In the early days of precast concrete landscaping materials, contractors and homeowners were limited to small hand held units (typically 4” x 8” x 60mm) and standard grade patio slabs (typically 24” x 24” x 22mm). However, concrete pavers and slabs have had to evolve in order to meet the needs of growing industry standards and design trends. Inevitably, so too have the installation tools used for handling these innovative products.
In fact, technological improvements in manufacturing coupled with outdoor fashion trends have cultivated a large assortment of sizes and styles of pavers to be used for residential and commercial landscape projects. That being said, as in any industry, trends have been met with eyebrow raising concerns. My personal favorite being, how in the world do I install a 600mm X 600 mm X 100mm thick 183 lbs unit without damaging the unit and most importantly hurting myself?
The answer sucks…and I mean that quite literally. Modern tools with built-in vacuum suction are now amongst the most used in the industry. Surprising? I think not. After all, they greatly increase installation speeds for large units (their light weight and ergonomic design greatly reduces fatigue and injury). These vacuum systems fall into two camps; hand-operated and machine operated. The hand-operated units typically require two labourers to operate, once the vacuum attaches, the two workers can move the slab into place by carrying it with the two handles. To release the suction of the vacuum, one of the workers must squeeze the on-board handbrake, which results in a loss of suction. The tool can then be moved onto the next unit. This suction-release process happens instantaneously, which is impressive as these tools are even able to pick up porous and rough surfaced materials.
On the other hand, the machine operated units are designed to be carried by a small excavator, which is typically guided by a laborer on the ground who releases the pavers in place with the help of a button on the suction machine.
There are many makes and models of these suction lifting machines. However, regardless of the requirements of the project safety is always a suitable option. Now, if you live in North America, www.pavetech.com and www.paverplacer.com are your best friends. These brands carry a large range of products that can be easily browsed. As large slabs continue to dominate outdoor design trends, the availability and popularity of these vacuum-like tools are sure to increase.
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