Asphalt pavements can last over 25 years with infrared asphalt repair. Climate changes, soil structure, and traffic contribute to asphalt pavement cracks, but infrared road repair offers a temporary fix before proper maintenance kicks in.
Infrared asphalt repair or Infrared road repair (IRR) is a repair technique that uses infrared radiation to increase the malleability of your asphalt pavement. Asphalt from the existing surface is recycled on the spot, and new asphalt is added for resurfacing. This makes it a cost-effective solution to repairing asphalt pavings or driveways.
Infrared repair has improved the world’s view of asphalt repair.
Some common questions we’ve heard during consultations include – Is infrared asphalt repair beneficial? What does it cost to have an infrared repair for my pavement/driveways? What do I need for my asphalt repair?
In this article, we explain all you need to know about infrared road repair.
What is Infrared Asphalt Repair (IRR)?
Asphalt is a durable and versatile paving material. It is also cost-effective and easy to install. However, it is prone to natural deterioration due to weather changes and other factors. Your asphalt pavements must be maintained correctly, ensuring minor faults cannot deteriorate further. A technique that has proven to be a quick fix for damaged asphalt is infrared asphalt repair.
The repair process has now become a popular solution that involves using infrared radiation to increase the malleability of asphalt. When the asphalt is more malleable, new and recycled asphalt is raked without trouble, giving your pavement a fresh look.
Infrared Asphalt Repair Technology
In 2015, the University of Ohio did a field evaluation of an infrared asphalt patch. Their report found that infrared patches had much higher quality ratings than those installed using throw-and-roll or spray injection methods and are expected to survive up to 14 times longer.
The process of carrying out infrared road repair is not complex and doesn’t require complicated machinery. The leading equipment for this pavement repair technique is the infrared reclaimer and pavement heater:
- Infrared Reclaimer
The infrared reclaimer is sometimes also referred to as the hot box. It is a storage unit containing the new asphalt material you want to use in the new patch. Aside from storing the material, it also heats it in preparation for use.
- Infrared Pavement Heater
An infrared pavement heater is a heating unit that generates infrared radiation. It allows you to soften the existing asphalt in the area you want to patch. When you direct this energy source over the asphalt area, infrared radiation is absorbed by the asphalt layer: the heat helps recycle the asphalt. It makes it malleable and easy to rake.
How exactly does infrared asphalt repair work?
Infrared asphalt repair is very flexible; it doesn’t just help you repair damaged asphalt: it is also used to remove excess asphalt, smooth existing patches, and re-seam a rogue patch without any cut.
So how does this work? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how contractors use infrared repair.
1. Clear out the area
It is essential to clear out the area surrounding the damaged asphalt of sand, debris, or puddles. Moisture or debris may prevent the infrared radiation from reaching the asphalt surface. Removing moisture and debris helps keep the area thoroughly dry, and the heat can quickly hit the asphalt surface.
2. Positioning the heater
The absorption of infrared radiation is what creates heat within the surface. Position the infrared heater over the area to be repaired and heat this surface area to about 325 – 350F. This should be for 5 – 10 minutes. The period varies based on the extent of damage and the time of the year.
3. Remove loose aggregates
Immediately after heating, use a rake to remove loose and failed aggregates. Also, raking can help you square off the edges and keep it well-tempered.
4. Mix recycled asphalt
The old asphalt has been recycled, but often, it’s not enough to ensure a smooth level. So what’s next? You mix recycled asphalt with new asphalt. Many contractors prefer to heat the old asphalt at a very high temperature so it can mix seamlessly with the new one.
5. Add rejuvenators
During the heating process, asphalt loses maltenes – light oils that help condense and bond to create an asphalt cement. The only solution to restore the oils for super compacted asphalt is to add rejuvenators. Rejuvenators replace the maltenes the area loses over its lifetime or during the repair.
6. Compact the materials
Finally, as the new mixture is now in place, you should compact the material in the area using a mechanical roller. Special attention is required on the edges. So make sure you “pinch” the new material’s edges with the roller’s edges.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Infrared Asphalt Repair?
Infrared road repair (IRR) has proven to be a very reliable repair technique, and you have many reasons to choose it over other repair methods. However, despite its convenience, there are also a few disadvantages associated with it.
Below we examine the pros and cons of infrared asphalt repair.
Pros of Infrared Asphalt Repair
Infrared asphalt repair is quite a convenient solution that should pique your interest. Here are the reasons why we think so.
