How to Add Cracksealing to Your Services

For contractors looking to offer additional services, the available options can be intimidating. Whether you are a striping contractor or a sealcoating contractor, it might be tough to decide what service is an affordable startup and with a great market potential. Cracksealing is one option available to contractors searching for another valuable service to offer their existing clients.

Adding cracksealing services can be a relatively low-cost venture that can generate added revenue while helping clients extend pavement life.

Why Cracksealing Protects Pavement

There are several reasons why cracksealing is essential in maintaining the quality of a pavement. Sealing cracks with the appropriate material will help preserve the base and subgrade. “By sealing the cracks and keeping out moisture, you will prevent potholes and subgrade issues,” says Jason Stepp, Stepp Manufacturing national sales manager. “Cracksealing is about keeping the water and moisture out of the subgrade and from underneath the pavement. Water, snow, ice and rain accumulate inside the crack. The moisture in there freezes and then the water thaws, but the frozen ground can’t absorb the water. At night, this water freezes creating potholes.”

Warm weather is also detrimental to cracked pavement as subgrade issues arise. “In summer water washes out the subgrade underneath the pavement,” Stepp says. “Now the pavement has nothing to support it, and you get recessed cracking. When the traffic rides over this surface it opens the potholes.”

According to Tom Pfuelb, eastern regional sales manager of Crafco Inc., cracksealing is the most effective maintenance service. “Cracksealing is one of the most effective preventative maintenance operations anyone can perform on their pavement to extend its life,” he says.

Equipment that Gets the Job Done

Before purchasing cracksealing equipment contractors must make several key decisions. First, know the type of work they want to pursue: driveways, parking lots, or roads. Next, base a budget set on the type of work they will complete. “Contractors must look at the cost of a unit, what they are getting, and the safety features of the equipment,” says Cliff Cameron, director of sales at KM International.

Purchasing the appropriate size of equipment is essential for contractors to find success. Contractors want to avoid purchasing a unit that is too small or too big for their services. “If someone is just starting out I tend to put them in a little bigger kettle than they may need right now,” Stepp says. “Cracksealing is one of those services that when you start doing it, it is a big growth area for business.”

The startup time and recovery time is also essential when purchasing equipment. “We are able to get hotter quicker and recover faster,” says Craig Walter, sales manager at SealMaster. “Nothing costs you more than standing on the side of a road or on a big parking lot waiting to melt material down.”

Contractors will also have to choose between a diesel engine and a propane powered unit. Stepp suggests that propane might be a better option for contractors who do only a few projects a year while a diesel engine would be more efficient to those using the equipment frequently.

Another feature contractors will consider is an oil-jacketed kettle vs. a direct-fire unit. An oil-jacketed kettle features a tank filled with oil, the oil heating the material through indirect heat. Stepp Manufacturing makes several oil-jacketed units. “You have constant agitation and a smooth, even heating system. You also need to have some type of temperature monitoring controls so you don’t over or under heat the material,” Stepp says.

KM International manufactures an “air jacketed” self-contained 55-gallon unit with a thermostatically controlled pipe burner system. It is much like an oil-jacketed unit without the oil and works on convection/conduction principals controlled thermostatically.

Crafco manufactures a direct-fire unit that, unlike oil-jacketed kettles, has flames directly heating the material. With direct-fire units, contractors will have a basic kettle, torch and hole for placing materials.

Cracksealing Starts with a Clean Crack

In order to provide customers with the best end product it is essential to complete the proper prep work. With cracksealing, contractors must always clean the cracks. “Moisture is one of the biggest evils for cracks,” Cameron says. “Once we dry out the cracks the rubber will bond well. With the Crack Jet II or a heat lance you can go out there and efficiently dry the crack.”

Pfuelb agrees to the importance of proper crack prep. “A clean and dry crack is critical to the performance of the sealant. Dirt or moisture will compromise the bond of your sealant. If you are applying crack sealant to a crack that is dirty or wet it greatly increases the chance of the sealant failing,” Pfuelb says. “I’ve seen people just go out there with a hand broom and backpack blower, blowing the pavement clean and thinking that is adequate.”

