Research and a little help to get the right formulation

By Jeff Winke

Each type of asphalt sealer has different performance characteristics and application traits. As a solid starting point, it can be best to find and work with a reputable material supplier who can function as a business partner, that will support best sealcoating practices and successful business growth.

Girish Dubey, president of STAR, Inc., Columbus, OH, offered nine questions to ask in evaluating whether a materials supplier can provide the best business support and function as a valued partner.

1. What is your supplier’s reputation in the marketplace? Do other contractors have good things to say about them? Ask to see a minimum of five sealcoating jobs completed using their sealer. Check with the local chamber of commerce and Better Business Bureau to see if there are any negative reviews or comments. And also check online review sites.

2. What is the supplier’s primary line of business? Is it contracting or distributing? A business that either manufactures or distributes the material as their primary business should do whatever it takes to meet your needs.

3. Do your supplier’s products meet the applicable standards and specifications, and are they willing to supply certifications of compliance to the applicable standards?

4. Is your supplier an expert in both technical and general industry knowledge? Your supplier should be thoroughly up to the speed with competitive products, the applicable specifications, and be in a position to make recommendations to handle any applications. Additionally, your supplier should have a thorough knowledge about the tools and equipment required to do the job correctly. In unusual situations, your supplier should be able to analyze the need and offer a remedy.

5. Does your supplier support its contractors with printed literature and online resources? The supplier should have printed brochures and “Property Owner Friendly” sell sheets. Also, they should have a good, easy-to-navigate website for use by sealcoating contractors. It could be impressive if you carry an iPad to show your customers the product descriptions, application specifications, and performance reports right on the spot.

6. Is your supplier a “one-stop shop?” Does your supplier stock items other than just sealer? The ability to purchase everything in one place can save on fuel and downtime going from one supplier to another.

7. What are your supplier’s hours of operation? Make sure that the supplier has favorable hours of operation and is willing to serve you during weekends, holidays, and off hours.

8. Does your supplier view your relationship as a partnership? Your supplier should be your partner and support you from A to Z. This means not only taking charge in analyzing complaints and solving problems, but also in working with you on bids and proposals, should you need help.

9. Can your supplier help you complete large jobs? There’s nothing better than landing that huge sealcoating job, but can your supplier provide the material to get the job done? Do they have access to spot tankers that can be left on the jobsite so you can avoid costly refilling trips?

By obtaining answers to these questions, Dubey believes the sealcoat contractor will be positioned to develop a positive relationship with a sealer materials supplier who can help grow the contractor’s sealcoating business.

In selecting the best sealcoating material to use, Monte Collins, sealcoat product manager, Crafco, Inc., Nashville, Tenn., stated, “There are three primary types of pavement sealers–refined tar, asphalt-emulsion, and petroleum resin.”
Refined tar sealers, according to Collins, are used primarily East of the Rockies because the sources of coal tar refineries that receive raw materials from steel manufacturers are in the Midwest and the East. Their long life, fuel resistance, and resistance to color fade make refined tar sealers attractive to the end-user.

Asphalt emulsion sealers are used more frequently in the West because tar supply to the West was not readily available while asphalt is. It is said to provide advantages over refined tar because it is almost odorless and much more user friendly. Because of its perceived environmental advantage, asphalt emulsions are becoming more popular in the East. However, asphalt emulsions are not generally favored by the end user because of color fade, increased cost in many cases, and a shorter lifespan.

Petroleum Resin sealers were recently developed to address environmental concerns of refined tar sealers and lower performance properties of asphalt sealers. Petroleum Resin sealers have the fuel resistance of refined tar sealers, functionally meet FAA and other federal specifications, have low odor and minimal skin irritation. Some have found that this type of sealer cures faster than the other types of sealers. It can be applied in a wider range of temperatures and other environmental conditions as well having a longer life as compared to asphalt emulsion sealers. Collins noted that refined tar sealers still perform the best but petroleum resin sealers have quickly become a suitable alternative.

In recent years refined tar sealers have come under attack from environmental agencies and some local governments because of their Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) content. It is recommended to research which types of sealers are approved for use in your area.

“When selecting a asphalt emulsion product, I believe one should look for the following attributes,” stated Robert Archie with US Seal International, Reno, Nev. “Drying time, a deep black color that stays black after drying and beyond, adhesion quotient–meaning what percentage of adhesion the product has, the ability to stay in suspension in its concentrated state and with water being added, and its safety factors–how safe it is to the applicators, to the environment, water, ground, air, during and after its application. In addition, how safe it is when it decomposes after aging and winds up in retention ponds after finally washing down the driveway and into storm drains. This is measured by PAHs, the toxic chemicals that get into our environment.”

People are usually exposed to mixtures of PAHs. Breathing air contaminated with motor vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, wood smoke, or fumes from asphalt roads are common ways exposure occurs. People take in PAHs when they eat grilled or charred meats or foods or foods on which PAH particles have settled from the air.

Archie further recommended, “Make sure you know what you are buying. Get educated. Don’t just take what they tell you. Ask for documentation, tests, SDS sheets. Become an expert in your field. Then when you go to someone’s door you will not be just repeating what the manufacturer’s literature says, but you will know what you are selling and be confident in the properties of the material and secure in the knowledge that your product meets and exceeds the necessary requirements to do the very best job that can be done.”

According to Adam Wellman with Maintenance Inc., Wooster, Ohio, the top three factors a sealcoating contractor should look at when selecting a seal coat product that best suits the need are dilution ratios, solid and ash contents, and coverage rates. “These three factors can tell you a lot about the material you are using.”

Wellman continued: “The main thing you want to do when developing a formula for your company is to keep it consistent. This is important for one main reason: if you’re constantly changing your formula and you run into a problem on a jobsite, and you haven’t kept a consistent formula, it will be very hard to determine what the actual problem is. A formula we have come up with and our contractors have had great success with is a 25% to 30% dilution rate with two-pounds per gallon sand based on your raw bulk material, along with a fast-drying additive. That formula is going to give you a great tough durable and flexible sealer film that cures to a dark, black-slate finish that your customer can be assured will stand up to whatever mother nature throws at it.”

Selecting the best sealcoating product for contractors to use effectively and successfully can be accomplished with some research and, perhaps, a little help from a trusted materials supplier.

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