Scaffold Shrink Wrapping – What Materials Will You Need?

Shrink wrapping a temporary roof

Scaffold Shrink Wrapping – What Materials Will You Need?

Scaffold Wrapping Materials – What Will You Need?

If you are considering gaining a competitive edge by offering shrink wrap sheeting to your customers, this 5 item check list explains what materials and equipment is involved and gives you some tips on how to get the best deal from your supplier.

1. Scaffold Wrap Film

Shrink wrap film can be used to cover sides and/or the roof of a scaffolding structure to provide robust weather protection & environmental containment.

  • Scaffolding shrinkwrap is a low density polyethylene film (LDPE), generally supplied as a 7m wide x 15m long roll.
  • Although each roll will cover 105 square metres, because of overlaps and offcuts, I recommend that you allow for 90 square metres / roll, when calculating how many rolls of shrink wrap film are going to be required for your project.
  • 300 microns is a typical film thickness. Thinner films, though suitable for internal scaffolding use, may be torn easily when fitting, whilst thicker films become heavy and difficult to weld/join properly.
  • Choose a film that has been developed and tested for shrink wrapping scaffolds. Although different shrink wrap films can appear quite similiar, to get the best results you need a film that will weld and shrink even in tough weather conditions.
  • Most construction sites will insist that the scaffold wrap materials you use are flame retardant. There are two common flame retardant standards in the UK that you need to be aware of. The EN13501 is the basic level that a flame retardant scaffold wrap film must achieve and is widely recogised. However, a shrink-wrap film that meets the more extensive LPS1207 and LPS1215 standards issued by the BRE’s Loss Prevention Certification Board may be required on some projects. Check before ordering.
  • Whichever you use, ask your supplier to send you their flame retardant certification and check that it is up to date.
  • Shrink wrap sheeting is not re-usable. However, once it is cut from the scaffolding, (it does not actually weld/stick to the scaffold tubes themselves), it can be bundled and collected for recycling.

Buyers Tip

  • Although a supplier will supply you rolls in individual quantity, there will probably be a discount at the ‘pallet quantity’, which for a 7 x 15m roll will be equivalent to 30 rolls or 1 ton.
  • If you need to buy just 1 or 2 rolls ask your supplier if they can send you the rolls of shrink wrap film using a courier as this can work out cheaper than shipping an entire pallet.

2. Shrink Wrapping Heat Gun

The hot air gun is used for ‘welding’ the shrink wrap sheeting around the scaffold tube and of course heat shrinking the scaffold wrap ‘drum tight’.

  • A powerful tool! Typically 40-72kW or 136,000 to 245,000 btu/h.
  • Powered by propane gas, (normally a red cylinder). I find a 13 Kg gas cylinder is generally easiest to use and move around a site.
  • A new shrink wrapping heat gun is generally supplied complete and ready to use with a regulator and 8-10m long hose. Try and choose a hot air gun that is supplied in a hard plastic carry case to prevent damage when being transported to and from jobs.
  • You may find some hot air guns look like ‘roofing torches’ used for heating bitumen etc. Whilst these can also be used for shrink wrapping my main concern with these is that the gun produces a constant flame, even if the operator should drop the tool. I prefer hot air guns that incorporate a ‘dead mans handle’ – if an operator drops the hot air gun and/or releases the trigger, the gun stops and there is no flame whatsoever.
  • A number of manufacturers produce heat guns for shrink wrapping pallets and these are generally quite suitable for shrink wrapping scaffolding. Well known manufacturers are Ripack (France), Shrinkfast (USA), Shrinkit (UK) and Guilbert Express (France).
  • Although a single hot air gun is enough to get started and carry out small shrink wrap jobs of up to 150 square metres, you will need at least two hot air guns to get the shrink wrap job completed in the most efficient way.

Buyers Tip

  • Don’t forget your leather shrink wrapping gloves, sometimes called ‘welders gauntlets’. It is is essential you wear welding gloves during the shrink wrap welding – the shrink wrap film can get quite hot! See if you can get your supplier to throw a pair in for free.

3. Shrink Wrapping Clips

A re-usable metal clip that is used to temporarily hold sections of shrink wrap sheeting in place prior to heat welding.

  • Not 100% essential, patch tape can also be used to hold the shrink wrap film in position prior to heat welding, but they do considerably speed up a shrink wrapping installation work and can work out more cost effective in the long term.
  • Generally supplied as a box of 100 shrink wrapping clips.
  • Clips can be removed as soon as the shrink wrap sheet is welded into position. If you are careful to collect the clips afterwards, one box should last a long time!

4. Shrink Wrapping Tape

Shrink Wrapping Tape is used to repair small holes, tape welds and seal around any protrusions

  • A thick white polythylene tape designed to ‘blend in’ with the shrink wrap sheeting.
  • Normally supplied as a 100mm wide tape on rolls that are 33 metres long.
  • A shrink wrap patch tape should be easy to tear by hand. A ‘pinked’ edge to both edges of the tape (a zigzag cut during the manufacturing process) can make tearing the tape by hand a little easier.

Buyers Tip

  • Most suppliers will supply you patch tape as individual rolls. However, there will normally be a discount for buying tape as a box of 12 rolls. Ask your supplier.
  • If you use a good quality shrink wrap film you should not have to tape along the lines of any welds and this can save a lot of unnecessary extra costs.

5. Training

Whilst scaffold shrink wrapping is a straightforward concept, most find some kind of shrink wrap installation training useful, to get the benefit of learning from someone elses experiences and to get certification that they can give to customers to prove they are competent.

  • Try and look for a training session that combines a theory and practical training with some on site support for your first job. In my experience, scaffolders who have additional on site support for the first one or two jobs they are undertaking are more likely to get the results their customers are looking for and carry on to become experienced shrink wrap installers.
  • I think the best training is carried out by those who have first hand experience of what can and cannot be achieved with the shrink wrap project. Make sure you find about your trainers experience and qualifications.

Buyers Tip

  • The costs of shrink wrap training sessions have been falling steadily over the last few years so negotiate hard to get a good deal for your company. After all, once you are trained, your supplier should benefit from shrink wrap material sales in the long term.

The information here is an introduction to the materials and equipment required for shrink wrapping scaffolding structures and how to get the best deal from your supplier. To find out more, contact our friendly team today!

Steve Irlam
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