How to Select Paver Options to Impact Your Work

Contractors who are planning to buy a paver typically decide on an 8-ft. machine, especially if their focus is paving parking lots and driveways. But once that decision is made, what options should a contractor consider adding? Given the limited budget most contractors are faced with, what are the essential options they should add? What are options of convenience? In other words what options should be considered “needs” and which ones are “wants.”

“I’ve seen a lot of pavers go out of here with very diverse option packages,” says Eric Fatyol, Volvo’s paving & milling product specialist for North America. “Contractors are trying to make the machine as versatile as they can because it means they can offer customers a greater variety of work.” He adds that giving thought to options before you buy is not only good planning but saves money too. “It’s more expensive to add an option later than it is to have it put on initially and include it in the purchase price,” he says.

So with that guideline, here are some insights from Fatyol and two additional paver manufacturers: Brodie Hutchins, Vogele general manager, and Jim Harkins, VT Leeboy’s Northeast territory manager.

  • Tracks or rubber tires. Harkins says most of Leeboy’s sales are of track pavers. “They’re more versatile and they allow contractors to pave in less-than-optimal base conditions which a lot of guys run into when paving parking lots,” Harkins says. “Rubber tires generally are better for municipal work and roads.”
  • Grade Control System. Probably the priciest option available at $15,000 or more, grade control systems are available from paver manufacturers and from a variety of companies such as Topcon, Trimble, and Leica. These automated systems, which Hutchins says Vogele sells on 80% of its pavers, can be preset to pave a specific grade and slope. As the paver progresses the system maintains the correct slope without any action from the operator. A less-costly option is what Volvo terms its Big Ski, which attaches to the outside of the paver and measures grade over a longer area.


Volvo’s Fatyol says any grade control system improves on-the-job performance “if, for example, you’re starting to pave streets with required grade tolerances and if a DOT has specs you have to meet. “Most commercial pavers have operators turning cranks as needed, but this is much more exact, within tenths or even hundredths of an inch,” he says.


“It keeps the screed on a set grade and the operator doesn’t have to manually adjust the screed as its moving,” Harkins says. “Taking human error out of it results in a more consistent mat because the operator isn’t using his eyes to determine mat thickness. The greater material control keeps the thickness of the mat consistent through the pull.” He adds that taking human error out also results in a savings in material cost. “If the job calls for 200 tons you are more likely to hit that with these controls than when adjusting by hand,” Harkins says.


Hutchins says either type of system can be used by itself though some contractors outfit their paver with both. “A lot of times a machine will have both and you can run both together,” he says. “Having both options gives the contractor added versatility: he can run one or the other or both.”


“Whether or not you need a grade control system depends on the job,” Hutchins says. “It depends on how important rideability is to the finished work and it depends on specifications.”

Hutchins says that in most cases pavers working on parking lots don’t need either system because contractors are pretty good at matching joints manually.


Harkins agrees that most grade control systems are sold onto highway pavers “but it’s becoming more and more popular on parking lots as contractors learn how their use can benefit them as well,” Harkins says.


Fatyol agrees. “A lot of contractors have gone from commercial work and leveraged it into city and county work,” he says. “This and other options can ease that transition for them.”

