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By this time of the year contractors have “made their nut” and whatever work they complete from now is often “pure profit.” But late-season work is only profitable if it’s successful. Here are some tips to help make sure your late-season jobs retain that pure profit.

Sealcoating

1.     There are fewer daylight hours and temperatures are cooler so make sure to factor that into your bid and production process. For sealer to be applied successfully and for it to last as long as it should the temperature needs to be 50 F and rising at the time of application.

2.      Check the overnight temperatures, too, because if the overnight temperature drops below about 40 F there’s little chance the pavement will warm up enough to sealcoat the next day.

3.       As a result of cooler temperatures you’ll likely be starting your day later – and with the sun setting earlier your working day will be shorter.

4.       A good rule of thumb is to complete sealcoating by 1:00-2:00 p.m. to give the sealer several hours of sunlight to dry.

5.       That means your crews will probably produce less square footage in a day, which could mean applying coats on separate days on two-coat jobs.

6.       Know the capabilities of your crew and plan your jobs accordingly.

7.       When a job does call for two coats, recognize you might have to extend the drying time by as much as 4-6 hours, which means you can’t apply two coats the same day.

8.       A second work day means an additional mobilization, so factor that into your bid.

9.       Use less water (about 5% less) in the mix design than you typically would to aid drying.

10.   Consider additives designed to speed drying and curing. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations closely.

11.   Consider additional barricades if the job extends over two days

12.   Make sure the pavement is completely dry and that no water remains in the pavement prior to sealing.

13.   Don’t sealcoat if the temperature is expected to drop below freezing at night. This likely will cause failure of the sealer.

14.   Consider partnering with a landscaping crew that can clean the lot and remove leaves immediately before you start a job.

15.   If, after careful consideration, you’re still concerned about the quality of the job and success of the job, try to get your customer to move the job to the spring.

16.   If all else fails and your client insists on you sealcoating their parking lot, have him sign a waiver. Anytime you’re doing work that conflicts with sealer producer’s specifications you need to protect yourself.

Cracksealing

Fall (and spring) are considered the best times to repair cracks as cracks aren’t as closed as they are in summer nor as open as they can be in the winter. Here are some cracksealing tips for cooler weather:

17.   Seal cracks that are 1/8-inch wide or wider.

18.   Monitor the temperature of material in the kettle. As the weather cools it’s likely the kettle will require more heat for the material to reach and maintain the appropriate temperature for application.

19.   Make sure cracks are completely clean and dry. Use wire brushes, an air compressor, a vacuum or a hot air lance before placing material. This also applies to cracks prepared one day and left overnight before they are filled. Any moisture remaining in the crack can cause premature failure of the seal, so dry them again before sealing.

Paving

Late-season temperatures play the biggest role in determining whether you can pave with asphalt, and these guidelines should help:

20.   Ground temperature is as important – or more important — as air temperature. If the air is warming but the ground is still cold, it will suck the heat out of the hot mix asphalt you place, making it difficult to achieve density during compaction.

21.   Wind plays a role. Cooler air temperatures are even cooler when a breeze kicks up. Any wind that cools the asphalt mat reduces the time available for compaction.

22.   Thicker lifts retain heat longer in cold weather than do thin lifts. The thinner the lift the less time crews have for compaction.

23.   Distance from the plant to the job is crucial. Hot mix cools in transport to the jobsite, so tarps and other methods that protect asphalt should be used. Even so, factor in this distance when accepting a job late in the season.

Regardless of the type of work you’re doing, it’s essential to follow all material producer’s recommendations including heating temperatures, temperature requirements, moisture conditions and application guidelines. If you are concerned you are “pushing the limits” of a material contract the manufacturer or your supplier.

But don’t always try to get that “one more job” in. Odds are that the farther you push the more likely it is that job will fail and you’ll end up redoing it in the spring – for nothing.