Can You do Asphalt in the Winter?
Let’s imagine a scenario. You wake up on a chilly January morning, and while heading to your car you trip on cracks in your asphalt driveway, spilling your morning coffee. As you curse your driveway and its many faults and pits, you realize something – you need a new asphalt driveway.
Daily temperatures make a big difference in paving, including asphalt work, so can you do asphalt in the winter, or do you need to wait until the warmer temperatures of spring and summer? Let’s find out what you need to know about asphalt paving in winter, including how to properly prep and other annual maintenance tips.
What to Know About Asphalt Paving in Winter
The most straightforward answer is yes, you can perform driveway repairs during the cold winter months – but it depends on many factors. Let’s go through the specific factors, so you know if a winter asphalt job is viable for your property.
Hot-Mix vs. Cold-Mix Asphalt
Did you know there are two distinct types of asphalt? Asphalt paving projects utilize hot-mix asphalt, so it is not ideal to pave in the winter. Hot-mix asphalt must remain hot to compact and perform properly. If the ambient and ground temperatures are too low, they will chill the hot-mix asphalt while it is in transport from the production plant to your property. This is not good. The other type of asphalt is cold-mix asphalt. This product is engineered to perform in almost any temperature, so it can be installed in the summer or the winter. Cold-mix cannot be paved, so it will not work for replacing an entire driveway; however, it can be used to repair potholes.
You can do hot-mix asphalt installation in winter only when temperatures are above 55 degrees and rising. Also, asphalt plant production is spotty during the winter months, making it challenging to purchase asphalt from the producers. Asphalt should never be installed on frozen ground. So if you’re looking at a string of days below or close to freezing, it’s best to wait. Asphalt can’t properly mix, set, or cure if the temperature is too cold, and you’ll be left with a low-quality job you’ll have to fix immediately.
However, not everyone gets freezing or bitter temperatures through winter. Though known as a cold-weather state, Colorado can see winter temperatures in the 50’s and even 60’s. Places like the deep south, the high desert, and coastal areas are very unlikely to see a string of freezing temperatures making asphalt work in the winter viable for several parts of the country, including Colorado under limited circumstances.
Trying to schedule a winter asphalt installation is difficult, but if you can find a few days with above-average winter temps and no freezing forecast, you should be able to take on your asphalt job without any issues. If you have concerns, talk to your asphalt contractor about waiting for a better time for a full paving project.
Severe temperature fluctuations during installation can also cause deficiencies in your asphalt installation or repair. Even if winter temperatures are well above freezing, look for any wild temperature swings in the forecast and avoid them for new installations. Extreme temperature swings can cause cracking, softening, and raveling.
Precipitation in all forms can be bad for asphalt paving, depending on a couple of factors. Winter brings freezing rain, snow, ice, and other enemies to asphalt that must be monitored. Avoid paving with any precipitation in the forecast. Light rain in the summer won’t cause harm to asphalt if it has already been compacted, but it can cause the asphalt temperature to drop swiftly during the installation process, which is not good.
Importance of Hiring Local Asphalt Company
The most important thing to do when hiring an asphalt company for winter work is to schedule a local asphalt paving company. Local companies know the subtleties of their local environment, including when the asphalt is most likely to take and when you should stay clear of installing new asphalt. A local company will tell you outright if winter installation is a bad idea, and when your asphalt installation is more viable.
Get Paving (Maybe in Winter)
If temperatures are warm, if there’s no precipitation in the forecast, and if your local contractor thinks you’re good to go – you can do asphalt in the winter. If your asphalt job can’t wait and your environment allows it, talk to a local paving contractor about getting on the schedule. If you have miserable cold winters, schedule your project for spring installation. Cold weather and asphalt don’t get along very well, but with patience and the right contractor, you can make it work – but only if mother nature allows it.