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Rainier Asphalt & Concrete announces annual community gift of services

On the occasion of our company’s 10 year anniversary of being located in North Bend, we make a significant announcement of our intention to partner with the community (see letter below). If you’d like to submit an idea, please fill out the form located at the bottom of this page.

January 5, 2017

Kenneth Hearing, Mayor
City of North Bend
P.O. Box 896
North Bend, WA  98045

Mayor Hearing:

I wanted to share with you an initiative that our company, Rainier Asphalt & Concrete, will be launching this New Year that will involve our company providing an annual $20,000 gift-in-kind to the City of North Bend. But first a story:

Our company slogan is Your Trusted Partner. The idea of partnership is something that was first presented to us in the context of our sales efforts. We hired a consultant three years ago and he encouraged us to seek customers who wanted to act like and be treated like a partner — not just a customer. The results have been fabulous as our business has doubled in the last two years.

Because of the success in the sales arena, we decided to expand this concept to our relationship with our employees, and we have greatly expanded our health care and retirement benefits for our employees. This year we’re launching an incentive pay program that will involve every person in the organization. We also meet individually with each employee at least twice a year to check in and make sure their career trajectory and role with the company is moving in the right direction. I think if one would talk with any of our employees, they would tell you that their relationship with the company is one of a partner, not merely an employee.

Next we approached certain key vendors and asked how we could collaborate to help one another reach our shared goals. Again, we were amazed at how we were welcomed into a great dialogue and we have seen lots of progress with our vendor relationships.

About 18 months ago, we gave a small gift to the City in the form of some asphalt seal coating at Torguson Park. In some ways, you were doing us a favor because we had leftover material at the end of our season and we needed a place to put it. Nonetheless, this experience planted the seed of how we could do similar things in the future to be a blessing to our neighbors and community.

Therefore, today we would like to engage our city in partnership as we announce the beginning of an annual program where we will donate up to $20,000 of value of any of the services that we provide. We suggest taking proposals from the community and we will work with Public Works Director Mark Rigos or his designee to choose which project(s) to do each year and to arrange the orchestration of the work.

As you may know, we are an asphalt, concrete and pavement markings company. So the nature of the work could involve, but isn’t limited to: fixing trip hazards, fixing potholes, installing ADA (wheelchair ramps), installation of new sidewalks or paths, preventative pavement maintenance, traffic calming devices, pedestrian safety, etc.

We are passionate about what we do every day, and are excited how we can be involved in the community in this way. Longer term, we would like to lead efforts to encourage (and organize) other Valley businesses to follow suit with the services and talents that they have.

I look forward to your response and I suggest we meet to discuss how we can move this initiative forward early in this New Year.

Thank you,

Tom Merry
Owner

North Bend philanthropy

Please enter your idea of where we can improve roads and sidewalks in North Bend. Keep in mind these are small projects -- we're probably not going to put in a new round-a-bout :).

Benefits of Recycled Asphalt

Recycled Asphalt Services

Asphalt is the most recycled material in the world, measured by weight — approximately 75 million tons per year (or about twice as much as paper, glass, aluminum, and plastics combined.)

Despite this, there is a tremendous oversupply of recycled asphalt that is removed from roads, parking lots, and driveways when it’s repaired or replaced. Current technology allows a maximum of about 20% recycled asphalt to go back into new hot asphalt mix (pilot projects are trying to push it to 40%). So what happens with the other 80%?

We have been working with our suppliers to think of some creative ideas, both from a functional perspective and from an environmentally-conscious perspective, of how we can find end-of-life uses for this material that are not currently commonplace.

The potential applications for recycled asphalt to add value are vast. Any area that’s currently dirt or gravel that’s either a mud pit or full of potholes is a candidate for recycled asphalt — dirt parking lots, private roads or driveways, alleys, or pathways. It also greatly reduces the consumption of scarce resources such as fuel, equipment, hauling, and labor when compared with producing virgin materials for the same end-use applications.

