by Steve Maxwell
Living Through the Mess: Drywall dust survival guide
If you ever find yourself
in the company of a group of homeowners who've survived a major live-in renovation campaign, prepare yourself for a familiar
lament. It usually starts something like this: "You should have seen the drywall dust at our place. We sealed that new
rec room with plastic and duct tape while they were working, but the dust still got everywhere!"
think that's bad? We burned out our central vac trying to clean up after the renovators, and we're still finding drywall dust
everywhere. Things got really bad when the Mounties showed up asking questions about suspicious white powder on recent letters
originating from our address."
The only thing that lasts longer
than commiseration about drywall dust is the labour-and-delivery stories I overhear when my wife's ladies-only book club meets
at our house. Misery loves to reminisce.
Except for writing the massive cheques that fund major household upgrades,
enduring the horrors of drywall dust is the most painful part of any building and renovation project. It's dirty, troublesome,
invasive and it kills ordinary vac motors almost as fast as a direct lightning strike.
But as bad as that fine white
powder is, the trouble it inflicts is also unnecessary. As long as you understand the modern options for relief, sanding drywall
can be virtually dust-free. The key is correct equipment. The fact is, there are at least a couple of tools you or your contractor
can use to keep the rest of your house surgically-clean during work, and they also happen to be Canadian inventions.
of the reasons tradespeople have been slow to embrace drywall dust control is that it offers no direct advantage to them.
Homeowners generally deal with the mess, so there's no incentive to invest in anything more elaborate than a pole sander and
a couple of sheets of 100-grit garnet paper. The Porter-Cable #7800 dustless drywall sander is a Canadian-designed product
that was picked up and manufactured south of the border, and it's now at the leading edge of the drywall trade around the
This unit works in tandem with a shop vac made especially for drywall duty, and I know from personal experience
that the system works amazingly well. While sanding new drywall as part of a church renovation (near some red carpet and dark
woodwork), not even bright halogen floodlights showed any dust floating in the air or tracked on the floor. The 7800 is fast,
too, since it's 8 7/8"-diameter abrasive pad is motor-powered. Switch-on, then move the spinning end of the wand against
the wall with mild pressure and the drywall compound gets smooth. The machine I used came out of the box with a 100-grit disc,
but I found this too aggressive. A 150-grit disc works better and gives a finer finish, though no matter what you do, the
machine can't quite get into corners.
At a cost of $650, the Porter-Cable drywall sander is obviously
for professionals. You might be able to rent one for do-it-yourself work, though there are at least two less expensive, low-tech
options that also happen to be Canadian, too. The Vac-Hand and Vac-Pole by Quebec-based A. Richard Ltd. are hand-held drywall
sanding pads that are hollow, hose-equipped and dust-hungry. Connect them to a shop vac and you'll get most of the dust before
it leaves the wall. But whatever you do, remember one key thing: drywall dust is extremely fine, and this means it plugs vacuum
dust filters tight in no time. This reduces air flow through the machine, causing the electric motors to overwork and overheat.
That's the reason so many workshop vacs expire shortly after being pressed into drywall duty, but it doesn't have to be this
way. The key to survival is filter maintenance and quality. Consider an upgraded HEPA-rated aftermarket filter for any vac
you use on drywall, and clean it often. Call us for your construction
cleaning cleanup jobs large or small.