What is Hempcrete and How is it Used?

Over the last century, the science of concrete and asphalt paving has seen numerous improvements. Many of these improvements help the environment, for example, asphalt is the most recycled material in the US. Other changes in concrete and paving are simply due to efficiency. Breathable concrete lets water filter through it and out, which prevents cracking and damage down the road. 

One of the more interesting developments in concrete in the last few decades has been a rise in hempcrete. Hemp is the cousin of the famously psychoactive marijuana plant. As drug legalization occurs throughout the US, the government’s stranglehold on the plant is lifting. This has led to a surge in hemp usage as well.

What is hemp?

Hemp is a fibrous leafy plant. Unlike marijuana, it has extremely low levels of THC. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana, and the primary drug synthesized from the plant. Like marijuana, hemp also grows as a weed, meaning that it doesn’t need pesticides or a costly watering regiment. The plant also grows thickly enough to block out other plants – and weeds – from growing nearby. 

Hemp has been used throughout the world for millennia for a variety of purposes. 

  • Hemp rope is strong, cheap, and easy to make.
  • Hemp makes canvas/clothing.
  • It can be made into paper.
  • Hemp can be grown as a natural buffer zone around crops to prevent invasive plants and insect attacks.
  • Hemp is used in the production of CBD, an oil that helps with pain and sleep. 

Hemp’s true value lies in its weed-like properties and it’s fibers. It grows quickly and with minimal management, thus, hemp crops can pop up faster than many other famed crops. It’s hurd, or stalk, is naturally strong and fibrous. The stalk is used in various ways that uses it’s fibers for strong, flexible material.

How is concrete made from hemp?

Hempcrete is a biocomposite. This means that it is made from both biological and non-biological materials. 

Essentially it is a mixture of three things: 1) hemp stalk 2) lime,sand, or pozzolana (a silica-aluminum mineral found in volcanic ash)  and 3) water. Combining the three into a type of slurry makes a versatile concrete-like substance. Hempcrete can also go by several other names. The lime,sand, or pozzolana makes the aggregate which is found in all concrete. The hemp itself is a binder, using it’s porous fibers and hardening water to keep the materials all together.

What are its benefits and drawbacks?

Benefits

Carbon-negative

Hemp is a fast growing plant that sucks up carbon dioxide. Using locally-grown hemp in hempcrete will keep the carbon footprint of your construction low. Of course, shipping it from other locations will hurt that footprint.

Light and easy to transport

Hempcrete is less dense than concrete, so it is much easier and cheaper to transport large quantities of the stuff. Additionally, the mix is not difficult to make, so a paving contractor could save money by bringing the hemp hurds (stalks) to a construction site and mixing it with the aggregate on-site.

Makes for good insulation

It is an air-tight and vapor permeable. This means that it can be used to keep buildings well-insulated and dry. It also is healthy, in that it’s natural properties mean no extra chemicals need to be added for its effect. Nothing is required as a coating for its insulating effects. Compared to asbestos or other insulation, it is a sturdy replacement.

It is great for filling in panels, and adding insulation to solid walls. Hempcrete is useful in renovating older homes and buildings to upgrade their thermal retention. 

Durable

Low-density means that hempcrete is resistant to cracking under movement. This is especially good for earthquake-prone locations.

Efficient

It takes very little hemp hurd mixed with binder to create a great deal of hempcrete. A whole field of hemp could possibly make enough total material to insulate an entire house. Traditional asphalt uses petroleum-based binder. Hemp stalk is also inexpensive.

Drawbacks

Hempcrete may be versatile and relatively low-cost. However, it does have some qualities that prevent it from being a replacement for traditional cement. 

It’s not very dense

The lack of density in hempcrete makes it a good insulation. However, it means that it can not be used as a structural material. Its density is only about 5% of regular concrete. Because hemp can not be used structurally, here is a list of things you can NOT do with it.

  • Hempcrete can not be used as a foundation. The foundation of your structure will need to be traditional concrete, as hempcrete will be unlikely to withstand the load.
  • It can only be used non-structurally. It must be set around timber, steel, or concrete. You can not build a house from hempcrete alone. 

Biodegradable

Hempcrete can biodegrade. This is great for avoiding pollution and waste, but not so good for parts of a building that need to interact with the environment. Hempcrete is bad as a foundation because it is not dense enough, and may begin to biodegrade after a time. If you have hempcrete on the exterior of your building, a weatherproof finish can be applied. Not so with foundations. You probably don’t want your building falling down because it’s foundation degraded.

Changing legality

As politicians play with laws, it effects our lives. Hemp may be a legal crop in 48 states now, but the right lobbyist from a big industry could change that. Over all, hemp seems to be on a general trend toward legality, but it is far from certain.

Considering hempcrete?

If you are thinking about getting some paving work done for your business, head to Reliable Paving. We will be happy to guide you. Our 35 years of experience and constant study of new developments in paving means we know all kinds of ways to minimize environmental footprint while paving on time, and on budget. If you want your paving done as well as possible, contact us today for a consultation.

 

Ancient Concrete and New Construction

In modern Italy, a unique question has only been answered in the last several years. Modern concrete constructions built at the seaside have degraded and crumbled after only a few years. The salty sea waves and ocean wind had destroyed creations of modern technology while ancient concrete has lasted thousands of years. Why do our modern buildings collapse while ancient concrete islands can withstand the elements for millennia? 

How the Romans did it

Ingredients

The ancient Romans started building concrete thousands of years ago. They used various ingredients, including some of which are hard to reproduce in modern labs. 

Opus caementicium, or concrete, was used commonly in ancient times. It was made in the same over all method that modern concrete is. It consists of an aggregate and a mortar. The aggregate was made from small rocks, pebbles, and hard pieces, just as it is now. The mortar functioned as the binding agent, keeping everything together as an extremely tough glue. However, a few different construction ingredients and methods keep ancient Roman constructions in good working order while our own fall apart. Opus caementicium used aggregate made from tuff. Tuff is a rock made from volcanic ash, ejected from vents during a volcano’s explosion. There are many types of tuff, but the tuff was not the most important ingredient.  

