The best practices

By Jeff Winke

As far as old sayings go there’s the “a tiger cannot change its stripes,” meaning that people are incapable of changing their essential nature. The same saying has been used with zebras — a zebra cannot change its stripes. And someone is quoted saying a cheetah cannot change its stripes…go figure!

As far as asphalt pavement goes, striping can be changed, but if properly planned and the striping follows an accurate layout there should be no need. In a sense, pavement striping defines the “essential nature” of the property.

First, some basics. Painting lines on parking lots, roadways and commercial properties requiring signs and markings on asphalt and concrete pavement is called line striping. The lines show traffic directions, parking spaces, handicap zones, reserve parking areas, and pick-up/drop-off zones.

Every line striping job requires paint, such as alkyd, an oil-based paint, or latex, a water-based paint. Alkyd generally costs more than latex. Smaller paint jobs may only require paint and some basic tools, while larger line striping work will generally require more supplies and equipment. There are a variety of line-painting machines available with technologies that are designed to make application easier and more accurate. Most are walk-behind push or self-propelled units.

The expected advantages of a line-painting machine versus manual painting using spray paint, brushes, and rollers are time savings, materials savings, and better accuracy — a line painting machine is designed to make straight lines and curves neatly and consistently with little difficulty.
With supplies and equipment in hand, a contractor should be ready for striping.

“To prepare for a line striping job we employ the three Cs,” stated Luke Menear, vice president at United Striping Company, Rochester, NY. “These are (1) Communicate with the customer about important job details like when, where, and what they would like to have done to their parking lot, (2) Coordinate with your striping team about essential details like what type of paint and color will be used for the job, specific stencils that will be needed, etc., and (3) Collaborate with your team to make certain the right equipment, materials, and manpower get to the job site to ensure the project is completed to the customer’s satisfaction.”

Planning is critical for any new pavement striping project.

“Whether it is a Re-Stripe, a Re-Stripe Over Seal, or a New Layout, my first concern is the paint quantity I will need to complete the project,” stated Dan Zurcher, owner of The American Striping Company, Columbus Ohio. “I always figured 300 yards per gallon. In 29 years, using that calculation, I have never run out of paint. My next concern is establishing the best schedule for the client and their location. I would note when they close and that’s when I’d schedule the job, as long as I felt safe. Scheduling after hours benefits both the client and the striper. Making one trip is always a goal but if it’s safer or easier for the client, making an additional trip is fine. My last concern is if the weather will be good enough to paint outdoors. The sooner I start, the sooner I can finish and be off to another job.”

Creating a new striping layout at a site can be a challenge. It has to be accurate and in compliance with all regulations and requirements since it will likely stand as the template to be followed for all future freshening up as the paint lines age and fade.

“Whenever I stripe a new jobsite layout, I start in a corner,” Zurcher said. “If it helps, think of a parking lot as a checkerboard. I use a weight box to hold the end of my 300’ measuring tape. I start in the near corner and walk all the way across the ‘back row.’ I then make my 9’ stall width marks, alongside my 300’ tape while walking back to the beginning. Maintaining that same starting point, I then turn 90 degrees and walk all the way ‘down’ the parking lot and make my ‘stall lengths’ and ‘drive lane’ marks, alongside my 300’ tape, while again walking back to the beginning. The weight box hasn’t moved. Now two sides are square. I then move my weight box ‘down’ the parking lot to the nearest mark and again, walk all the way across, making my marks while walking back. Repeat the process. The box moves down the lot and I walk across and back, until I am done. There’s a diagram in my book, How I Stripe a Parking Lot.

“Through this process, I’ve just accomplished marking the starts and stops of the stripes. Next, I placed a long rope to stretch the distance and I striped just beside that rope, starting and stopping when required. It’s quick. It’s straight. It’s all lined up. Nowadays, we have Auto Layout which still needs finessing. We also have lasers to replace the long rope. However, if you’re starting out and have no laser, be encouraged. You can do this.”
As part of the line striping preparation planning stage for a job, contractors will want to check on the various ordinances governing the locale in which work will be completed.

“There are many different types of compliance issues a contractor can run into, such as the dimensions of a parking space, the color of the markings, ADA requirements, DOT, OSHA, and fire lanes,” Menear said. “I would recommend checking your local parking lot striping requirements beforehand as they can differ from state to state.”

Clearly, learning after the project is completed that the striping is in violation is way too late, and potentially expensive. Confirm ahead, or regret later.

As a line striping projects gets completed, the contractor will want to confirm that the results match the customer’s expectations.

“We like to send the customer before pictures with their project quote and after photos with the invoice as bookends to assure the job was done to their satisfaction,” Menear concluded.

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