By Maury Bagwell
From parking lots to roadways, asphalt serves a critical role in infrastructure. However, it must contend with some of Mother Nature’s harshest treatment. Sealcoating may be asphalt’s best ally for longevity.
Here are a few quick tips for successful and profitable sealcoating applications.
Before any contractor takes on sealcoating, they need to understand why it’s important and how it works to protect asphalt.
Water and ultraviolet rays are asphalt’s two worst enemies. They degrade the surface, causing small cracks and voids that make way for water to damage the underlying base materials. If not protected, material failure is imminent and will rear its ugly head in the form of potholes.
The only way to prolong asphalt life and keep this from happening is with proper and regular sealcoating. Sealcoat material fills the voids in asphalt and creates a protective barrier from water and sunlight. It may even extend asphalt’s life by as much as four times. However, it must be done properly and at the right time.
Starting with the proper mix is critical to producing quality results. Using “black water,” as watered-down mix is commonly referred to, will never render results that last, and it will quickly give a contractor a bad reputation.
Ensure the mix includes at least 1.4 kg of sand per 4 litres of water to provide the right grip needed for safe use by both vehicle and foot traffic. It’s also important to use quality materials and be sure the mix is adequately blended. Always follow the material manufacturer’s mix-to-water ratio recommendation.
Proper sealcoating conditions are similar to those needed to paint a house. The temperature needs to be at least 10 C and rising, and there should be plenty of sunlight. It is not recommended to sealcoat when it’s colder than 10 C or during overcast days at this temperature.
Also, consider how long the area will need to dry and how long the space may be closed to traffic. If your client demands a small window to sealcoat and stripe, you’ll need to be sure you’re not applying material on a cool, cloudy day. Heat and sunlight are your best allies for speeding up drying times.
Before any drop of sealcoat makes contact with the surface, it’s important to prepare the asphalt; that means a clean and dry surface. Clean off stuck mud with a wire bristle brush and use a high-powered blower to remove debris and water. A sealcoating machine that features a high-powered blower will speed up prep time.
The blower is mounted right on the machine and offers three times the output of walk-behind blowers, so contractors can clean areas faster and more thoroughly. To speed prep work even further, a baffle attachment automatically cuts in sealcoat materials on the go. When contractors use a high-powered blower and baffle attachment together, they can work as much as seven times faster and with fewer people, enhancing productivity while minimizing costs.
While prep work, the mix and sealcoat timing are pretty straightforward, knowing how often to sealcoat is a little more fluid. The weather, precipitation, freeze and thaw cycles, as well as traffic can all have an impact and will vary from year to year. Sealcoating typically needs to be done every two to five years, but it’s a good idea to be proactive with clients. If conditions were particularly harsh, check in with clients and go out and inspect the area to see if services are required.
For both novice and veteran operators, when sealcoating basics are kept top-of-mind, they help seal the deal for a successful job.
Maury Bagwell is the lead engineer at Neal Manufacturing, a division of Blastcrete Equipment LLC, based in Alabama. He has more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing, sales, product design and engineering. His responsibilities include product development, engineering and quality control.