Once the crew has figured out the drainage they then start on the sub-base, which is graded and compacted to ensure a flat, solid, properly draining driveway. The next step is to lay the aggregate base. The amount of aggregate used in the base varies in every situation, Michaud says. But when it comes to residential driveways he says there should be at least 8 in. of aggregate base underneath a 2-in. asphalt mat. After placing the base, Bel Rock will roll and compact it.
If the crew is working on a driveway that has been previously paved, they make sure to check the existing base carefully. "Sometimes the base under an existing asphalt driveway is saturated from cracks that have absorbed moisture over time. That driveway base may have to sit for a few weeks to dry out," Michaud says. "If you start laying asphalt on a soft and saturated base then the tracks of the paver sink in the driveway, you'll end up over using mix, and you won't get the proper finishing you would if it was hardened."
Bel Rock's next step in its paving process is to string out and paint lines on the edge of the driveway. This allows the paver operators to see where the edge is and where to line up the paver and screed.
After prep work is complete, Bel Rock then places the asphalt pavement. To keep the work flowing smoothly, each crew member is responsible for a specific job, Michaud says. Two crew members work the paver - one on each side - adjusting the screed height and mat depth. Another crew member follows the paver with a rake and hand tamp making sure the edges of the driveway get compacted.
A third crew member compacts the pavement with a ride-on roller while another worker uses a plate compactor to make sure the edges are properly compacted.
Michaud says making sure the drainage stays correct throughout the paving process is essential, so every few feet Michaud tests the pavement by placing a level on it. This helps assure the pavement will drain properly and helps locate low or high spots.
And if problems like bird baths or low spots occur on a driveway the crew makes sure to fix it before the driveway is complete. If a low spot is beyond Bel Rock's repair abilities, the company brings in an outside infrared contractor to fix the problem. "You can't satisfy every customer, but we try our very best to make them happy. That's one of our goals. Keep the customer happy," Michaud says.
Michaud works on every job with the rest of the crew - a practice he believes helps keep customers satisfied. "There's always an owner on site. It's reassuring for a homeowner to know that the person out there making sure things are happening the way they should is the owner of the company," he says.
At the end of each job, Michaud does a walk-through of the jobsite with all the crew members. They look at any improvement they can make in the finished driveway so they can fine tune it to make the driveway flawless.
The walk-through also allows the crew members to critique themselves, identifying areas where they need to improve themselves and their work. "It's these little things that can make a big difference," Michaud adds.
Estimating the mix
Over and underestimating the hot mix can present a challenge for paving contractors. Contractors who over estimate can end up with too much leftover asphalt mix that, if you don't have the proper equipment, cannot be reused. Contractors who underestimate the mix they need risk running out of mix on the job and having to wait for another truck load of material to be delivered. Now the customer has to wait longer, employees are waiting around instead of being productive, and the job itself might be pushed off its schedule. However, over and underestimating is something that's going to happen, Michaud says.
When estimating how much mix he will need for a 2-in. asphalt mat, Michaud divides the square footage of the driveway by 80 (a general rule of thumb the guys learned from a local asphalt producer). Then he adds 5% to ensure he has enough material for the job.
But even with his 5% overestimating, Michaud says sometimes the original estimate of mix is still not enough. "There are times when you think you may have ordered enough mix for a particular job but you may use more than what you had originally thought."
On the job, to keep the asphalt mix hot and the paving running efficiently, Michaud says Bel Rock uses as many trucks as necessary for that particular job. While one is on the job with a load of mix the others are sent out to the asphalt plant to pick up more material.