It wasn’t long into home ownership that I realized how invasive remodeling activities can be. We’re talking killer bees, alien invasion, zombie apocalypse kind-of invasive. What starts off as a minor, “trivial” repair can quickly morph into a house-wide gut remodel that consumes your life and your life savings. It’s not just the scope of the job that can be invasive, it’s also the mess. Dust, debris, dirt and even hazardous substances like lead will manage to find their way into every far-reaching nook and cranny of your home. If you let them.
Needless to say, remodeling is stressful enough without the invasive grime. But if your significant other is finding sawdust all over their freshly laundered clothes things can get real ugly, real fast. Luckily, when we bought our home about 8 years ago, I quickly invested in a ZipWall kit to help keep the chaos contained, and my marriage intact. We recently got back in touch with ZipWall and they sent some updated product our way to review. Before we dive into our review (and a brief video tour), I’ll give you a quick run-down on a few of the ingredients we used in our particular ZipWall creation.
ZipPoles – The Cornerstone of Marital Harmony
The ZipPoles are the true bones of your enclosure. Without them, your enclosure is just a pile of plastic on the ground. Keep in mind you’ll need to supply your own plastic sheeting, and don’t use that whispy .00000000001 mil sheeting. You want something thick enough not to rip and tear with the pokes and prods it will inevitably receive during your job. The ZipPoles consist of three collapsible lengths topped off with a spring-loaded stem that enables you to securely mount the pole between the floor and ceiling. A simple twist lets you adjust length in mere seconds, and a twist back locks the length securely in place.
The ZipPoles are topped with a ball and socket two piece plate that sandwich your plastic sheeting and yet still maintain a firm grip on the ceiling. While it absolutely accomplishes its job as designed, We think the ball and socket could be improved for easier removal. We’ve had times when we needed to change from a ceiling pad to a foam rail, or have needed to remove a foam rail. It’s doable; you basically twist the socket off the ball-end until it breaks free. However, in the process, you typically wind up damaging the plastic on the socket and/or ball. It seems like a more elegant system might be possible that makes it easier to pop the ball/socket free without tearing up some of the plastic in the process. It’s a minor negative in an otherwise stellar design and function of the ZipPoles.
ZipRail Dual Seal – Deadly Ninja Weapon or Awesome ZipWall Innovation?
While ZipWall has had Foam Rails for years, this new ZipRail Dual Seal system is the new kid on the block. The ZipRail Dual Seal kit we used includes three slightly modified ZipPoles along with three pairs (six total) Foam Rails. The Foam Rails attach to one of six included clips that have a socket built into them. ZipWall cleverly drilled a hole in the center of each foam rail and included a little spike with each attachment clip. These two little details make installing the clips in the exact center of each foam rail a breeze. Once the clips are attached, you simply pop the socket on each clip over the ball at each end of the ZipPole. What you then have is something that resembles a new-fangled deadly ninja weapon. Rather than use it as a weapon, we suggest you use it to secure the plastic at the top and bottom of your ZipWall enclosure. Doing so creates a very nice seal in a matter of seconds and eliminates or reduces the need for securing the plastic with tape (which can come lose and/or mar the surface you are taping).
One minor issue we noticed is that the ball assembly at the bottom of the zip pole was loose and would often fall out when the ZipPole was held vertically. One solution to this is to flip the ZipPole upside down, but doing that seemed a little counter-intuitive since the regular ZipPoles are used with the springy end up. Ultimately, this minor flaw actually turned into a benefit. When it came time to store the ZipRail system, it was easier to pop off the whole foam rail and clip assembly altogether than to pry the ball and socket loose or try to unclip the foam Rail Clip. The loose base clip had no effect on the system once installed, it just made carrying the assembly a little trickier. All in all, the ZipRail Dual Seal is a welcome improvement to the ZipWall system. It makes sealing the tops and bottoms of your enclosure far more efficient, clean and easy. And with four foot rail lengths, it doesn’t take long to seal off your entire enclosure.
I Have A Dust Enclosure in Our Bedroom – That’s Normal, Right?
Thanks to the ZipPoles and ZipRails, along with some plastic sheeting, I had a dust enclosure setup in our bedroom in no time. Before you get any ideas, no, it was not setup around our bed for some sort of elaborate role-playing, OK? Instead, it surrounded the final upstairs window on my restoration/replacement list. The job is exceedingly messy thanks to paint stripping I was doing on the frame and sill of the window (follow lead-safe precautions if you’re doing any work with lead paint). The ZipWall enclosure simply allows life to go on as usual in the house, despite the chaos, debris and dust inside the enclosure. To give you a sense of what the ZipWall enclosure looks like, I shot a brief video tour that also highlights several accessories and features.
