The solution for many needs

By Jeff Winke

Even squinting hard through lenses Windex-clean with glasses firmly planted on the nose, it isn’t possible to see infrared. It’s at a wavelength just greater than that of the red end of the visible light spectrum. There are no ads for special infrared viewing glasses competing with x-ray vision specs on the back of comic books.

For those in the asphalt paving industry, infrared is not a magical technology. It is electromagnetic radiation that is practically applied to damaged asphalt pavement to perform an asphalt pavement repair or correct grade issues. Infrared asphalt repair, or IR, is a fairly simple technique used to repair road damage, among other applications. The infrared process requires an infrared heater to warm the damaged asphalt to a malleable state, then new asphalt is added, and the two combine seamlessly to repair the surface.

There are quite a few benefits of using infrared for pavement repair. The deep penetrating heat of the infrared rays allows repairs to occur without the risk of separating the asphalt from the aggregate subsurface. It reduces the chance of burning or scaling of the existing asphalt’s surface. It is designed to allow for easy installation of speed bumps on roads and in parking lots.

“Infrared heat for pavement repair provides seamless repair so the edges of the pot hole or damaged area are bonded to existing pavement preventing water/moisture to infiltrate the repair areas,” stated Daniel Martin, marketing manager for Kasi Infrared, Hickman, California. “There’s also lower cost compared to cut and patch. Infrared needs fewer resources and materials to complete the same job as cut and patch making it much more cost efficient.”

There are other pros associated with infrared pavement repair.

“There is a much shorter repair time compared to cut and patch methods,” stated Jarrod Filion of North American Infrared/Filion Equipment Sales of Charlestown, New Hampshire. “This means there is less interference with vehicular traffic and pedestrians and shorter downtime.”

Bob Kieswetter, P.Eng. and president of Heat Design Equipment Inc., Kitchener, Ontario Canada, Canada said that a “main benefit of infrared pavement repair is that it’s 100% recycling in place, which makes it environmentally friendly. It can be completed quickly; leaves a sealed watertight edge; and does not leave a squared edge for stress build up and cracking in the adjacent asphalt as happens with cut and patch.”

Time and profitability are favorable attributes of IR repairs.

“An average IR repair will take approximately one-third the time of traditional methods” stated Michael Blake, marketing director, KM International, North Branch, Michigan. “So thinking about it in terms of productivity, for every saw cut you perform, you can complete three IR repairs. Additionally, normal margins on a saw cut range from 10%-25%, where as, with an IR repair it is not uncommon to yield 50%-plus margins.

“Unlike a saw cut, remove and replace, an IR repair creates a seamless heated bond between the repair area and the surrounding asphalt. This seamless bond will greatly reduce the likelihood of future water penetration, which would cause a premature failure of the patch.”

Blake described the efficiency of IR in terms of benefits to the customer: “One of the most beneficial things to the customer is minimal disruption to their parking lot. A normal IR repair should only take 15-20 minutes and requires 2-3 employees and a single truck. Compared to traditional methods that take 45 minutes to an hour and require 5-6 employees, multiple dump trucks, and a skid steer. The fact that with IR a contractor can be in and out of a property in less than an hour with essentially no interruption to the customers business is a very appealing sales when selling IR services to commercial clients.”

Most are familiar with typical applications of infrared asphalt pavement repair which includes:

  • Creating seamless overlays of new and existing asphalt
  • Pothole repairs/patching
  • Elevation adjustments around grates and utility holes
  • Leveling of the asphalt surface where dips and divots are present
  • Binding speed bumps to existing asphalt surfaces (roads, parking lots, etc.)
  • Creating patterns in the asphalt for aesthetic purposes or rumble strips on highways

Infrared asphalt repair is useful in a wide variety of applications.

There are even different applications that most would not think of using infrared, but have proven to be very effective.

“Riser installation is ideally suited to IR,” Martin said. “Whether it’s for installing risers to manholes, catch basins or gate boxes, the infrared process is far and away the best method for doing this. By just installing a riser to the inside of the frame or gate box you can adjust the height of the utility in just 15-20 minutes. This not only prevents traffic from dropping into a basin or manhole that sits too deep, but it also prevents the structure from getting broken down over time due to the constant weight load of vehicles and especially heavy equipment during snowplow season. Risers come typically in 3 sizes 1-, 1.5- and 2-inch and can be stacked on one another if needed.”

Infrared repair solutions can vary.

“Let me give you two atypical applications,” Blake said. “First, is thermoplastic installation. Thermoplastics are becoming a popular alternative to standard line-striping paint. Right now, most contractors are just using a torch to install those thermoplastic templates which takes forever and is an uneven heat. With an IR machine, those thermoplastics can be installed in a couple of minutes.

“The second application, is repairing paving mistakes on a new pavement install. As much as contractors hate to admit it, mistakes like roller marks, cold seams, high/low spots happen occasionally on new paving projects. If one of these do occur, a standard practice is to just take a torch to heat the area up, rework it if needed, and then roll it again, which again can be a bit time consuming and the torch is an uneven heat. With an IR machine those paving mistakes can be handled in a couple of minutes and completely blend in with the new pavement.”

Infrared repairs are often the go-to solution for asphalt pavement issues.

Martin described how effective IR is with pothole repairs, “Infrared can repair all types of potholes even if the subbase is exposed. On deep potholes, the best practice is to patch-in these areas first and then compact to assure repair does not sink on you when doing the infrared repair. It also doesn’t hurt to add a tack coat to any of the potholes you patch before heating. This helps assure a bond around the potholed area.”

Even though infrared waves cannot be seen, the results from its use for the asphalt paving contractor can be quite dramatic, productive, and profitable.