There are sometimes misconceptions about what exactly recycled asphalt is. It’s appropriate to think of it more like gravel than like traditional asphalt. It’s a soft surface, not a hard surface. The excavated materials are ground up and reprocessed so there’s an appropriate mixture of large aggregates and small aggregates (or fines). This helps the material to bind together better. The presence of liquid asphalt from the old pavement (usually about 4-6%) also provides an element of cohesiveness that gravel is not going to have, especially when it’s applied in the hotter months and the oils can soften up a little, and then re-harden.

Fortunately, recycled asphalt can be applied using the same trucks, tools, equipment, and employees as traditional asphalt, so large quantities can be placed efficiently. Moreover, the material is much cheaper than virgin aggregates, so the end user can get a nice product very inexpensively.

An interesting side note is that placing recycled asphalt over large surface areas actually allows nature to continue running it’s course. Over time, tiny microbes will begin to eat away at the liquid asphalt materials and return it naturally back into the environment.

According to the Asphalt Institute, “the results of leachability tests show very low levels of leachable compounds, well below any current Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.” In fact, Washington and Oregon have more than 35 fish hatcheries with ponds that contain asphalt linings — an asphalt surface, plus an asphalt emulsion sealer. What’s more, many of the world’s water reservoirs built in the last century contain asphalt surfaces or linings.

The possibilities of recycled asphalt are also good for our company and our employees. We’re not bashful to announce that. As a seasonal business, we’re always looking for ways to extend our season as long as possible. This material can be placed in almost any kind of weather, as long as it’s not snowing. Our employees and their families certainly appreciate how this allows them to get solid paychecks throughout the winter.

Rainier Asphalt & Concrete strives to be an industry leader in trying to find creative ways to manage this product at the end of it’s life.

What makes a good asphalt driveway?

by John Davis and Dwight Walker, P.E.

This article re-published with permission of The Asphalt Institute.

There are some key considerations in having a good asphalt driveway. These critical points include: adequate foundation, proper drainage, appropriate materials, good construction practices; and timely maintenance.

Don Siler, asphalt technology specialist for Marathon Petroleum Company (MPC), concurs. “Good materials, good practices, good workmanship, and good site preparation make a good driveway,” he says. “Driveways must be properly designed and constructed,” he adds. “If the design procedure is wrong, then the driveway will be faulty.”

ADEQUATE FOUNDATION

Preparing an adequate foundation includes having a solid subgrade and building a strong aggregate base.

A common problem is subgrade that is not properly stabilized, says Siler. “When there is wet, soggy clay present, you need to remove it or put down a good stone base.” He adds that the worst failures can be subdivision driveways.

“Bad preparation on driveways in some subdivisions will result in construction (truck) traffic ruining the driveway. Driveway pavements can get buckled by truck traffic.”

Buddy Prather of Prather Paving in Lexington, Kentucky, concurs. “Soft dirt is a real issue,” he says. “You have to get rid of the soft top-soil and get to something solid. Around new homes, around the sides of the house and around the garage, you get backfill that hasn’t been compacted. It’s soft dirt. You have to replace it with something solid.”

“Putting down a rock base before placing the hot mix is critical,” Prather says. “The size or thickness of the rock makes a difference. We use 2-inch (top-size) rock—as big as your fist. The 2-inch rock sinks into the subgrade and stabilizes the earth,” adds Prather.

PROPER DRAINAGE

Another key point is proper drainage. Problems develop when water removal is not sufficient.

“You need to drain water away from the pavement — away from the edge of the pavement,” says Siler. He recommends using a French drain (a trench filled with gravel or rock with a pipe designed to redirect water) to get moisture away from the pavement below the pavement level.

“Drainage, drainage, drainage is what my Dad always says,” said Prather. “He ran the business before I did. You’ve got to have good drainage. You’ve got to have slope to your pavement so the water will run off. The water needs to run off to the side in a sheet.

