Is Winter a Good Time to Repair Asphalt?

Winter may not be the ideal time to get those crucial asphalt repairs. When is the best time to do it? What repairs can you do in the winter?

Winter weather is one of the main killers of asphalt. When any water gets inside asphalt paving, it expands and contracts with temperature changes. This causes existing problems like cracks and bumps to get worse. Fortunately, there are solutions for fixing your pavement in the winter. It may not be the ideal time for any type of road/parking lot work for various reasons, but it is possible.

Types of asphalt repair

Whether you are getting asphalt cracks sealed, potholes filled, or sections of asphalt replaced, there are two main ways it can be repaired: hot and cold mix.

Hot mix

Hot mix asphalt must stay compact in order to perform properly. If the temperature is too low, it won’t set right. If the outside temperature is too low, it might not even make it to the location without cooling enough to no longer be effective. Hot mix asphalt should only be used when the temperature is going to be consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit for at least several days.

Cold Mix

Cold mix asphalt is designed to work in just about any temperature, so it is a great solution for emergency winter fixes. Unlike hot mix, it can’t be paved, so it won’t work for replacing an entire driveway, parking lot, or large swathe of pavement.

Infrared

Some repairs that involve removing damaged asphalt for repairs involve heating. The existing asphalt is heated technology, and then removed in its hotter, more pliable state. Now, this of course is not possible, or prohibitively difficult during winter months. So sometimes just getting the area to be filled ready is not possible when the weather is inclement. Fortunately, infrared can be done just about any time of the year. Its technology enables sub-surface heating that is independent of the ambient temperature.

Other winter conditions to look out for

Besides temperature fluctuations, there is also frequently precipitation during the winter months. Rain, ice, sleet, hail, snow, whatever, it will interrupt your repair work. Be sure that when you  are getting your repairs done, the weather is expected to be clear and dry for enough time for the asphalt to set and be safe for vehicles and pedestrians.

One problem with precipitation, is that even in mild climates, it happens. In the Southern United States, from Florida to Arizona, freezing temperatures are fairly uncommon. Especially persistent freezing temperatures that last more than a few days. This is great for getting hot or cold mix repairs done. However, these states often see higher degrees of precipitation in the winter, putting a hole in your hole-patching plans. Even if the weather isn’t freezing, the application of water to uncompacted asphalt can ruin the patching and prevent compaction.

When is the ideal time to repair asphalt?

Since winter seems like it’s not an option for large-scale repairs and replacement, when is? The ideal time for asphalt repairs are when the temperature is in the mid 70s F. This means that mid-March through early/mid October or November is ideal, as the steady/warm weather enables the pavement to become compacted, smooth, and good to go.

So what can we do when we need repairs in the winter?

If emergency repairs during the winter are non-negotiable, there are still some options.

Wait for good weather

Even in the northern states, it’s not always freezing during the winter. This means that if you have a week or so of temperate weather, you can schedule repairs for this time. Of course, be sure to talk to a trusted paving contractor to ensure that things should go according to plan, and that the repair plan is a good one.

Other options include using technology that works in the winter. Infrared and cold mix asphalt are great options, but of course they have their limitations. Whole parking lots and driveways can’t be paved during freezing weather, so you are best scheduling those bigger projects for the following spring.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

This phrase is a cliché, of course, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. The absolute best thing you can is protect your asphalt pavement in advance.

  • Get your paving seal coated. Seal coating is covering the pavement with..well, a seal. The seal prevents water seepage and further water damage. Doing a seal coat every few years will make your parking lot or driveway last for decades.
  • If you use de-icer, make sure it isn’t too caustic. Salt and other de-icers can act as solvents that break down the binding of asphalt. Don’t continue to use them if you have noticed damage after previous uses. Find something that plays nicer with your pavement.
  • Clear debris. Clearing debris makes further maintenance and cleaning easier. Debris can not only lead to damage, but it is a hazard for people and cars on paving.
  • Fix small problems early. A crack sealed early on is going to be easier to deal with than one that has expanded into a network and requires pavement to be replaced. Potholes should be filled before they grow into giant gaping eyesores.

Here’s a great list from Main Infrastructure in Canada about ways to protect your paving before and during the winter months.

Get the best winter asphalt treatment and maintenance you can

Reliable Paving is ready to help you prepare for winter, and perform winter repairs if you need it. We use hot and cold mix repair methods, and we are happy to schedule spring, summer, and fall work if the job is too big to be done in cold weather. If you want a job done right, get it done by someone who’s reliable. Contact us today, and we can help you with your winter asphalt repairs.