So you want to set up a hot pour cracksealing crew? Why not? Cracksealing can be very profitable and it helps extend the life of pavement - something that most customers can appreciate. To be profitable, though, crews need to be outfitted correctly, with the type of equipment that will deliver optimum performance for the job at hand.
"The first question you have to ask before setting up a crew is define your purpose," says Cliff Cameron, director of sales for KM International (KMI). "Are you going to work on highways and other larger projects or focus on driveways and small projects? In other words, how much linear feet of cracks do you anticipate sealing in a day? Once you've determined that amount, then you can decide on a prep tool, melting kettle, application system, and a reliable truck and trailer."
KMI offers a couple of tools for contractors looking to get into this line of work. One is the Crack Jet II, a preparation tool that cleans, dries, and etches the walls and surface of cracks. "This fully self-contained heat lance eliminates the need for wire wheels, routers, or tag-along compressors," Cameron says. "If you apply rubber sealant without first drying and cleaning out the crack and opening up the pores in the asphalt, it won't adhere."
The other tool is a melting kettle. The model KM 55 has a 55-gal. capacity, ideal for cracksealing driveways and parking lots. Among features is a thermostatically controlled propane burner that provides continuous accurate heating of material, a 2-in. flow valve for easy filling of application equipment, and a utility torch for heating the valve tools and pour pot. The Crack Jet II, KM 55 Melter, and KM 10 pour pot can easily fit into a utility trailer.
Cameron emphasizes that crack preparation is all important for proper sealing, noting that the ideal, ready-to-seal crack measures approximately ½-in. wide by ½-in. deep, allowing the material to reach the bottom. "Most cracks are shaped like an inverted V," he adds. "One needs to open up the top a bit to allow sealant to reach the base. The rubber then will seal the entire crack."
Wider cracks, up to 2 in. or more, are best sealed using infrared technology, he points out. An infrared unit is pricey but gives contractors the ability to open up an entirely new profit center, such as repairing potholes and performing other maintenance tasks.
The Right Tools
Billy Goat manufactures a crack-prep product called the Grazor. Featuring a spinning wire-brush wheel, the unit pulls out weeds by their roots and then burnishes the sides of a crack. "The Grazor is the ideal start-up prep tool for a cracksealing crew," says Drew Coates, Billy Goat product manager. "It takes the place of a putty knife or screwdriver used on the small jobs, and the front caster wheel allows the machine to easily follow cracks."
Agreeing with the KMI's Cameron, Coates advises contractors to keep the crack within ½ in. deep. "To remove more asphalt would require spending money needlessly on additional rubber sealant," he says, noting that any of the company's Force blowers would complement the Grazor by blowing out the loose debris once the crack has been cleaned.
Crafco manufactures melters that range in size from 10 to 400 gal. The line includes the smaller Mini Melter 10 and Mini Melter 30 and the larger Super Shot, E-Z Pour and E-Z Series II melter/applicators. "If you're going to seal 1,000 linear ft. a day, then a melter within the 10- to 30-gal. range would be adequate," says Mark Manning, Crafco marketing manager. "These units cost under $2,000 and are perfect for the smaller operator. The price jumps up when getting into the 60- to 125-gal. and larger units, but they have far greater capacity."
Manning puts it in perspective for operators. "The smaller, direct-fired melters are capable of applying 20 to 30 lbs. of sealant a day. Larger, 125-gal. melter/applicators like the Super Shot 125 will do between 2,000 and 3,000 lbs. a day." Designed for both mid-to large-sized projects, this unit comes with an optional compressor to run an air lance and a labor-saving Auto Loader. Two other Super Shot models are available, the Super Shot Model 60 and Model 250.