  • 240V Power Kit. Capable of running two balloon lights or four stadium lights, this option enables contractors to pave at night, an essential ability when working for cities or counties. Some paver manufacturers offer a “light package” that includes the kit and the lighting selected by the paver manufacturer to match the machine. Often in the $2000-$3000 range.
  • Screed-assist. For less than $2000 this option helps take the weight off the screed and shifts it to the tractor. Hutchins says this is particularly useful when paving with a low load-bearing capacity of mix and you don’t want the screed to sink into the mix. “So the screed assist can make a 7500-lb. screed seem like a 5000-lb. screed just by transferring some weight to the machine,” Hutchins says.
  • Screed heat. Contractors have the option of heating screeds using propane or via electricity and both have their advantages. Harkins says that in the last few years the market has seemed to shift toward electric-heated screeds even though they are significantly more expensive ($5000 or so) than propane-heated screeds. “Electric heated screeds emit less fumes and provide a more even heat throughout the screed,” he says. “Propane offers a faster heat time but a less-consistent heat across the screed. Propane heat develops hot spots and it takes longer to heat to the screed’s edges.” He says that when the cost of propane is factored in over the life of a paver the cost of the two types of screed heating systems is comparable.
  • Auger extensions. For paving wider widths contractors can extend augers to assure the mix gets carried to the edge of the screed. Kits are available to extend augers from 12 ft. to 24 ft. and cost varies. Bolt-on extensions are generally used only for roadwork while commercial work generally relies on extensions that are connected to the screed so they extend only when the screed extends.
  • Auto-lubrication. Hutchins says this feature “is really an inexpensive option (around $1200) that pays for itself in the first couple of weeks.
  • Under-auger cutoff doors. Standard on some pavers, Harkins says this is a must-have option for commercial pavers. “They are especially important when stopping and starting so you don’t see them on long-line pavers that are paving continually,” Harkins says. “They give the operator real nice control over material. An operator can drop material for a start pad, and at end of a run the operator closes the doors reducing the material left on the end of pass reducing handwork.
  • Hydraulically controlled cutoff gates. Also termed “flow gates,” this technology helps the operator regulate the flow of material from the hopper to the conveyor to the augers. A rule of thumb is the augers should be two-thirds covered with mix at all times to avoid a rough mat, and segregation, and hydraulically controlled cutoff gates help. “These can benefit any machine by giving the operator better control of material,” Harkins says.
  • Hydraulic screed lock. This enables the operator to press a button and raise the screed so it’s ready for transport. “The big thing here is the convenience factor,” Hutchins says. “One person can load it faster than having to get out and put the pins back in.”
  • Cutoff shoes. A nice option that generally costs only several hundred dollars, Fatyol says cutoff shoes allow a contractor to “negatively impact paving width. They can take an 8-ft. machine to a 6 ft. paving width for golf cart paths or other narrower jobs, allowing the contractor and paver to be a little more versatile.”
  • Operator controls. Paver manufacturers offer a variety of configurations and controls so contractors should evaluate what’s available and what they prefer. Larger road and highway pavers, for example, are usually a two-deck configuration with one operator on the high deck and one person on each end of the screed. A low-deck configuration, found on commercial pavers, has one person on each end of the screed. “The low deck option saves one man on the job but the high-deck machine is more productive,” Harkins says. “With the operator up in the seat his job is to keep the paver moving and keep the material moving. With three men each has specific responsibilities and if each does his job the machine can put down a lot of material. With the low deck with only two men on the screed the focus is on the mat. The low deck has the same three jobs spread over two men so it’s less productive but because it requires one less person it’s more efficient. Both machines have their place depending on the crew and how the operator likes to work on a machine.”
  • Separate washdown tank. A separate tank integrated into the paver is designed to hold environmentally friendly liquids to clean the machine. “For less than $1000 this is a big benefit with all the environmental rules contractors are facing,” Hutchins says.
  • Steering controls. These are either manual (run by levers and cables) or electronic with electronic costing upwards of $5000 to add to a paver. Contractors often make this decision based on what type of controls they are used to using, but Harkins points out that electronic controls are easier on an operator. “With levers the operator has to apply steady pressure throughout the day and he can get fatigued by end of a long day,” Harkins says. “Electronic controls are easier in general and are also a little smoother when paving around a radius.”
  • Grid heater. For contractors paving in the colder climates, especially early and late in the season, this heater warms the intake air making it easier to create combustion and start the engine. Fatyol says a grid heater makes it easier for the engine to start, resulting in less long-term wear and tear on the paver engine.
  • Non-contact auger controls. Costing roughly $2500 for a pair (one for each auger), these controls feature a sensor (no paddles) that controls the flow of material out to the screed and provides a nice even flow of material out to the end of the screed extensions. Harkins says this type of control helps maintain consistency, and helps efficiency and production because the contractor can pave at a steady pace without having to wait for materials to reach the edge of the extensions.
  • Automatic leveling system. Used primarily on road paving, this system automatically levels the mix coming behind the screed prior to compaction. Generally this is not an option used by parking lot and driveway pavers who do most leveling by hand.
  • Sloping extensions. A less-popular option, these extensions enable a paver to slope the screed as much as 10% to pave down to a catch basin, for example. “Typically this is done by a lute man who comes by after the paver passes and feathers by hand to create the needed slope and drainage,” Harkins says. Cost about $4000.
  • Curb or berm attachments. End gates are removed from the paver and this attachment is put on so a gutter or a berm can be constructed as the paving is taking place. Cost is around $2000 and one estimate is these are added to about 10% of the pavers sold. “If a contractor gets a job that calls for a berm these attachments will pay for themselves on that one job,” Harkins says.
  • Crownable screed extension. Of little use in parking lot paving, this extension enables the contractor to place a crown on one side of a road as he’s paving.
  • Engine shutdown kit. This kit can literally save the life of your paver by automatically shutting down when the engine oil pressure drops below a certain level or coolant temperature reaches a certain high level. “It’s fail safe protection for the paver,” Fatyol says.
  • Electric fuel gauge. Manufacturers say many paving contractors have no fuel gauge on their paver, trusting that the paver won’t run out of fuel in the middle of a job. “A lot of guys just fill the paver with fuel in the morning and know that a full tank lasts all day,” Fatyol says. This option helps contractors know exactly how much fuel they have in case the job progresses slower than planned.

Hutchins says that whichever options they might consider, contractors should rely on paver manufacturers and their dealers to learn which options might best suit the contractor and his business. “Too often contractors buy equipment because that’s what they’ve bought before. We can tell them about options that they might not be aware of that might not cost very much but will have a big impact on their paving operation,” Hutchins says. “We also can tell them which options they’ve bought in the past that they don’t really need because of the types of jobs they do.”