What really keeps the Roman buildings together is how the binder and aggregate interacts. Gypsum and quicklime were used, as well as pozzolana. Pozzolana is a volcanic ash that is resistant to sea salt – more so than modern concrete. The pozzolana was used in conjunction with the binders to create a cement that strengthened and became more resistant over time. 

Reactions with the outside world

Pozzolana and quicklime benefits from interacting with salt water over time. A rare crystal, tobermorite, formed over time as these three materials were exposed to one another. As seawater washed between the natural cracks in the concrete, it reacted with materials found in the volcanic rock. 

As the seawater flowed in the concrete, it would wash away the volcanic ash. It might seem that washing away part of the ingredients of the concrete would weaken the concrete, but it actually had the opposite effect. As the ash washed away, it allowed new formations. In particular, crystals could form and make interlocking “plates” that strengthen the concrete over time. Phillipsite, naturally found in volcanic rock, and seawater builds up a special type of tobermorite crystals. These crystals are called aluminous tobermorite crystals. Aluminous refers to the element aluminum. Aluminum is a light metal that is known for it’s low weight and tensile strength. These new crystals form over time, filling in tiny fissures and making the building stronger over time. 

Thanks to the unique reactions of the Roman concrete with seawater, it has the reputation of being the strongest, longest lasting concrete.

Other elements of construction also aided Roman buildings. The dome-shaped tops of many Roman buildings and their foundations aided longevity as well. The tops of many Roman structures were made of a less-dense, lighter weight concrete. The foundations were made of denser, harder, tougher concrete. The heavy foundations and light tops kept the buildings in place and stable. This type of construction is especially useful in the earthquake-prone Italian peninsula. 

What we can learn from ancient concrete

After reading the first half of this article, what we have to tell you now might seem like a surprise. Roman concrete has some amazing properties, but it is not actually better over all than modern concrete. There are quite a few reasons why this is true, and we will take a look at them. 

Benefits of Roman concrete

  • It gets stronger over time with reaction to sea water.
  • It is more natural, and has a lower environmental footprint.

Why it’s not quite as good as we think it may be

To most people, the idea of concrete that strengthens over time seems amazing. However, to any paving contractor or mineralogist, the idea of a concrete strengthening with crystals is pretty normal. Crystals form on all kinds of surfaces. The combination of materials that makes up cement makes the appearance of crystals pretty common. 

This article covers the following points, and some of the articles you might find about Roman seawall cement quite well.

There are a few other factors that really do effect how fast deterioration of modern cement occurs.

  • Roman cement did not have reinforcing steel. Rebar, or steel beams in the cement changes the chemical structure. Embedded steel actually corrodes the concrete when exposed to seawater. Modern cement has this steel, and thus is more inclined to degrade. Simply not using rebar extends the life of modern cement.
  • The southern Italian peninsula has a very temperate weather cycle. Unlike many other places where sea cement building might be compared, there is no freeze/thaw cycle. One of the main reasons for the breakdown of cement is water freezing in it’s small pores. 
  • Survivor bias is the idea that old things are better than new things. We believe this, because the old things that last are still there, and we don’t see the old things that no longer exist. This goes for buildings, societies, appliances, and vehicles. 

Looking for the best cement work?

Here at Reliable Paving, we follow the newest and most accurate data regarding cement and asphalt paving. Our over 35 years of experience and 200 plus person team means that no paving job is too big or difficult. We can make our paving ideal for the location and climate of your choice. If you have any questions, or would like a consultation about your paving job, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Common Parking Lot Accidents And How To Avoid Them

Although highways take the cake for the most dangerous car accidents on average, one in five accidents happens in a parking lot. According to the National Safety Council, over 60,000 people are injured in parking lots every year. Additionally, 500 people die per year in parking lot accidents, and there are more than 50,000 crashes in parking lots and garages annually.

Although so many accidents happen in parking areas, people generally regard them as safe, and are not as on-alert in parking lots as they are during normal driving. But what are the most common types of parking lot accidents? What are the reasons that there are so many crashes in lots and garages? Finally, what can drivers and parking lot owners do to increase safety in parking locations?

The most common types of accidents in parking lots

When two drivers back up into each other

It’s hard to look behind you when driving. There are mirrors sure, but they don’t give a full range of view behind your vehicle. You might have to turn your head back to look through your rear window, but that doesn’t always help either, as it leaves a blind spot on the back driver’s side. 

When a driver pulls out of a space in front of another vehicle

It’s often hard to see cars in a densely-packed lot. Especially when a smaller car is pulling out of a space between two larger cars, like a sedan coming out from between to SUVs. This is a recipe for trouble, as the faster car that is already moving might not have time to react to the car pulling out.

The danger of this type of accident is compounded when the driver leaving the spot is backing up. When a driver is backing up out of a parking space, their field of vision is lower, meaning they are less likely to be able to respond to oncoming traffic.

Pedestrian accidents in parking lots

Pulling in and out of spaces is dangerous not only to drivers, but to pedestrians as well. Not only is it difficult to see a car pulling out of a parking space between two other cars, it’s also hard for the driver of that car to see pedestrians. The other cars on either side of the vehicle cut down the field of view, and pedestrians seem to appear out of nowhere. In a 2007 study from the National Center For Statistics and Analysis, there were over 5000 injuries to pedestrians from cars pulling/backing out of parking spaces.

This danger is especially poignant to children. The 2007 study also showed that over one-fifth of children ages 9-5 killed in crashes are pedestrians. Children are particularly at-risk because they don’t know the rules of the road, they are smaller, and they tend to run and move unpredictably compared to adults. 

When two cars crash trying to get into the same space

When two drivers are focused on the spot they want, and not traffic, accidents happen. People become fixated on their space and forget about other drivers doing the same thing. This poses a threat to pedestrians and other motorists.

Why are there so many parking lot-related accidents?