“If you have good drainage, your pavement will last,” adds Prather. “Both good surface drainage and good subgrade drainage. The rock has to be laid right so it will allow the water to leach out. Don’t let the water gather in low places and bust-up the pavement. Big rock will let the water drain out. It acts like a French drain. And we use geotextile around the drainpipes.”

MPC’s Siler says there is a definite benefit from a gravel base because it allows the water to drain.

APPROPRIATE MATERIALS

It is important to use the right asphalt mix. Unless they own their own hot mix plant, the driveway paving contractor may get “the-mix-of-the-day” from the local hot mix plant. This material may not be suited for driveways. Driveways are susceptible to brittleness caused by oxidation and weathering. Some mixing plants set aside one of their storage bins for private mix projects.

Opinions differ as to what makes the best driveway mix. In general, driveway mixes should be designed with more asphalt binder and less air voids than highway mixes. The aggregate structure is where opinions differ.

Many experts prefer that driveway surface mix have a finer gradation than highway mix. This gives a finer surface texture and smooth appearance. Siler prefers a mix composed of good angular aggregate with stone-on-stone contact (sometimes called aggregate interlock).

“It may not be the prettiest looking mix, but it is the most durable. Avoid sand and rounded particles. They don’t have the strength of angular particles, even though they make a pretty mix. Err on the side of the stronger mix,” advises Siler.

The choice of gradation depends on the loading and desired appearance. Finer gradings will shed more water and look more uniform. Stony mixes can carry heavier loads and require thicker placement depths for compactibility. Prather says that they always use a 2-inch compacted binder course (with larger top-size stone) on farm driveways because it can take heavier loads.

GOOD CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES

“Good workmanship is important, so the driveway will last,” says Prather. “Compaction is critical, including the edges and joints in the pavement.

“You have to tamp the edges of the pavement,” adds Prather. “And make the seams (joints) look good — tight and good.”

Prather says they always use a tack coat on residential driveways. “It’s a binding agent. We use SS-1H (asphalt emulsion). It prevents the surface course from slipping. If the surface course slips, it probably wasn’t tacked properly.”

It’s important to avoid segregation of the mix because a segregated mix can lead to potholes and pavement failures.

MAINTENANCE

Most experts agree that the quality of the paving job is what matters most to driveway performance — particularly using a mix that is appropriate for the job and achieving good compaction. But maintenance is important, too.

Recommended maintenance treatments include taking care of the drainage features and crack-sealing. Overall pavement sealing is a matter of choice and wear-and-tear.

Water is the enemy of pavements. Proper installation of drainage at the time of construction is important, but it is equally important to assure that the drainage continues to work. Water can soften the subgrade and/or undermine the pavement.

Crack-sealing is an important part of maintaining the driveway pavement. Water and foreign material can enter the pavement and cause damage, if the cracks are not sealed. Some owners do not like the appearance of sealed cracks.

“Crack-filling does maintain the driveway, but it doesn’t look good. That’s why we seal the whole driveway, after we fill the cracks. Filling the cracks does stop water penetration and prolongs the life of the driveway,” says Prather.

In addition to sealing the driveway for appearance purposes, sealing can be used to preserve the pavement. Fuel-resistant, polymer-modified asphalt sealers can guard against spills. Stony mixes or pavements with open textures benefit from sealing.

CONCLUSION

Following the recommendations above and always hiring a top-notch professional to do the job can achieve long-lasting, good-looking asphalt driveways.

Davis and Walker are contributing editors for Asphalt magazine. This article can also be viewed HERE.

Helpful Links About Pavement Maintenance

Click on the links below:
When do you need to install a curb ramp?

Pavement preservation tactics and treatment options.

What makes a good asphalt driveway?

Getting the best ‘bang-for-buck’ in your asphalt repair budget

One of the most difficult things about selecting an asphalt contractor can be sorting through the cacophony of opinions presented from various contractors. How exactly does one compare apples to oranges?

