Having a solid base is essential to paving a driveway. For Bel Rock Asphalt Paving Inc., Belvidere, IL, it's essential for both its business and the driveways it paves. To build a solid base for the company, Bel Rock has focused on perfecting it's niche in the residential paving market, an expansion of the company's original sealcoating focus.
In 1999, Kelly Farina, vice president of Bel Rock, started his own sealcoating business - Sealcoating Specialist. For patching jobs, Farina enlisted the help of his friend Perry Michaud. In 2004, the two - both in their twenties - joined together and started Bel Rock as a paving division of Sealcoating Specialist.
Michaud, president of Bel Rock, says the company is small with 11 full-time employees and has recently unionized. The company services about a 15-mile radius from the Belvidere/Rockford, IL, area and focuses on the residential side, with a small but growing number of jobs coming from commercial clients.
From the beginning Bel Rock focused on residential driveways, Michaud says. "As we were getting into this business we wanted to be the asphalt company strictly for residential driveways. From new home owners to new construction, whatever it deals with from a residential standpoint is what we want to do," Michaud says. "There are other asphalt contractors out there that do residential driveways but don't strictly focus on that market. Residential driveways are our bread and butter."
Even though the company originally started in sealcoating, the majority of Bel Rock's business - an estimated 75% - now comes from the paving side, Michaud says. The other 25% is spread among sealcoating, crack filling, striping, and patching.
When Farina and Michaud started Bel Rock, the two young men were taking a leap into the unknown. "At the time we didn't know a single thing about laying asphalt with a paver. We didn't know the dynamics or the concepts about using the equipment. We just did it." The best way to gain experience was hands on, Michaud says.
Their equipment fleet started out with a dump truck, skid steer, roller, and a Gehl 1448 gravity fed paver. "It was a great starter paver to learn the concepts and the basics," Michaud says. "It was trial and error for our first driveway."
That first driveway was a practice paving job to allow them to get a feel for the equipment. Michaud says the seller of their Gehl paver came down and walked them through the unit and how to use it before they practiced with it.
Michaud wasted no time after that, paving his second driveway for a paying customer. Although they had little experience, Michaud says the job went great and the customer was pleased with the end result.
Since then Bel Rock has perfected its driveway paving process with prep work being the key step, Michaud says. "The easy part is laying the asphalt. The hard part is prepping the driveway. I would say 90% of the job is in the prep work," he says. But before starting any work, Michaud says the crew sets up a "game plan" to make sure the end result is the best it can be.
"We get the guys together so everybody knows his job and what he is doing. Each driveway is different. How the paver operator is going to pull the driveway will affect how things are going to start and finish to get the best result in the end," Michaud says. The "game plan" makes sure everyone is on the same page and knows what their role is for that particular job.
Before paving, Bel Rock uses a skid steer to remove any existing pavement from the driveway for a fresh start. Then comes the most important step: determining where the driveway is draining to. Michaud says it's important to keep water from sitting on the pavement, so making sure the driveway drains properly is a must.