People are fixated on the space they want

As we mentioned earlier, people become fixated on a potential parking space. Even if the space is far away, they will forget the basics of checking for pedestrians and traffic as they get to it. This can obviously lead to accidents.

People are often driving while distracted in lots

Many people use their time in a parking lot to check their phones, or do otherwise non-driving activities. They do so because parking lots have much slower speed limits, and they feel safer in them than on the road. A CBS News article cited a statistic that 66% of drivers feel comfortable making calls in a parking lot, over half would text. About another 50% said they would be comfortable with other uses of their phone, like watching videos or sending emails. According to the National Safety Council president Deborah Hersman: “It’s just as dangerous to be distracted in a parking lot going 5 mph as it is going 50 mph.” 

Long story short, just because parking lots have slower speed limits, doesn’t mean it’s OK to drive distracted in them.

Traffic laws aren’t enforceable in parking lots

Traffic laws apply to the roads and highways, not parking spaces. This can lead to people driving more recklessly in them. You’ve probably seen parking lots with tire marks in a wide circle, where someone decided to do donuts. Reckless driving is a huge cause of accidents, whether in parking lots or on the road.

Parking lots are actually crowded

There can be far more cars in parking lots per square foot than there are on roads. When a parking lot is totally crowded with cars, visibility is low, there are more pedestrians, and more moving vehicles. People get a false sense of security in parking lots because they think that all the other cars are empty. This is an example of confirmation bias, as it’s just harder to see pedestrians and other cars due to the bad visibility in a crowded parking garage.

What can your business do to make the parking lot safer?

Fortunately, we can always make the world safer. 

  • Have clear signs clearly and visibly posted for drivers. Especially speed limit signs and directional signs.
  • Make sure the entire lot/garage is well-lit.
  • Clear the parking lot of debris like snow.
  • Fix potholes, cracks, and other damage.

Looking to make your lot safer?

If you want to ensure that your lot is as safe as it can be, then look no further than Reliable Paving. We are an experienced and highly professional paving contractor. Our specialty is in asphalt paving and maintenance. We can repaint parking lot stripes, fix cracks, fill potholes and much more. Contact us today and we will be happy to answer your questions and/or give you a consultation.

Alternative Uses For Parking Lots

For many reasons, parking lots are beginning to fall out of favor in American construction. The gigantic multi-story lots that used to dominate cities are falling by the wayside. You may have noticed a general decline in auto traffic at your business or maybe you are dealing with fewer customers thanks to the ongoing pandemic. Whatever the reason may be, you might be thinking about what to do with your now empty, unused parking lot.

Why are parking lots falling out of use?

The Rise of Cycling 

More and more people are cycling rather than driving now. Besides being cheaper than cars, bikes are smaller and easier to manage, have less upkeep, and provide exercise. They don’t need huge lots because they don’t take up as much space. Additionally, as cities are better designed now, it’s easier for people to get where they’re going with a bicycle. 

E-Commerce

Shopping online has revolutionized our economy in a few short years. Nowadays a consumer can get all manner of goods, including food and groceries from the comfort of home. Simply put, people don’t need to drive as much, so they don’t need parking. E-commerce has already critically wounded shopping malls, parking lots aren’t far behind. 

Car Ownership is Decreasing

It’s predicted that car ownership in the US will drop by 80% over the next 10 years. There’s already a glut of spaces compared to cars too. The US has about 2 billion parking spaces… and only 250 million cars. An oversupply of spaces and decreasing car ownership means it’s probably a good idea to think about other uses for vast parking lots.

Economic Instability

The COVID-19 pandemic popped a lot of economic bubbles. One of them is in-person shopping. Not only is it more convenient, it’s now often the only safe choice people have. 

Nobody knows what surprises are in store for the coming years. One thing is fairly certain though- when the economy hits hard times, people go out less. They shop less, go out to eat less, and go out for entertainment less often. With these changes, we will see even less use of already empty parking lots. You don’t need an enormous parking lot for a workplace when everyone is working from home. 

Autonomous Vehicles

The rise of self-driving cars is going to make a huge impact. Car ownership is already on the downswing, autonomous vehicles will only make it lower. A city with a fleet of self-driving cars can easily transport people for lower costs than traditional car ownership or taxis. If autonomous cars are used constantly, stopping only to recharge/refuel, the need for places to keep cars goes down. 

What Can We Do With Parking Lots?

Fortunately for business owners and developers, parking lots and garages provide plenty of opportunity. Parking lots can be remodeled into other businesses, or demolished and turned into something completely new. Let’s look at a few of the best options.

Food Truck/Pop-up Business

This is a great — and economical — option. Without making any major changes to your paved lot, a food truck can generate some income. In fact, all over the US, farmers markets are often set up on unused parking lots. All you need is a tent/cover, tables, and whatever you are selling. Let that unused pavement earn some extra money for you.

If you let a small vendor such as a food truck operate on your lot, it will generate more foot traffic. That might result in more business for your own workplace. 

Apartments and Housing

If the parking lot is old, dilapidated, and unused, it might not be worth keeping. It instead would be better to take it down all-together and build something new. Building houses over lots is great, as the land is already flat once the pavement is removed, and existing pavement can be kept for driveways, sidewalks, and other residential needs. 

In the case that the lot doesn’t need to be torn down, it can be renovated. Existing parking lots have already been used to make apartments and businesses. Parts of the lots can be maintained, so people living at the apartments can have a nice parking space right next to their abode. 

E-Commerce Centers

Dingy, dark underground parking garages might not seem great for anything. Fortunately, delivery companies always have their eyes peeled for the next opportunity. Underground garages, with a little remodeling, make great fulfillment centers for companies like Amazon. They are cool, dry, and don’t have much traffic. The fact that many garages are in cities means that goods can be stored en masse even closer to where people live. Unlike massive centers outside of cities, in-city locations will result in shorter delivery times.