An important thing to remember is that there is often no “right” answer. When we train our estimators, we teach them that finding the right solution often involves both science and art. The most important thing is that you’re getting good value and that you orient your thinking toward the greatest cost-benefit. Sometimes the “best” solution is not possible from a budget perspective and you need to do the best with what you have.

That said, the most important thing is to think in terms of preventative maintenance. With most things, and especially pavements, you will spend much less money in the long term if you’re acting to prevent damage, rather than reacting to it. A house is a useful analogy. If good weather proofing is done—like paint, caulk, and moisture seals—more expensive repairs to the wood will be much less likely. Here follows a summary of asphalt maintenance options to consider:

Asphalt Crack Filling
Crack filling is far and away the best thing for preventatively maintaining asphalt. It is cheap and effective. It is appropriate when there are only single, solitary cracks (not widespread adjacent cracks or “alligator” cracks). Hot-apply rubberized products are the best, and the process is meant to prevent water from seeping through and eroding the base layer that the asphalt sits on, which will contribute to more widespread damage. We suggest reassessing cracks every year, even after they have been filled, because pavement shifts and cracks can reopen.

Asphalt Seal Coating
Seal coating is a process of applying a coating to the entire surface of the asphalt. The oil—or binder—that holds the asphalt together slowly erodes over time from moisture and oxidation from the sun. Asphalt sealing is meant to replenish and restore that binder and protect the asphalt underneath. It’s important to know that this process is only useful for prevention. Seal coating a badly cracked parking lot will provide no structural benefit. It has the added benefit that it is visually pleasing. It will make your parking lot look brand new. Make sure to ask your contractor how many gallons they are applying and how they dilute their product. Because this material is water soluble, it is very susceptible to manipulation by an unscrupulous contractor.

Full-Depth Asphalt Repair
More commonly referred to as “asphalt patching,” a full-depth asphalt repair involves removing the asphalt all the way down to the sub-base material. This could be 2 inches up to 6 inches or more. This is the best way to repair asphalt, but can sometimes only be practical for smaller areas because of cost. The Asphalt Institute (Lexington, KY) asserts that all pavement defects start in the base or sub-base layer and slowly work their way to the surface. The greatest advantage of a full-depth repair is that the contractor can assess these layers under the asphalt and rehabilitate them through compaction or bringing in more material. Because all failures start low and work their way up,
repairs should always extend 12-18” beyond the area of visible surface damage. Many contractors overlook this important detail. Failure to extend the repairs beyond the area of visible surface damage could results in the patched area soon having new cracks forming around its perimeter.

Overlays
Overlays are generally used for larger areas of pavement repair, because it can be expensive to remove tons (pun intended) of asphalt material full depth. There are many ways to perform overlays, but the three most common are addressed here: (1) straight overlay, (2) grind (or mill) and overlay, and (3) petromat overlay. A straight overlay is the least expensive (and least effective) option. It usually involves grinding the perimeter of the overlay area only, to be able to taper to the adjacent pavement, and paving a new lift. This option can be susceptible to so-called “reflection cracking,” where the overlay area will eventually start to see the same pattern of cracking as the layer underneath. A grind and overlay involves grinding some portion of the pavement that is less than full depth. For example, a 6” thick pavement could have the top 2” removed through grinding, then repaved. A petromat overlay can be combined with either of the other two methods described. This involves applying a geotextile fabric over the surface area before paving the new lift, and helps prevent moisture from moving between the layers, and thus, reduces the formation of new cracks.

Strategies for asphalt maintenance on a tight budget

Over the course of 10 years in the asphalt business, I have gathered dozens of pictures into a folder on my laptop inelegantly titled “Stupid Asphalt Repairs.” From poor craftsmanship to the wrong remedy for a given symptom, it is disheartening to see property owners waste their money. With today’s especially tight maintenance budgets, it is critical that property owners and managers get the best longevity and performance out of their maintenance dollars.

