Creating joint-free, integral asphalt repairs
By Jeff Winke
Infrared. The word “infrared” conjures up science fiction, international espionage, or comic book tales. But in the context of asphalt paving, infrared is a practical, utilitarian tool used to repair deteriorated surfaces. To practitioners of infrared patching, the method is said to be an extremely effective and cost-efficient means of pavement repair.
“With infrared patching, there is no need for milling, sawing, jack-hammering or excess equipment,” stated Krystal Strassman, marketing manager / project estimator with DRS Paving, Fitchburg, Wis. “Infrared patching requires fewer people to operate and far fewer resources overall, thereby making it cost-efficient and an effective means of repair.”
The infrared method uses a heating panel that is placed over the area to be repaired. The panel heats existing pavement to 30 times the temperature of new asphalt. The existing asphalt becomes soft, allowing a hot liquid binder and fresh asphalt to be mixed directly into the pavement, which is then leveled to the proper height and compacted with a roller.
There are advantages to infrared patching.
Infrared creates a seamless repair. There are no joints that water or dirt can find its way into and compromise the repair. “An infrared repair lasts much longer than a conventional repair and is one seventh the carbon footprint,” stated Tom Allen, general manager, with KASI Infrared Corp., Claremont, New Hampshire. “It will last years. Nothing is permanent, but as long as the subbase is adequate the repair will last longer than the pavement that surrounds it.”
There are green benefits.
“We like that infrared repairs recycles-in-place, thereby reducing the use of valuable resources,” stated Matt Kieswetter, an owner and VP of technical sales with Infrared Pavement Repair Corp., Kitchener, Ont., Canada. “It also creates a seamless water-tight patch, and the process is less disruptive to the general public whether it’s a parking lot or a road repair.”
Strassman also pointed out that infrared patching is “far cheaper than bringing out a full paving crew and provides minimal down time, since you can literally drive on the repair after a few hours.”
The contractor can experience lower long-term customer cost and greater profitability because they can complete many more repairs with up to 50 percent less crew members according to Jeff LeClair, senior business development & sales, with Ray-Tech Infrared Corp., Charlestown, New Hampshire.
Infrared patching is said to be excellent repair for catch basins, water puddles, grooves from heavy equipment, potholes, curb failures, oil spots, failed joints or seams and other hazardous or unleveled pavement conditions.
The market for infrared repairs appears to be growing in volume and expanding beyond traditional jobsites.
“There is more diverse usage of infrared from FAA airports to large new construction projects to utility work to highway, parking lot and campus repairs, to name a few,” LeClair said. “Our company, Ray-Tech Infrared, recently delivered infrared repair machines to Scotland for large car dealerships that want fast pavement repairs, so their car buyers are not disrupted by repair crews or having to dodge potholes.”
With another creative use, Heat Design Equipment has a customer of theirs, Asphalt Restoration Co. LLC., Tuscaloosa, Ala., which used its infrared heating panel to remove a covering layer of asphalt paving to uncover an original, historic brick road. A local newspaper reported on the resident who “has been spearheading a movement to uncover the original brick streets around the Limestone County Courthouse Square. He believes returning the streets to their original surface would preserve the historical charm and bring back a unique feature to downtown Athens,” Alabama. Local city officials had been leaning toward repaving the streets until they had observed how the infrared technology had readily removed the asphalt layer and exposed the preserved bricks. They now favor of brick road restoration.
What is the advice to those thinking of entering the infrared patching market?
The key with any new venture, according to Strassman is learning to manage expectations for both the service provider and the customer when making the sale. “It has to be a win-win deal. If you think about it, infrared patching, crackfill, and sealcoat is where most contractors are going to do the most volume. A regular paving contractor should have infrared repair in its offering just to account for the human side. It happens where customers hold money or approval because of a small error on a paving job. A heater is the tool you need to create that win-win outcome. You can fix the issue with as little disturbance as possible and at a lower cost for the contractor.”
A big issue with Kieswetter is that the newbie needs to learn how to sell the benefits of infrared repairs: “This work will not just come drop on your lap. Like any business it takes a commitment and a understanding of the process and how you can save customer money. When our contracting business, Heat Design Equipment, first started we did demos to show the process and get in the door. To this day, we still do demonstrations. For us, the hands-on, live process sells more than any brochure or email blast.”
Allen feels strongly that infrared asphalt restoration should be considered a primary business. “It can be used in conjunction with paving, sealcoating, and crack filling, but not in just an ancillary fashion. It is a profitable and important function as a stand-alone business, and should be treated as such!”
Cliff Cameron, president of KM International Inc., North Branch, Mich., makes the case for product and process training: “With proper training, the machine, whether infrared wave length or blue flame wave length, will enable the ability to make a good business. To fully understand and know the machine’s capabilities, you must get training above all. Every manufacturer offers training of their machine, so the owner understands how the process works. Clearly, training will empower you.”
Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.