Urban Farms

Remove the asphalt, and you have a smooth, flat area that’s great for a small farm plot. Many parking lots are also in open areas, so the new farmland can get plenty of sunlight. Another benefit of turning parking lots into farmland is that farmland can be flexible. A house or apartment building must be a certain size — not so with growing space. You can grow vegetables on various types of space, and many vines, like tomatoes and squash do great with vertical space.

The Sky’s The Limit

Why not free up this space in cities? Parking lots can — and already have — become parks, workplaces, businesses, apartments, and more. You can do so much with a parking lot because so many lots are already in prime spots in cities.

Interested In Re-purposing Your Parking Lot?

Reliable Paving is an all-purpose paving contractor. With over 35 years of experience and a reputation for integrity, we are happy to help with any asphalt paving-related solutions you might need. We can help with paving, demolishing, renovation and reconstruction. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

               

The Definition, Uses, and Benefits of Perpetual Pavement

What is Perpetual Pavement?

Perpetual Pavement is an asphalt concrete pavement that is designed to last 50 years or longer without any repairs below the wearing course (surface level).  It typically has a multi-layered structure which resists fatigue over time. The triple-layered structure resists structural damage for as long as the top surface is maintained and replaced. While the outer surface is cared for, the rest of the pavement will not to be fully repaired or replaced for many years.

 

Resistance to Pavement Fatigue

The goal of perpetual pavement is to be a deep-strength asphalt paving that resists fatigue. It does so by reducing cracking from the bottom-up. When pavements undergo road traffic, fatigue develops from the cyclical nature and weight of the traffic. The fatigue begins as cracks at the pavement foundation. These foundational cracks then work their way up to the higher layers of pavement. As they do so, the cracks spread out and multiply. Finally, over time, the cracks show themselves on the surface of the asphalt pavement. 

Perpetual pavement is designed specifically to resist bottom-up fatigue cracking and structural rutting. These two types of damage are some of the worst that pavement can receive. It is superior to low-grade pavement that has rutting and cracking before their design-life is achieved. It is also superior to high-grade traditional pavement because it uses materials more efficiently.

 

Differences from Traditional Pavement

Empirical Pavement Design

Traditional pavement is made based on empirical designs. High-quality pavements are typically made using empirical observations. Afterwards, the pavement is designed to meet the observations made. These observations rely on the following set of factors.

1) Traffic levels.

2) An indicator of material quality,

3) Pavement material layers.

Numbers 1 and 2 interact with each other in order to predict what the appropriate levels for number 3 should be. This method is called empirical pavement design. 

Essentially, it works like a math formula. For a given material design (number 2) and traffic levels (1), the pavement material layers (3) should increase or decrease.

The flaw in empirical pavement design is that eventually the pavement thickness is more than enough for the load of traffic. Pavement will be thicker and thicker, but at no real benefit. What this means to builders is that costs will go up but not affect quality. Pavements over-designed by adding 1.5-4.5 inches of thickness added 600-1,800 tons of material per mile of single-lane road. All of this extra weight was beyond necessary levels for the function and lifespan of the road.

 

Mechanistic-Empirical Method (M-E Pavement Design)

Perpetual pavements use a different method of design than traditional pavements. This method uses more factors to create a model. The model is then used with testing and more experimentation to figure out allowable loads and damage. Once the damage level is acceptable, it is ready to go to the final design stages. 

Step 1

There are 3 inputs.

1) Materials.

2) Traffic.

3) Pavement layer thickness.

These three inputs are combined into an analytical model, which gets pavement values. The pavement values determine the allowable load (according to the model)

Step 2

Actual loads are compared to allowable loads on the model to compute damage.

Step 3

If the computed damage level is not too high, the pavement can go into the final design.

Optional Step 4

If the computed damage level is too high, the pavement layer thickness is increased, and then steps 1-3 are repeated. 

 

This methodology was originally used to test metal fatigue.

For a detailed, long-form article about perpetual pavement, as well as good flow charts showing the design process, look at this article from the Asphalt Pavement Alliance. 

 

Pavement Design Life

Regardless of the method of pavement design, a pavement’s life is based on several other factors. In general, for any type of asphalt, the design life can be seen as a function of several factors.

1) Design requirements (method used for design, M-E, or empirical pavement design).

2) Material characteristics (quality of construction materials).

3) Construction practices (quality of build/structure).

4) Layer thickness.

5) Maintenance Activities.

6) Failure Criteria (how failure is defined according to the designer).

 

Design Philosophy

  • Perpetual pavements must have enough structural integrity and thickness to stop cracking, fatigue, rutting, and deforming.
  • Perpetual pavements must be durable to resist damage from traffic and the environment.

 

Physical Design

Layer 1

1.5 To 3 inches of HMA (hot mix asphalt) or OGFC (open grade friction course). HMA is flexible and deflects, or flexes, under loading. The load is dispersed throughout the pavement so each sub layer carries less weight. OGFC is a porous asphalt allowing water to drain through it. It also reduces wet weather crashes.

Layer 2

There are 4 to 7 inches of rut resistant material in layer 2. This is high-strength material that is flexible enough to expand and contract and resist cracking.

Layer 3

Layer 3 is composed of 3 to 4 inches of durable material that resists fatigue. This is the part of the pavement that will receive the most tensile strain (horizontal push/pull). Layer 3 must be resistant to fatigue cracks over time.

Layer 4

The final layer of pavement is the foundation.  This can be compacted subgrade, stabilized subgrade, stabilized aggregate, or unstabilized aggregate like gravel.

 

Why are Perpetual Pavements Beneficial?

  •  Cyclical costs are reduced on the pavement. As long-term damage is avoided, yearly or multi-yearly-accrued damage doesn’t need to be repaired.
  • More efficient design.  They eliminate overly-thick sections of asphalt.
  • Reconstruction costs are eliminated.
  • Delays due to maintenance are fewer and less costly.
  • They reduce use of non renewable asphalts and aggregates.

 

Considering Perpetual Pavement?

If you are thinking about getting your next paving job done, and perpetual pavement seems right for you, let us know. Reliable Paving is a paving contractor with over 35 years of experience across the South and Southwest. We are happy to assist you with any questions you may have about pavement, long life pavement, and pavement maintenance.

