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When they’re exposed to harsh conditions, paint and other coatings frequently wear out before the materials they cover. Before reapplying a new paint or coating, all old paint must be removed. This is commonly done by sandblasting it off of the surface to be painted.
Sandblasting businesses efficiently remove paints and coatings from a variety of durable materials, including metal, brick and wood. Some businesses also etch designs into these materials, usually to create signs or gravestone markers.
The term “sandblasting” is still widely used, but it’s becoming slightly archaic. While sand has historically been used, most businesses today use other abrasive substrates. To reflect this shift, sandblasting is sometimes now referred to as “abrasive blasting.”
Who is this business right for?
Anyone who enjoys manual labor and appreciates seeing the effect of their hard work may enjoy running a sandblasting business. Sandblasting equipment can be heavy, and the work requires a certain amount of physical strength. There’s the immediate payoff of seeing paint come off whatever object is being sandblasted, though.
This is a business that can be started part-time, and many business owners continue to operate part-time while working another job. It’s easy to schedule sandblasting appointments around other obligations.
What happens during a typical day at a sandblasting business?
A typical sandblasting begins with the business owner looking over the object that’s being sandblasted and confirming with the customer what work is to be done. This may be done at the sandblasting business’ or the customer’s location.
Once everything is confirmed, the business owner will normally:
- Don their safety gear.
- Set up the sandblasting equipment.
- Complete the actual sandblasting.
- Clean up the substrates that were used.
Throughout the entire process, business owners must be attentive to safety so that no one is injured or inhales the substrates. OHSA has some safety-related guidelines.
What is the target market?
The target market for a sandblasting business is determined by the precise services the business offers. Most businesses target commercial customers, but some also serve individuals (e.g. homeowners, vehicle owners or individuals planning funerals).
How does a sandblasting business make money?
There are many sandblasting services that a business might specialize in. Some types of work that businesses charge for include:
- Large commercial/industrial sandblasting (e.g. metal girders, airplanes, helicopters)
- Smaller commercial/industrial sandblasting (e.g. buildings, cars, motorcycles)
- Sandblasting signs (usually made from wood with a stencil)
- Sandblasting gravestones (sometimes after a blank stone has been installed)
What is the growth potential for a sandblasting business?
A sandblasting business can remain a part-time operation run by a single business owner, or it can grow to be a large company. For example, Dryden Monument Company is a small gravestone company that also provides sandblasting services. Secondary Services is a larger sandblasting company that has a sizable facility.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sandblasting business?
Business owners must know how to safely and effectively operate sandblasting equipment, which they may learn by taking a course. Most courses take less than a week to complete, and they may be offered by equipment manufacturers or industry experts. Pittsburgh Spray Equipment Co. and The Society for Protective Coatings are two organizations that have classes. Local vocational schools may also offer training.
After being formally trained, many business owners decide to work in the industry for a short time before starting their own operation. Industry experience frequently brings insights that aren’t learned in the classroom.
What are the costs involved in opening a sandblasting business?
Jumping right into large commercial/industrial sandblasting is an expensive proposition. The work requires a facility with tens of thousands of square feet, a crane, forklifts, and not to mention the actual sandblasting equipment. Thankfully, there are much more affordable ways to get started in the industry.
- A sandblaster rig
- Substrates (the abrasive material used)
- An air compressor
- An abrasive hose
- A reclaiming system (to gather used substrates)
- Safety equipment
Businesses that sandblast small parts might purchase an all-inclusive sandblasting chamber that comes with this equipment installed. Such chambers cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. These businesses also must secure a commercial space to operate in.
Businesses that go to customers’ sites usually get the equipment as separate items. They also need a vehicle and trailer for going to sites.
Regardless of the type of sandblasting services provided, business owners need a sandblasting hood, respirator, heavy-duty gloves, hearing protection, and protective clothing.
Business owners who have limited capital should purchase smaller equipment that’s more affordable. Smaller, new equipment that’s reliable is often more affordable in the long run than larger, used equipment that might break down. Because safety is so important, business owners should plan on investing in high-quality safety gear.
What are the steps to start a sandblasting business?
Once you're ready to start your sandblasting business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your sandblasting business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your sandblasting business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting a sandblasting business?
Before investing in a sandblasting business, business owners should thoroughly investigate what companies currently offer sandblasting services in the area and how much those companies are charging. In addition to searching for sandblasting companies, business owners must also check to see whether any nearby painters, monument companies or contractors offer sandblasting services.
How to promote & market a sandblasting business
Because sandblasting businesses serve customers within a geographic area, all marketing efforts should be focused on attracting customers in that area. Local search engine optimization, business cards and old-fashioned cold calling are a few ways to promote a business.
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How to keep customers coming back
A sandblasting business can set itself apart from the competition by offering a professional service at a fair price. Being reasonably priced, showing up on time and cleaning up after completing a job makes a big difference.
How and when to build a team
Most business owners start out working by themselves. Those that want to grow their business usually hire employees as the workload requires and incoming revenue allows.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a sandblasting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations
Sandblasting business owners may interact with harmful chemicals such as certain abrasive substrates and it is important to reference to OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules and general standards for chemicals:
- Standard 1910.1200 states that employees be adequately informed of all potential hazards when working with chemicals
- Standard 1910.132 states that the necessary personal protection equipment be provided to the employee working with chemicals, such as safety glasses, a face mask and suitable gloves
How much can you charge customers?
Aside from large commercial/industrial sandblasters, most business owners charge between $30 and $60 per hour regardless of their specialty. Larger commercial/industrial sandblasters must charge more to cover their higher overhead.
What are the ongoing expenses for a sandblasting business?
The ongoing expenses for a sandblasting business are reasonable. Businesses must purchase substrates to use and fuel to run sandblasting equipment. They also must cover the costs associated with having either a physical location or a vehicle.
How much profit can a sandblasting business make?
Charging between $30 and $60 per hour, sandblasting businesses can bring in a significant revenue. Working 20 hours a week part-time could produce an revenue of between $600 and $1,200 each week.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Sandblasting is often done to prep a surface for painting or some other coating. Thus, offering painting or other coating services is a natural progression for a growing sandblasting business.