Here are four strategies to keep in mind:

1) Worst first? Preventative vs. Reactionary.

From interstate highways to parking lots and driveways, strategies about how to properly maintain asphalt pavements have evolved markedly in the last 20 years — long before the recent economic turmoil which has put strain on maintenance budgets. The old way was a so-called “Worst First” approach, which put an emphasis on areas where structural damage such as “alligator” cracking had already occurred. One might also think of this as a “reactionary” approach. The new method focuses on “prevention” because, quite simply, it’s cheaper to maintain pavements in good shape than it is to rehabilitate or overhaul bad ones.

So what about properties that have significant damage? Even pavements that need extensive repairs probably still have large areas that would benefit from preventative procedures. With finite maintenance dollars available, the better first priority is to get those areas taken care of as soon as possible, lest the damage become more widespread and costly. Certainly, if budget dollars are available, both the preventative maintenance and reactionary repairs could be addressed.

What specifically can be done to be proactive? The Asphalt Institute in Lexington Kentucky notes that the three biggest enemies of asphalt are “water, water and water.” As such, it is critical to keep water from penetrating the pavement and getting underneath, which disturbs the sub-base. Therefore, crack filling is the most important item to have performed. It’s cheap and effective and should be done often. Focus should also be put on drainage to make sure water is flowing to an appropriate catch basin and that puddling is immediately corrected. Berms are another cost-effective method to manage water flow. Like miniature speed bumps, berms are used to divert water to a desired area. Lastly, having a regular routine of seal coating will keep good pavements in good shape much longer.

2) Perform some work in the offseason.

It isn’t a good idea to call a tax accountant on April 14th to meet the filing deadline the next day. Likewise, it’s usually not a good idea to call an asphalt contractor with a big rush during the late summer peak season. Surprisingly, a lot of asphalt work can be done October through April. In fact, according to the Asphalt Institute, crack filling is best performed in the fall and spring, when cracks are at their median width because of expansion/contraction under temperature fluctuations. Furthermore, seasonal companies are always motivated to perform work in their traditional “offseason.” As such, much better prices can be obtained by shifting your project forward or back by three months. (For further evidence, go to a nearby golf course and ask them what their green fees are in October or March compared with July or August.)

3) Get 3 bids and ask for references.

This might seem obvious, but a lot of headaches can be averted with just a few minutes of due diligence. It’s one thing to seek a bargain, but be careful about “getting what you pay for” if selecting the lowest bid. The Better Business Bureau has a very helpful online tool to check companies and their histories of complaints (or lack thereof).

4) Be engaged.

It’s always a good idea for the customer to do a site walk-through with the contractor’s estimator. This gives the customer an opportunity to ask questions and understand the various options. It also helps the contractor to know exactly what the customer’s needs are, both in terms of scope of work and important details about production logistics (e.g. what day the trash get picked up, etc.) If you’re getting multiple bids (which you should), a site walk-through can ensure that the bids are “apples-to-apples.” Ultimately, customers who are engaged usually get a better finished product.

BIOGRAPHY

Tom Merry is the owner of Rainier Asphalt & Concrete LLC (www.rainierasphalt.com), a North Bend-based commercial and residential contractor serving the greater Puget Sound area. He can be reached at 800-592-0311 or info@rainierasphalt.com.

Being Proactive About Pavement Maintenance in Autumn

The most common method of maintaining pavement surfaces is a so-called “worst-first” strategy. Mostly it is not an intentional process, but property owners and managers take a quick survey of their pavement and want to address the areas that look the worst. Unfortunately, this is usually not the best long-term, budget-conscious approach.

Pavements that are in good shape are much cheaper to maintain than those in bad shape (by a factor of 10 or more). Consider, for example, a 10 foot long crack. That will cost about $1/foot to crack seal, so $10. If left untreated, that crack could develop into a 10×3 asphalt failure (or bigger) requiring patching. At approximately $6/square foot to repair, 30 square feet will cost $180 to repair. As such, the top priority in any budget should be to first extend the life-span of good pavements for as long as possible.