Excavators in Paving Projects

Paving projects come in all shapes and sizes. Small jobs, like driveways, probably don’t need any kind of heavy equipment except for rolling the pavement flat after it’s laid. Larger jobs will often need heavy equipment. This is where excavators and backhoes come in.

Why does laying asphalt paving need this kind of heavy machinery? There are two main reasons. The first is when the foundation for the pavement needs to be dug deep. An excavator gets the job done more efficiently than a large team of manual diggers. The other reason is for doing repairs and maintenance on concrete. An excavator can break through damaged  asphalt concrete layers in order to get at the lower layers below. This lets pavers pour a new, flat layer of asphalt where the damaged asphalt was before.

 

What is an Excavator?

An excavator, commonly known as an earth mover, is a large, heavy vehicle with a boom, stick and bucket attached to the front end of the machine. The boom and stick make up a mechanical arm that can be used to manipulate the bucket (or claw). Usually the excavator moves by double treads along the bottom, like a tank.

There are several variations of excavators, each with a  specific function. A wheeled excavator exchanges treads for a set of wheels, making it ideal for moving around construction sites. Wheeled excavators are great for moving on terrain that is already paved. Other various kinds of excavators include suction excavators, which use high water pressure to blast materials loose. Another is the long-armed excavator, which can reach high-up and difficult spots. Check out this in-depth article about different excavator types.

An excavator is one of the largest pieces of heavy equipment available, weighing up to 200,000 pounds.                                                                                                                     

 

Alternatives to Excavators

Manual Digging

Paving contractors can use jackhammers, drills, and other single-person pieces of machinery to dig. These devices have the benefit of being light, easy to transport, and less costly on fuel. However, for large projects, numerous pieces of equipment are needed. Often, one excavator can do the work of a whole team. 

 

Backhoe

The backhoe is the workhorse of a lot of paving operations. This machine is a tractor with a mounted 2-part arm attached to a bucket. It is similar to an excavator, but smaller, and with less power. The main difference between the two is size. An excavator is simply larger and more powerful, and thus suited to bigger tasks. 

The backhoe’s use lies in its versatility. Both machines offer a wide selection of attachments, but the backhoe has more. Additionally, the range of the arm of each device is different. The excavator has a full 360 degree rotation. A backhoe only has about 200 degrees of rotation.

Over all, a backhoe is more suited to medium-sized workplaces with a wide variety of jobs. An excavator is best suited to larges scale construction projects where its size and power shine. Backhoes weigh about 20,000  pounds or less.

 

How to Choose What is Best for Your Project

The best way to choose between which piece of heavy machinery best suits you is to learn about them. Knowing more about backhoes and excavators means you can most easily make the right choice for your project.

 

Size of the Project

As mentioned before, massive projects need massive machinery, so an excavator would be ideal. This is especially true of paving projects as an excavator can break through the damaged layers of asphalt or concrete with its bucket. A backhoe will require special attachments, called hoe rams (think big hammers) for this. Get an excavator to a large project, and it can accomplish a lot, quickly and efficiently. The longer arm of the excavator also helps it move things larger distances over less time.                                                                                          

Other uses for excavators include demolition, landscaping, mining, digging holes, and moving big objects.

For small scale projects, like driveways and small parking lots it may be best to dig without heavy equipment. A team of skilled workers with drills and jackhammers could make shorter, more precise work of a smaller construction site.

 

Project Locations

If a project has multiple work locations, then a backhoe might be best. A long stretch of highway for example, might have stretches where no work is required. For this type of work, a piece of machinery that can more easily move from point-to-point is best. A backhoe can move much faster, about 25 miles per hour on pavement.                                                                            

So, if your project has disparate locations requiring frequent travel, a backhoe is probably more suitable. However, when it comes to certain tasks, like pavement and repairs, a backhoe requires a larger team than an excavator.

 

Deadlines

Despite the difficulty and cost of getting a massive excavator to a site, it’s often worth it. Repairing a frequently-used stretch of road is more important to do quickly than cheaply. Also, working in high-value locations like airports, it’s important to get work done so traffic can resume. When time is of the essence, nothing beats an excavator.                                          

 

What’s the Verdict?

Use an excavator when:

  • The project is massive
  • Deep digging is essential
  • The timeline is short
  • There are fewer people available to work

Use a backhoe when:

  • The project is small or moderately-sized
  • A wider variety of heavy tools are needed
  • There are numerous locations that must be traveled to

Use neither when:

  • The project is small                                                              
  • It is impossible to get heavy machinery to the work location

 

What Does Your Paving Project Need

Do you have a paving project? Whether your project is large, tiny, or in-between, our team of over 200 at Reliable Paving can get the job done. With 35 years of experience, we are experts in asphalt-pavement. We can install new paving, perform maintenance, and consult to help with projects as well. If you have a project, leave it to the experts. Contact us today for a quote.

The History of Asphalt

Without asphalt, most motor vehicles would be almost useless. Asphalt pavement is one of the defining features of modern society, enabling easy and cheap transportation. It’s all around us, every day, but most people don’t know about its origins.                                                                                                                           

Asphalt, or bitumen, is a viscous, black, almost solid form of oil. It is found naturally, and also in a refined state. Its most common use nowadays is in roads (where approximately 70% of asphalt goes). Most people regard it as a generally new invention. However, asphalt actually has a long history, going back to ancient times, where it had various uses. We’re going to look at asphalt’s uses over history, focusing on innovations and developments from the last 100 years, especially in the United States. For a long, in depth history of paving and asphalt all over the world look here.

 

Ancient Asphalt                                                                               

Ancient Indus valley civilizations used asphalt for waterproofing, dating back to about 5000 BC. It was used for adhesive and waterproofing by the Sumerians and Babylonians as well. The ancient Egyptians used bitumen in the embalming process, getting their bitumen from the Dead Sea. In ancient Japan, items were made by boiling bitumen down to finer ingredients and then forming it. In the ancient Americas, bitumen was used as the sharp points of arrows and spears, as well as waterproofing canoes. It could also be heated in pots to drive away mosquitoes.

