Shrouding 101 - Tales from the Jobsite

In the past, I used to come up with imaginative ways to collect dust while working on renovation jobs.  Now, with the July 15th announcement, I don't have the creative license to come up with my own containment resources, as power tools MUST be either shrouded or equipped with a HEPA vacuum attachment.

The good news is that manufacturers have developed the tools we need to capture wayward dust.

And, those creative devices that we dreamed up … such as cutting a basketball in half to collect dust created while drilling a ceiling, or imitating an octopus by holding a vacuum hose up to saws, sanders, and drills with one hand while attempting to accurately work with the other, can now be distant memories.

My own crews have used tools specifically made for dust control, for years, like the Hitachi circular saw (originally made for cutting fiber cement siding), a Porter Cable drywall sander, Festool orbital sanding systems, and others with vacuum attachments.  But the truth is the new requirements for tool shrouding is creating an even better dust control system.

Dust and chip shrouds can be used on drills, drywall sanders, hand grinders, saws, orbital sanders, paint scrapers, and floor sanders, among other tools.

Dust shrouds are power tool attachments meant to greatly reduce airborne dust by containing and funneling particles into a vacuum system.  Some incorporate bags, or give the option of a vacuum attachment, but adding a HEPA vacuum to the system meets EPA requirements, and provides the greatest degree of dust control, which manufacturers claim to be as high as 99 percent.

Unfortunately, dust shroud systems are not always readily available to purchase in "brick and mortar" stores at this time, as a shopping trip recently proved.  This included big box home improvement centers and actual tool stores.  All of the clerks I talked with had no idea what a tool shroud was, or had seen a system using one.

But don't despair … there is availability on the internet.  There are a number of outlets and manufacturers to pick from, and some can ship for free and save sales tax, in some cases. 

Some of the systems are as simple as adding a shroud to your existing tool, like the 3M™ Random Orbital Sander Clean Sanding Shroud PNA1348.  It can be ordered in a box of ten disposable units.  These offer a low-cost alternative to buying new tools designed with shroud systems.  Keep in mind, though, models designed with shroud systems will likely provide a higher degree of dust collection, as well as a longer lasting and more user-friendly product.

A good selection of shrouding options can be found at
Dustless® Technologies, including several models for hand grinders alone.  The company also offers an adaptable shroud called the Dustie, an inexpensive way to convert your tools to contain dust. This uses a flex-flange mounting collar, kind of like a band clamp, to hold onto your grinder, providing a very easy installation.
It is made of flexible, lightweight plastic that, according to one supplier, permits the operator to work at a variety of angles while capturing 99% of the airborne pollutants.
The company offers several different models for a variety of jobs.  For example, you can modify the front edge of a Dustie™ by trimming it to custom shapes, suitable for decorative concrete cutting, tuck pointing and crack chasing.  Even though these are not likely RRP situations, this illustrates that dust shrouds are really good solutions to other problems on the job. 
The ChipBuddie™ handles paint chips, dirt, dust and debris as it is dislodged while removing popcorn ceiling and other overhead material.

There are several good drywall sanders with excellent dust control systems, on the market, such as the Porter Cable 7800, the Hyde Dust- Free Sanding Kit, and the Goldblatt Dust-Free Sander. These could be used in RRP situations, as well as in new drywall work.

The Negatives:
We see a very big drawback of using a sanding shroud is the reduced visibility and ability to watch the cutting edge of a sander as it is moved along. The only way to monitor progress is to move it in and out or away from the previously worked area.  It takes a little getting used to, but seems worthwhile when considering the huge improvement in dust control

Another complaint is that some shrouds are too flimsy and have actually gotten sanded or grinded down while using the tool as intended, so it requires modification by the user to stay functional.  Sometimes the user just gives up and removes the shroud altogether, making the vacuum system basically useless and violates RRP.  I must add that most of the shrouds I have seen seem pretty rigid and stand up to a fair amount of typical jobsite abuse before becoming ineffective or broken.

Any time a tool is connected to a vacuum hose, it is difficult to work with in tight areas.  It has more restrictions on mobility, range of motion and the working area can be compromised by the increased size of the tool.  The tool itself is heavier and the process of work is more difficult due to extra hoses and power cords to maneuver.  Quite often it leads to more fatigue than when using a tool with no dust control attachments.

Obviously there is an added cost factor to the tools themselves, and while we all know how expensive our tool inventories are in remodeling, there is justification for buying something that makes for increased quality of work.  It’s a pretty small price to pay for a lot less cleanup, as well as jobsite protection from airborne dust particles ... not to mention staying compliant with RRP.