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Show Highlights

Ashkahn is still gone, getting ready for the Float Conference. The festivities kick up this week, and he’s busy working diligently to make all our dreams a reality.

In the meantime, Jake and Graham tackle the notion of ongoing maintenance and the ever evolving nature of a float center. Jake sets the record straight on the concept of having a “finished” float center, as new problems always arise. It’s not all bad news, though, as these changes allow for new opportunities for your centers.

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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Graham: Okay. Welcome, everybody. This is Graham on the mic over here.

Jake: And this is Jake over on the other side.

Graham: And Ashkahn is not with us, he’s off getting ready for the Float conference, coming up on August 18th and 19th, which is right around the corner. So Jake is filling in and we’re gonna be answering some construction questions because Jake is kind of the head honcho of construction over at Float On. So I teach the construction section of our apprenticeship and does a lot of construction consulting around as well.

Jake: It’s a team effort. Team effort.

Graham: He’s also from the Midwest so you might sense a lot of politeness coming off of that microphone you don’t usually hear from Ashkahn. Today’s question is, “Now that you’ve been open so many years, is your shop pretty set, or do you still need to do upgrades and new construction?”

Jake: Certainly not set. We opened in 2010 and a lot of the solutions that we started with are not, with us today. We’ve had to renovate our center, many times, and we kind of fetishized it a little bit. We have fun with it, so we can share this information with you guys. If you’ve ever been to-

Graham: Fetishized it. Float fetish is good. I don’t think I have that website yet we should-

Jake: No it’s good, we’ll get that-

Graham: -put that in the domain list.

Jake: -Floatfetish.com

Graham: By the time you’re listening to this, we’ll already have it registered so then-

Jake: I think Jordan just registered.

Graham: -you can go look it up.

Jake: Thank you Jordan. Anyways, Float fetish, back to that. No, we’ve been renovating our space a lot, over the years. In the beginning, out of necessity, we had solutions that contractors told us that they would work and then we destroyed them.

Graham: Yeah, that’s pretty par for the course if you’re an existing float center owner out there. That should be queuing little bells of familiarity inside your brain, and it turns out those never stop. In eight years of running things, they’ve gotten better, certainly, I usually describe it like scales of fire. Right, we’re still kind of putting out fires. But now it’s little camp fires that are already under control and we’re like dealing with embers that are still glowing in the night and in the beginning it was giant forest fires, right? Huge floor failures and these drastic things going wrong because we were guys who thought we’d slap float tanks in a room eight years ago. If you’re out there and did the same thing, you find out year one is a really tough one.

Jake: It all seemed so simple.

Graham: So it’s a process of refinement but, just like owning a boat, you never stop doing work on it. Right? There’s not a point where you have, an ocean faring vessel especially, where all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh well that’s set for the next ten years, guess I don’t need to do any work or maintenance on that!”. And the float tank center is ten times as salty as the ocean so, just got to multiply that maintenance up a little bit and you get the idea of an ongoing work on a center.

Jake: Yeah, where we’ve seen recurring problems, or where we see a lot of the largest issues, when a center has been in business for a couple years is their flooring. Usually around the floor drains as well. We’ve experienced some of this at Float On. We have several, different types of flooring. As I mentioned, we like to play around, and we like to show you guys different options. In two of our rooms, we have some sheet flooring and we just did a standard install. Where you basically cut the sheet flooring around the drain, you mask it in place, you make sure it’s all glued and everything down. Well,one small pinhole, one small problem, even the best contractor in the world, she may miss one small part or there might be one small cut that’s a little bit off and that salt gets in there. And it starts destroying the substrate, like it’s the wood, it starts swelling. If it’s concrete, it literally starts-

Graham: -just starts dissolving.

Jake: -it starts eating the concrete! Like you can scrape it away with your fingernails. Which is why now we use, surface level membrane clamping floor drains, exclusively, if we’re using sheet flooring. The idea there is that the flooring itself actually rolls into the drain body and then there’s a clamp that holds that drain in place and then you put your hair strainer on so there’s no chance for Epsom salts to ever get down to your substrate. But where we’ve seen some other failures is with other systems. Every system has a potential failure, depending on installer error.

