Many contractors know that when business is slow, you need ways to keep busy and continue making money. Pavement striping has long been known as a relatively easy business to break in to and learn the basics. If you’re thinking of adding a walk-behind striper to your arsenal, there are some things you should consider before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
First things first – how much work are you planning on doing with your new striper? “A ‘new’ line-striping contractor must ensure that he/she purchases the correct line striper for the amount of line striping being done,” says Tom Heine, specialty business sales manager at Titan Tool. “Striping jobs per week, total gallons per week, estimating/ bidding, and scope of overall jobs being performed must all be taken into consideration first when purchasing a line striper.”
Tim Wehner, Graco Inc. global product marketing manager, adds that you should consider startup costs and also research the competition before you buy, because knowing what they are doing to be successful is a great advantage before you dive into buying your own machine. “You need to see what they use, what they charge and when they stripe (day or night),” Wehner says.
Striper Feature 1: Number of Guns
Stripers are available with either one or two guns and you need to decide what configuration is best for the work you’ll be doing. Many contractors will use a one-gun machine for simple parking lot striping work where they’re striping a single line on a smaller job. Manufacturers say that one-gun line stripers are great for learning the business and are typically lighter and much easier for one person to maneuver and unload.
If your jobs are going to extend beyond a parking lot, consider a two-gun model. Striping jobs for two-gun stripers will be more complicated; double lines, curbs, stencils, hard to reach angles etc. Shooting a curb with a two-gun striper, for example, is particularly easier as you can point one gun straight down on the curb to paint the top, while the other gun is hitting the face in just one pass.
“The versatility of having a two-gun line striper at your fingertips is key,” Heine says. “You don’t always need a two-gun option, but when you do, it’s nice to have the option.”
Striper Feature 2: Performance
Manufacturers offer a wide array of walk-behind machines to meet the specific needs and desires of a contractor. Once you’ve decided whether you want a one- or two-gun unit, take a look at the different performance elements you may want your striper to have.
SPEED — What is the machine’s spraying speed? This is measured by how many linear feet per minute the striper can cover.
ENGINE — How large of an engine do you want (CC’s)? This will affect the line-striper speed and overall pump performance of the coating being applied.
Electric start or pull start? Manufacturers say this comes down to personal preference.
GALLONS PER MINUTE — What is the pump capacity of the machine? As a contractor becomes more proficient in the task, they often can work at a faster rate to get jobs done. In that case, he/she will be looking for a striper that can perform at more than two gallons of paint per minute and can support multiple guns.
PUMP DRIVE — Is it clutch or hydraulic driven? A belt-driven clutch assembly has a variable sheave that runs off the engine to a set of wheel cogs. These cogs move against the rear wheels and power the machine forward with a belt. Hydraulic drive systems have a throttle-type valve that moves forward from a neutral position to increase the speed. “The hydraulic systems require a larger horsepower engine and a hydraulic pump and reservoir,” says Charles Hess, tech equipment specialist, at M-B Companies Inc. “This type of drive is much more expensive. A clutch machine is great for startup contractors for their ease of use, while the hydraulic machines tend to be more powerful.”