Water intrusion is the chief cause of pavement problems. Preventing this intrusion and diverting water to appropriate collection points should be a top priority, especially as autumn and the heavy rains approach. Potential solutions include crack filling, repair of or installation of new catch basins or trench drains, eliminating puddles or installation of berms to divert water flow.

As pavements age, distress mechanisms begin to take their toll. Cracking and other forms of disintegration begin to appear as the primary causes of deterioration, then secondary factors often contribute to additional amounts of deterioration. For instance, once cracking begins to appear in the pavement surface, moisture can enter the pavement structure and accelerate the deterioration caused by the initial distress mechanism. The timely application of pavement maintenance techniques serves to help prevent or slow down the effects of both primary and secondary distress mechanisms.

The best time of year to perform crack filling is in the fall and spring because crack thickness is at its median point. Asphalt material expands in hot weather and contracts in cold weather, so in the spring and fall, cracks will not be at their widest or narrowest. If we fill cracks in the summer when cracks are at their narrowest, the amount of material in the crack may not be sufficient to keep the crack sealed when the pavement contracts in the winter. Likewise, if we fill cracks in the winter, we may have too much material such that in the summer, the material will bulge out and be increasingly likely to be torn out by crossing vehicle traffic.

Please contact us if you’d like to schedule an analysis of your pavement.

If trapped with nowhere to flow, water can cause breathtaking damage.

Although this crack was treated in the past, it will require periodic resealing.

Our crews performing crack filling with a hot-apply, rubberized sealer to exposed cracks and joints.

The finished product after cracks have been sealed.

Damage around catch basins should be repaired immediately because it is a safety hazard and the “basin” under the grate can be damaged, which is very costly to replace.

This shows the concrete “basin” part of the catch basin, which sits underneath the pavement surface.

This dramatically shows how quickly moisture will penetrate through exposed cracks in the asphalt, which will further weaken the sub-base of this pavement.

“Berms” are very inexpensive ways to divert water flow to appropriate areas for collection.

A so-called “trench drain” is a good way to collect water over a wide area that is relatively flat or susceptible to puddling.

10 steps to choosing a quality contractor

Selecting a quality contractor can be an arduous task. Here are some tips, including specifics about the way Rainier Asphalt & Concrete does business.
(1) Is the contractor license, bonded and insured?

This is a bare bones place to start. If a contractor can’t provide this, it’s not worthwhile to even entertain further examination. The State of Washington’s Labor and Industries website is a good resource to check contractor compliance. Visit https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/Search.aspx. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete is fully licensed, bonded and insured; contractor # RAINIAS991JO.

(2) Is the contractor experienced? Have they been around for awhile and will they be around in the future to stand by their work?

The fly-by-night contractor should be avoided because they’re more likely to cut corners. Companies that have been around and intend to stick around will be more concerned about their own reputation and customer happiness and retention. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has been in business for 15 years. We have completed over 5,000 jobs. Our management team has over 50 years of combined industry experience. We are members of The Better Business Bureau, Building Owners and Manufacturers Association, Community Association Institute and The Master Builders Association.

(3) Does the company have a well-trained staff, top to bottom? Do they know what they’re doing?

Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has a comprehensive strategy of continually gaining more industry technical knowledge and sharing it with employees. Our owner has attended training sessions given by the Asphalt Institute covering: (1) Overview of asphalt materials; Liquid asphalt, emulsions, aggregates, and mixtures; (2) Asphalt construction – The right mix on the job and placing it correctly; (3) Asphalt construction – Proper compaction and working with quality control specs; (4) Maintenance techniques – Patching, crack sealing and surface treatments; (5) Understanding Pavement Defects. We also have proprietary DVD training materials which are shown to new employees before they step foot on a jobsite. Furthermore, our turnover rate remains very low, which means we have seasoned professionals performing the work.

(4) Does the contractor have a “process?”