The word asphalt comes from the ancient Greek asphatos, which means “to secure.”

Asphalt was used throughout the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East, as a waterproofing and sealing agent up until the 1800s. 

 

Modern Asphalt

The First Asphalt Roads in the Early 1800s

The Champs-Elysee in Paris was paved in 1824, using natural asphalt. This is generally regarded as the first modern asphalt road. 

Around the same time, in Scotland, roads were being built with broken stones. They were later joined with hot tar, producing a surface known as “tarmacadam.” Hot tar was actually used to ease maintenance and prolong the life of the road, as well as to reduce dust.

These early roads paved the way for the massive motorway developments that would take place in the 20th century.

 

Asphalt Use in the United States

The first asphalt/bitumen mixtures in the US were used for sidewalks, crosswalks, and roads, starting in the late 1860s. 

In 1870, the first true asphalt pavement, derived from a sand mix was laid in New Jersey. It was successful enough that the same builder went on to pave Pennsylvania in Washington DC.                                                                                                                   

Asphalt pavement caught on quick in the United States, as it provided a much more durable surface to roads than traditional dirt or gravel.

 

20th Century Changes

Until the early 1900s, most asphalt in the US came from natural sources. The first modern asphalt production facility was built in 1901 in Massachusetts. By the early 1900s, production of refined asphalt superseded natural asphalt. The production process became mechanized and industrialized to take advantages of economies of scale. This facility used drum driers and drum drier mixers, mechanizing the process that was once stirring asphalt by hand. By the 1920s, the first mechanically-laid asphalt was installed.                                                                                                                                   

 

The Automobile

Nothing laid the foundation for the wide-scale used of asphalt in the US like the advent of the motorcar. State and local governments began to receive innumerable requests to build better roads as more Americans acquired cars. This huge increase in demand led to innovations in asphalt production and the laying of pavement. 

 

The Second World War

In the 1940s, the building boom of WWII dramatically increased the demand for asphalt even further. It needed to be produced and laid at a great pace. The demand largely came from the increase in enormous military aircraft. They required extremely durable surfaces for takeoff and landing. 

 

The 1950s-2000s Innovation and Improvement

1950s and 1960s

Electronics began to be used soon after in asphalt production. By the 1950s and 1960s, large parts of the asphalt manufacturing and laying process was automated. Electronic leveling and screening controls, and extra-wide finishers that could lay two lanes at once came into use in the late 60s. 

Asphalt construction in the 50s was a big, dirty, dusty business. By the 1960s, air pollution became a major concern. Asphalt manufacturers began to become more environmentally friendly — and thus more efficient. 

The 1970s and on

The main thrust of asphalt production in the latter-half of the 20th century was quality improvement. Economies of scale had been effectively achieved with automation and mechanization, so quality became the new focus. 

Recycling asphalt was actually very common in the early 20th century, but the rise of new asphalt refineries in the 1950s made it cheaper to get new than recycled. The 1970s energy crisis showed the importance of reusing existing materials. Recycling asphalt became common again. To this day, asphalt is the most recycled material in the US.

In 1986, the National Center for Asphalt Technology was founded. The NCAT is the top location in the world for research and development. Thanks to centralizing research and science regarding asphalt, the last 50 years have seen asphalt pavement start to be used in a huge variety of ways and locations. 

High durable mixtures are used for runways and loading docks. Asphalt has been consistently improved to be more efficient, environmentally friendly, longer lasting, and smoother.

Asphalt today bears little resemblance to its first uses seaming together baskets, or even its first uses on roads in the US. However, looking back, the progress made in this ubiquitous substance is astounding, especially over the last 100 years. 

 

Do You Need Asphalt Work Done? 

If you have a paving project in your near future, look no further than Reliable Paving. We are a full-service asphalt paving contractor who can help you with each step of your project. Whether you want something new built, maintenance performed, or you have questions about a project, contact us. With over 35 years of experience, and a team of over 200 people, no job is too big, or beyond our abilities.

planning a job in the summer

Summer is the Best Season to Do Asphalt Paving

Maybe you need a parking lot seal coated, maybe you need repairs done on a drive, maybe you want to expand your business and thus need more sidewalk and parking lot. Whatever the reason for your yearly paving project, there is definitely a best time to get it done. Late spring through summer make for the best times to get asphalt and paving projects done.

Longer Setting Times

The fact that the summer heat keeps the asphalt from hardening might sound like a problem. Asphalt that takes too long to set means you have an unusable area of road or pavement that holds up business. It also means that there is more room for error when the pavement is being laid and shaped in the first place, right?

In fact, it’s the opposite. When asphalt takes longer to set, it gives paving crews a longer time to work with it. Paving crews have a whole host of equipment for flattening asphalt as they lay it. Things like smoothing irons, lutes, and even steamrollers are all used after laying. They help flatten the asphalt, creating a smooth, uniform surface. In colder temperatures, the asphalt takes much less time to set (harden) after it is laid. This means the odds of having bumps and ridges is much higher.

Summer is the best time to lay asphalt, because it gives pavement contractors longer to smooth it and set it properly.

In 40° F weather, a 1.5-inch deep only has 16 minutes available for compaction. The same thickness (1.5 inches) takes 24 minutes in 80° F weather. Similarly, 3-inch thick asphalt has about a 45-minute compaction window in 40° F weather, and over 65-minute window in 80° F weather. On this page there’s a handy chart of when asphalt is workable according to its thickness and temperature.

Greater Stability

The summer’s warmth also helps with a few other parts of the setting process as well. The consistent warm temperatures of summer days usually means that the asphalt is much more uniform when it is laid as well. This means that the likelihood of air bubbles is much less. When the asphalt is throughout its thickness it is not only easier to work with, but also much more resistant to damage. 

