By Jeff Winke
There is agreement among those in the know that incorporating infrared asphalt restoration into a current paving business gives a contractor an edge… adding a service niche that may set them apart from their competition.
Infrared allows contractors to provide an alternative to standard methods, such as sawing or cutting patch repair or fixing potholes with a shovel and cold mix. The surface is restored to an “as before” condition with seamless, welded edges. No joints for water to see through because it is bonded to the existing pavement around it. Infrared units add extra services to a paving company, bringing in additional revenue. Infrared is simply the absorption of radiation (heat) into the damaged asphalt to aid in removal. The next step is to replace with new or reclaimed material and reheat to bond the patch with undamaged areas.
Infrared patching is a pavement repair method of blending new asphalt with existing to create a joint-free integral patch. Its numerous uses include to repair holes and surface deteriorated areas; to eliminate depressions, water holes, and tripping hazards; to achieve smooth black top at transition joints; and for repairing newer pavement without any sawing or cutting. Infrared patching is also used to adjust pavement height to manholes, lower high areas, and repair deteriorated paving seams.
Infrared units in today’s market have a wide range of sizes and configurations. They can range from covering 4-square-feet to 64-square feet. And they are available as walk-behind, truck-mounted, and trailer-mounted units. All units can be used for the same applications, but some may be a better choice than others depending on jobsite conditions.
The question to ask is how does infrared pavement repair contribute to a contractor’s business’ success?
“In today’s day and age customers are looking for a contractor that can offer all necessary services to complete a job,” stated Cliff Cameron, president of KM International, North Branch, Mich. “Most businesses in the asphalt industry focus on one service, paving, sealcoating, line striping… but many fail to realize the untapped market of pavement maintenance and repair services. Providing a complimentary service such as infrared repair can open up business to a whole new list of prospective customers and give another service to market.”
Offering infrared patching repair services can offer a source of contractor income.
“Whether you are a paver looking to use the infrared strictly for paving mistakes or a sealcoater looking to bring repair work in house rather than sub-contracting it out, adding infrared can be a real game changer for any pavement maintenance company,” said Michael Blake, director of marketing, KM International. “Infrared repair is particularly appealing to those who are new to the pavement industry because it is a relatively low cost equipment set up and the profits yielded can be exponential and can help scale the business quickly. In our experience we have had some new business owners invest in an infrared and hotbox set up and have the equipment paid off within a month or two with work scheduled out for a whole year, infrared is truly that profitable and lucrative.”
Blake provided a contractor example: “A paving contractor customer who recently finished a new paving job received an $80K check for a cold seam repair. With the infrared unit, the customer fixed the cold seam in a few hours and was able to collect the money and in the end their customer was very happy with the job completed. So as much as we talk about the potential money making aspect of infrared repair, it also holds many additional benefits such as customer satisfaction.”
According to Wesley Van Velsor, vice president with Ray-Tech Infrared, Corp., Charlestown, N.H., infrared can optimize in three areas:
1. Fuel savings by not needing to transport additional materials to the jobsite
2. Onsite advantage, since material is already in the pavement repair area
3. Labor — cuts crew size by at least half, while facilitating up to 63% more work per day
Additionally, Van Velsor points to infrared technology’s ability to correct flaws in new paving, which can ensure that a contractor will receive final payment for the paving project. Also, he underscored that infrared provides higher quality, longer lasting results and provides less disruption because repairs can be completed quickly.
Infrared repairs will not take as long. Avoided is the saw cutting, jackhammering, loading and disposal that come with other repair processes. Traffic on the patched area can start up right away.
“To ensure profitability from your infrared technology, the biggest and most important step is to know your cost.” said Blake. “Before you can calculate your service price and profit margins it is imperative to have an in depth understanding of how much it costs you to use the infrared machine every time you leave your yard.
“The second step is knowing how to correctly perform an infrared repair. We encourage all of our customers to obtain training from a certified rep prior to actually going out and performing infrared repairs on a customer’s property.”
It helps to know the market being served to know which infrared machine will suit the business the best.
“The contractor needs to understand that all infrared units are not the same. A Jeep Wrangler and a Chevy Camaro are both vehicles, but hardly the same,” Blake said. “When buying an infrared unit for the first time, a contractor should ensure the brand performs as claimed, achieves its heat times, works in all kinds of weather–including rain, and has outstanding longevity. Purchasing and using the correct size unit for the work and volume of work the contractor performs is critical.”
This is where the manufacturers and distributors come in and help educate and direct contractors on which infrared will be right for their business. It is the job of manufacturers and distributors to ask the right questions and learn about a customer business model and goals when recommending the right infrared set up to ensure profitability.
Cameron stated: “Some contractors will make the mistake of buying too small of a pavement heater. You need equipment that is large enough to allow you to accomplish a dollar amount to make it all worthwhile.”
Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org