Like all equipment, when choosing a sealcoating machine, uptime, speed, efficiency and 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. Follow these guidelines for optimal productivity and profits.
- Match the Pump to the Mix
There are three types of pumps you’ll find with sealcoating machines: Bowie, diaphragm and hydraulic-powered piston pumps.
A Bowie, or gear pump, can be used to pump mixes with 5 to 6 pounds of sand per gallon. Unfortunately, Bowie pumps tend to lose suction over time, so they are not ideal for modern sealcoating applications.
Diaphragm pumps can be used to pump mixes with as little as 2 pounds of sand per gallon. This is great for smaller jobs, such as driveways or anywhere without heavy traffic, but if larger commercial jobs are on the line, a sealcoating machine with a more powerful hydraulic pump is in order.
Hydraulic-powered piston pumps can take on mixes with 8 or more pounds of sand per gallon — mixes that give contractors the ability to take on a wide range of projects, such as federal jobs and large commercial projects. Hydraulic-powered piston pumps also allow contractors to move materials 40 percent faster than diaphragm pumps, so larger jobs get done quicker.
- Determining Maintenance Needs, aka Downtime
Bowie pumps have a few pitfalls when it comes to maintenance. They must be greased often and abrasive high-sand mixes and asphalt emulsions can quickly wear down the rotary gear. This causes a gap in the seal, resulting in pump pressure loss — a death sentence for any pump. Rebuilding it can get expensive, considering material costs, labor and downtime.
Diaphragm pumps also require regular maintenance. They use rubber seals, which must be replaced regularly. Leather seals, like those found in piston pumps, don’t need daily upkeep and can last through as much as 200,000 gallons of sealcoat before replacement is required. This is why piston pumps require the lowest overall maintenance and therefore can deliver the most uptime.
- Choose the Best Application Method
Whether squeegeeing, spraying or both, each method has its advantages, depending on the job and type of surface.
Spraying is ideal on smooth surfaces because it leaves a uniform finish and is faster than applying sealcoat with a squeegee. For rough or porous surfaces, a squeegee is a great way to pack the material into the crevices to create a strong, uniform bond with the pavement, which results in a longer lasting seal. One thing to keep in mind with squeegees, however, is that they can make it a bit more challenging to spread the sealer evenly for a smooth finish.
Machines with dual applicators, both a spray bar and squeegee, can be an ideal solution for many contractors. Operators have the flexibility to use whichever method will render the best result for each job. Contractors also can use a dual applicator machine to apply one coat with a squeegee to form a strong bond, and then spray on a second coat for a uniform finish. While this method takes more time, the results last as much as 40 percent longer than a job done with a squeegee alone or a double-spray application — saving time and money while earning more referral and repeat business due to a quality job.
- Size It Up for the Project and Transportation
Just as pump systems and application methods affect your bottom line, so does finding a machine with a tank sized to fit your operation.
For smaller jobs, such as residential driveways or small parking lots, a 750-gallon tank is typically big enough to complete each project without refilling. Larger jobs, such as airport runways and mall parking lots, on the other hand, will likely require a larger tank to minimize refilling time. Some tanks, such as skid-mounted units, can hold as much as a few thousand gallons.
Also consider how you’ll transport the sealcoat machine. You’ll want to ensure your vehicle has enough horsepower to haul a trailer-mounted unit or, for a skid-mounted machine, that it matches your vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating, or gvwr. Consider the weight of the equipment plus the material that will be inside of it. Sealcoat generally weighs around 10 pounds per gallon, sometimes more depending on the amount of sand in the mix.
Seal the Deal
When it comes to sealcoating jobs, productivity and profits are on the line every day. Use a machine that matches your operation — then uptime, speed, efficiency and durable results will win every time.