Directions – Who Needs Them?
Alright, I have a confession to make. In the eight years I’ve been using my ZipWall kit, I’ve never bothered to read the directions. Typical male behavior, right? While I was unboxing the new ZipWall gear it occurred to me I had a journalistic obligation to investigate the finely nuanced details about how the Zip products function. To boldly discover how I am supposed to use the product. To delve into best practices. In other words, to read the damn directions! Thankfully, ZipWall made them all fit on a small single page. Total time investment: about thirty seconds. Should you fail to read the directions like I once foolishly did, allow me to share a few key tips:
- Use the Grip Disks –
ZipWall’s grip disks don’t look like much, but they are essential to a strong ZipWall setup if you’re working on any type of remotely smooth surface. Without the grip disk, air pressure on your enclosure can easily push the base of your ZipPoles, causing them to slip out, even if you put solid tension on them. The rubbery grip disks go under the base of the poles (and you tuck the plastic wall between the bottom of the pole and the top of the Grip Disc). The result is a ridiculously strong ZipPole installation resulting in a ZipWall far less prone to catastrohpic failure (falling down) since you didn’t read the directions.
- Install the Top First –
I think I did this correctly at least half the time, but this is another key direction worth mentioning. By getting the top in place first, you’re able to stretch out the sheeting and tuck it under the base of each pole more effectively.
- Take Air Currents Into Account in Your Pole Spacing –
Around 4-6 feet between poles is good for projects like ours that are open to the outside. You can get away with up to about 10-ish feet between ZipPoles if you have little or no air movement to put pressure on the sheeting.
- Plastic Thickness –
ZipWall recommends you don’t go with anything under 1 mil thick. Working with plastic under 1 mil can be like wrestling air. Super thin plastic builds up tons of static, sticks to itself and is prone to tearing very easily. While the locking mechanism at the top of the pole will go up to 8 mils, going with the lightest plastic that does the job well is recommended from both a cost and environmental standpoint. Factor in what kind of work is happening inside as well as air pressure. Light work with little air pressure means lighter plastic will do the trick. Heavy construction, material handling, longer-term enclosures and/or higher air pressure all demand heavier plastic (likely in the 3-5 mil range.
- Enclose the Floor Too –
On smaller enclosures like ours, I like to use longer plastic so I can enclose the floor too. If you have plastic that’s long enough, you can use the leftover plastic at the bottom of your walls to enclose and protect your floor (not just at the bottom edge, but the whole work area). On super-messy projects I actually cut a couple extra pieces for the floor that I can bundle up and trash once a bunch of debris accumulates on the floor.
ZipWall vs. The Great San Diego Windstorm
San Diego, it’s a city not known for its extreme weather. In fact, it’s a city known for its non-extreme weather. Naturally that changed as soon as I put up our ZipWall enclosure and opened up our bedroom to the elements. At about 2am I was awakened by what sounded suspiciously like extreme weather. In particular; wind. Granted it was a far cry from the devastation wreaked by the East Coast’s latest “Perfect Storm”, but we did have winds that I would guess were whipping around in the 20-40 mph range. It brought down some trees and stripped a lot of branches off palm trees. Thanks to our recently removed window, that wind was free to blast straight into our bedroom and directly into my sealed ZipWall enclosure. I was convinced that the ZipWall was going to come down. Amazingly, it not only stayed up, but it barely moved (well, the plastic certainly moved, but the structure of the enclosure didn’t budge). Thanks to the Grip Disks and Dual Seal foam rails at the top and bottom of the three walls, this enclosure was more solid than some stick-framed houses I’ve seen. Very impressive performance.
Conclusion & Where To Buy
If you’re a contractor that does remodel work, having a ZipWall kit at your disposal is a no-brainer. Clients will love the fact that you don’t completely destroy all of their house at once. The use of ZipWalls during remodeling activities can make your home downright livable in the midst of very messy activities. Temporary walls can come in very handy. If you’re an enthusiastic homeowner that likes to get your DIY on regularly, a ZipWall kit might even save your marriage. ZipWall manages to contain the chaos, debris and dust more effectively and efficiently than any other strategy we’ve seen. Check out the following links to pick up your ZipWall goodies right from Amazon: