Best Practices for Starting A Striping Business

Tips from long time striping contractors on what products, services, and different types of equipment are good for those starting out or looking to add a striping division to their existing business.

Provided by Jacob Buck, Buck Brothers

When the time comes, and you decide to start a striping business, or add a striping division to your already established business, there can be a lot of questions that linger around where to truly begin. Below we spoke to a handful of striping pros who know how to get the job done, because they've been where you are, and have asked the same questions you're asking. We thought it best to share their answers in their own words, as much as possible.

To keep things simple, we asked each contractor the same 3 questions: 

  1. What is your current go to striping machine and why?
  2. If you were starting from scratch and getting into striping, what equipment would you start with?
  3. What is one piece of real advice you give someone looking to get into the business of striping?

What The Contractor's Say

Mark "Cap'N Striper" Estrada, Marathon Solutions:

The Graco 200HS Dual-Color w/ Linedriver ES. The ultimate "hybrid" setup  This machine is the cutting edge of what Graco delivers. Nothing beats the ability to apply 2- colors (that's Hydraulically driven), with Auto layout/ Laser-guidance capabilities. Then, I added-on the "smoothness" of the Electric line driver powered by Li-po Batteries. There's just no-comparisons.Img 2983Provided by Mark Estrada, Marathon Solutions

Well when we originally started, we were just trying to find an affordable machine that laid down lines! This was when the "trial and error" took hold. We've used everything, starting with Kelly-Creswell... dabbled with Airless co. and Titan sprayers, until we finally reached a victor with the Graco 3900 IV. However, it wasn't until we landed that first Graco HS; when we realized Hydraulic systems are the way to go for high-volume striping. We sold all of our machines the next year for a full Hydraulic transformation. So, quick answer for a new company:  Go with a Graco 3900 and take it from there.

Learn the trade, Practice the techniques, Train a team and Delegate right away, Network with like-minded individuals in the industry, Bring on customers from all walks of life, and most importantly, know..Failing is part of the learning process, take it as motivation.

Nick Howell, T&N Asphalt Services, The Pavement Guru:

Graco all the way. They are always innovating with cutting edge technology. Thats in addition to a strong dealer and support network. 

I would start with a Graco 3900 with Auto Layout and Laser’s.  I would also add the Line Driver HD.  Having the technology saves so much time, and can even make many projects a one man job.  

There are multiple pieces of advice, so pick one for yourself.

  • Know business principles.  Basic finance etc.  It's very important to know your numbers to bid properly, and bidding properly is life or death in succeeding.  The SBA states 66% of small business fail within the first 10 years.  Most owners never knew their costs.  
  • Work for someone for a season.   Hard to do when you want to bust out on your own, but the knowledge is pricelss-plus you may make industry contacts too!
  • Be lean and mean.  Keep costs as low as possible.  Grow slow. 
  • Invest in the best equipment possible.  If you cant afford it, its probably not time to start your business. 
  • Get setup properly.  Incorporation, insurance, licenses etc. 
  • Hire a consultant.  Never stop learning.  The money spent on a consultant will likely triple coming right back to you.

Marvin Joles, Wis Coat, Blacktop Banter:

Titan Power Liner 4500, it is fun to exercise the versatility it offers.

I would start with a simple machine, that offers quality, like the Titan PL3500 or Graco 3400, as well as a "Starter" Stencil Kit

If you are starting out, try to find a mentor, or join a group where Stripers exist online, to get any questions answered and gain basic knowledge.

Marco Menna, All-Out Parking Lots:

The Graco 3900 as you are able to do both stall work and stencil work with them. The machine is strong enough to connect to a Line Driver as well. Most 3900s have the auto layout and spot laser that comes with it as well. 

I would go with at least 2 x 3900 Gracos and 1 x 3400. It's good to have at least 3 machines so you can have one set up in white paint, the other in yellow and the 3400 in blue for the handicap areas. Dsc06773Provided by Stripe It Up

Being open to work the overnight shift is where you will be able to get the most of your work done. Most job sites and parking lots you need to service will be empty. Do the best to always answer your phone for your customers and give them realistic expectations of when you can complete the work. Reach out to all your local asphalt and sealcoating contractors in your service area and let them know you are able to stripe for them. Most of those companies do not self perform their own striping and are always looking for contractors to follow up their crews.

Todd Eichholz, A&A Paving:

We only use Graco LineLazers 5900 series, they have been our "go-to" machines forever and we own a bunch. They are tough, they take a beating and spray perfect lines everytime. Our striping team won't use anything else.

Depending upon how much striping someone plans to do year in their first year, work with Graco or your local supplier and see what size they recommend for that workload and then get one series bigger. You will grow and the equipment you start with won't be the equipment you need 1-2 years later.  Upsize now and be prepared for growth from the beginning. Dsc03826Provided by Stripe It Up

CROSS TRAIN EVERYONE , great stripers can be hard to find. Train, test, train, test everyone on that crew so you have a team full of great stripers. We always tell our striping team, a $500 striping job can ruin a $100,000 paving job if the lines are off. They are the cherry on top when it comes to a great job!

Brad Woodall, Stripe It Up (Toledo, OH):

Current go to machine is the Graco 5900 auto layout with GL 1000 laser and a chalk liner hooked up to a Graco Linedriver. This setup makes you so efficient. It is expensive but the saying goes time is money and we can accomplish many more projects a day with this setup.

I wouldn’t start a striping company without a minimum of 2 stripers. One machine would be the one I mentioned above. The next machine would be a Graco 3900.  Having 2 machines will help you by not changing colors on the job. These machines are built to last. Rebuild the pumps annually and they will last a long time. We still have a Graco 3500 that we bought in 1995. In addition one line driver and the biggest trailer you can afford.

My advice to someone starting out is this business is that, "It’s not easy." It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. The painting aspect is only one element and sometimes the easiest. Not only are you striping the jobs , you’re estimating, invoicing, etc. We work everyday (unless it rains) including weekends and holidays.  Most people are off on the weekends enjoying themselves at the lake or golfing. All of our guys sacrifice this time. I’m so fortunate for every employee. I’ve been blessed with great guys!!! Without the guys our company would not be able to service all of our contractors.