Infrared asphalt repair equipment

By Jeff Winke

Nothing is simple anymore. Gone are the days of binary choices… off/on, yes/no, and in/out. Try ordering a cup of coffee. Used to be you could sit down at the counter and ask the counter man Joe for a cup of java and he’d grab the pot with the orange handle. If he grabbed the green-handle decaf pot, you’d say “No Joe, I need full octane,” and he’d nod his head in acknowledgement while switching to the orange handle pot of regular coffee.

In today’s half-skinny-carmel-macchiatos-with-an-extra-shot world the binary caf/decaf choice has splintered into a multitude of options. You now can get coffee tailored to your specific taste.

This multitude of options applies to equipment choices that the asphalt paving contractor faces when wanting to expand or replace items in their fleet. There are choices. Choices are good when there is the need to match a new machine to the jobs and workflow the contractor typically tackles.

Contractors have many equipment possibilities available to them for selecting the right infrared asphalt repair equipment for their business.

“When buying infrared equipment customers really have three main options,” stated Michael Blake, marketing director, KM International, North Branch, Michigan. “First you have smaller units usually ranging from as small as a 10 square foot unit up to 20-25 square feet of heating area. These typically are fixed units that do not fold and are not trailer and/or truck mounted.

Secondly, you have trailer mounted units. These are typically a little larger heating area and can be self-folding trailer or trailers with some type of winch system to fold and unfold the unit. Lastly, you have the larger truck-mounted units where the infrared panel is affixed to a large truck and is raised and lowered by means of a hydraulic or electric winch.”

Being aware of the options can help in deciding which machine to purchase. Keep in mind that all three categories of infrared units can be used for pothole repair, joint heating, thermoplastic application, decorative asphalt, and many other applications that require reheating and/or repairing asphalt.

“An infrared unit allows contractors the ability to make repairs right away without having to schedule a subcontractor to come in and handle the work,” stated David Strassman, owner of Asphalt Reheat Systems, LLC, Fitchburg, Wisconsin. “Infrared equipment has given contractors independence.”

Clearly to perform a quality job a combination of skill and using the right tools are essential. The right tools can make the work seem easy and yield the best results.

Since hot mix asphalt is key to any infrared repair, having a hotbox reclaimer on site to maintain hot mix asphalt temperatures is key.

Compaction is a vital step when performing an infrared repair or any asphalt repair for that matter. Using a single-drum or double-drum roller may be best, but an asphalt plate compactor will usually be effective for small- to medium-sized infrared repairs.

An asphalt lute enables the crew to level the repair area while also dragging all the larger aggregate from the mix so it can be removed.

“With any infrared repair job, like any work these days, everything has to be done with fewer people,” said Strassman. “It boils down to help. You can’t produce any faster than what your help can handle and with infrared repairs, you only have minutes where the infrared repair can be completed.”

What infrared pavement repair equipment will work best? There are a number of applications in which it would be beneficial.

“The most common issues infrared is used for are potholes, damage around storm drains or manholes, birdbaths, alligator areas where there is not any base failure, utility cuts, etc., Blake said. “Infrared repair can also be used to apply thermoplastic templates.”

Blake cautioned against buying a larger machine than the typical projects may call for: “Every time you turn on your machine it costs you money. So, if you are heating a larger area than what you really need to it will add to your cost. The nice thing with most (not all) infrared machines are they have isolated heating zones in which you can individually control heating zones of the machine so you don’t necessarily have to heat a larger area than what is needed.

“Keep in mind that infrared works best on repairs two-inches or less. Not saying that infrared cannot be used for repairs deeper than that, however multiple heats may be required to get a greater depth.”

Infrared repairs can also be very expense effective.

“With the cost of new asphalt, you are wise to re-use in place the asphalt you have already paid for,” stated Bob Kieswetter, president, Heat Design Equipment, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. “As long as the gravel base has not been damaged by cracking allowing water penetration and pumping of silt from below, you will have structural strength.

“Additionally, there are benefits in terms of preventing damage to the environment. Hot-in-place patch repair using infrared heaters reduces CO2 emissions by 50- to 70-percent, so it is an ideal choice for safeguarding the environment.”

Infrared asphalt repair is an attractive option because it can be done all year long. It is the only repair treatment that can be performed on the hottest, most humid summer day, as well as the most frigid winter day. Because it can be implemented at any time of the year, it remains the most cost-effective way to repair asphalt year-round. Unlike traditional asphalt repair methods, there is no extra machinery needed to maintain the paved temperature, no matter how cold the climate is.

“Versatility, longevity, and higher resale value are the key benefits from infrared asphalt repair,” Strassman concluded. “If performed properly, jobs completed with infrared will be mechanically, structurally, and more visually appealing than projects completed with other approaches.”

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