One of the main ways in which asphalt incurs damage is through water seeping into small cracks and then air bubbles. When the water expands and contracts with the temperature, those small cracks become bigger ones. Over time, things like ruts and potholes will form as well. 

Regardless of the season, asphalt should be smooth, flat, and uniform. This gives it the longest life and prevents the most damage. It’s easiest to lay asphalt this way during the summer, as the high temperatures allow it to be worked more carefully.

More Time to Work

Often asphalt laying can be done by machine. But just as often, it requires labor-intensive handiwork. The surface asphalt has to be smoothed, and raked by hand. Asphalt placed in a cramped area might not be able to get a steamroller to fit, so it may need to be compressed manually, or with a hand-controlled compactor. 

We already know that summer provides warmer temperatures for working with asphalt. Another summer benefit is longer daylight hours. Longer hours simply means that there is more time to work safely, easily, and cheaply. Many pavement contractors will charge higher costs for working in the dark or at night due to the increased risk. 

Seal Coating Dries Faster in the Summer

After placing any asphalt, especially for parking lots and driveways, a paving crew will apply sealant. This material does exactly what its name implies. It coats the pavement in a breathable, durable, protective shell. This shell enables the asphalt to be used for longer by essentially weatherproofing it. The seal plugs pores and tiny holes in the asphalt that would normally allow water and other solvents in. Just preventing damage from liquids getting in the pavement is far more cost effective, and seriously extends the life of the asphalt. 

Warm asphalt absorbs sealant better than cool asphalt. Sealant normally takes about one to three days to dry — depending on the humidity and temperature. 

Seal Coating is Easier to do in the Summer

Sealant requires a temperature of over 50° F, and a 24-hour period without heavy rain. This is a much easier feat to accomplish in the summer than in most other seasons. Read more about proper seal coating here.

Better Weather

We know that summer can bring out some bad weather. Tornado Alley extends from Northern Texas to South Dakota. Unfortunately, with climate change and more accurate meteorology, we’ve seen that the high-risk tornado zone in the US is much larger, including a greater swathe of the South and Midwest. Tornadoes, hailstorms, heavy winds and rain…these are all parts of summer in much of America.

Summer is still one of the most reliable paving times though. The steady days of no rain, and warm, consistent weather make it great for planning and executing paving and asphalt jobs. The summer heat, combined with humidity, make the night-day temperature differential smaller. Freezes aren’t a concern, and that is definitely another plus. Finally, less inclement weather is good for any construction project. Anything that helps work get done within-budget, and on-time is a huge benefit.

Looking for Help With Your Summer Paving Project?

If you are thinking about getting a project done over the summer, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reliable Paving is a top-notch paving contractor, serving Texas and surrounding states. With over 35 years of experience, 19 crews with over 200 employees, and numerous paving services, we are ready to meet your needs. If you have any questions about your summer project, want a quote, or just need some advice, get in touch with us today.

 

questions to ask your paving contractor

Questions to Ask a Paving Contractor

So you want to get some asphalt work done. Like most clients you should have a set number of questions to ask before you do so. In order to make the right choice, we’ve compiled a list of questions you should ask your paving contractor before starting any work. These questions include right and wrong answers. The wrong answers should be considered red flags that help you determine who not to hire. Right answers to the questions will help you make the best choice possible in getting the right company to do your asphalt paving. There are a whole host of questions you can ask, so we have narrowed them down to the most important things you should be asking.

What do their reviews look like?

Not only should you look at their reviews, but pay attention to their most recent reviews. Changes in management can make a good company go bad, so look for recent, positive reviews. Find reviews on websites like Google, the company’s own website, and other review sites. Angie’s List, Glassdoor, and Yelp are great places to start looking for company reviews.

Red Flags

Red Flags for reviews include a track record of bad reviews. If the company has overall bad reviews from clients, it’s probably not a company that does the best job possible. Other things to look for include reviews trending downward over time. If older reviews are good and newer ones are bad, then you know that their current work is not up to snuff. 

Green Flags

Green flags include over all positive reviews, of course. If the reviews from several years ago were OK, and they get more positive over time, then you know that this is a company that is trending on better work and improvement. Ideally look for reviews that mention good quality of work, legal compliance, and good feedback/communication. You can also look at reviews left by previous employees, as they will give you an idea of what company culture is like. Good employee reviews are always a positive.

Planning for Time and Materials

Make sure you get a direct idea of how much material and time the company will need to complete a project. This is important for getting the project done within budget and in a timely manner.

Red Flags

Red flags here are very important. A company that asks for unlimited time and materials is bad. Why? Because that means that they don’t have a clear plan for completion of the project. Without a good plan, it’s easy for the project to go way over budget. Some shady companies actually want this, as it is how they make more money.

Green Flags

Good things to look for are a concise budget and timeline. If the company can provide you with an accurate statement regarding how much time and materials they require, it means the have the right planning method and experience to get your job done.

References

Ask any company you work with for references. The references that are ideal are recent, and can be contacted easily. 

Red Flags

Outdated references. If a company gives you a previous client list, and the phone numbers don’t work, or the email addresses are no longer functioning, you can’t do your due diligence. You need to be able to contact current/recent references to find the best company for the job.

Green Flags

What you should hope for in answer to questions about references are recent or current contacts. You will want references that are easy to get a hold of to ask questions to. Don’t just look for positive references, look for up-to-date contacts.

How Much Money is Required Up-Front?

Every contractor will require some money up-front in order to start work. This is to secure a place in the calendar and start materials production. Beware of companies that ask for too much before work even begins.

Red Flags

Any company asking for more than 15% up-front is a red flag. Asking for too much up front means that the company lacks the expertise/experience in budgeting for its projects.

Green Flags

A company that asks for a reasonable amount up-front. 10% Or less is usually a good sign that the company knows what it is doing and can budget its work properly.

Permits

Permits are expensive and necessary. Any company that forgoes permits due to costs or red tape is not doing its job properly. Jobs being done without permits can be shut down by building officials or the government.

