Infrared equipment can provide contractors with countless opportunities to expand their business from repair work to decorative asphalt. But regardless of your infrared use – and regardless whether you’re an experienced operator or just learning the process – once you get your equipment in the field a host of challenges can impact the ease, quality and profitability of your infrared project.
From accessibility to impractical expectations and finishing off the repair these insights, from several infrared equipment manufacturers, will prepare contractors to handle project issues in the field.
A right tool for the right job
While infrared offers contractors and their customers a number of opportunities to complete repair work successfully the service might not always be the best solution to a pavement problem. Cliff Cameron, KM International director of sales, reminds contractors that infrared units aren’t a fix-all application.
“There is a right tool for the right job,” he says. “If you have a base failure you need to correct the base failure and fix it properly, or you need to let your customer know that you can buy them time by using infrared. You could also do the repair with traditional methods and infrared the seams.”
Cameron notes that there are situations where contractors misdiagnose the pavement. “If you look at a heavy alligatored parking lot, sometimes it’s obvious to point right to a base failure,” he says. “What we’re seeing is if you don’t have a base failure that’s where the paver was a little thin with the asphalt so it didn’t handle it structurally; it wasn’t strong enough. If that’s the case you can go over that, infrared that, and add more asphalt to make it thicker and taper it into the whole repair area.”
Contractors may be eager to take on any project once purchasing their first infrared unit, but Cameron recommends taking a gradual approach to properly learn the equipment and the infrared process. “Once you do infrared, the process itself is so exciting you tend to jump in and want to do more than you’re actually capable of doing,” Cameron says.
Cameron adds that heating the pavement is only part of the infrared process. The other part is compaction of the heated area and he says contractors need to understand the important role compaction can play. He says infrared units are capable of heating and repairing large areas of pavement by heating an area, moving the machine to an adjacent area and heating that while the initial area is compacted and finished. This process enables contractors to repair areas of pavement much larger than the infrared unit itself.
“The machines heat asphalt, that’s what they do,” Cameron says. “But what some guys don’t understand is that when it comes to compaction you can have a lot of undulation in the finished pavement. You can heat a 6 x 8-foot area here, then do one next to it, next to it, and next to it. It will all be repaired and look good but the end product won’t be optimum.”
Obstacles on the jobsite
Whether it is a steep driveway or a narrow alleyway, accessibility is one challenge contractors encounter when using the equipment. “Accessibility can be a problem depending upon how portable your machine is,” says Greg Larsen, at Thermotrack. “You can have problems positioning your equipment if the driveway is steep because you have to get your equipment up the incline, hold it, heat it and get the rest of your equipment up the incline.”
Other aspects of the jobsite contractors should note are the location of gas and electrical lines, and they should make sure there are no flammables in the vicinity of the infrared application.
In order to ensure the best job for the client, Larsen suggests a thorough advance assessment of the area to make sure it is a proper candidate for infrared. “We always say that prep work is more important than the work,” he says. “Contractors should go out and assess whether the job is categorized as easy or difficult. A lot of times when you’re reheating you need to consider the factors of whether you need added equipment, traffic control, or other additional things.”