s the toughest one.”
Many of the competitors in the 2005 Architectural Tint Off don’t like working high off of the ground. Outside of height, the shape of the window and the frame cause the biggest nuisances for tinters. While each tinter in the 2005 flat glass competition had their own problem installations, they all seemed to agree that experience and patience go a long way in helping them solve the riddle of difficult jobs.
To most tinters, jobs high off the ground provide a myriad of challenges. First is the balancing act of placing film on the window. Then there’s the issue of going up and down to get supplies. This is one thing that troubled Mark Stevenson, head installer for Class on Glass in Orlando, when describing a particularly painful job at a large church in Orlando.
“The piece of film that I had was 72 inches by 110 inches,” he said. “I had to fold the thing around myself, motor the thing up and then stick it up there.
Squeegeeing the job proved especially annoying for Stevenson.
“I had these squeegees that I attached long pieces of wood to, just to get the film in place,” Stevenson said. “I had to squeegee the center four feet of the film, then go down, get out of the bucket, go squeegee another four feet, go back down, go to the other side and go back up. It was a nightmare.”
But beyond the nuisance of going back and forth to get film is a bigger, more personal fear.
“The only thing I’m really concerned about is that I have to work up high,” Hodosi said. “It’s not just because of the difficulty hanging the piece, but it’s the possibility of dropping 30 feet and breaking both of your legs or dying.”
Stevenson also has these fears.
“You get in a bucket, go 20-, 30- or 40-feet high,” Stevenson said. “The bucket is swaying back and forth and you have this huge piece of film. That’s pretty scary. I still hate them because I’m scared of heights.”
In fact, Stevenson has many stories of his young installers going up in the bucket, looking down and completely losing their bearings.
“One of my employees went up 40 feet to do a job,” Stevenson said “He looked down and just said, ‘Oh my god. This is really high.’ I just told him not to look down.”
While Charlie Arakelian, president of Northeast Tint, in Springfield, Mass., doesn’t list heights as a big challenge, he does put skylights in that category.
“The first issue with skylights is balance,” Arakelian said. “Five out of ten times you’re hanging off of a large ladder, and having the ‘Zen’ of perfect balance is the key. Usually, you have to walk up the ladder with one hand, or no hands, carrying the film up to the unit. Controlled breathing is vital, so your body has no sudden movements when setting your piece against the glazing. Depending on how large the skylight unit is, the installer might have to juggle two ladders.”
Fortunately, there is one advantage to doing jobs up so high: the chances that customers ever inspect the job is very slim, so mistakes often go unnoticed.
“As a professional window tinter, I know that if you tint windows that are 30 feet up in the air, “Nobody is ever going to go up and look them,” Stevenson said.
He even has one particular job to prove this point.
“There was a window that had a point to top it,” he said. “Seventy-two inches didn’t quite make it. It was three-feet short. There’s a triangle piece that’s seamed 37 feet up in the air and nobody knows about it.”
When flat glass installers aren’t scaling heights, they’re normally dealing with clutter around the windows. The biggest offender: wood frames.
“Wood frames are hard,” said Mike Stanfill, owner of Totally Tint in Havelock, N.C. “Historic houses with the French panes are the hardest to do. You have a lot of wood and paint chips to deal with.”
Ron Jones, owner of Film Solutions Unlimited in Sarasota, Fla., and winner of the 2005 Architectural Glass Tint-Off, has similar issues.
“If the wood frame is old, it’s very flaky,” Jones said. “That makes it very difficult to get a clean installation. You keep having to deal with little chunks of paint.”
To deal with these chips, Jones suggests less is more. In this instance, less water is better. He admits this goes against conventional wisdom.
“You’d think you want to flush the chips out,” Jones said. “But the more you flush it out, the more water that hangs in the frame and then weeps from the frame back under the film, pulling paint flakes with it.”
The plotting machines have actually helped Stanfill when he tackles frames. Before the cutting machines, he would be forced to blade the window. Then, on his regular cutting machine, he would cut the film to the width of the window.
“With the plotting machine, you can put the dimensions in the computer,” Stanfill said. “Then it will tell me how many cuts I can get. I have less waste that way.”
Paint chips are definitely a problem, but Jones also has issues with silicone in windows.
“When you trim silicone off of the edges, it always seems to pop up here and there,” Jones said. “So you really have to
control the contamination.”
Putty and grout can cause similar problems. The key, again, is how you use water, according to Jones.
