What customers need to know

By Jeff Winke

Drivers traversing most any asphalt paved street today can attest to the rattling surprise when hitting a pothole. Almost simultaneously the driver lets out a loud reflexive WTF! or if more politely a GOOD GOLLY!
The driver immediately wonders if their tire has been punctured or the wheel has been bent or cracked. It can damage a tire’s sidewall or belts. Even a minor impact may knock a vehicle out of alignment. A pothole strike can damage shocks or struts, or harm the vehicle’s suspension.
Technological advances have put infrared asphalt repair at the forefront of paving solutions. It is said to be an extremely efficient and effective method for repairing pavement potholes and other damage.
Infrared asphalt repair, or IRR, has become the pavement repair method for its wide range of applications and benefits. Commercial and municipal entities use the process to make fixes to existing pavement structures like parking lots, roads, highways, parking ramps, and more.
The infrared asphalt repair process is a technique that uses infrared rays to heat existing asphalt into a malleable substance. This allows for newly added asphalt to easily fuse to the pavement that is already in place.
The question becomes how best to sell the benefits of IRR to customers and prospects?
“Certainly, explaining the key benefits to customers is a starting point,” said Daniel Martin, marketing manager, KASI Infrared, Hickman, California. “And I would definitely demo it. Once a customer sees the IR repair process in action, they are sold! And no one is going to say ‘no’ if you ask them if you can fix a pot hole for free!”
Highlighting the benefits of IRR are crucial. Michael Blake, director of marketing, for KM International, North Branch, Michigan describes three key benefits of infrared asphalt repair:
  1. Green technology. It uses one third the carbon footprint of traditional repair methods.
  2. It requires less downtime and disruption to the customer’s site. A single IR repair should only require two or three people and take 15- to 20-minutes, meaning a contractor can be in and out in about a third of the time it would take to perform a typical saw, cut, remove, and replace job.
  3. Repair longevity and reliability. In most instances, an IR repair will outlast the surrounding pavement and leave the customer with a long-term repair solution.
Infrared asphalt repair has a wide range of applications in commercial settings and on residential properties. IRR has become associated with its ease, affordability, and quality of materials. Appropriate IRR applications include pothole repair, cracking pavement, dips or divots, gouges in blacktop, uneven pavement, bonding speedbumps to streets, maintenance hole transitions, utility repairs, oil spot removal, creating rumble strips, and creating seamless transitions between new and existing pavement.
Infrared asphalt repair is said to produce better results. “The main benefits of using infrared is that it is 100% recycling in place, so environmentally friendly,” stated Bob Kieswetter, P.Eng. / president of Heat Design Equipment, Inc., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. “It offers fast repair—when you consider it can take only 20- to 30-minutes to patch a 6- by 16-foot site. Infrared leaves a sealed watertight edge—it does not leave a squared edge for stress build-up and cracking in the adjacent asphalt, as can happen with cut and patch. Additionally, IRR is quieter and less intrusive than mill and fill.”
Better results can be seen in the finished quality. “The thermal bonding of the asphalt repair with the surrounding pavement makes the repair an integral piece of the pavement,” Martin said. “There is no cold seam left for water to re-enter and cause joint failure. Existing asphalt is reused, leaving little or no wasted material. This means less handling and disposal costs.”
Martin continued, “Repairs are fast and simple. Two workers and twenty minutes are all that are needed for a typical repair. The savings realized in materials, manpower and machinery make infrared repairs less expensive than conventional repairs.”
The process of infrared asphalt repair is only successful when certain conditions are met. Paving professionals avoid IRR applications when the following conditions are present:
  • Areas of standing or pooling water
  • Excessive dirt, mud, or debris
  • Existing asphalt is too thin (2” or less)
  • Failing base or sub-base
  • Completely failed surface
  • Coal tar sealed surfaces
  • Traffic loads exceeding the design thickness

“An infrared patch,” Blake said, “if performed correctly, produces superior results because it creates a seamless, thermally bonded edge around the repair area. This thermally bonded edge will reduce the chances of water penetration into the repair area which is usually the main reason a repair area would fail later down the road. Most traditional methods rely on a cold to hot bond around the edges of the repair, so the adhesion between the new asphalt in the repair area and the surrounding pavement is inferior to that of the thermally bonded edge you get with infrared repair.”

Infrared repairs can help give a paved surface longer life… but how long? “This will vary but a general rule of thumb is 5-7 years,” Blake said. “If there is any type of base failure then this timeframe would be lower. The timeframe is also dependent on the age and condition of the surrounding asphalt as well. If the parking lot is in rough shape to start and the customer asks you to just perform a few emergency patches until they are able to afford a full depth reconstruction, then an infrared repair would buy them more than enough time for that scenario.”

Infrared repair is certainly not a fix all for everything. Contractors need to use their general knowledge and expertise to determine if an infrared repair is applicable to a certain job. Contractors should be up front with a customer and provide a realistic life span for a repair.


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