Summer is quickly coming to a close, and soon the Minnesota State Fair will come and go, and the leaves will begin to change color. This means that winter is fast approaching, and as Minnesotans, we must be realistic when it comes to planning for the winter.

Scheduling projects in the construction industry is a universal struggle, and it becomes even more difficult when you mix in freezing temperatures and precipitation (yes, this means snow). In the world of asphalt paving, cold temperatures create several safety and quality issues when installing bituminous.

Time is a significant factor when it comes to paving, as cold weather and storms can slow things down or halt them altogether. Asphalt paving is one of the last steps when planning a new construction or restoration project. So, it's essential to factor in the time of year before hiring a contractor.

How do we work together to ensure the project results meet the customer’s standards while keeping our crews safe and equipment operational?

In the world of general contracting and new construction, asphalt companies are normally the last contractor on the job site. This makes it rather difficult for them to complete the project if timelines have been pushed back by other contractors. It’s especially difficult if temperatures have already started to plummet. 

Here is a list of items we consider when in this position.

What Is the Timeline of the Project?

If the paving job is more minor, it’s possible to finish before snow and ice appear in the forecast or if you’re wrapping up a current project, it might make sense to bring in your asphalt contractor. However, if the larger construction project is just starting, and it’;s unlikely you’ll be ready for asphalt installation before late October, it might be worth pushing this part of the project until next spring. It might be possible to at least pave the base course before winter rears its ugly head, but that is something customers should rely on the asphalt experts to determine.

While no one wants to push projects back by a couple of months, it’s important to do what’s safest and what will bring the best results.

For the crew at Bituminous Roadways, we want to ensure the safety of our team members, so we are more critical of installing asphalt in late autumn and always assess the impacts.

Is It Safe for Our Staff?

Installing asphalt in Minnesota is a seasonal job. Laborers work in the hot, blinding sun in mid-July to the colder months of late October and early November.

Paving in the snow is not out of the question and has happened in the past. However, safety is critical to our mission. For BR, we must look out for our employees. It doesn’t make sense to send employees out for jobs when it’s snowing or when it’s well below freezing. While on more temperate winter days it may still be safe enough, we recommend waiting until spring for many projects.

Is it too cold for them to safely perform their job? Will the cold affect the operational condition of the equipment and put staff in harm’s way? We will consider all of these questions for any cold-weather paving project.

Is It Safe to Run Equipment?

When temperatures start to reach freezing, it can be extremely hard on equipment. Hoses can burst, liquids will freeze, and it simply does not create a good working environment for staff.

The later it is in the year, the higher the risk of winter storms. Winter weather plays a huge role in the plan for the project. Cold temperatures create problems for the equipment and the plants that make the asphalt. This can make it dangerous for our crews to operate them.

While construction trucks and other asphalt paving equipment can run in colder temperatures, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems. If the weather is below freezing, it’s best to avoid running this equipment, unless it’s an absolute emergency.

What About the Quality of the Asphalt?

The asphalt mix is always best installed hot. While hot, asphalt is flexible and workable, allowing our crews to place and shape the asphalt easily.

As asphalt cools, it becomes stiffer and difficult to work with, causing drainage, density, and visual appeal issues. If projects are running into late October and November, the colder temperatures will cause the asphalt to cool quicker, giving the crews less time to ensure they are building quality pavement.

Will the crew have time to achieve the best density of the asphalt? Will they have time to ensure that one area with tight drainage is correct? What kind of project outcome is likely based on these conditions?

Final Considerations for Cold Weather Paving

Since the weather is unpredictable, it’s hard for asphalt contractors to really know when that “final day” of paving will be. However, one piece of advice we can offer to any of our customers is to keep in mind the situation cold weather paving brings to our business and its potential effects on the end product.

If the temperature consistently falls below a certain temperature multiple days in a row, it might make more sense to wait until next spring for specific projects or a decision might be made to only pave the base layer and wait to pave the wear course of the asphalt. This will ensure that the top layer of asphalt will be paved in a better climate producing a better product.

We fully understand the nature of construction and scheduling issues that arise. But if we can work together on a decision to move forward, or not, on a cold weather paving project, perhaps it will create a better outcome for everyone. 

Contact Bituminous Roadways Today

For more than 75 years, Bituminous Roadways has been paving Twin Cities roadways, parking lots, and trails. It’s our experience that equates to quality outcomes with any paving project.

If you're considering asphalt installation for a new construction or maintenance project, the impending cold weather is a factor. Reach out today to learn more and discuss your timeline with us. We understand delays happen, and we want to provide you with a high-quality finished product.

 If you require an asphalt contractor, contact us today at 651-686-7001 or request a consultation online.