Gain confidence when outlining the project

By Jeff Winke

Scan the titles at any comic book store and there are plenty of superheroes — Superman, Spiderman, Captain America, Wolverine, but none named “Crack Mender” — the asphalt construction contractor called in to save the day to fix and repair pavement cracking! Far fetched? Not to any crack sealer contractor called in to evaluate the condition of an asphalt surface with the expectation it can be restored to like-new condition, as any superhero Crack Mender contractor should do!

Setting customer expectations needs to occur prior to day one of the project. There has to be agreement on the work to be performed and the expected outcome.

“Each job should be reviewed prior to start date by the estimator team and the sealing crew leader to make sure the appropriate equipment and manpower are prepared for the job on day one,” stated Ben Thielbar, director of sales, Cimline, Inc., Plymouth, Minnesota. “Supply a construction project map to the customer that clearly outlines the requirements for each area of the project.”

When a contractor arrives at a job site they need to meet with the customer and note the type of cracking and the recommendations they give for correction.”With the customer, we explain there are different types of cracking in asphalt surfaces,” stated Mark McLeod, president/CEO, Maintenance Inc., Wooster, Ohio. “For example, block cracking is when cracks have surrounded an entire slab of asphalt. These type of cracks typically are removed and the pavement is replaced. Crack sealant really is wasted on this type of cracking. Longitudinal and transverse cracking are always sealed and are the most common cracking a contractor will encounter.”

Thielbar noted that the contractor must first educate the customer. “Crack sealing is the best bang for the buck in pavement preservation, but with that said it needs to start early. Alligator cracking areas are not good candidates for crack sealing. If your lot or road looks like a spider’s web, it is not a good candidate for crack seal in those areas. That is when it is time to educate your customers on mastic repairs, cut and patch, chip seal, slurry seal, and overlay. In any case of chip seal, slurry seal, and overlay, the cracks need to be addressed prior to the top surface restoration or they will all reflect through the new treatment. Measure twice, document with photos, and supply a construction project map to the customer that clearly outlines the requirements for each area of the project.”

Part of managing customer expectations is explaining that all cracks allow water, moisture and materials like sand, dirt, and rocks to enter.

“If you want the longest sealant service life, of seven years or longer, the best recommendation is to rout and treat cracks with high-performance crack sealant,” stated Chris M. Vacca, senior marketing manager, Crafco, Inc., Chandler, Arizona. “The width of the crack should also be taken into consideration when designing your treatment plan.

• Hairline cracks are considered those that are less than 1/8” (3mm) These may not be cost effective to crack seal if the pavement has a low density of hairline cracks, however all untreated cracks allow water and debris to infiltrate and should be sealed. Pavements with a moderate to high density of hairline cracks that are planned to have a surface treatment should be pretreated with crack sealing prior to the surface treatment to ensure that those cracks that may be high-moving are sealed.

• Cracks that range from small 1/8” (3mm) to large 1 ½” (38 mm) should be routed to clean and prepare the surface and to create a defined reservoir; then filled with crack sealant.

“For cracks that are too wide to treat with crack sealant, greater than 1 ½” (38 mm), you will want to seal them using long-term performance products like sealing mastics. Sealing mastics will repair wide cracks by providing strength and flexibility. They are a sealing product that have been fortified with aggregates to add stability in wider, deeper applications.”

The contractor will also want to address how traffic through and around the job site will be handled.

“One thing to cover when discussing the job process is traffic control and how using proper block off that is clearly understandable to those entering and exiting the project,” McLeod said. “Explain to the owner or manager how fast the process really is once the crack sealant is ready to apply and also how the crack preparation and cleaning takes place while the material is heating up in the application equipment.”

McLeod also recommends establishing completion time plus a couple hours, so there is an adequate time frame to open up project for use.
There are some basic steps a contractor will want to take before starting a crack sealing job and will want to let the customer know about.
Thielbar outlined three key steps.

1. Have a plan! Where will you start and work to. Whether you’re working in a parking lot or on the road, job site safety for your crew and the public is the top priority. Plan for any traffic routing issues ahead of time and always have eyes on your construction zone.

2. Create an equipment inventory for your project. Remember, it is not just the melter that needs to be serviced and ready for use. Are you routing the cracks? Are your cutters good? Is your compressor / blower serviced and ready to clean the cracks properly? Do you have the proper tools to remove any moisture or vegetation from the repair areas, such as wire wheels, hook knives, etc. Make sure to fuel and prep everything the day/night before. Having the right equipment and having it properly maintained and ready to go will lead to the best quality and efficiency you can provide.

3. Prep your crew. Is your crew familiar with the location? Establishing responsibilities for each crew member is helpful. From initial job lay-out through project execution, SAFETY is priority one. And making sure you have the correct team members on the job for each aspect, as well as the right amount of people to handle the job safely.

Once the project is completed, the contractor will want to document that the project has been completed to the original agreement. An easy way to document a project is through photos. Using their smart phone, a contractor will want to take photos of the damaged asphalt pavement, some during the job, and, of course, the beautiful finished results. This “photo album” can be given to the customer with a thank you note and a final invoice. Save the photo collection in the project folder and use it in new business pitches to show a success story as a “Crack Mender” superhero!

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through