The steps to take
By Jeff Winke
Equipment is the heart, life blood, and soul of every paving and construction business. They are critical to success. In some respects they become the extension of the business. And sealcoating machines can be the most important tool for caring and preserving paved asphalt. Ergo, it makes total sense to care for and maintain sealcoating equipment to ensure it will continue to operate at the high standard expected.
Sealcoating not only prevents water intrusion, slows pavement deterioration, protects, and extends pavement life but it adds beauty….. it adds glimmer to what can be seen as an ordinary landscape! The equipment providing that magic need care and maintenance.
As with any machinery, there are maintenance tasks that should be taken before and after each sealcoating job to make sure the equipment keeps running smoothly. It helps to create a maintenance checklist to follow. The checklist should include the following:
• Inspect Hoses Frequently — Get in the habit of inspecting hoses at least daily, or even better, every time while spooling the hose out before spraying. Keep a replacement hose handy to save time waiting, or traveling, to get a new one. Sealcoating machines can’t spray without a hose. If a hose bursts, the sealer will spray everywhere, and that is a mess no one needs
• Pump Maintenance is Critical — The pump is the key component to the sealcoating system. Learn it inside and out. In a sense, it is the heart.
• Check the Oil – Change or top off the oil reservoirs as needed to keep things running smooth.
• Gas Tank Inspection – Check on it regularly for dirt and other impurities and drain as needed before refilling with clean gas.
• Air Filter Cleaning – Inspect and clean the air filter. Use a shop vac or soapy water to clean filters and to keep the motor running in tip-top shape.
• Spark Plug Changeout – Don’t wait until there is trouble starting the sealcoating machine. A fresh spark plug is cheap insurance and an essential part of annual (or sooner) maintenance plans.
• Spray Tips, Cheap Insurance – These essential parts are always worth having plenty of spares on hand. Keep 10 to 12 readily available to ensure they are there when needed.
• Spray Gun Inspection – Make sure to check the ball valve to make certain it is opening fully and is not seized.
• Check the Valves – Test all valves for free and easy movement and check for any cracks to avoid leakage while operating.
“Some key steps a contractor should take in preparing for a sealcoating job, before you even leave your yard is to do a general once over of your machine,” stated Brent Loutzenhiser, CEO, Seal-Rite Products LLC, Auxvasse, Mo. “Double check that your gas tank is full and make sure all your tools are stocked. Also, clean out your filter pot, and for everyone working the job, make sure you have plenty of cool water to drink and sunscreen for while you are on the job.”
As part of preparation in advance for a sealcoating job, Mark McLeod, president & CEO of Maintenance Inc., Wooster, Ohio, stated, “In preparing, contractors should always ensure they have full gas cans. Make sure to oil and check everything they are going to use before they get to the job site. Bring small tools, crack sealer, flagging tape, stakes, and enough quantity of pavement sealer with additive already mixed for the entire job. And, make sure you have enough employees to get the project done orderly and fast!”
When arriving at the jobsite, there are a set of tasks to complete.
“The first thing a contractor should do when they get to a jobsite is check their oil on everything they have, a simple preventive caution,” Loutzenhiser said. “Next, if you are doing any crack filling you’ll need to start your melter. After these two steps are done, barricade the lot where work will be done and begin prepping.
“Then, have two workers blow off the lot, using a power blower. Use a spud hoe and wire-bristle broom to clean off the really dirty areas. After the cleaning is finished, your asphalt crack-filler melter should be ready and you can start crack filling. Once crack filling is completed, you can do the cutting in, getting yourself two feet away from the edges of your job area. After all these preparation steps, you should be able to put down your first coat of sealer.”
There are definite advantages to being the early bird.
McLeod said: “Get to the jobsite before the crew to make sure cars are off the lot and deliveries are stopped and sprinklers are off. Block off the lot to be sealed, so when the crew arrives the job is ready to be cleaned.”
Communication is crucial in any successful project. In addition to explaining to the project owner all the steps and procedures that will be followed to complete the job, McLeod recommends taking before, during, and after photographs. When shared with the owner, the pics provide a visual documentation of the production steps and results. In this day and age, with nearly everyone having a smart phone, taking photos should not be an issue.
Once the sealcoating job is completed, what steps should the contractor take to ensure the equipment is ready for the next project?
“That is a variable,” stated Loutzenhiser. “It depends on how far apart jobs are. If there will be less than three days between your jobs a sealcoating machine like ours will just require you to take your spray tip out to soak in water, put a plug in the end of your spray wand, drain moisture out of your compressor, and make sure your brooms are in water. With all these steps you should be good to go for your next job. If there will be more than three days until your next job, you will need to leave water in your plumbing.”
When sealcoating equipment is properly maintained, a contractor’s life can run smoothly and the beautiful end results can leave customers happy and returning with new projects.
Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org