Steps sealcoat contractors should take for a successful season

By Jeff Winke

With the construction and paving season fast approaching, the sealcoat contractor needs to be fully prepared with the right equipment and tools ready to go.

“The key to a successful start of the year actually starts at the end of the previous year,” stated Adam Wellman, Maintenance Inc., Wooster, Ohio. “A maintenance program that includes proper storage of sealcoating equipment in the offseason will help avoid the main failures we see as a parts and equipment dealer. Improper storage can lead to costly repairs that could have been avoided such as pump rebuilds, pump changes, wand failures, and having to replace all hoses and lines.”

From a contractor’s perspective, Monte Collins, sealcoat product manager, Crafco, Inc., Nashville, Tenn., had this to offer: “As a contractor in the business for many years, I had checklists for maintaining my equipment before the start of the season. Proper maintenance of equipment is key to limit downtime during the season, which is costly in in terms of labor and profit.”

Here is a checklist Collins used for bulk tanks/sealcoating tanks:

  • Check tanks annually
  • Flush tanks and water before filling with sealer to remove any lose debris from chipping.
  • Grease bearings
  • Change hydraulic filter
  • Change hydraulic fluid
  • Inspect Love-joys
  • Inspect gears and chains on hydraulic motors/pumps.
  • Inspect any belts if applicable.
  • Inspect chain that drives agitation to make sure it’s not too lose or too tight.
  • Inspect welds on tanks for any cracks
  • Inspect inside shaft and paddles for any damage or wear. Replace rubbers if not getting a full sweep.
  • Inspect calibration of meter if applicable.
  • Rebuild sealcoating pumps
  • Replace sealer hose and wand
  • Inspect strainer and basket

Equipment with small engines require attention in order to be prepared for the season. Collins recommends changing the oil in any small equipment like blowers, air compressors, rotary brooms, etc. “This should be done throughout the season as well. As a supplier of equipment, we see where many times new equipment needs to be purchased because of a lack of maintenance, not because the engines had worn out.”

It is also very important to ensure that equipment is clean from the previous season.

“Every year I have to help customers because they forgot to thoroughly clean out their sealcoat tank, which ends up costing them valuable time,” Wellman said. “Contactors should also take an inventory of their tools, such as checking their squeegees all the way down to their spray tips to ensure they have everything they need to start out the season.”

With respect to the equipment required for sealcoating, Robert Archie with US Seal International, Reno, Nev. stated: “You will need an applicator machine capable of squeegeeing viscous material, as well as being a sprayer. That means a large enough opening for gravity flow into the squeegee box, usually a two-inch diameter pipe. Which is typical on most machines. As far as the spray portion an individual would need a machine with a double diaphragm pump, two-inch openings, with a compressor capable of generating at least 23cfms. Along with these machines, you will need the typical sealcoat brushes, squeegees, blowers, and other tools.”

Also, as part of preparing for the sealcoat season, it is imperative to check all sealcoat materials.

“Pay particular attention to the sealer in your holding tanks and application rigs,” stated Girish Dubey with STAR, Inc., Columbus, OH. “Make absolutely sure that the materials you stored over the winter months are still in good condition, meaning that they meet all the original quality standards supplied by your manufacturer. Would it be a safe assumption that you kept the material agitated in the holding tanks on a regular basis? Still, just prior to starting in the spring, agitate the material in the holding tank or the rig and submit samples to your supplier to make sure they are still within the quality control parameters. You may be advised to add some water to adjust the solids or add a pinch of biocide to take care of the foul odor, if any. Let the manufacturer instruct.”

Generally, sealcoating contractors–large or small–have similar approaches to the marketplace.

“The first thing contractors need when approaching the sealcoating season, is the change in temperature,” said Ken McBride with GemSeal Pavement Products, Charlotte, N.C. “The pavement or ground temperature should be 50 degrees F and rising. In the Northern states, they need to be aware if any salt solutions for de-icing have recently been applied. It usually takes a couple of good rains to remove any residue.”

McBride continued: “The contactor needs equipment to clean the pavement free of dirt and debris with brooms, either manual or power, blowers either push or backpack and in some cases a pressure washer. Once the surface is clean, then the rest of the process can begin. Any cracks need to be addressed by crack sealing. The crack sealant can be either a pourable cold-product applied with pour pots or banders or it can be a hot-applied-sealant where a melter is required either direct fire or oil-jacketed type. The cracks need to be clean and dry before applying sealant. There is usually other small equipment used for patching holes or cleaning oil spots found in such places as in parking stalls.

“Once all the prep work is completed then the pavement should be ready to seal coat. The most popular sealers are coal-tar based, petroleum based and asphalt emulsions, as well as acrylics. The application equipment required can be something as simple as a five-gallon pail with squeegees or brushes to sealcoat application equipment, that uses either air diaphragm or hydraulic style pumps and spray wands, as well as squeegee machines. Application techniques and equipment vary depending on the contractor.”

Again, the key for a successful sealcoating season is preparation. Having the right equipment, tools, and employees ready to go will make the difference.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through