We have some epoxy resin floors, with some double broadcast quartz for slip resistance. Where you’re gonna see a failure there, and you might notice this at some of your local float centers, is that very edge, right next to the drain. Because if you don’t get that epoxy bonded really well to the drain body, one little bit of salt will get inside there and start undermining. We actually just had to grind out around several of the floor drains in a couple of our rooms because the bond wasn’t strong enough. How you try to avoid that in an epoxy system, which is technically seamless, is just key it in real well, around the drains. Which basically means, before you do your top coat, before you actually start putting on your resin, when you’re at concrete, you actually grind out a little ring around the drain so that the epoxy will pool in that drain. And then there’s a few other fun techniques, like you need to torch down a little bit, so you get out all of the little air bubbles and everything like that. But again, that’s where you’re going to see failures that are on these floors and stuff like that, so-

Graham: Yeah and this is stuff that we were dealing with just this year. Right? These are things that are problems that can come up after six years of having the same floor down.

Jake: Absolutely. We tend to deal with big problems when they’re small and hard problems when they’re easy and that’s kind of what keeps us going. We’re a 24-hour shop. We’re running constantly. We put building materials through the ringer. If something is going to be destroyed, we’re going to destroy it for sure.

Graham: As Benjamin Franklin said, “Patch on a laminate floor in time, saves nine.”

Jake: He said that?

Graham: Yeah, yeah. Lots of foresight, Ben. He had the bifocals so he could see a little better into the future.

Jake: I bet he had a float tank.

Where else have we seen crazy stuff happening?

Graham: I was just thinking of the recent stuff/ This just got me going through my head of stuff that’s come up, this year, for us, that we’re still dealing with. Water pressure issues that came as a result of, our neighbors, I think, having to upgrade-

You’re a little more a part of that project. You should tell this story. I’m just gonna pull out my popcorn.

Jake: That smells good. Reminded me of Ashkahn, almost instantly.

Graham: He’s here in spirit. Ashkahn loves popcorn.

Jake: So obviously water is important for our business. People are taking two showers for every one float. We’re part near a shower business almost.

Graham: Classic Float On humor right there.

Jake: Anyways though, we have six float rooms. So that means I have six showers running and we moved into an older building, built in 1912. It had kind of an undersized line to begin it. It was fine for us, it was a three-quarter-inch water main line coming in. But then one our neighbors moved in and they started doing some intensive water stuff. And then we’re seeing big drops in our pressure now. So what used to be fine for us for several years, now it’s probably the least luxurious part of our business. All of a sudden we’ll have wimpy showers. Which isn’t great.

Graham: It’s not- yeah it’s not great.

Jake: No, it’s not great at all. Even in the last several weeks, we’ve been trying to do some bypasses, so we can put in our own sub meter. But what this is ultimately going to come down to is I’m going to be working with the city, we’re gonna tear up our parking lot, we’re gonna bring in a brand new 1 1/2″ line, that feeds just our business, so that we can have all of the water that we actually need. We do laundry, on site, as well, so that saps some of our water pressure. Yeah, that’s a stressful one that we wouldn’t have known when we signed up for the business. When we took over that property.

Graham: Yeah, nor would we know that changes that our neighbors were making would affect us so dramatically or just actually needing to get on certain permits and requirements for their own plumbing would then impact our business which is on a shared plumbing line. In fact, it’s a nice counterpoint, to me, in that the flooring is stuff where things break down. We’re figuring out better materials. We’re figuring out, even still, installation things where five-six years ago, if you just installed it a little bit wrong, now we’re dealing with problems and that’s kind of just natural degradation. And then on the water supply side, it’s just a bunch of stuff we had no idea about and then changes that we had no control over and now we need to do some upgrades. Like stuff from the environment, and stuff that you accidentally caused are both things that still come up over time.

And then you’ll find that too, if you run a float center, even if you did, which you won’t, even if you did everything perfect though, the environment is still this big, vast world of complexity and things that are trying to, it’s like vines tearing down an old house or something. Like the environment is always out there, inertia is a tough mistress. You’ll always find your share of problems and upgrades just required by the outside world having its way with your business.

Jake: And you’re gonna see some other upgrades to the tanks themselves. That’s a piece of equipment, it’s a piece of machinery, if you’re using it all the time those pumps are always turning off and on, you’re gonna see some wear and tear over time. So we do a lot of that kind of regular maintenance. Fixing our pumps if they go out or something like that. Most recently, Graham was dealing with some audio issues to one of our tanks. We have some shielded mic line running from our lobby to all of our float rooms, so that we can run music to bring people out of the float tanks and everything like that. There’s a problem with one of our tanks, we’re getting this interesting static hum and I thought Graham had a really great, albeit temporary, ingenious idea actually. What did you end up doing? Switching everything like that?

Graham: Throw away the tank-

Jake: Yeah, we just got rid of it.

Graham: Just get rid of it. Shut down the business. Had too many problems.

Jake: If you want a free tank, we got one out back. Come pick it up.

