Brent Loutzenhiser, owner of sealcoating tank manufacturer Seal-Rite, vividly remembers cleaning his old sealcoating tanks back when he worked at his father’s sealcoating company.
“The first tank we used didn’t have rubber wipers, so we’d have to get inside the tank to clean it,” he said. “Getting inside a tank is a nasty job.”
“What we did to clean our tanks was pretty much the industry standard in the north,” Loutzenhiser said. Meaning, when temperatures dropped, he or his father would get into their tanks and knock frozen sealer off the paddles with a hammer. “I’d always do it on the absolute coldest day so it’s easiest to knock off.” Even still, cleaning his tanks took an entire day.
Either Loutzenhiser or his father would put on the proper mask, turn on some fans, enlist the help of a hole watch outside the tank, and start hammering away. They would chip away at last season’s sealer with hammers, scrapers, high-quality putty knives and spud hoes before sweeping and shoveling away the hardened sealer. “We could easily fill a skid loader bucket of old residue,” he said.
Although getting inside a tank to clean it is never a happy prospect, Loutzenhiser said it’s necessary for tanks without rubber wipers. “Some people beat the outside of their tanks, dinging the tank. But we found that if you cleaned from the inside, you were less likely to ding the tank, it got cleaner, and it wouldn’t affect the tank’s performance or the look of it.”
He said he would also never let someone go into a tank without a hole watch. “Sealer tanks aren’t as dangerous as other tanks, but it’s still very silly to go into a tank without [a hole watch.]”
For contractors that have tanks fitted with rubber wipers, the cleaning process can be much easier. The tank can be pressure washed and filled a quarter full with water, run the agitators for one hour each way, and the tank will be clean for the next season.
“If any particles do stay in there, they’ll freeze in the winter and our filter basket will catch them so they won’t cause you any trouble,” Loutzenhiser said of Seal-Rite’s tanks. “Most people don’t like to do any manual labor if they don’t have to.”
In order to retrofit tanks with rubber wipers, the tank’s hydraulics must be engineered to withstand that extra stress.
Stop Letting Sealer Settle
Once you’re on the job site, it’s important to keep your sealer mixed.
“It’s going to be a short period of time before the water rises to top and solids settle to the bottom of your tank,” Loutzenhiser said. When this happens, having a strong agitation system is a must. Loutzenhiser also recommends agitating your material for fifteen minutes before each job.
“Our agitation system has a lot of strength, and we have the ability to power through the material if it settles out,” he said. To make sure its agitation system has the strength to power through, Loutzenhiser said having more paddles is helpful, “A longer paddle will have a more difficult time getting through the material. The shorter the paddles are, the stronger they are.” For Seal-Rite, that means each paddle is one quarter of the length of any Seal-Rite tank.
He also advises against any sort of hand-agitated unit. “It’s too hard to find skilled labor, much less to get them to crank on this [agitation system] by hand 36 times,” he said. “And even if you did, after 36 turns, you’re going to be tired.”
Ultimately, keeping your sealcoating tank clean and your sealer mixed will lead to less frustration on the job site and a more consistent coat. If you didn’t clean well and your filter doesn’t catch them, those hardened particles could make it into your mix and you’ll end up with clogged spray tips or you’ll need to use a larger spray tip and work much faster, risking quality.