Outfitting a patching crew

All parking lots have potholes and other areas where the pavement is deteriorating and needs patching. But to successfully offer patching services you need to outfit your crew properly.

Types of patching

The most common and most accepted repair approach is probably the traditional remove-and-replace patches. This can be used for almost any type of pavement defect but is an essential approach when the pavement has experienced damage, such as water intrusion, beneath the surface.

Infrared patching, unlike remove-and-replace patching, requires no removal of existing asphalt. Infrared equipment can be used to repair any type of pavement defect - except those areas that require full-depth repairs.

Infrared equipment

The most popular sizes for an infrared heater are a 4 ft. x 4 ft. unit and a 6 ft. x 8 ft. unit, says Bryan Burke, vice president of production with KM International. Both sized units can be used anywhere when it comes to patching - parking lots, driveways, and roads - Burke says.

The overall equipment investment to set up an infrared patching crew is minimal when compared to the equipment necessary for full depth remove-and-replace patching, Burke adds.

When it comes to choosing infrared equipment for your patching crew, Burke says there are two key questions contractors should ask themselves: Where will I be using it, and how often will I be using it? The answers to these questions will dictate the type and size of equipment to purchase. How often it is used is an important factor, too.

"If you are anticipating using it five days a week then your capital investment is more likely to be a bigger investment than for occasional use," Burke says.

Hot box

Hot boxes, which are available as truck- or trailer-mounted units, are a key piece of equipment for every patching crew. Hot boxes usually come in standard sizes of 2 or 4 ton.

"Perhaps the greatest asset that the hot box offers to your patching crew is flexibility. An asphalt hot box can keep material hot for extended time periods (up to three days) or even reclaim stockpiled asphalt allowing a patching crew to work when the asphalt plants aren't operating," Burke says.

When it comes to purchasing a hot box, the main things contractors should consider are the capacity and how it fits on the vehicle the contractor will use, Burke says. The next consideration, as with most pieces of equipment, is cost. Make sure you are purchasing a unit that will make it worth the investment. Just like when purchasing infrared patching equipment, a contractor purchasing a hot box should ask himself, "How often and where am I going to use this hot box?"

Pavement saw

When it comes to choosing a pavement cutting saw, the keys to look for are production, maneuverability, durability, portability, and serviceability, says Husqvarna Product Manager Richard Tremain.

Tremain says, most pavement patching crews will use a walk-behind saw for larger jobs because they are more productive and cause less fatigue than using a handsaw for cutting.

There are two styles of walk-behind saws - rear pivot and front pivot. Most pavement patching contractors use a front pivot saw, but the choice is usually based on the preference of the contractor, Tremain says.

Consider horsepower when looking at productivity. More horsepower on a saw will offer more productivity, Tremain points out.

"Thirty-five to 66-horsepower saws are what contractors usually use for pavement work on larger jobs," Tremain says. "You can use 9 to 25 horsepower saws, but your production will be lower."

Water tank

Contractors saw-cutting a patch will also need access to a water supply. The size of the water tank depends on how much work it will be doing that day and whether the crew can refill it if necessary throughout the day. Some contractors outfit a patching trailer with a water tank and pump, which is filled before it leaves the yard each day. But if a contractor doesn't have his own water tank he can usually hook on to a water supply on the jobsite. If that's the approach you take make sure to have plenty of hose.

Skid-steer loader

This versatile piece of equipment is essential to any contractor's fleet but especially for remove-and-replace patching.

Skid steers can pick up broken pavement, place it in a dump truck, carry asphalt mix to a repair, or use different attachments during the patching process. The ability to use different attachments provides a huge benefit for contractors. "Instead of having to buy a dedicated machine that just does one thing, contractors have a machine that can do so many things so well," says Bobcat Marketing Manager Greg Rostberg.

Rostberg says patching contractors often purchase larger skid steers. Larger units have a higher operating capacity and can carry a larger volume of material than their smaller counterparts. Plus, they tend to have a higher vertical lift as well.

Other essential considerations when purchasing a skid steer include the engine size, horsepower, and hydraulic flow. These factors are influenced by the attachments a contractor plans to use as well as the amount of material the unit will carry.

Dump trucks

One of the pieces of equipment that is necessary but often forgotten for remove-and-replace crews is a dump truck. Otherwise, what happens to the material you remove from the repair area? The most efficient way to progress in remove-and-replace pothole repair is to use a skid steer to pick pavement and other material from the area to be repaired and then dump the debris into the dump truck for hauling to the plant.

Tacking

Application of an asphalt emulsion tack coat improves adhesion of the hot mix to the face of the cuts. For smaller patches, a hand spray pump can work fine, though some contractors use a bucket of tack and a brush to essentially paint the faces of the patch.

For contractors who are doing large patches, or a large number of patches, it might be worth investing in a tack coat trailer which has its own spray wand.

Vibratory plates and rollers

Each lift of a patch needs to be compacted before the next one is placed so compactors are required equipment on just about any patching crew. Vibratory plates are lightweight and easy to transport and provide all the compactive effort a remove-and-replace patch would need. Rollers, which come in different sizes are another option for patching crews.

Hand tools

Among the essential hand tools are an asphalt rake, lute, broom, and shovel. Other tools a patching crew may use include a pouring pot, crackfilling squeegee, and a hand tamper.

When it comes to buying hand tools, contractors tend to choose the tools they need based on their specific job needs, says Dale Heidbrink, vice president of operations for Haviland Corporation.

Lutes, for example, come in a variety of widths. How heavy a material is will determine the width of the path the contractor can cover as well as what size lute is necessary, Heidbrink says. "To be able to handle a heavier material they will need a smaller width," he says.

Contractors can also choose from aluminum or wood lute handles as well as purchasing different length handles. "It's easier to make a longer length handle with aluminum," Heidbrink adds.

Patching creates a mess so each crew should also carry the tools and equipment needed to clean the site: a backpack blower to blow debris into a pile, a broom to sweep up the area, and a shovel to pick up debris and place it in the dump truck.

Handling the big patches

No matter how good your patching crew is, and whether or not you have all the right equipment, sometimes bringing in a paver to place the material is the best way to go.

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