Applying window tint is an art form, and one that requires a deft touch and lots of experience. The right tools help, too.
Setting up the perfect workspace for tinting isn’t something every shop can invest large amounts of money into right away, but a few organizational changes here and there can make your work go more smoothly.
We talked to window tint installers across the country to find out what they’ve done to make their shops more productive, efficient and professional.
Stephanie Rasmussen, owner
Low Country Window Tinting
For automotive tinting, we always recommend everything to be done in shop. Outside, you can’t control the elements. Any time you can work inside a bay with central heat and air, you can control the amount of dust and dirt and contaminant that can get into the film. Clean filters in the air conditioning and heat systems are really imperative to limit contamination.
It’s important to have light colored walls and mirrors on the walls, and the best lighting you can have. The floors need to be some type of material you can spray, scrub and squeegee off debris, which we do every week.
We have four separate work benches in all four corners. The bay area is 1,600 square feet, and we have four installers. Everybody has their own work bench built into wall with their own set of tools. We do have one central main tool station where we keep all the extra stuff. We have a water source with a filter on it-even city water needs to be purified. Window film can be contaminated just with particles in the water solution.
We just custom built this whole building, and moved in March 1. I’ve been tinting for 14 years. I went from roughing it and now I feel like I’m in a 5-star rated hotel because we were able to custom build it the way we needed it. If you’re looking at space already built and designed, lighting is imperative, and so is wall color. A lighter color wall is going to attract less dust that clings, and when it does you can see it. Mirrors are on the wall to hold the film, especially if you’re using a plotter that precuts the film for you. We have 4-by-8-foot sheets of mirror, two on one wall, two on another.
The important tools to keep nearby are heat guns, paper towels, Windex with Ammonia-D, a good supply of squeegees and stainless steel blades to scrape with. We scrape all glass with a stainless steel blade. You need a good water source, good film, and a basic toolbox-you never know when you’re going to have to take a brake light out of the back window, or a door panel off. So I keep a set of starter tools that contain is sockets and screwdrivers. You need whatever slip solution you’re going to use in your water bottle, and a drop light with extension cords. We use a couple of drop cloths to put in the back deck of car, to minimize how much water gets on the customer’s car while we’re inside working on the vehicle.
We set up our shop with a rack that’s 10 feet long by 12 feet tall, with shelving 3 feet in between. We keep our film in the boxes so we always make sure that the lot number matches the roll of film, and nothing gets mixed up. We put the top of the box underneath and leave it open with the lot number facing so we know what film it is and where it goes when we put it back.
It is very nice to have automatic door openers on the bay doors themselves. That way you can quickly pull a car in and out by yourself. We set ours up so it would be a drive through. We have a bay door in front and back, so we can drive through and keep them going. Garage door openers played a good role in that, everybody has an opener.
Andrew Loegering, installer
We have a shelf with all of our old film, and a big glass board where we do most of our cutting. When we do doors, we sit on stools. We have fluorescent halogen lights that we use when we cut film, and a work belt or pouch with all our squeegees, cards and knives. We hang a lot of our tools from hooks on pegboard, and regular toolboxes too.
My most important tools are a sharp knife, heat gun, good hard cards or squeegees and a straight edge for cutting tint. Florescent or halogen light are the most vital things, and of course water.
If I could change anything, I wish the shop was a lot bigger. The other thing that would be nice is a bigger piece of glass that we spray with water to put our film on. Ours is 4 by 8 feet, but it could be bigger. Other than that, everything’s good at our shop.
We keep film in its original boxes, and take it out when we need it. We keep the scrap for little windows, and we keep that on a glass board. We keep different darknesses together, and store it in a labeled box.
If I could design the perfect shop, I’d probably have an 8-by-16 piece of glass for tint, with two lights above it. I’d probably have a big hose to bring around the whole shop instead of a jug. Instead of having the tint stacked in boxes, I’d have hooks so we could just pull the tint off the roll.
The important thing is don’t short yourself on tools and supplies, or you will put yourself in a bind where you have to run out and grab stuff when you’re in the middle of a job.
Tammy Kendall, owner
Our shop has a roll-up door and space for two cars. On the walls we have racks for films, and a counter with supplies. It’s fairly simple because if we put too much stuff in there, it gets cluttered. We need an area for tools and racks for tint.
