The economy is the "elephant" in the room. It dominates virtually every discussion from large boardrooms to small kitchens. All industries are experiencing fallout, yet if you're in the sealcoating business, you may be providing just the right service at the right time.
"From a property owner's perspective, sealcoating is protecting an important investment," says Seal-Rite CEO Brent Loutzenhiser. "With the housing market on hold in most parts of the country, homeowners are staying put and spending money on maintaining their homes. Sealcoating will protect their driveways and is much less expensive than an asphalt overlay. Similarly, property managers and owners of commercial establishments also understand the value of preventive maintenance on their parking lots."
"The work is there," he adds. "It's up to the sealcoating contractor to deliver a quality job as efficiently as possible. It's no secret that one of the most critical factors for being a success in this business is having the right equipment. Just as your service is an investment for your customers, your equipment is an investment in your business, and your sealcoating equipment will likely be the biggest investment you will make."
Loutzenhiser emphasizes that whether you are buying your first machine or upgrading to a larger unit, the decision should not be made in haste. "Do your homework," he says. "Determine the types of jobs you will be doing: primarily residential driveways, primarily commercial parking lots, or a little bit of both. If you're just starting out, will you be working part-time or full-time? How far are you from your material supplier? Being close and making fewer trips to get sealer will give you a definite advantage over a competitor who is two hours from his supplier."
Seal-Rite manufactures a full-line of sealcoating equipment from a small, portable spray system with no tank to a self-contained spray system with tank, trailer, and extras such as an on-board gravity feed fuel tank, extra-large deck, room for a melter, lots of storage space, and lights for nighttime use.
"One mistake that buyers make is purchasing a tank that is too small," Loutzenhiser says. "No matter how big or small an operation is, you will need storage; and remember, most material suppliers are not open on weekends. Some will even offer a discount when contractors purchase a quantity of sealer in the 500-gallon range."
Steve Rapp, Equipment Division Manager for SealMaster agrees. "Some contractors would prefer to buy smaller equipment and then move up as they need more capacity. Instead, most should consider starting with nothing less than a 575-gallon tank. Downtime is tough in this market."
SealMaster manufactures a full line of sealcoating equipment, including self-propelled, trailer, and skid units, as well as economical portable spray systems. Self-propelled models SP 300 Dual and SP 575 Dual give operators the option to spray on sealer or use a squeegee.
Spray versus squeegee
Both manufacturers note that spraying has gained in popularity over the years, in large part because misconceptions about the process have been dispelled. "One misconception is that you apply more with a squeegee than you do with a sprayer," Loutzenhiser says. "In reality, the spray wand eliminates variables that one would encounter with a hand application, either using a brush or a squeegee. These variables include quantity of asphalt, proper mixing, and so forth. When spraying, the application is determined entirely by contractors: the mix design, the pressure at which they spray, the height of the spray wand, the speed at which they walk, and the spray tip they're using. It literally puts the control in their hands.
Adds Rapp, "Spraying is particularly beneficial when sealing rough areas where normally a squeegee would fill in voids, wasting material. Conversely, there are applications where a squeegee's ability to fill in voids can be useful."