It’s that time of year again when many of us find ourselves balancing time between squeezing every last dollar we can out of our season; closing things out and shifting gears for the offseason. However you look at it, the sealcoat season has either ended, or is quickly coming to a close and most of you reading this will soon be experiencing environmental conditions that range from rapidly deteriorating to “Closed for the Season.” There are a few things I think are important for all contractors to consider as they head into the offseason.
Many contractors will push the limits of their material by working as deep into the fall season as possible, to a time when nice weather is in full retreat, and the opportunities to book work are coming with less and less frequency. It makes sense to continue making sales calls until the snow falls, knowing that you can start building your books for spring. The successful contractor also knows how to best manage the changes in conditions beginning in – for most of the sealcoating world – early October. Below is a small sampling of comments, tips and recommendations made to SealMaster’s people from across the country, by the contractors who work in these ever changing-conditions year in and year out:
• Resist the temptation to do jobs that you, as a professional, believe have low chances of success. Cash-in-hand must be weighed against the possibility of having to redo the work at no cost, and the almost certain hit your reputation will take. It’s better to not do a job, than it is to re-do a job.
• Communicate with your customer – be up front about working out of temperature specifications, explain the risk, and ask him to sign a warranty waiver. If he won’t sign it, then consider not doing the job. Explain that “the manufacturer cannot warrant the product” when applied at these temperatures and he cannot expect a contractor to warrant it either when applied outside of spec.
• Be mindful of the weather – if temperatures at application are not 50° and rising for 24 hours; or if there’s a chance of rain in that timeframe, you’re better off holding off on the job rather than risking failure.
• Try to work in direct sunlight – the effects of cloud cover and shade at this time of year are amplified over the effects during the heat of the summer. Start projects later in the day and be sure to conclude the day’s work, giving the water ample time to evaporate before the cooler temperatures of the night set in. If possible, keep your tank inside at night or put a belt heater on it to keep the temperature up.
• Always try to be aware of the pavement’s temperature. Sealcoaters should be equipped with a digital thermometer for surface temperature monitoring. Most large contractors will not sealcoat unless the surface temperature is 55° and rising.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s mix design. Never hesitate to ask your material provider’s recommendations on the proper amounts of water and sand to add; as well as which specific additives are best for the job you’re doing. Use of less water and more sand, based within the manufacturer’s specified ranges, often help with dry time. Fast-drying additives are best for the job you’re doing. Use of less water and more sand, based within the manufacturer’s specified ranges, often help with dry time.
• Two coat jobs are difficult to do later in the season. The first coat must be dry before the second can be shot, so it’s often best to plan on 2 or 3 thin coats. The thicker the coat, the longer it takes to cure and bond – the opposite holds true for thinner coats.
• Encourage your commercial accounts to at least do the crack sealing portion of the job in the fall – this will help protect the asphalt through the freeze/thaw cycle, and will allow for quick work to be booked for spring.
One option that many contractors are choosing is to avoid the changes by continuing their season working in one of the warmer states. Mid-western and east coast dialects can be heard well into January from Southern California through Phoenix, Albuquerque and Texas, and deep into Florida in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. If you’re considering year-round operation in multiple locations, be sure to check with each state you plan on working for their specific requirements with regards to taxes, permits and out-of-state worker status. You will want to check with your material suppliers to determine if they are present in your chosen market, and if they are, you will want to let them know in advance that you are coming so they can do their best to ensure material availability. Also, it is common for manufacturers to have agreements with national franchises, chains, and property management companies that can provide consistent, year-round work, to contractors who are willing to travel, and who enjoy a change in scenery.
With the arrival of the offseason comes the task of winterizing your equipment. This key piece of preventative maintenance needs to occur immediately after your last load of the season in order to better your chances of avoiding damage to your pumps. The process of winterization involves flushing and cleaning out material from pumping systems, tanks and hoses, and the protection of the equipment and its components during winter storage. You can greatly extend the life of your equipment and the systems that make it work by following a regular program of maintenance that includes winterizing.
As we head into the offseason, I encourage you to research your industry and your market, and to invest some time in an effort to be as knowledgeable as you can about your profession. A little knowledge combined with the experience gained from coming to work each day, will help you become better at what you do, and will give you the best chance at success.
You can visit SealMaster's website at: http://www.sealmaster.net/