We have toolboxes and different areas for different things; like a cabinet on the wall for felts and blackout tape. The guys each have their own toolboxes with their own tools, and they keep it separate. They wear aprons with their Olfa knife, squeegees, blackout pen, spare blades, hard cards and other necessary tools.
If I could design a new shop, I would like a larger door. Right now we have to pull one car in at a time, and the tinters sometimes have to stop their work to move cars. Other than that we have plenty of storage in our shop. We have cabinets in the back for filing and office supplies.
My husband and dad built square racks that fit each roll perfectly, and we take the film out of the box on its plastic ends. When the tinters need it, they can just pull it out and unroll it. It’s really good for the film since it doesn’t get creased and they know exactly where to find it each time. It’s always in the same place and labeled.
In the shop we use florescent lights, and we installed more than was there initially. The more lighting the better.
It’s usually a pretty good climate here. For a few months out of the year it gets really hot, so we keep everything closed up and air conditioned to keep the tinting area cool, and we use space heaters in winter. You can’t have stuff blowing around because it’s very dusty here, so we try to keep the air current down.
We work to keep things really clean. Something we have that not all tinters like is a window where customers can look into our shop while their car is being tinted.
Tammy Kendall, owner
I have a truck that has everything I need in it, a shop building, and I go to people’s businesses and do tinting there.
In the shop, I have two bays that hold four cars. Heat and air conditioning are a must; you do not try to tint a car when it’s 100. Same with cold weather-you have to have a building good and warm to tint in the wintertime. We have tables, glass walls, tint splitters, cutters, and I have things spread around the room to make my job easier. We pull the car in and hook it up to a battery charger. You have to think of everything.
You want everything at waist level. If you are always standing up, you get worn out. When you are sitting on wheeled stools, you want to be able to reach what you need; if you get up and down, up and down all the time, you will wear yourself out. Next I’m investing in a mat that we can drive the car into. We wear steel-toed boots. It sounds strange, but if people roll over your feet or if you drop a knife, you’re not going to cut your foot open. It works-they’re waterproof, too.
Amateur tinters make my job harder. These kids jump out here buy film from Wal-Mart and slap it on cars when they don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve seen cars where someone used nail polish or superglue to install the film. Epoxy glue or rubber cement was my worst nightmare.
My favorite tool is my yellow Contour. With its point on the end, that tool gets everywhere and anywhere you want it to go. You always need a bottle of water near you, or even hook it on you. And you always have to have a knife.
I put everything in buckets-every girl has her bucket, with everything she ever imagined. Every tool they have in their pouch, they have an extra one in the bucket. If they lose one they don’t have time to call somebody and get another one. They are just 5-gallon buckets with little wheels on the bottom that we made.
For mobile work, I have an SUV. In the back I have every roll of film, and three laundry baskets with towels, extra cords, baby shampoo, Bounce sheets, all the supplies, bottles and razor blades. Then I have a bucket I take into the building with more extras.
I have pouches with a heat gun, cord and light. I don’t have a glass board when I’m mobile-I’m not going to bring one out and take the chance of breaking it. I pull off of a car at that point. What I have in the truck is what I have in the building. It’s crammed full, but I can take it and do 20 to 50 cars at a time. We’re mobile a lot. Dealers like the fact I come to them, do five cars and the cars never leave lot. They love it, think it’s wonderful. I am the only person at my shop who does it.
I keep all chemicals like ammonia separate in a metal cabinet. The jugs are on top, so you can turn a tap and fill a bottle. Most people don’t use them unless you’re doing a removal. They’re basically staying with sink or jug water. When I’m on a job site, I bring a 5-gallon jug of water just in case there’s not water there. I try to always be prepared. I have a small generator, since at some jobs they don’t even have electricity. You’ve got the headlights and a generator, and off you go.
We keep all films in a box, and never let it out of the box. If we have scrap, we roll that up in an empty box with the core removed. If you don’t take care of film, you ruin it and lose money. I roll up the film, mark what it is, and keep it in the box with the lid on. I have an extra box of scrap in the car and in the building. I put a sticker on a piece of tint, and this year I started putting the date, too, in case the customer comes back in with a problem.
One thing that helps business -¦ you have to know their [customers’] kids’ names. It’s all about who you know and what you know.