Construction Tech Crew: Smart A.S.S. Tools

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At last week’s Construction Tech Tuesday, cohosts Shaun St-Amour, Mark Wille, and Kevin Brennan played a little show and tell with some of their favorite tools that keep their air barriers free of leaks. Most of these tools are not expensive or difficult to find and can be picked up at just about any hardware store. If you missed the episode and have an additional tool (or tools) that you think the Passive House trades community should know about, leave a comment on our YouTube page.

As Shaun mentioned at the top of the episode, there are three tools that need to be on any job site: safety glasses, a mask, and earplugs. (We want everyone to stay safe out there!) In addition to that, every Passive House project needs to have signage reminding the workers on the site to avoid unnecessary penetrations to the air barrier. Furthermore: Tape is everything in the world of air sealing. If it is not installed correctly, the adhesive will not work correctly and you will have a leaky project.

And with that, on with the tools!

Shaun St-Amour

Shaun talked about staying warm, his handy staple gun, his applicator gun for liquid applied products, and several tools to help him make sure his tape is properly installed.

  • Scissors or a knife to cut tape. If it’s going to be warm, stick with a knife. If it’s going to be cold, you may want to bring a pair of scissors to keep your fingers attached to your hand.

  • Fingerless mittens. Warmth without the loss of dexterity.

  • Tape applicator. Most of the time a handheld card applicator will suffice. For difficult to reach corners, Shaun sometimes uses a carpet tucker tool.

In addition to these tools, Shaun also likes to have a staple gun handy (rather than a hammer tacker) for affixing membranes and an applicator gun for liquid applied products.

Mark Wille

First things first: Mark reminds us that duct tape—which can be used in everything from car maintenance to minor surgery—is not a high-performance tool. It does not belong on a Passive House jobsite, so keep it in your truck.

For Mark, the items that should make it to the site include:

  • A wide array of pencils. More than you think you’ll need, since they always tend to go missing.

  • Knowledge. Watch videos, read articles, access directions, and speak to others on the phone or at the site to learn all you can and become a little bit better at what you do every day. In addition, once you have that knowledge, you can spread it to others.

  • Rollers. Similar to the card applicator or the carpet tucker, handheld rollers (including rollers specifically for corners) allow you to make sure your tape is applied correctly.

  • Cutting devices. “You want clean, tight, effective cuts.”

  • Trowel. When dealing with the foundation to the wall detail, you’ll often run into debris and rubble that needs to be cleared away. A small trowel will help you do just that.

  • Squeegee. Smoothly install membranes.

  • T‑shirts about airtightness. Or ones that advertise Passive House Accelerator.

Kevin Brennan

Kevin got right down to business with what felt like a few dozen tools to prevent and fix leaks (or as he phrased it, “to fight the invisible”). Some highlights included:

  • Headlamp. You can’t find holes unless you can see them.

  • Kneepad pants. Comfort is king.

  • Serrated fixed-blade knife. Ideal for cutting 2.5” tape.

  • Adjustable blade. For cutting anything else.

  • Radio. To bring the Phunk.

  • Battery-powered vacuum. “God’s greatest gift to the air sealer.”

  • Wipes. Kevin uses a Kimberly Clark bucket of wipes with a 70% alcohol solution mixed with some water. The wipes keep the site of the tape application clean and free of dust. As Kevin said, if it’s not clean, the adhesive won’t tape to crap.

  • Duct tester. It’s like a practice test for your real blower door test.

  • Smoke stick. Easy to use? Yes. Effective? Certainly. Toxic? Um…possibly.

  • Dry mil thickness gauge. To determine if your fluid-applied air barrier is thick enough.

You can learn additional tips and tricks by checking out the video below:

Author: Jay Fox