Choosing what you need for each size job

By Jeff Winke

In a perfect world, the sealcoating machine would automatically size and configure itself for the job at hand. Small driveway…BOOM, no problem! Giant residential or industrial complex…POOF, easy peasy! That would be nice and certainly would make pavement sealcoating an easy and welcome task, while matching the equipment perfectly to the need.

Unfortunately, magic does not appear that easily. But perhaps with hard work and the right tools, jobs can be more easily completed.

“Sealcoating jobs come in many different sizes and types of applications, including driveways, small to large commercial lots, shopping malls, airports, and even light-trafficked roads,” stated Chris Vacca, senior marketing manager with Crafco, Inc., Chandler, Arizona. “The size of the application determines the amount of sealer needed and, therefore to some extent, the size of the equipment needed.”

There are the different sealcoating systems available.

“When looking at the options, there are a variety of machines to consider,” said Brent Loutzenhiser, owner and president of Seal-Rite, Auxvasse, Missouri. “There are hand crank, gravity feed, power agitated, hand crank spray, and hydraulically agitated spray. A spray system with hydraulic agitation gets every job done with ease. However, if you only take on a few sealcoating jobs a month, a hand crank system is a good place to start. “

The success of any job starts with selecting the proper machine to address the project’s needs.

“Sealcoat contractors can apply product by spray or squeegee,” stated Jason Mixell engineering and sales manager with Nealco Equipment LLC, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. “Squeegee application gives a consistent finish, but will have an uneven thickness as it scrapes off the tops of the asphalt and fills in the pits. Squeegee application is best for newly paved asphalt.

“Squeegee machines are usually driven machines that are specialized to squeegee application. Many are dual applicators that can spray as well. Spraying can give a quick, even coverage, but requires some skill to put a consistent coat down. Most machines use a spray wand, but many feature a spraybar, which can apply a wide path of up to 15-feet.”

Mixell continued: “Spray machines come with two types of pumps, hydraulic and pneumatic. Pneumatic machines use a diaphragm pump driven by an air compressor. Hydraulic pumps are driven by hydraulic pressure. Each has an advantage. The air machine is generally less expensive and requires less skill to operate and maintain. The hydraulic pump can apply a wider variety of materials with greater pressure, which results in more jobs completed. Smaller air machines may come with hand-agitation, which may be best for the occasional user. If you plan to use the machine daily or on an industrial basis, you will probably want hydraulic agitation. You should also consider the material the machine is built with. For a long-lasting machine, you should choose one with a 3/16” thick or greater tank and a channel or box tube frame.”

In order to provide some range of the job sizes, the following classification is given.

Vacca detailed the following: “Driveways to small commercial applications are <1000 square yards and can require as much as 287 mixed gallons. Medium- to large-applications, such as schools, commercial properties, hospitals can range from 1000- to 10,000-square yards and require up to 2,870 gallons of mixed material. Large- to super-sized-applications, including shopping malls, airports, industrial complexes and roads, will be categorized as 10000-square-yards and above, and require in excess of 2870 gallons of mixed material.

“In order to achieve the highest efficiency, equipment of varying sizes and capabilities are needed. Typical sizes for tanks are 300-, 550-, 750-, 1000-, 1500-, and 2000-gallon capacity. Every size of tank can complete a job, it is just how efficient can the application be in order to be competitively priced. For example, a 300-gallon tank can complete a 10000-gallon application, but will require 33-34 tank loads. Each tank load requires downtime while traveling to supply site, subsequently filling up with sealer, and then driving back to the job site. In contrast, if one had a 2000-gallon tank, then only five trips are needed to the supply site, filling, and returning. So, the typical job size determines the tank capacity needed in order to achieve the most efficiency of time and labor.”

Vacca continued, “Sealcoat machine capabilities include spraying with a spray wand, spraying with a spray bar, squeegeeing with a self-propelled squeegee, making and squeegeeing using a drag box behind a tank truck. Preferably one will have capability to squeegee and spray as this is a favored for two coat applications. Normally driveways and small commercial lots as defined above will be sueequeed by hand and sprayed with a spray wand. As one moves in to the medium- to large-sized category, self-propelled squeegee machines with dual application (squeegee / spray) are efficient in labor cost and energy required by labor. A spray bar or spray wand can be used for spray application in this mid-range category. For the large-size applications and above, efficiency comes with larger tanks with spray bars and drag assemblies. Sealer can be applied at a very high rate with these types of equipment.”

Certainly, there are advantages in both manual application of sealcoating and using a sealcoating machine.

“With a spray machine you have the option to pump your material down and then brush or squeegee it or you would have the ability to spray,” Loutzenhiser said. “When you spray jobs, you can hit the application rate no matter the condition of the asphalt. So, the amount of material you leave is determined by how you mix your material, your spray tip, your air pressure, and the speed you walk. If you are manually applying your material, the amount of sealer you leave is determined by the asphalt, how much you cut your material, and the brush or squeegee you use. So, if you have a very rough lot, it could take an excess of material. If you have a lot in good condition, you might not be able to get as much material on as needed.”

Like all equipment, when choosing a sealcoating machine, uptime, speed, efficiency and durable, high-quality results are on the line. To be successful the unit must deliver on all fronts. But not every sealcoat machine is right for every contractor. Clearly, it makes sense to thoroughly research the options to find the best match for the need.

The magic of selecting the best size sealcoat equipment for the need can happen, if the time and research is invested.

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