Pavement maintenance

Wisconsin contractor builds company around quality pavement maintenance.

People around Marinette, WI, know who to call for pavement maintenance done right. Dan Biehl, owner of Dun-Rite, offers a broad range of pavement maintenance services, including sealcoating, striping, hot rubber crackfilling, parking lot signs, patching, and sweeping.

Dun-Rite has been a growing company since Biehl's brother started the business in 1976, with two employees doing mostly sealcoating and striping jobs. And Biehl sees even more growth in the future.

"Every year we grow a little bit — we've never gone backwards," Biehl says. "We used to just cover a 30-mile radius around the Marinette/Menomonee (MI) area, now we're working out to a 50-mile radius, and even further into Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We're a little bit more mobile, and I have plans to become even more mobile in the future. Every year there's more asphalt. And when the economy's tight, maintenance grows."

Biehl's business is split evenly between residential and commercial jobs, and job sizes are across the board.

"We do jobs from $30 to $50,000 — we don't turn anything away," he says.

About 40% of Dun-Rite's business is in cracksealing. Biehl believes the key to keeping a parking lot or other stretch of pavement in good condition is crackfilling. He says that some people ask for a sealcoat and restripe, thinking those services will make their parking lots look better. But he explains that isn't enough protection against the elements and traffic.

"The main thing people should do is crackfill," he says. "If someone wants me to look at their parking lot and they say, 'I want a sealcoating,' I'll tell them that they need to pull any weeds and fill cracks first."

When people doubt the importance of crackfilling, Biehl directs them to an area grocery store parking lot that his company has been maintaining for 18 years.

"Every spring we fill every crack in that lot," Biehl says. "At 18 years old, that lot is in better shape than some 10- or even 5-year-old lots I've seen."

For crackfilling jobs, Biehl uses Crafco equipment, including the Supershot 125, the E-Z Pour 200 melter with a compressor for joint and crack cleaning, and a range of other equipment such as heat lances, air compressors, and crack routers.

Biehl's equipment is important to him, not just for the obvious reasons of performance, reliability, and professionalism, but also because of his business's proximity. Biehl explains that since Dun-Rite is located in northeastern Wisconsin, getting equipment parts can be problematic.

"If we're on a job and have a parking lot blocked off, and something goes down, we've got to drive two hours for parts, maybe even longer," Biehl says.

Because of this, Biehl concentrates on maintenance in the winter and on rainy days to avoid equipment breakdowns, and he says the maintenance attention pays off.

"Our backup equipment is as good as the stuff we use every day," he says. "We fix everything all winter long. In the summer we watch the weather, and if there's going to be some rainy days, we pick a few machines that need to be cleaned or maintained, and that's what we do."

Biehl says another important element to Dun-Rite's success is his independent staff. Dun-Rite currently has eight full-time employees and several part timers for the busy months. Biehl says after he gives his workers their jobs for the day, he rarely hears from them until the job is finished.

"My business success revolves around my crew," he says. "I'm lucky that I've got quality guys that stay with me year after year."

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