The Reality of Cold Weather Compaction

The Reality of Cold Weather Compaction

January 17, 2020

The prevailing theory among asphalt contractors and their clients is that there is only a brief window of time during which new asphalt projects can be undertaken. That window falls safely inside the warmer months of the year. As a result, a lot of people aren’t aware that when you put your job in the hands of a talented asphalt artisan, asphalt can be laid and compacted no matter the temperature.

Asphalt compaction in Des Moines, IA is entirely possible even in the middle of the winter, provided you understand a few key concepts.

Why is compaction so important?

Ask any contractor, and they’ll tell you that compaction is the most critical aspect of an asphalt project. Compaction is the process by which the molten asphalt is densified once it has been laid down. The process is intended to remove any air that may remain in the asphalt. Studies suggest that asphalt with air pockets exceeding 7 percent void about 10 percent of the pavement’s lifespan for every percentage point above the minimum threshold. In other words, if your asphalt ends up 90 percent compacted, then you’ve lost about 30 percent of your asphalt’s potential working life. That’s a massive loss of efficiency.

What makes cold weather compaction so challenging?

To achieve an ideal state of compaction, asphalt materials must be heated above a given temperature before they’re spread on the ground and smoothed out. Understandably, heating aggregate to the proper temperature (and keeping it there) can prove challenging when the weather is at its coldest. In fact, four key factors impact compaction in Des Moines, IA during the winter:

  • Aggregate: The inherent properties of your aggregate (i.e., the little bits of rock and assorted debris that are combined to create asphalt) have a significant impact on winter compaction in Des Moines, IA. The surface texture, gradation and particle shape all play a role.
  • Binder properties: Often, asphalt contractors will have to use modified asphalt binders to work more effectively in cold weather.
  • Mixture: During the winter, the aggregate mixture used for your asphalt project must maintain a consistent temperature and moisture level to work effectively.
  • Environment: Finally, and perhaps most pressing during the chilly months, the surface temperature, air temperature and wind conditions all factor into the ability to install asphalt.

Don’t get rushed

More than anything, remember that asphalt work during the winter may take longer than during the summer. If your contractor delays specific procedures in favor of more generous weather conditions, there’s likely a solid reason. Cold weather compaction is doable, but it takes some time to get it done correctly.

The cold weather asphalt pros

At Pearce Paving, we’re proud to be the area’s most accomplished asphalt contractors. Winter compaction is no problem for our talented team of knowledgeable professionals in Des Moines, IA.

Resurfacing, patching, new work, maintenance, commercial or residential projects—we do it all, with an underlying commitment to your satisfaction. No job is too big or too far. Visit us online or give us a call to schedule an estimate.

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