“Repairing and Preserving Your Adobe Home”
by Roy E. Spears
copyright 2002-2020. All rights reserved.
Copying, pasting, editing, and/or sharing electronically without prior permission from the author is strictly prohibited.Chapter 8
Sprayers and helpful hints for applying SILOX WATER REPELLENTS
Adobe Masters uses backpack sprayers for all of our spray jobs. At one time I used electricity powered airless sprayers.
In the beginning of my painting career, I became well acquainted and skilled in the proper usage of an airless sprayer, amazed at how efficient and time saving they could be. When I began focusing on restoring adobe homes, I naturally brought into the business my knowledge and respect for the amount of work an airless sprayer could produce. Yet there proved to be fundamental differences between painting and applying water repellents that made the use of an airless sprayer a benefit for the former and a nightmare for the latter.
Often, when painting the exterior of a house, the projects are somewhat centralized. For instance, it may be the front or back porches are the only items that need repainting, or the eaves and fascia. Airless sprayers can be tremendous time savers in these instances and I used them frequently for these applications. When applying a water repellent to the exterior walls of an adobe home, you treat all the walls except for the areas underneath large porches. As previously mentioned, large overhangs and generous porches effectively protect the adobe from the elements, so it is not necessary to treat the adobes underneath them. This translates into considerable savings in money and time masking these areas which are usually covered with multiple windows and sliding glass doors.
You will also be going up on the roof to spray the chimneys and parapet walls. All this running around applying the SILOX with an airless sprayer means you will be dragging and pulling an airless hose around with you wherever you go. This can cause considerable emotional trauma when the hose gets tangled around and caught up in every conceivable place where a hose can become wrapped around: vent pipes, swamp coolers, satellite dishes, skylights, antennas, bushes, walls, rocks, etc. The list is endless, and I believe that one of Murphy’s Laws state that “wherever an airless hose can get tangled up in, be assured that it will happen.”
On one memorable project I was treating both the parapet walls and the chimney on the roof of an adobe home, becoming frustrated because my airless hose kept getting wedged between the mission tiles covering the front porch. Since I had the sprayer on the ground with the hose draped over the parapet walls and falling on and between the mission tiles, it seemed that after every few feet I would have to stop and jerk the hose free. This is not as easy as it sounds: if you jerk the hose too hard you can break any number of the tiles, so you have to exercise extreme caution.
Just prior to climbing on the roof to spray the adobes, I had filled up my near empty bucket of SILOX placed on the ground; this bucket contained the siphon tube that my airless sprayer was connected to which supplied the water repellent to the airless. Becoming extremely frustrated with the constant entanglement of the airless hose between the mission tiles, I gave the hose a mighty jerk to free it, forgetting that I was at the end of the length of hose at this point with no available slack. That final yank pulled the siphon tube out of the freshly filled bucket of SILOX, tipping its contents onto the customer’s driveway. I think I might have cried over this unfortunate and profit-draining incident.
Needless to say, using backpack sprayers solved this annoying and sometimes costly host of problems.
Your airless hose will probably not be of sufficient length to allow you to keep the machine on the ground and still be able to spray all the areas on the roof that need to be reached. This becomes quite strenuous when you must carry the airless up on the roof as you climb the ladder—a chore that I have performed alone on countless occasions. This is not only dangerous but can harm your back, particularly if the sprayer you are carrying is a heavy one. I have predominantly used the ½ horsepower electric Campbell Hausfeld units that do not weigh much; they are not as dangerous to carry as the heavier and more powerful gas or electric units.What are far more dangerous to drag up on roofs are pressure washers. My company also applies roof coatings, and our standard procedure is to pressure wash the roofs clean before applying the coating. I find it easier to have the pressure washer on the roof while cleaning it than to have the machine sitting on the ground where I am endlessly fighting, pulling and yanking on the hose as I move around the roof. Being extremely heavy gas operated units, it is always a dangerous and comical scene to haul these on a roof.
It started as a two-man operation, with one man following the other up the same ladder. One man climbing up and holding on to the machine with one hand, and the other hand holding the handle of the pressure washer that he carried below him. The other man would stand on the ladder below and hold the pressure washer with his one hand while holding onto the ladder with his other. Slowly, step by step, we would both make our way up the ladder until we reached the roof line, where we would hopefully have a third man waiting up top to help pull the heavy piece of equipment over the parapet and onto the roof.
It was not until many years later that one of my employees had a moment of brilliance and suggested that we make use of two ladders. Leaning side by side a couple of feet next to each other, we would place the pressure washer on the ground between the two ladders, and one of us would grab the handle with one hand and the ladder rung with the other. The other man would do the same with the other handle on the other end of the pressure washer. Then, we would slowly walk up our own ladders in unison, and the entire process was so easy and simple that it made me scratch my head in bewilderment on why I did not think of this idea myself—years earlier.
Backpack sprayers have their disadvantages, however, with the predominant one being the weight of the filled unit on your back. We use five-gallon backpacks, and the weight of this is considerable. Simply trying to pick up a backpack sprayer filled with water repellent and putting it on your back without injuring yourself takes strength and a certain amount of finesse. I have found the best solution is to have someone help me by lifting the backpack up high enough so that I can slip my arms through the straps. Often times this becomes impractical when everyone is engrossed in his or her assigned duties and I can’t rely on someone else always being available to help me out.
