Because maintaining pavement tends to do well in a down economy and getting into the business requires a relatively small investment, competition, from both full- and part-time contractors could be very keen this year. "All it takes is a blower to clean the pavement, a squeegee or brush to apply the material, and a source for product and you're in business," says Rapp. "Of course, this is an unrealistic scenario for the serious contractor, yet it demonstrates how important it is to be competitive, in terms of equipment being used and material being applied.
"Using a higher-grade material wears better and can provide a niche for contractors looking to provide something different for customers," he adds. "The selling point is that the additional cost is far outweighed by longevity."
Steve Dixon, vice president of Dixon Sealer & Supply, Scranton, PA, sells Nealco sealcoating equipment, SealMaster sealer, and Billy Goat blowers. When asked how he qualifies customers, Dixon, whose family has been in the sealcoating business for 40 years says, "If they're doing strictly driveways and plan to stay at that level, I'll likely steer them to our 300-gallon trailer or skid model. If they're anticipating sealcoating both driveways and parking lots, I'll suggest the 550-gallon unit, with hydraulic pumping for adding sand. Nealco also offers 760-, 990- 1500- and 2000-gallon tanks.
"Most of my contracting customers who are growing their businesses upgrade by buying an additional sealcoating machine, instead of trading an old one in. This gives them the ability to add an extra crew."
As Dixon explains, the pumping system on all Nealco models from the 550 on up are identical. Again, the biggest decision his contracting customers will likely make, he emphasizes, is buying the right size unit. Beyond that, they may add a spray bar or second spray wand.
Depending on the Seal-Rite machine, contractors can choose between hand-agitated and power-agitated tanks, Loutzenhiser says. "Hydraulic agitators are easy to use; just an adjustment of the lever to engage the agitation for three to five minutes and material is mixed. After a long day, it might be tempting for employees to slack off a bit when working with hand-agitated units. The only issue when using power-agitation is over-mixing. Doing so won't harm the mix, but it simply creates unnecessary wear on parts."
Rapp has seen many changes in sealcoating equipment since joining SealMaster in 1976. As he puts it, "All manufacturers have added 'bells and whistles,' but the important point for anyone in the business is purchasing a unit that is easy to service, with components that are replaceable, and bearings that are easily accessible."
Loutzenhiser adds that having brand name components and overall ease-of-use are two other important considerations. "Buying right, whether this is your first sealcoating machine or an upgrade, requires matching the machine to the application and finding the best one that fits within your budget. Among other big choices is selecting between a skid-mounted unit and a trailer system. The trailer is perfect for those contractors who seal part time and for those who do not want to invest in a separate vehicle for a sealcoating operation. A trailer can simply be unhooked at the end of the day freeing up your truck."
Still, the biggest decision they will have to make is tank size. The choice is less about gallons per se and more about taking the long view. Operators will never outgrow a large tank, and having excess capacity reduces road time and other down time - two negatives in any service business.
Match the equipment to the application and then allow for expansion and growth, they add. Doing so will help seal an investment in the business of sealing properties.
For more tips see the featured online article "How to Compete in Sealcoating ? Have the Right Equipment".