How to Make the Jump to Large Cracksealing Kettles & Applicators

With the right-sized equipment, sealing cracks can be very profitable. A setup designed to seal cracks on small driveways will not profitably make the transition to parking lots. The same logic holds true transitioning from small municipal street projects to sealing cracks on roads and highways. Having the right equipment will help deliver the optimum performance and profit margin.

Count the Ways and Pounds

If you’ve been using a small melter and pour pot, putting down 20 to 30 lbs. of sealant would be a good day’s work. At the far other end of the job spectrum, crews employing a large melter/applicator like the Crafco EZ Series II 1500 can go through 2,800 lbs. per hour while sealing between 5,000 to 10,000 ft. of cracks.

“If you’re not interested in sealing 10,000 ft. of cracks a day, then it wouldn’t pay to have the Series II 1500,” says Crafco marketing manager Mark Manning. “It’s not only the excess kettle capacity and cost that would be issues, but large kettle applicators require larger trucks to tow them around and store sealant. The loaded weight of the 1500, for example, is 10,600 lbs. and the smaller but still sizeable models 1000 and 500 weigh 7,700 lbs. and 5,400 lbs. respectively.”

As he points out, it’s very important to understand the application before buying equipment, and there’s plenty of cracksealing equipment on the market to make the right match. In addition to the three Series II models, what Manning calls the newest generation in the Crafo line, the company offers three models in the smaller yet still very productive Super Shot Series, with 60-, 125-, and 250-gal. capacities.

The Super Shot 60 is designed for pavement maintenance contractors who look to apply up to 2,000 lbs. of sealant per day. This unit features a melt rate of 480 lbs./hr. and is available as a skid-mount unit. The diesel-powered Model 125, with a melt rate of 900 lb./hr., is suited for both medium-sized and large projects. With a melt-rate of 1,700 lbs./hr., the Model 250 is designed for larger projects.

Among key features, Manning says all Super Shot models have digital control to accurately control and regulate sealant heating temperature and an internal pumping system. “Mounting the pump inside the melter eliminates outside plumbing, high pressure lines, and the need to re-circulate sealant,” Manning points out. “This saves on pump wear, as does the micro-switch on the applicator wand that allows the operator to run the pump only when applying material.”

Rule of Thumb

Stepp Manufacturing offers five melter/applicators, two vertical and three horizontal units. Of the three horizontal models, Jason Stepp, national sales manager, says the OJK 250, with a 250-gal. capacity, is the most popular. “The rule of thumb is that operators can apply 212-times the material capacity of the kettle in a day. So our OJK 250 is capable of applying 625 gal. or 5,600 lbs. of product in a day.

“The obvious reason to upgrade to a larger melter/applicator is to gain productivity, to be able to crackseal larger projects and have the ability to keep a crew busy. Larger melting kettles also keep temperature differential to a minimum, very important when applying rubberized sealant. This product is difficult to heat and it has to be applied quickly. Keeping sealant at the ideal temperature of between 350°F to 400°F is a requisite to ensure it adheres properly to the asphalt.”

The OJK 250 features a large 26-hp Kubota diesel engine and a 60 gpm pumping system. Stepp notes that the former has plenty of power to run the melter/applicator and is quieter than many smaller engines. The large pump has capacity well beyond what would be required for applying sealant but that, too, has its advantages, he adds. “Bigger pumps last longer.”

Stepp points to three additional especially attractive features on the OJK models. “The low profile, thanks in part to the placement of the auger at the bottom of the kettle, makes for easier loading and enhances visibility when towing the unit down the highway. They also feature a free-flow heat exchanger that quickly and efficiently heats up the oil in the jacket to ensure faster heat-up times, and an overhead heated boom to facilitate maneuverability.” Like the Crafco unit, the OJK models have a submerged pump that eliminates freeze-up and facilitates effective use of the optional ‘Pump Saver’ system.

Making Green with Green

Cimline offers three melter/applicators in its Metro line that control sealant fumes and emissions. These 165-, 275-, and 425-gal. models employ the company’s AfterBurner II technology that reduces smoke and odor from melting sealant by more than 95%, says Steve Johnson, vice president of sales. Other features include a no-contact loading chute that dumps sealant blocks into the kettle, an innovative hose carrier that allows operators to move the hose through a wide range of motion, and an auger/agitator that helps to circulate material for even heating.

“For contractors looking to do big and small jobs, the Matrix 1500 would be ideal,” says Johnson. “It has a 150-gal. kettle, auto start feature, and a multi-point overhead boom and heated hose. For jobs that are 6,000 linear ft. or less the Matrix 60 diesel-powered, no-pump machine gives the operator fast efficient sealant melting with its oil jacketed design and the flexibility of operating multiple speed banding machines.”

Three other models in the Generation 3 Magma line, with 110-, 230-, and 410-gal. kettles, round out the company’s offering of melter/applicators. Like Stepp, Johnson says the 230-gal. unit is the most popular. All three feature digital control, integrated diagnostics, splash free loading door, the ability to operate either a heated or non-heated sealing hose for flexibility, and an auger/agitator. The Magma line of melter/applicators also takes advantage of a passive fume reduction system to help control sealant fumes and emissions.

Major options

For the Super Shot Series, Crafco offers many options that help reduce labor and operating costs. Among them is a 70 cfm air compressor available on its larger melter/applicators. “Most of our melter/applicators are sold with compressors,” Manning relates. “The 70 cfm compressor provides more than enough air volume to match large-melter, high seal rates. On-board compressors are also a big money saver, negating the necessity to operate an additional engine and tow vehicle.” An autoloader, cab brake control, overnight heater, and surge brakes are other options.

Cimline’s Magma 230 also offers an integrated 70 cfm rotary screw air compressor that delivers a continuous 100 psi output and features a 50-ft. retractable hose, all located safely under one engine enclosure. Johnson notes that dual wand Magma models can be equipped with two non-heated hoses, two heated hoses, or one of each. “Both hoses receive sealant flow from one 30 gpm pump, which reduces pump maintenance and replacement costs and maximizes production. ”

On its OJK 250, Stepp Manufacturing offers an overnight heater, an on-demand pumping system, and a pump saver system among options. Says Stepp, “The on-demand pumping system saves wear and tear on the pump and the exact-flow option allows the operator to adjust the pump speed right at the wand.”

All three manufacturers emphasize that serviceability and the ability to get service rate extremely high in a business where downtime costs dollars, but the first selection criteria is to match machine to application. Excess capacity is always a nice-to-have, and it allows for growth. But as Crafco’s Manning pointed out, with a larger melter/applicator comes attenuating costs, not the least of which is the size of the towing vehicle. As the saying goes, “do the math.” Stepp’s rule of thumb will come in handy here. If you plan to apply two pallets or 600 gal. or so of sealant per day, than a 250-gal. melter/applicator would be your machine of choice.

Based in Neenah, WI, Rod Dickens is a freelance writer specializing in the construction industry.