Sealcoating Transformed

Editorial for the March/April issue of Pavement.

In the past 20 years the sealcoating industry has undergone nothing short of a remarkable transformation. Sealcoating used to be the poor stepchild of pavement maintenance operations. Materials were low tech, equipment was unsophisticated, contractors often "oversold" the process (unsure their customers would buy if they told the straight story), and the business itself was, in a word, suspect. Contractors usually had to explain to people what sealcoating was — before they could get into discussing its benefits. That is no longer the case.

Through the efforts of the industry at large, from sealer producers to equipment manufacturers to both sealcoating associations, and even many contractors, sealcoating has become not only an acceptable part of the pavement maintenance process but an essential part of the process. Property managers don't need to be told what sealcoating is anymore. Sealer producers and additive producers have refined and improved their product, whether asphalt or coal-tar based, so it protects better, lasts longer, dries blacker, and goes down easier. Equipment manufacturers have enhanced their application machines to make the contractor's job easier and safer, resulting in a better-quality job. And sealcoating contractors approach their work as a business, with marketing, cost analysis, training, and investment — all directed at growth. Today the sealcoating business is a good one. Its margins, for example, are much better than virtually any other pavement maintenance service (ask any contractor who's willing to talk), so while volume isn't as great as, say, paving, the profit margin is greater.

So though the sealcoating industry isn't perfect — many contractors still have to deal with fly-by-night applicators (we won't even dignify them by calling them contractors) who sell inferior material to unsuspecting buyers, others constantly battle low-ball pricing, and many homeowners still haven't realized the value of hiring a contractor (who uses a higher-quality professional product) rather than using the do-it-yourself approach — the industry is in far better shape than it's ever been. And if past is prelude, the future of the sealcoating industry looks even better.