You might wonder “can I repair asphalt roads during cold weather?” Whether you are a paving contractor just getting into the game or simply a concerned homeowner, you may have asked yourself at one point or another, “Can you patch asphalt in the winter?” In fact, as a contractor, this is an extremely important question. After all, you may want to shy away from a trade that you can’t work in when the temperature drops – especially if you live in the Northern climates.
So right off the bat, to allay your fears and concerns, we here at Contractor’s Society of America want to say yes, you can repair asphalt roads during cold weather. But there are a few caveats that go along with this answer. Like many aspects of the trades, answers aren’t always as simple as “yes” or “no.” To help you better understand Winter asphalt repair and the questions that surround it, we have drawn from the vast pool of knowledge of our own members here at Contractor’s Society of America.
Can Winter Weather Damage Roads?
It’s important to first understand why asphalt roads and driveways seem to incur the most damage during the winter months. The science behind this phenomenon is actually very simple, actually. It has to do with the freezing and thawing cycles of winter. As precipitation ramps up during the winter months and rain soaks asphalt surfaces, the low temperatures freeze the rain. When water freezes, it expands. This expansion is what makes asphalt uneven and cracks it.
The problem gets worse when the frozen water thaws and re-freezes in the same spot. When the expansion and contraction process is allowed to occur multiple times in the same area of pavement, the damage gets worse.
And even when asphalt is able to avoid cracking due to freezing and thawing, the low winter temperatures can make it brittle. At that point, all that is needed to create a pothole or crack is a heavy vehicle to drive over it.
Asphalt damage in the winter months is almost unavoidable but there is good news; asphalt damage can be repaired as soon as it occurs – even in the winter months.
Hot Mix and Cold Mix
“Can I repair asphalt roads during cold weather?” Yes and no. You can make patches and fix individual potholes in roads and driveways during cold weather. But if you are trying to repave an entire road in winter, good luck. To understand how you can repair asphalt damage in cold weather you need to understand the difference between cold mix and hot mix asphalt.
Hot mix asphalt has been around for ages. How mix is what is used to pave and repave entire roads because quite simply, it can be paved. As the name suggests, hot mix is transported and applied hot. Then, it Is paved over to a smooth finish. But when you try to apply hot mix in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it will not bond properly.
Cold mix was introduced in 1995 and revolutionized the paving industry. Cold mix performs well in cold temperatures but it cannot be paved. It is usually used straight out of the bag or container and tamped down with hand tools. Because of this, it is ideal for spot asphalt repairs in the winter but not for paving entire roads.
So you can make individual spot repairs of potholes and cracks during cold weather so long as you use cold mix asphalt.
As you may have guessed by now, there are certain circumstances that would allow you to use hot mix asphalt (and therefore perform entire paving and re-paving jobs) in the winter. Hot mix asphalt will still adhere and pave correctly so long as the ambient temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit and rising. So if you do plan to do some repairs in January, you will have to plan the day very carefully. Not all the days in winter will be freezing cold but you have to make sure the day you plan your repairs is set to be 55 degrees or above for at least half the day. As such, the best time to start these projects will be just before noon.
Ask a Professional
You may have other questions about asphalt paving, such as how to clean asphalt, and other tips. While research is always helpful, sometimes you need the help of a professional to make the right call. Here at Contractor’s Society of America, we have the expertise and a brimming directory of professional contractors. We can help you answer any question and complete any project. Contact us today. CSOA aims to provide contractors with the most relevant and up to date information in the industry.