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A Day in the Life of a PCC Operator – The Sequel

Concrete Cutting

by Daniel Green

Recently, we detailed a day in the life of PCC legend Lucas Santos. Except that day consisted of only demo sawing for Perfect Contracting and core drilling for who we think was Zac Efron. We hadn’t even really scratched the surface of what PCC can do! So the powers that be thought it wise I spend another day in the passenger seat, this time with towering ex-Brit Reece Mundy.

Reece is 6’ 5” of the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s got the physical bulk to be able to manhandle even the largest of PCC machinery: the road saw. So it wasn’t without a sense of irony that we would spend a whole day going to site to road saw – but not even fire it up.

Life is like a construction site. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Reece lives in Mascot, so at 0630 one sunny Friday morning his shiny PCC van stopped kerbside outside the Station [a station that Lucas and I had recently cored holes for John Holland and TfNSW]. Soon we were on the M5 with warm coffee and good tunes. Reece is an absolute riot – every second thing he says is a joke. We were in stitches all the way to Camden.

A relatively new PCC client was constructing a sub-level keg storage/wine cellar in an old truck workshop they were refurbishing. It was destined to be a cool hangout for old-school car guys to park their rides and grab a beer & some fries. We were to cut the slab so the wine cellar could be built.

The Foreman, Chris, greeted us at the gate, led us inside, had us inducted, and detailed our scope. As we stood there checking over the works, it started to become clear that the road saw just wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, the existing building was a split-level design and the wine cellar slab was a full 600mm lower than street level. We searched around for machinery or ramps but there was nothing. An excavator was due that morning but it was delayed and there was only Reece, Chris, and myself.

Yep, it was time for Plan B. Reece called PCC GM Jaro Murgas and laid out the situation. Camden was his only job for the day so Jaro gave Reece the opportunity to take charge of the situation.

As we were more than an hour from the office Reece thought it best to make do with what we had. After checking the van for gear and consumables and discussing the options with Chris, Reece offered to make the cuts by hand. Because he didn’t have the cutting depth of the road saw he would have to scan the slab to determine its depth. The job would take approximately twice as long but it would get done today. Chris agreed to the extra cost.

Reece broke out the Hilti concrete scanner and spent thirty minutes checking the floor slab thickness. This clever device uses Ground Penetrating Radar to show the cross-section of anything below the surface. You can locate services within 10mm – both horizontally and vertically. Reece figured the slab was approximately 275mm thick in most areas. He also found what appeared to be some old services. Not wanting to take a chance he marked their location and depth.

Reece and I headed to the van while Chris marked out the cuts. We brought back a mile of gear: a demo saw, a ring saw, 30m of hose, jerry cans of two-stroke, gumboots, a raincoat, earmuffs, safety glasses, and the cradle. Reece explained the plan as we gophered the gear on several trips. Instead of making one deep cut with the road saw, we would make two cuts; the first with the demo saw and the second with the ring saw. When I asked why we bothered to bring the road saw at all he told me that it would have been much faster and easier. Fate however had determined he would be on a manual saw for most of the day. Luckily for him, we had the cradle.

By the time we were fuelled up and ready for the first cut, Chris had marked everything. Six double cuts would see us packing down. Already behind schedule, Reece fired up the demo saw, positioned the cradle, and began cutting.

For the uninitiated, concrete cutting is an experience. It’s an assault on every sense you have. Two-stroke concrete saws are mechanical beasts: the engine roars, the exhaust smells like a motocross event, slurry and sparks are flung like rooster tails, and your whole body vibrates – and Reece loves every second of it. By the time he’d finished the first of twelve cuts, it was just after 9 am. At the rate we were going we weren’t going to make it before the end of the day. Never one to quit, Reece had a mouthful of water and set up for the next cut.

As he worked his magic I took Chris aside and asked what the plans were for removal. He had a wet hire 5t excavator coming in on Monday to break the slab out and dispose of it. Somehow he had no idea that Perfect Concrete Care was part of the Perfect Group, nor that Perfect Contracting had the capabilities it does. When I explained it all he wished he’d known all of this earlier.

Meanwhile, Reece had been carving things up with the demo saw. He’d just finished his fourth cut. Two more shortcuts and it would be time for lunch. Not being able to wield a demo saw I felt a bit useless, but Reece is such a gun that he was catching up pretty swiftly. He hit those last two cuts out of the park and we retired for bodily refueling.

Reece Mundy - PCC operator

Reece had managed to avoid almost all the slurry so even after three hard hours on the demo saw he was pretty fresh. A couple of flat whites and baked goods later saw us back on site. It was time for the ring saw.

While Reece took the demo saw off the cradle and mounted the ring saw instead I quizzed him about why he didn’t use just the ring saw. It had plenty of power. So, it could cut to the required depth. It seemed like a waste.

Reece said he thought the same thing when he first started cutting all those years ago. He explained that the way the ring saw blade is mounted means it is less stable than the demo saw. Too much lateral force mid-cut and you can cause serious damage. He continued that he only had one ring saw so if he destroyed it with impatience then we were done.

He secured the last cradle bolt, positioned the blade, and fired up the ring saw. This time the cuts went much faster. The demo saw cuts to a depth of 175mm, so out of a total slab thickness of 275mm, he was already two-thirds of the way through. He really needed to concentrate so I zipped my lips and let him work. Like a total pro, he lowered the saw into the slit, and soon the familiar sound of screaming rebar and sliced concrete returned. He made those cuts in the next hour and a half. He did everything and had nothing to do after 2 pm.

Reese called Chris over for a final inspection. He was stoked that we’d got it done! He eagerly signed Reece’s docket book and headed back to the site office. We cleaned and demobilised Reece’s tools back to the van before demobilising ourselves back to Marrickville.

On the long drive home I quizzed Reece about how he knew he’d reached the underside of the slab if he didn’t have visual confirmation. He explained that if he didn’t actually break all the way through he got within 10mm. The 5t digger that was due Monday had enough pulling power to easily break 10mm of concrete, especially with 275mm of concrete still attached to it. Also, it would have a hydraulic breaker that would deal with any straggling concrete.

On the hour-plus drive back to the office I was reminded yet again that these concrete care boys have a lot of experience and knowledge. Figuring a way through an obstacle like that isn’t a skill that everyone has. Reece and the PCC boys sure do.

We Get It Cut.

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