"Contractors can apply the sealant using pour pots or select single- and dual-pump melters/applicators, again it comes down to the size of the project," he says. "Of course, getting into the larger units will give contractors more project options."
This industry veteran has a couple of other tips for contractors outfitting a cracksealing crew. "By widening the crack, routers will double the life of the sealant, from two to three years to four to six years. The router will actually create a reservoir-like space for the sealant, allowing the sealed crack to 'give' with the pavement. This is especially critical in northern climates where a crack widens in the winter and closes up in the summer.
"Heat lances can be another important addition to a crew operating in cooler, wetter climates," Manning says. "They act like mini jet engines that blow hot air into the crack. If you don't have a clean, dry crack, the sealant will come out the next day."
LAB Manufacturing's Jim Kahl agrees. The company has been making the Heat Lance for 25 years, a product designed to take the place of three machines: an air wand, wire brush, and propane torch. "The Heat Lance has an air velocity of up to 3,000 ft./sec. and heats to 2,800 to 3,000°F," Kahl says. "Since the flame is retained in the head of the lance it never comes into direct contact with the asphalt."
LAB Manufacturing offers three Heat Lance models. The Hot Shot is designed to be used with melters equipped with an onboard compressor. Models B and C are for use with 100 to 150 cfm and 150 cfm or larger air compressors, respectively. "Because they require using a tow-behind air compressor, these units are more appropriate for commercial contractors on larger projects," Kahl says. "Except for the compressor and propane tank, the Heat Lance comes with everything a contractor needs to start prepping cracks."
"My advice to anyone getting into the cracksealing business is to start out with a melter in the 125-gal. range," says Jason Stepp, national sales manager for Stepp Manufacturing. "This size melter may cost a few thousand dollars more than a 75-gal. unit but it will allow the contractor the flexibility to perform larger jobs, possibly even sealing cracks on small town and municipal roads." Stepp Manufacturing offers a variety of melting kettles, including oil-jacketed models that range in size from 75 to 400 gal.
Stepp, who is the third generation to work in the family-run business, notes that a melter with applicator will dramatically increase productivity, as will optional integrated air compressors that eliminate a separate truck and driver for pulling around a compressor. Models can also be equipped with an optional overhead boom to reduce operator fatigue, exact-flow and on-demand wands, and safety loading chutes.
"Rubberized sealant is tough to melt and requires smooth, even heating; a consistent temperature; and constant agitation for properly mixing asphalt and polymers," he says. "Direct-fire units are still used for filling cracks with straight asphalt, but the rubberized sealant is preferred because it actually seals the crack to keep water out. Among issues, water that gets into a crack can wash out asphalt or, if it freezes, can pop out the sealant."
Steve Johnson, Cimline vice president of sales, says that probably the biggest decision a contractor can make is deciding between a direct-fire or oil-jacketed unit. "Indirect-fire or oil-jacketed units are more expensive than direct-fire counterparts but they are more productive, the sealant is less costly, and you get a better job by actually pumping the material into the cracks," he says.
Cimline offers a full line of melting kettles all the way from start-up, 10-gal. direct-fire units to 410 gal. oil-jacketed kettles. "A good choice for contractors would be our 150-gal. Matrix model," he says. "It's really a back-to-basic oil-jacketed unit that is versatile enough to do big and small jobs and easy to maintain."