To guarantee proper cleaning of the cracks, contractors can use compressed air to blow the crack clean and dry; a heat lance that uses compressed hot air to remove debris and clean cracks; or a crack router, which follows the existing crack, carving a niche or reservoir to contain the cracksealing material. Research has shown that using a router, such as Crafco’s Model 25 or Model 200, to prepare cracks for sealing results in repairs lasting 50% longer than cracks sealed without a router. However, routing takes additional time and is more costly to the end user, and Stepp warns that if the equipment isn’t used properly it can be detrimental to the pavement. Still another option is KM International’s Crack Jet II. “The Crack Jet II heats the crack, dries the crack and etches the walls of the crack so you get maximum rubber adhesion giving you a better quality repair,” Cameron says.

As for bidding, contractors have two available options to complete the job. One option is to measure by area. “I’m going to go on site, drive around, and look for a heavier cracked area and lighter cracked areas,” Walter says. “I’m going to find something on a heavier cracked area and measure off a 1,000-square-foot in that particular pad and do two or three other pads in the area. I’m going to pull all the cracks in that particular 100 x 100-foot square. I will add them all up, multiply by the space, and divide it by 5. One pound of material will fill 5 feet of crack and that will tell me how many pounds of material I will need.”

The second option is to measure each individual crack. “You specifically measure each crack, and you let the customer know the exact linear footage of the cracks to be filled,” Cameron says. “You need to know how deep and wide the cracks are, how much material you are consuming during the process, and know what your bottom line is for you to be profitable.”

Success Through Material Selection

Another area of cracksealing that will ensure a successful application is the quality of materials used. “Contractors will find a local producer of a good, quality product,” Cameron says. “They need to make sure the rubber they buy is for their temperate zone and of the right quality for the job they are doing. They also need to get a product that will withstand the type of traffic that is using it.”

Contractors must also be aware of the material need for their specific unit. “The direct-fire materials are designed to be used in a kettle or melter that has the flame directly on the kettle resulting in a higher temperature,” Pfuelb says. “Oiljacketed materials can’t withstand such a high temperature.”

Blotting materials are also important to cracksealing. These materials help avoid track marks from vehicles that can drive over the surface before the material is set. “Protection of the sealant until the pavement can be opened is critical because you will get tracking of the sealant or ticking, which is car tires grabbing on to the sealant and ripping it off of the pavement before the material is cold,” Pfuelb says.

Several materials are available that contractors can use to protect the sealant including sand and boiler slag (marketed as Black Beauty). “We have the Sand Liner, a canister that will take Black Beauty and drop it right down on top of the crack,” Walter says. “The best part is if you are going to sealcoat that particular day you can hot pour crack fill and sealcoat within the hour.”

Other available blotting products include Emulso Corp.’s Glenzoil 20 Plus and Crafco’s Detack. “Detack is a biodegradable liquid that can be applied with a garden sprayer,” Pfuelb says. “That will be a bond breaker to prevent material from tracking.”

Avoiding Common Cracksealing Mistakes

Improper crack cleaning is a common mistake but contractors must also be aware of the required material temperature so they do not overheat it. “The sealants are made to have a specific application temperature range,” Pfuelb says. “If you overheat the material you damage the components of the sealant which will affect the performance of the material.”

Pavement condition is also important. “Not all pavements are good candidates for cracksealing,” Pfuelb says. “Wherever there is a crack that is an opportunity for water to infiltrate the pavement, but a pavement can become so badly damaged it is beyond the scope of cracksealing.” He says pavements with spider or alligator cracking are often unable to be repaired using cracksealing.

When looking at purchasing cracksealing equipment, contractors need to first decide how cracksealing will supplement their existing business and then purchase the correct equipment: too small will frustrate them and too big may never pay for itself.

“The bottom line is people need to look and think outside of the box,” Cameron says. “Contractors need to look at the long term profitability of their business.”