Despite its rugged exterior, asphalt is somewhat of a sensitive guy—to heat that is. But thankfully there are methods to grapple with this.
Like many construction materials, common types of asphalt have a goldilocks temperature zone within which it is optimal to shape. Most asphalt is best laid and compacted between 180 degrees to 225 degrees. But the hotter the better when it comes to compaction, the process that squeezes asphalt’s aggregate materials together with its binder to give it shape and rigidity.
If the substance gets cooler than 180 degrees, it will merely flatten out when rolled and will not become denser like it should. This means it will not properly compact and its structural integrity should be called into question.
For the best application, J&W likes to stick to days when weather is cooperating if possible. Rain and heavy wind and the direction of sunlight are at play, particularly in the colder months of the operation season—October and November.
To combat these challenges (year-round, but particularly during the colder months) J&W ensures the asphalt plants with which they are partner heat their product extra well. Crews also stagger their asphalt pick-ups to ensure trucks are not sitting idle with cooling asphalt.
On cooler days, it’s crucial to use tarps to cover the asphalt and box heaters to keep it hot. Additionally, crews are sure to pave slower than typical to ensure workers have a chance to compact the material before it cools. Once the ground is below 50 degrees, crews have about half the time to achieve compaction, so working to compact the still hot freshly laid material is crucial.
But you might spot J&W’s crews working in temperatures as low as 35 degrees with all the proper fail safes in place. In such weather, the crew is applying thinner layers of asphalt—in this case about 1.5 inches thick. The thinner layer provides a base for customers’ driveway projects and gives them a hard surface to drive on over the winter. Crews then return in the spring to finish the job.
Not all repairs are created equal. This is especially true in the world of structurally key areas of asphalt.
Picture this—It is winter and the salty slush from the roadway is pooling in a damaged spot on the asphalt apron where your driveway meets your garage floor. Imagine this salty slush now penetrating the ground and into the underlying frost block. This can spell disaster for a home’s foundation and moreover can lead to costly repairs. Thanks to J&W’s state-of-the-art infrared repair process, these issues can disappear before they snowball.
Because asphalt is a temperature-based material it can be reactivated when heated. This allows a level and seamlessness of repair not possible in the traditional cutaway method that leaves unsightly cutlines through which water can pass.
Because infrared-heated asphalt reactivates, newly applied material doesn’t simply plug a hole; indeed, it becomes one with the existing surface. This is achieved by reintroducing what the industry calls “rejuvenator,” an oil substance containing asphalt binders.
This combination of techniques and materials eliminates cracks that would allow water to pass through to sensitive foundation, like a simple cut and patch might, according to J&W infrared specialist Joe Hagen.
“We don’t fix a problem by leaving a problem,” Hagen said of the cracks left behind by traditional methods.
Hagen added that an additional benefit to the infrared method is that the final product is more seamless compared to old methods given that with infrared the old and the new materials become one solid piece. This means you might not notice a repair took place at all. President of J&W Asphalt Ryan Herrmann added that wintertime is when foundational damage can add up, so it is best to be on top of it before things get out of hand. “It’s good to get ahead of it,” Herrmann said. Infrared repairs can also be used for potholes and other cosmetic issues on driveways and parking lots. But if you notice damage to over 25% of the surface, it might be time to consider replacing the whole surface.