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New Trends in Sandblasting

Sandblasting

In this article, we'll take a look at the residential applications of this heavy-duty cleaning method, as well as review the many different types of blasting products and their uses. In addition, we'll give you some tips for finding the best and most reliable sandblasting professionals in your local area.

While many think of sandblasting as a purely commercial method of cleaning, there are many residential applications for it as well. Sandblasting involves propelling sand, or another product, at a high velocity in order to remove paint, remove oil stains, or to expose the grain of wood.

How Sandblasting Works

While there are many different types of materials used in blasting, the same basic principles are used to power the method. Pressurized fluid, air or a wheel-based mechanism is used to propel the particles toward the surface to be blasted.

A hose fitted with a nozzle is attached to the air compressor or blast pot, which the operator uses to direct the blasting material where it's needed.

In order to power the process, most residential sandblasting jobs rely on diesel powered motors. These motors power an air compressor, which supplies air to the blast pot. Blast pots are simply containers holding the blasting medium. In certain applications, such as those which incorporate soap, water and a blasting agent, several blast pots are connected.

There are home versions of sandblasting equipment available for skilled handymen. While it is possible to safely and effectively sandblast on your own, the process is above the skill level of most home handymen. Unless you are familiar with the process and have experience, this potentially dangerous process is best left to the professionals.

Different Blasting Materials

While the name itself implies that sand is used to blast paint, rust or other unwanted substances off a surface, in reality sand is only one option.

  • Wet Blasting Blasting using water has several practical applications. Soap or other cleansing agents can be delivered along with the blasting agent in order to wash the surface while simultaneously blasting away unwanted coatings or stains. This type of blasting is often used in cleaning concrete driveways, since cleansers and blasting agents work effectively together to dissolve grease and oil then carry it away. Wet blasting also creates little to no dust, which is much healthier for the operator and anybody in the immediate area of the project. Breathing in the fine dust created by traditional sandblasting can be toxic, and is unpleasant at best. If you plan on hiring a professional to perform wet blasting, be sure to ask about environmentally friendly cleanser options. The water from wet blasting runs down into the ground, making gentler, green products a better choice.
  • Bead Blasting In applications which require a more delicate touch, very fine glass beads are used in place of sand or another harsher blasting agent. These beads are smooth, making them much less likely to damage the surface being cleaned. Popular applications for bead blasting include the removal of hard water stains, fungus and mildew from pool tiles and their surrounding grout work.
  • Dry Ice Blasting Dry ice, also known as Co2, is a substance you've probably seen used during Halloween in fog machines. This ultra-cold substance gives off vapors which look like smoke or fog. Due to its intensely cold temperatures, dry ice can make paint or other coatings brittle enough to be blasted off using only air power. This type of blasting is popular on surfaces which may be damaged by using particle blasting.
  • Plastic Blasting Another gentler form of blasting, this method uses tiny plastic particles to power away paint, rust or dirt. Plastic blasting materials are usually recycled waste from plastic manufacturing applications.

  • Corn Starch, Baking Soda and Wheat Starch These products are among the gentlest used during blasting. Their most popular applications include historic buildings or statues, since they can remove most stains and coatings without damaging even the most delicate surfaces.
  • Shell Blasting Yet another gentle form of blasting, this method involves crushed nut shells or kernels. While not as gentle as baking soda or other soft methods, shell blasting is appropriate for many applications which would be harmed by more traditional sand or metal blasting.
  • Metal While it's a commonly used form of blasting, metal blasting has little use to the residential consumer. Shards of metal are very effective in removing paint and rust from other metal surfaces, such as large pipes. However, most home surfaces would be harmed by this process.
  • Silica Sand Silica is how sandblasting got its name, although the use of actual silica sand has fallen out of favor. This blasting agent creates a great deal of dust. In years past, sandblasting workers often came down with a serious lung condition known as silicosis. We now know that silicosis is a direct result of breathing in silica dust on a long term basis. The use of silica sand is now banned in many countries. Where it is still allowed, silica must be coated with special resins to reduce the amount of dust produced. Workers must also wear heavy duty dust masks.

Residential Applications for Sandblasting

The most popular application for residential sandblasting is the removal of paint. Instead of dangling precariously from a ladder, chipping away endlessly at paint on your home, an experienced team of professionals can remove the paint from your entire house in a short amount of time. Depending on the size of the crew, a house can often be cleaned in less than a day. For the removal of paint, traditional sand or plastic beads are the most common blasting agents.

If you live in a home with a brick exterior, ensure that your sandblasting crew uses a suitable blasting substance. Softer materials are almost always recommended for brick and masonry, unless you want to intentionally texturize the surface of the brick.

Cleaning driveways, sidewalks and paths is another very popular application for sandblasting. These surfaces often benefit from wet blasting. If your driveway has become stained by grease and oil, wet blasting can deliver hot water, soap and a blasting agent at the same time. As the water and cleansers break down the stubborn stains, the blasting agents power them away. Wet blasting is a better choice than power washing for older concrete stains, since the blasting agents allow deeper penetration and can actually take off a very thin layer of the concrete. It's a good idea to have your driveway sealed after any blasting procedure, to preserve the effects and keep your driveway looking newer longer.

Pools and patios which feature tile surfaces commonly accumulate unsightly deposits from hard water. In addition, fungus and mildew thrive in these moist areas and can turn grout green or black. Blasting using glass beads is popular for this application. If your pool or patio features intricately designed or textured tiles, ask about softer methods of blasting such as shell or baking soda.

Woodwork can be stripped by hand, but the process is long, tedious and potentially toxic. Blasting makes quick work of the job, even if your woodwork is covered in several coats of paint or stain. Depending on your desired result, many different blasting agents can be used. Some homeowners love the rustic look created by using harsher blasting agents such as traditional sand, where others want to maintain a smooth surface and require plastic or glass blasting.

Safety First

While today's sandblasting is much safer than some methods used in the past, there are inherent risks to the process. This is why sandblasting is something which is usually best left to professionals. However, there are safety precautions that should be taken even while professionals do the actual blasting work.

Blasting of any kind (with the exception of wet blasting) creates a certain amount of dust. If the blasting is taking place outside, it's a good idea to stay inside, and keep children and pets indoors as well. If your sandblasting project involves an interior surface, such as woodwork, the contractor you hire may ask you to leave the house while the actual blasting is taking place. At the very least, you'll be asked to leave the immediate area for your own safety. After the blasting is finished, your contractor will let you know how long it should take for the dust to clear out. Fans are usually used to speed up this process.

If you know or even suspect that any surface to be sandblasted may contain lead, let your contractor know immediately. Only professionals who have been specially trained should work around lead, especially in an application which creates breathable dust. If your project involves the removal of lead paint, you may be asked to vacate your house during and immediately after the blasting to avoid any chance of breathing in hazardous dust.

Due to the high-powered nature of sandblasting, it's extremely important to keep children, pets and yourself away from the immediate area. Stray pieces of blasting agents can seriously injure the skin and eyes. Operators should protect their faces, hands and any exposed skin.

Finding a Sandblaster Near You

Home improvement websites are your best bet for finding the most reliable and qualified sandblasting professionals in your local area. By searching these sites, you'll be able to find out about licensing, certification, hazardous material training, and insurance. You can even read reviews from former clients, giving you valuable insight into how an individual or company operates while on a job. Once you've narrowed your list using these criteria, start making phone calls. Choose the contractor or crew you feel most comfortable with, and who have the most experience. Sandblasting can be dangerous, but when handled by responsible and skilled professionals, it's a fast and effective method of removing unwanted stains, rust or paint.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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