Red Flags

No permits. If the company is trying to do work without permits, then don’t hire them. Without permits, you don’t know that the job is done safely and properly.

Green Flags

A building company should of course be permitted. When talking to the company before hiring them, ask if they have the permits for the job. If they already have the permits, and know what permits are required for your job, it’s very good. Knowing which permits are required is good for two reasons: 1) the company has experience with this kind of work. 2) The company is up to date on its legal paperwork, so everything is above-board.

Responsiveness

When you are asking questions to a company about its work, you should get prompt replies. A company that doesn’t answer the phone or respond to emails in a timely way isn’t professional. You will want a responsive in case something unexpected happens during building. This way you are able to communicated quickly and effectively to solve problems.

Red Flags

No email responses, or responses take more than a week. Another bad sign is if doesn’t answer the phone, or only rarely answers.

Green flags

Timely responses in emails (usually 24 hours or less) and regularly answering phone calls are ideal.

Looking to Get Some Paving Done?

If you or your company needs asphalt work done, check out Reliable Paving. Our permitted, professional company has over 35 years of experience. Additionally, our crew of over 200 people is able to perform big jobs on-time and on-budget. Get in contact with us about any questions you might have about your job.

 

Asphalt Sealcoating machine

The Right and Wrong Ways to Repave Your Parking Lot

Keeping the parking lot of your business in good working order will save money, improve business, and prevent costly rebuilding in the long run. Maintaining the parking lot correctly will help prevent deeper damage, so that deeper, more costly repairs aren’t necessary. For many visitors, the parking lot is the first experience had with a commercial space. A dilapidated, cracked lot can damage the customer’s car, and sets a bad tone for doing business. Finally, a lot that is taken care of well will be less likely to need a total reconstruction in the future. 

We’ve got some guidelines for making sure your repairs/repaving are done the right way.

Quality VS Speed

The Wrong Way: Speed Over Quality

Although it’s important to get your parking lot paved quickly when there is damage, quality comes first. You’ve probably seen asphalt haphazardly poured into a crack in a road or lot before. The asphalt bulges above the crack, it is loose almost immediately, and it is a great place to damage tires. 

The repair may have been fast, but it won’t last, and will just lead to bigger repairs and higher costs later on.

The Right Way: A Balance of Quality and Speed

Fixing your asphalt lot is important to do quickly for several reasons:

  1. Small problems can get worse. A small crack can easily get water inside. When that water expands and contracts with heat and cold, the crack can spread. The sooner you fix the problem the better.
  2. But make sure your repairs are done with quality in mind. The holes and cracks need to be filled properly. This means they need to be level with the rest of the pavement so as not to damage vehicles. It also means that they need to be properly filled, possibly with support bars inside, or with some excavation of the surrounding pavement to get a better pour.

Fixing your problems quickly and effectively is key. That way you avoid the higher costs of major repairs.

Materials

The Wrong Way: All New Materials

Believe it or not, it’s pretty much never necessary to use new asphalt. The reasons for it are twofold: 

1). It’s not environmentally friendly. New asphalt has to be made from strip-mined rock to get the aggregate material. The second ingredient is refined oil, which makes up the binder that glues the aggregate together. This binder must be pumped and go through the whole oil refining supply chain.

2). It’s more expensive. New asphalt materials cost more. Besides the supply chain mentioned above, they also have to be transported to the construction site.

The Right Way: Recycled Asphalt

Asphalt is the most recycled material in the United States. Not only can recycled asphalt be easily acquired, you may even be able to supply your own. If your blacktop is damaged and in need of repairs, as paving contractor can excavate it, pulverize it, and then lay it again to repave your lot. 

Besides being cheaper because it skips the processing steps that new asphalt goes through, recycling asphalt requires less fossil fuels and produces less pollution.

There’s no reason not to use at least a mix of new and recycled asphalt.

Maintenance

The Wrong Way: Once Yearly or Strictly Scheduled Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to your lot being healthy. The catch basins and manholes have to be clean and free of obstructions. Obstructed canals won’t drain properly. Sitting water slowly gets absorbed into the pavement, where it damages it, causing cracks and eventually larger holes. Maintenance once or twice a year is not usually enough to clear catch basin obstructions and ensure proper water drainage.

The Right Way: Frequent Maintenance, as Well as Inspection and Maintenance After Various Events

Regular maintenance works when it is performed frequently. Depending on the weather in your location, you want the catch basins checked out at once a month or even more. That way, they can be cleared regularly and your lot will have good drainage. 

Also, be sure to inspect and maintain the lot after events like storms, floods, and earthquakes. Severe weather can damage the lot itself as well as blow branches and other debris into catch basins. If you live in a geologically unstable area, with earthquakes, tremors, and or sinkholes, regular checking can ensure your basins are clear, and that there isn’t foundational damage. 

Refreshing your lines and paint goes a long way. Fresh, bright paint on a lot gives the impression of professionalism for the business. It also makes the lot safer to drive on. Remember that the parking lot is the first part of your business that the client sees, so you want them to be safe and have a good impression.

Know When a Deeper Fix is Necessary

The Wrong Way: Resurfacing Forever

In order to cut costs, a lot of companies will simply resurface their lots until they are beyond repair. Resurfacing makes them look nicer, and is certainly cheaper than a repave, but they are rarely a long term solution for serious damage. Small cracks and holes can be fixed by resurfacing.

The Right Way: Resurface Small Faults, Repave Severe Degradation

When your lot has massive holes, deep cracks, and potholes that can damage a car, it’s probably time to repave. A well-paved lot lasts about 20 years with maintenance every 3-5 years. If it’s been over 20 years, your parking lot is without a doubt ready to be repaved.

Looking to Get Your Parking Lot Worked On?

If you think your business’s parking lot needs resurfacing or repaving, let us know. Reliable Paving has been in the business for over 35 years. We are a professional, organized, and experienced company that can do large-scale projects within strict time limits. Reliable is happy to help with your asphalt paving questions and needs. Most importantly, when you need someone to repave or maintain your parking lot, choose a contractor that’s reliable.