Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator: Part 9

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator: Dressing for the TradesCollage: construction, hard hats, people at work, tool belts, women
Credits: MS Office ClipArt - j0434449

Part 9 - Dressing for the Trades
You know, a gal can find out all sorts of things about the construction business; which tools to use, how to use them, which construction methods to use etc. This information is available quite widely on the web, books, magazines and DIY TV shows.

But nowhere, does someone interested in getting into the trades as a career, do people tell you how to dress for work. Honestly. And it took quite a bit of experimentation for me to discover exactly how to do that.

No matter what the weather, you are going to be wet all day long, either from rain, melting snow or sweat. The important thing is to keep warm while you are wet. And here is exactly how I do it.

Let’s start with work boots. There are tall ones and there are ankle ones. I find the ankle length ones good for summer and lighter construction work, but when I am pouring concrete, I want the taller boots, as concrete is quite abrasive and you want your protruding ankle bones to be protected. I also like to purchase the more expensive boots that are entirely rebuildable.

Now, good boots take some time to break in and feel comfortable. I always cringe when I see someone on a construction site with brand new booties, knowing full well that their feet are going to hurt like the dickens later on. Once you are in a trade, it is advisable to have 3 pairs of boots, so you can break new ones in slowly, and you can allow any leather ones to air dry instead of force drying, which shortens the life of the leather. And speaking of leather, please, please clean and grease you boots regularly. It keeps the leather soft and supple, and repels fluids. And carry extra laces with you to the site.

There are specialty trade boots. For example, welder’s boots have a special exterior "tongue" on them which prevents the molten slag from burning the laces. It drops to the floor and helps prevent the slag from lodging in a crevice of the boot and burning your feet.

Iron workers have "Red Wings" - a type of boot distinct by its maroon colour. It has more eyelets than most boots and a white sole on them that is softer than regular workboot soles, which helps to grip the iron better. These are the pair I use the most for a few reasons. One, they were the fastest ones to break in, and two, the white soles mark floors less than black soles do. Three, they are devoid of any heels and because the soles are softer, they slip less on ice and wet ceramic floors.

There are all kinds of workboots out there. You need to pick the ones that best suit your trade. Pick ones that aren't too heavy and a little larger, because your feet will swell during the day. Ones that have breathable fabric on their tongues are also very prone to leaking moisture in.

I also own steel-toed running shoes, steel-toed rubber boots and steel-toed snow boots, as well as Baffins, a steel-toed rubber boot that has a liner like a snowmobile boot.

Gloves - there are so many types to list, I'm not even going to try. I have long fingers, but if I buy gloves long enough, the fingers are too wide as they are made for a man's hand and the extra material is a hassle. If I look for women's gloves, they aren't usually large enough.

The most important information I have to share about how to dress in construction is the following:
  1. Wear polypropylene socks, and long johns. These wick away water from your body and keep it dry from rain and sweat.
  2. Wear a cotton T shirt over top of the polypropylene to soak up the water that the poly repels.
  3. On top of that, wear a good old Stanfield's grey wool sweater. It keeps you warm even if you are soaked. If wool makes you itch, wash this many times before wearing and it helps to keep the itchiness away. Some people could wear wool longjohns (not me) and keep them from being itchy by turning them inside out and burning off all the little hairs with a tiger torch first.
  4. Lastly, wear a good rubber rain suit, not those cheesy yellow plastic ones. Rubber is much hardier, and if you catch it on something like rebar and it rips, you can just take some rubber cement and patch them with inner tubing.
Coveralls, jeans etc. are all a matter of personal preference. However, I have found that some coveralls shrink and keep shrinking when you throw them in the dryer. And I get dirty enough every day that my work clothes need to be washed everyday. So if you pay big bucks for coveralls, let them air dry or be prepared to lose weight.

Dress for success!

See Marissa McTasney's "Tomboy Trades Ltd." Brooklin, Ontario
Elizabeth Johnston's "Toronto's Working Women Workwear"
and for women's fall arrest harnesses (it's about time)

Janice Bell
Bell Renovating
2009 © Janice Bell

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator
Part 1: All in All
Part 2: Weld on Fire
Part 3: They Were Nailed
Part 4: It Pays to Be Honest
Part 5: Rural Renos
Part 6: Messy Is Costly
Part 7: Door Hell
Part 8: Just Where Do I Stop?
Part 9: Dressing for the Trades

links: These boots are made for workin'
With more women entering the skilled trades, Whitby mom saw her niche: a line of totally cute female-friendly work wear
By Lisa Wright
ToolGirl: Mag Ruffman's Official Web Log: Workboots for Women in Red, Green, Blue and Pink Construction fashions for women
Elizabeth Johnston models of the her innovative work clothes designed specifically for women who work in the construction trades
By Patricia Williams
charm and hammer:
Safety Gear for Hard Working Women™

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