Graham: No and so, you know, this, I guess fits into that mystery category. Which is, occasionally things come up and this is one where we’re still trouble shooting it right now. So if you’re out at the Float Conference, you can come take a look at our tank one controller and see our temporary fix which Jake is referring to. Which is we tracked it down, eventually, to something going on, in the connection between the controller in our lobby and the actual brains of the float tank in the float room.

Jake: I think it’s a grounding issue.

Graham: And I think that it’s some issue with the line. Like over here it slipped and came in contact with something else metal or just moisture got up in there and degraded part of it. Now we’re getting a hum.

Jake: Right.

Graham: Anyway, it’s a mystery. We disagree about what we think it is. But, I hooked up a switch that just it’s like an A/B toggle, you know you might’ve had this in your living room audio system or for video games or something. Just switch inputs. And I connected nothing to the second input. So now its just a toggle of, I can either connect that cord from the lobby to the float tank room with the A switch, turning it on and B switch is nothing. So just disconnects that entire thing-

Jake: Simple.

Graham: -and that stops the hum. So it’s kind of this hard off.

Jake: Simple and beautiful. I love it.

Graham: And it’s an extra step the lobby controls are so thoroughly labeled now. If you go in there it’s like, “Don’t forget to switch this thing off otherwise people will get a hum!” And on the switch it’s like, “This one is off for the float room! This one is on” just to really make sure. You train habits into your employees and then you add on this extra step where, in addition to the thing they’ve been doing for years, they also need to click a little button to either turn on or off the audio connection.

Jake: -kind of an interesting experiment. Should we just start adding buttons?

Graham: Yes, so if you ever do something like that, just know you really need to make it so obvious, because our habits really kick in. See I’d say that fits in the mystery category of things. Which is to say, this one’s not solved yet. After the conference, we’re gonna spend a little more time either, replacing that line or first we’ll try to ground it out disprove what Jake’s saying, ideally.

Jake: I think it’s unbalance grounding. Grounded on one side. I don’t know. We’ll get deep into it. We’ll see, we’ll see. As long as we’re thinking about tanks, actually that other thing kinda comes to mind. What if you upgrade your tanks in the future? We see a lot of businesses start with a lower end model. Not lower end, just like a cheaper model.

Graham: More affordable, Jake.

Jake: More affordable, that’s the word. Those are the words. A more affordable, amazing tank and then at some point they decide that they want to upgrade to a more expensive, also amazing tank. The requirements for those tanks might be different. We actually upgraded, within the same company, to a newer model and that changed the power load that the tank actually needed. So no longer did I have appropriately sized electrical running to that room, now I needed to run surface mounted conduit, which I hate, I love to bury everything in the walls. That way, it’s not getting dusty, you don’t have to keep it clean or anything like that. But now we have some surface mounted conduit, because that new tank required a 30-amp breaker whereas the old tank, from the same company, required a 20-amp breaker. That was kind of an interesting thing over time, which again, by doing that surface mounted conduit, that’s a puncture right through my soundproofing from my hallway into my float room. So it kind of like- I think that one irks me. I wasn’t irritated about that since last time I thought about it, but now thinking about it again, I’m irritated by it.

Graham: Yeah, that one always annoyed me a little bit.

Jake: Yeah, it rubs me.

Graham: So just to summarize, I think that was actually a good set of examples, because we have things that degrade over time. Stuff that your neighbors do, that now you need to compensate for. We have just mystery things, that pop up, which will pop up in any business but definitely seem more at home in float tank centers than other ones. And then purposeful upgrades that you’re making, but which now require something else out of your construction. So things like electrical upgrades. Just as a handful of examples of the things that we still need to be upgrading and repairing as we go along.

Jake: We could keep going.

Graham: Yeah, it doesn’t stop. But the good news is that the better you build from the very beginning, the easier this is all going to be. And again, think of it more as making sure that you’re tending your campfire, rather than you’re actually trying to put out a giant blaze, that’s out of control-

Jake: I like that.

Graham: -which is what happens if you do construction poorly. Don’t use that in the apprenticeship, because I used it during my days.

Jake: I was like, “I’m going to start using that during the apprenticeship, I like that.”

Graham: I hate having the last day.

Jake: My day if before your day.

Graham: You guys just get to steal all of my good lines and I have to come up with new ones.

Jake: Our delivery is spot on though.

Graham: This is what the unappreciated best writer in a comic room feels like.

Okay if you guys have questions of your own, head on over to floattanksolutions.com/podcast.

Jake: Yeah.

Graham: Alright, bye everyone.

Jake: Yeah, goodbye.

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