It’s difficult for a customer to have trust that they’re going to get a top-quality finished product if the contractor doesn’t have a pre-established “process” of how they do things. When you receive a bid from Rainier Asphalt & Concrete, the first page will include a framework regarding what you can expect from us in performing your job. We have a defined “process” about when customers can expect to get a bid proposal, how long it will take get the job scheduled, a mechanism to give you a courtesy call after job completion to make sure you’re happy with it, etc. We also have various internal methods regarding how crews are to properly dilute asphalt sealer, for example. These activities are tracked on daily logs and are critically important to providing a quality finished product every time.

(5) Is the company safe?

Operating a construction business safely can be a good indicator that the company does other things well. Likewise, a lengthy history of jobsite injuries can be a clue that other things are handled sloppily. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has a low 0.9 experience factor rating from Labor & Industries which means we are well below the industry average. Furthermore, we have detailed safety procedures and a safety officer that spot checks our jobs unannounced to make sure crews are in compliance.

(6) Does the contractor have or is it willing to provide references?

Any quality contractor should gladly and willingly provide references at your request – either names and phone numbers or addresses of previous job sites. It’s always a good idea to ask for references. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete will happily provide these upon request.

(7) Does the contractor have a quality control mechanism or process?

A quality contractor will have its own pre-established criteria of what its standards and expectations are. A well-designed quality control program will define (1) the proper process/outcomes (2) what criteria would qualify for being “out of compliance” (3) a plan for correction or coming back into compliance. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has a quality control officer who will spot check audit our jobsites for quality, sometimes during the job and sometimes after completion.

(8) Has the contractor provided expectations in writing? What are they going to do, and what will it cost?

It is in the best interest of both parties – customer and contractor – to define in writing what the expectations are. If a contractor wants to operate without a written agreement, run away as fast as you can. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has standard contract language that can be modified under certain circumstances. We also prepare bid proposals that are as detailed as possible to let you know exactly what you’re getting.

(9) Is the contractor bidding the work you’ve requested, or that you “need”, not what they want to “sell you?”

It can be difficult to make a decision as a customer if you lack the technical or industry-specific knowledge to make an educated decision. It is usually desirable to obtain multiple bids from different contractors and compare the recommendations they’re making to you. Going with the first bid for work you don’t really understand can leave you vulnerable to manipulation. Also, don’t forget to check those references.

(10) Is the price fair?

Notice the word “fair.” The cheapest contractor is rarely the best value and can often be a complete waste of money. There are lots of ways to cut corners in construction, and if you’re paying a bargain basement price, you’re probably getting what you paid for. The goal should always be to contract with the company that is going to provide you the best value.

The profound cost savings of preventative maintenance vs. reactionary maintenance

Pavement maintenance and repairs become progressively and exponentially more expensive to remedy the worse they get, which underscores the importance of having a good preventative maintenance strategy.

Industry experts and engineers utilize a so-called “Pavement Condition Index” or PCI to assess the overall condition of a pavement structure. The scale runs from 0-100, with brand-new properly-installed pavements registering a 100 on the scale and working their way down from there. While the scale utilizes a qualitative method for assigning a value, it nonetheless provides a nice benchmark in determining a maintenance strategy and cycle.

The Asphalt Institute defines pavement maintenance and repair as “routine work performed to keep a pavement, under normal conditions of traffic and forces of nature, as nearly as possible in its as-constructed condition.” That is to say, keep it as close to 100 on the PCI as possible… It is recommended to keep that score registering around the 70 threshold or above because repairs begin to become reactive rather than preventative and consequently more expensive when below 70.

In the PCI cycle, the Asphalt Institute classifies three types of pavement repairs: maintenance, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Rehabilitation can typically cost 10 times as much as maintenance and reconstruction can cost much more than that.