“With putty or grout, you have to watch the amount of water you use and how you use it,” he said. “If you squeegee the film down, it pops back up like a finger. Some guys squeegee all the way to the edge and all they’ve done is push the water to the edge. As soon as they pull the squeegee away, the film springs back. When it does, it creates suction and drags everything from the edge of the window back to the film.”
To deal with this, Jones urges patience.
“You have to take your time and get used to the different types of installations,” he said.
In the final analysis, this is probably the best advice for all kinds of film installation. While practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect (even experienced tinters make mistakes), it certainly reduces the chances of error.
“Every job has its nuisances, but experience prevails,” Arakelian said. “With each one you do, it gets better. Eventually your instincts will prevail.”
Les Shaver is a contributing editor for Window Film magazine.
The Security Dilemma
Some tinters list shapes of windows, elements around the windows and height of windows as their biggest challenges.
Ron Jones, owner of Film Solutions Unlimited in Sarasota, Fla., cautions that the type of film can also present problems.
He said eight- and ten-mil films give him the biggest hassle. For one thing, they have a pressure sensitize adhesive.
“If the adhesive touches itself, it’s done,” Jones said. “If there’s any direct sunlight on the glass, you have to keep the film wet. If the film dries, you destroy the adhesive.”
Then there are the cutting challenges.
“It will cut you back,” Jones said. “The eight mil is difficult to cut. It gives a lot of people a hard time.”
In other words, the process of installing eight mil is battle. To win that battle, Jones suggests squeegeeing it hard. That often means squeegeeing twice and using tools.
“On four mil, you can use a block squeegee,” he said. “On eight mil, you need a squeegee with a metal back. It has to be stronger. You also need an extension handle so you can use two hands and get your body weight into the window.”
Bent out of Shape
Charlie Arakelian, president of Northeast Tint Co. based in Springfield, Mass., and the second place winner of the 2005 IWFE Architectural Tint Off, provides tinting services in more than six states and has installed hundreds of thousands of square feet of window film in his 15 years of tinting. In that time, he has come across every type of different window unit on the market and has developed techniques to handle each of them. In fact, he’s spent so much time with windows, that he’s produced a DVD video (available March 2006) to help tinters around the world master some of the toughest installations. Here’s a look at three of his hardest windows:
1) The Full Circle Window: “With this window you will need to take a square piece of film and make it a circle without any creases,” Arakelian said. “First, place the film with one finger leading ahead of your cutting knife, with just enough pressure to indent the curve and not crease it while you’re cutting. Starting from either the very top center or very bottom is a good way to tackle cutting the full circle. Use a soft credit card tool with your cutting knife that flexes with the circle’s curve to give you the full motion necessary to cut from one side to the other.’’
2) The Double Half Moon Window: “This unit has structured double curves on the top and bottom,” Arakelian said. “There is no straight edge to line the film up to. A tinter has to measure correctly the height and length. Make sure to add a few extra inches. Before placing the film on the unit, triple check that everything near the window has been cleaned, because the film will be resting on the border sucking up dirt underneath your film while waiting for you to cut it into place. Be patient. This window needs attention and detail. I recommend starting by trimming off excess film and getting it into proper form before you squeegee it into place. Next, squeegee out a small amount of water, just so the piece will not move. Start cutting the smaller half moon. Roll your fingers into one of the corners, creating the indent you will need to cut a smooth round shape. Next, cut both left and right sides to satisfaction. Cutting your top will be easy, either left to right with a full sweep motion, or from center to left, center to right. Squeegee the rest of the water, wipe off all edges, and you did it!”
3) The Trapezoid Window: “With these multi-angled windows, good preparation on the ground will make tinting these a breeze,” Arakelian said. “You will want to measure the height of the tall side and height on the small side. Cut out the approximate shape of the window on the ground, and make sure you are cutting the right side of the film. If you don’t do this, you will be working triple time to battle the piece of film from flapping over and falling off, while trying to trim it. Figure out which side is going to be your straight edge, set the piece into place and squeegee out 80 percent of the water. I always squeegee out my top first to ensure no dirt or dust can spread, then proceed to work out the middle, flowing with left to right motions. On all windows, never squeegee too close to your borders, as it can bring in unwanted dust from the edges. Trimming is fast and easy. Tuck one corner, either the very top or small side top, and begin by cutting your film from corner to corner. Depending on where the straight edge is, cut sides and then trim the bottom. Peal away the excess window tint, squeegee out all excess water, wipe edges and it’s finished!”