By Richard Bermack, Contributing Writer and Photographer
Work at 350 Mission Street continues as the site is being renovated to become Salesforce East, West and the future Salesforce Tower, all part of the Transbay area development. One would expect that, as one of the tech leaders in business software, known for innovation, Salesforce would cover the building’s 27 floors in the latest and most innovative styles and the most functional floor system. Salesforce did not disappoint the floor installers of District Council 16, Carpet, Linoleum and Soft Tile Workers Local Union No. 12, who were excited to show off their work when On the Job Site visited. The workers were installing custom carpet tiles and Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) on a raised computer floor.
Modern technology, with all of its telephone wires, computer network cables, and power cords, can turn a workspace into a mess of wires. Raised computer floors were developed to provide a space to run these wires underneath the floor. A metal grid supported by vertical pedestals holds removable metal tiles that can be lifted up to gain access to the wires in the passageway beneath the floor. Other workers install the metal grid and metal tile subfloor. Then the floor coverers come in and work their magic, covering the industrial metal with a beautiful and comfortable surface that integrates with the removable tiles so that technicians can have constant access to the wires under the floor. Of course all the materials and working processes conform to green building standards.
The District Council 16 Local 12 members in this article are employed by Hoem and Associates. Hathaway Dinwiddie is the general contractor.
–Voices From the Union–
We are putting down 2 x 2-foot tiles over a floating metal subfloor. First we glue down a wooden underlayment to the metal tile and then nail it down. On this job we are using a special nail gun that speeds everything up. The metal tile has concrete in the center for acoustics. Before we had to drill holes and then nail the underlayment to the metal. Now we just shoot in the nails. The gun will shoot the nails through metal and concrete. Once we get it set up, the gun will counter-sink the nails to just the right depth. Then we cover with prepping compound and sand everything smooth. Once it’s smooth we can glue down the LVT. The gun and compressor system is made by Hilti and costs about $4000, but we can go about 10 times faster.
To sand the prepped underlayment, we use a waxer with a sanding disk. We put the adhesive down in 4-foot sections so the glue doesn’t dry on us. It is very nice stuff.
I’ve been doing floors for almost 20 years. This is pretty much my favorite job, with all the new materials and new stuff to learn. I have a good team, really good people to work with and a good superintendent and a good company to work for. They take care of you. We’re all like brothers.
Before this building, I did 27 floors on the Salesforce building across the street. This one we will be doing 22 floors, and then in three years we will get to work on the new tower. It’s going to be a lot of work.
My dad has been doing this for 20 years. I grew up hearing about all the things he did at work and watched him replacing all the floors in our house. He would be ripping up the bathroom or the kitchen repairing something. I remember all the fat pay checks he brought home. I really looked up to him.
I didn’t expect to follow him. I started out working for Comcast and Cisco Systems doing warehouse stuff. But then this opportunity came up, and now I’m following in his footsteps. It’s a great opportunity. It’s a lot more fun than working in a warehouse. I get to install all kinds of stuff and work with different types of tools.
I’m a first year apprentice and it’s all still new to me. I’m enjoying learning everything. Today I’m gluing and nailing the underlayment. I’m learning how you spread the glue and keep it away from the surface of the tiles, the walls, and not get it on yourself. There’s a lot of tricks, like keeping your gloves on.
One of my favorite things is cutting the round holes for the access plates. You have to cut a circle with a jigsaw. First I drill holes. Then I start cutting it like a pie and connecting the points. When I’m done, it comes out perfect. I’ve got a good sense of a circle. First we cut the underlayment and then use a knife to cut the vinyl or carpet around it. The lip on the cover is pretty small so you can’t be off by much.
I like working with my hands and being exact. Everything has to be close to perfect. You have to go fast but yet be really careful.
I’ve learned a lot from all the other guys. They are really good about showing you what they know as long as you listen and don’t say, “I know, I know.” I take the time to listen to what they are saying even if I think I already know how to do it, because I want to learn what each individual knows. Each one has something different to teach you.
This is a great job. The floor is clean, you have it to yourself for the most part, and nobody’s in your way. We’re putting down carpet tile and Luxury Vinyl Tile. We’re using Schulter Metal to finish off the removable panels. It’s a very nice system. When we’re done a small metal bead protects the LVT edges so the panels can be lifted without damaging the edges. The metal is the same color as the LVT planks and blends right in. We’re installing everywhere throughout the building and in the middle of the rooms so they can access them anywhere.
Luxury Vinyl Tile is a simulated wood product that looks like wood but is constructed of vinyl and PVC. It’s great to work with and it looks very nice, like real wood, when you’re done. We use a pressure-sensitive adhesive. You spread it on and let it dry and then press down the tile right on top of it. It’s easy to work with and clean up. It doesn’t smell too bad. It’s environmentally approved with a low voc [volatile organic compound].
We install the carpet tile with tape on the corners to float the carpet and make the tiles easy to lift up. The tape is much more environmentally friendly than adhesive. This has been a great job overall. I love working here. We start at 6 a.m. and get done around 2 o’clock. We’re on our way before rush hour.
I love this work. I’ve been doing it for 14 or 15 years. The best part is seeing all the floors and how they tie in to the room when it is all completed. We all just feel great when we’re done. Today I’m preparing the underlayment. We need to cover all the nail holes and joints. We need to hit every seam and nail hole and then sand it completely flat. That way, when we put down the tile, it will lay flat.This has been one of my favorite jobs. I’m cutting out around all the access panels and making sure they will look perfect when we’re done.