An effective preventative maintenance program involves (in increasing order of importance) crack filling, drainage management, patching, and seal coating. See our article titled “Examining the top three enemies of pavement: Water, water, and water” for more useful information on this topic. Most pavement problems start with small cracks which ultimately lead to widespread cracking after moisture intrusion. The Asphalt Institute estimates that once approximately 20 percent of a pavement structure shows “alligatoring” cracking at the surface, preventative maintenance and patching becomes useless because there is more widespread damage underneath that isn’t visible at the surface, and rehabilitation is then required. All “alligator” cracking starts underneath the pavement in the sub-base or sub-grade and works its way upward to the surface. So pavements can have all sorts of invisible, yet imminent, problems.

In its 7th Edition of The Asphalt Handbook, The Asphalt Institute provides this illustrative analogy which serves as a good summary of the importance of preventative maintenance: “A good analogy for preventative maintenance is the painting of a house. When the paint fades, it is repainted; the responsible homeowner does not wait until the paint is cracked and peeling. As with painting a house, the effectiveness of the preventative maintenance is directly related to the condition of the pavement.”

Asphalt Damage: Examining the Top Three Contributors

The biggest contributor to asphalt damage and deterioration is – fortunately and unfortunately – the easiest and cheapest to prevent. The reason it’s unfortunate is because most property owners and managers have a reactionary mindset with regard to pavement maintenance, rather than a preventative one. This is a truly classic example where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’re going to have anything done to your parking lot, having a qualified contractor perform crack filling is by far the highest priority.

According to the Asphalt Institute’s Mike Sonnenberg, the three largest contributors to asphalt damage are “water, water, and water.” Moisture penetration through the surface to the pavement sub-base and sub-grade can cause an array of new and more costly problems to the surface pavement including potholes and widespread cracking or “alligator” cracking. Furthermore, the sub-base can become damaged. The remedy for each of these failures becomes progressively and exponentially more expensive: (1) crack filling is cheap (2) pavement patching is more expensive (3) sub-base rehabilitation is more expensive still.

An appropriate course of action is as follows:

  1. Quickly identify new surface cracks and address them at the latest within one or two seasons after cracks appear. So if cracks appear in the spring, they should be filled in the fall.
  2. The most appropriate time to fill cracks is in cool weather – either in the spring or the fall – because the crack width is at its median point. Asphalt material expands in hot weather and contracts in cold weather, so in the spring and fall, cracks will not be at their widest or narrowest. If cracks are filled in the summer when cracks are at their narrowest, the amount of material in the crack may not be sufficient to keep the crack sealed when the pavement contracts in the winter. Likewise, if we fill cracks in the winter, we may have too much material such that in the summer, the material will bulge out and be increasingly likely to be torn out by crossing vehicle traffic. In the Puget Sound, this is not as critical because we don’t experience the wide temperature swings between seasons like other places such as the Midwest. Consequently, the variance in crack openings is not as large.
  3. Candidates for crack filling are those between 1/8th of an inch and 1.5 inches. Cracks narrower than 1/8th of an inch are too narrow to have the material appropriately penetrate the crack and adhere to the inner sidewall. Cracks wider than 1.5″ should be filled with a Class G hot mix asphalt or a polymer.
  4. Cracks should be cleaned and dry before they are filled with the crack filling material.
  5. A hot-apply crack filler is the most effective product. We use a product call DuraFil.
  6. The crack should be filled to flush with the pavement surface or slightly recessed, up to ¼ of an inch below grade and smoothened with a squeegee or torch. If too much material is applied and it bulges at the top, it has a higher likelihood of being torn out by crossing vehicle traffic, particularly during hot days.
  7. Crack filling is appropriate for solitary cracks but not for widespread cracking or what is known as “alligator” cracking. Those areas require removal and replacement patching.

Under most circumstances, crack filling is going to cost between $1 and $2 per lineal foot for cleaning and filling. This modest cost can potentially prevent thousands of dollars of rehabilitation or reconstruction of the pavement layer and the sub-base and sub-grade layers from asphalt damage. We strongly recommend it.