- Positive Environmental Impact
Over the years, the use of asphalt has been adopted because it is an option that promotes reuse and recycling. IRR is eco-friendly and reduces the need to produce more asphalt. Consequently, it almost eliminates the need to burn fuel by the trucks used in transporting asphalt, thus reducing your carbon footprint.
- Cost-effective and Efficient
The infrared asphalt repair process reduces the need for new materials; it is expected to provide economic savings. You can use the infrared machine repeatedly without having to bother about the cost of buying new materials or machines. Existing asphalt is reused and recycled in the process, which eliminates waste. Also, as a result of the reuse and recycling process, it helps reduce money on fuel and the labor required for manufacturing and transporting new asphalt.
Furthermore, the IRR process reduces the likelihood of damage and cracks to the road in the future. This makes it a highly efficient solution that requires low future maintenance.
- Simplicity in Operations
IRR requires fewer operators because of its operational simplicity. Two or three operators can easily take care of the process from start to finish. Having fewer operators doesn’t slow the process, and It is much faster than other repair methods that require more operators.
When using infrared asphalt technology, the operators don’t disrupt underground infrastructures like phone lines, internet, and electricity cables. Also, the downtime required is relatively short; in about 20-30 minutes, the surface will be ready for traffic. Hence, people in the area experience little to no inconveniences associated with repair operations.
- Seamless Repairs
It is safe to say that infrared repair prevents moisture damage. The infrared process ensures that the patch of asphalt bonds perfectly with the existing asphalt, resulting in seamless transitions between the new and old surfaces. Therefore, leaving no crack behind for water to pass through.
IRR also generates heat from infrared radiation that can penetrate very deep into the layers. Due to the heat penetration, IRR is performed without you running the risk of separating the asphalt from the underlying surface.
- It Can be Performed at Any Time.
A very enticing feature is that you can use this technique at any time of the year. It does not matter if the repairs need to be performed in the sweltering heat of Florida summers or the frosty winters of Denver.
Cons of Infrared Asphalt Repair (IRR)
Even though infrared asphalt repair is a simple, cost-effective, and eco-friendly road repair method, there are a few limitations. Below, we will look at the drawbacks of this process.
- It is a Temporary Fix
Asphalt roads generally have a shorter lifespan, making them more prone to deterioration. Most asphalt repair work can be easily achieved using infrared technology. However, infrared road repair is only suitable for temporary maintenance from time to time due to the nature of the asphalt. After a while, it is better to replace the road completely.
- It is a Surface Solution
Since asphalt only makes up the surface of the pavement. Therefore, the infrared repair is unsuitable when the pavement’s damages are below the surface. You shouldn’t fail to detect if there are damages to the underlying surface and the asphalt. If you use this solution while there are underlying problems, you will end up causing further deterioration.
- More Suited for Patching
Areas of surface deterioration, small potholes, and also alligator cracks can be patched using IRR. But you can’t fix the more extensive damages and those occurring over a long distance with this technique.
Infrared Asphalt Repair Costs
The cost of infrared asphalt repair is calculated based on the square feet or area you need to cover, and a few other factors may be involved. If you need to fix the floor of your house or a pothole in your driveway, the cost will depend on the size of your building or the size of the potholes and how many of them you need to cover. Compared to other asphalt repair methods, infrared repair remains cost-effective.
If you hire a contractor to fix your pavement, the cost will differ according to the effort and time required to fix the damaged asphalt.
Some cities require you to get a permit before fixing your pavement. For instance, if the damaged area is filled with obstacles or drains, the contractors need to clear it before repair, and a damaged area on a slope needs to be graded. When all these factors are considered, it will or might affect the cost of the repair.
In general, infrared asphalt repair costs about $2 to $6 per square foot but most contractors can take between $100 to $300 for pavements that require little repair. Getting an estimate will help you decide whether you are ready to fix your pavement.
Is Infrared Asphalt Repair Right for Your Asphalt Pavement?
Whether or not an infrared repair is suitable for your pavement depends on what you want to do. Infrared asphalt repair has proven to be very useful if you want to:
- Fill out divots in your pavement and level dips that allow water to accumulate.
- Create speed bumps on already existing asphalt surfaces.
- Adjust the level of your pavement around maintenance holes and grates.
- Ensure a smooth transition between asphalt and concrete surfaces.
- Restore the pavement after utility cuts have been made.
- Create rumble strips on highways, and if you want to design patterns on the paving.
- Repair surface potholes and alligator cracks in the asphalt surface of roads.
Infrared asphalt repair provides a quick and cost-effective solution to several asphalt problems. It is the best option for asphalt repair.