For those situations when I have to go solo in lifting the unit onto my back, I try to find a four-foot high wall that I can first rest the backpack on and then wriggle into the straps. Again, this solution is limited because many houses don’t have four-foot high walls. This is when finesse comes into play, for there is a certain set of movements you learn that enables you to be able to place the backpack on with the least amount of strain.
Climbing up a ladder with a full backpack sprayer is dangerous, particularly when you are at the top of the ladder wanting to climb over a parapet wall. The full sprayer is awkward and can easily throw you off balance as you are climbing over the parapet. The best solution is to fill the backpack with just two or three gallons; you may need to refill it if you run out, but this inconvenience is preferable than risking an accident with a full sprayer.
This is an excellent point to discuss ladder safety; it cannot be stressed enough. Accidents that occur because of someone being careless on a ladder are so common they almost become mundane. But one should never think that because the topic of ladder safety lacks glamour that the subject should not be discussed. On the contrary, ladder safety could well save you from an early grave, if not serious and permanent injury.
The first line of defense against being killed when using a ladder is to make sure the ladder itself is of high quality. The ancient, wooden ladder that your father’s father grandfather used, though no doubt having sentimental value, needs to go. Use it for kindling and purchase a top-quality aluminum or fiberglass one.
Never use a stepladder to get up on your roof. There are few things more foolish in life than to use a six-foot stepladder to climb on top of an eight or nine foot roof. Please, don’t do it. Ever. Always use an extension ladder of the appropriate length.
Pay careful attention to the weight rating on the ladder you intend to purchase. Unless you weigh in at less than 140 pounds, don’t use a ladder rated “Household.” Purchase the next rating up, the “commercial” or “light commercial.” Remember, this is your life that the ladder is going to be holding up; don’t skimp to save a few bucks. Contractors spend a significant portion of their lives climbing up and down ladders, so make sure you purchase the best equipment possible. The life you save will not only be your own, but an employee or perhaps even a cherished loved one.
Spend all the time you need to in properly setting up your ladder. What I mean by “properly setting up your ladder” is this: the two “feet” or “pads” of the ladder, that portion that makes contact with the ground, must be as level as it is humanly possible to make them. You must insure that the top rungs of the ladder which are leaning against the building are also as level as you can make them. The one situation you want to avoid at all costs is to set up your ladder and then, as you are climbing on it, it suddenly and unexpectedly shifts on you and you are thrown off balance. This is one way people are thrown off the ladder.
There is more to this than you think. If the only surface you were ever going to put a ladder on is smooth and level concrete, there would not be too much to discuss on this particular subject. In reality, a smooth and level concrete surface is the exception rather than the rule when you are working on your adobe home. This has been my experience as I work on hundreds of adobe homes.
Rather, it is more expected to encounter uneven and rocky ground when setting up an extension ladder. There is often bushes to deal with. The larger and more numerous the rocks, the more difficult and frustrating it is to properly set the ladder up. Uneven terrain is also common and frustrating to work with.
I am pleased to report that in over thirty years in climbing up and down ladders, I cannot recall a single instance when I feel off of one. This did not happen because I was lucky, though I believe that on some occasions I was lucky to have not fallen off. Rather, I spent the required time that was necessary to safely set my ladders up and always followed some basic protocols when going up and down them.
Here are a couple of items I discuss with each and every employee who works for me. If they are inexperienced with ladders, I explain to them my philosophy of ladder safety. I will say something similar to this:
“When you are on a ladder, life slows down. You are never in a rush. Never. Not at one time. You never have both hands full of equipment when climbing up or down a ladder. One of your hands must always be free to remain in contact with the ladder. Go slow. Watch where you put your feet. Slow down. Don’t ever be in a hurry.”
I attribute this little bit of advice for never having an accident on a ladder. If you feel for some bizarre reason that you have to run or rush while on a ladder, you need to find an alternate occupation because this kind of foolish thinking and behavior will kill you in the long run. Even worse than dying from falling off a ladder would be to become permanently paralyzed from an accident. I could not imagine a more horrific existence than being a quadriplegic permanently confined on some hospital bed with only the ability to move my eyeballs back and forth.
Pay attention to overhead utility lines. Watch everywhere when you are carrying a ladder. Go slow.
Again, take all the needed time to make sure your ladder is properly set up before climbing up it. Take all the needed time. Go slow on that ladder. Never rush. Heed this advice and stay alive and healthy.
Finally, don’t just read what I have written on ladders and ladder safety and think that you are now sufficiently educated to purchase a ladder or safely use one. Get on the internet and google “ladder safety” and thoroughly educate yourself on this vital subject. There is more on this subject than you might think. Your safety on ladders will closely correlate to how much knowledge you glean on this all important subject. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you learn about ladder safety.
As mentioned elsewhere, having at least one helper when applying water repellents is almost mandatory. Having two helpers is preferable. A helper carrying up extra water repellent for you when you are spraying on the roof is crucial, and this individual can also be hosing off the roof or rinsing away over spray off of mission tiles or anything else that can’t be coated with the SILOX.