Can You do Asphalt in the Winter?

The short answer to that question is “no.”

In Minnesota, where the temperatures drop quickly and extremely low for the winter, most asphalt paving contractors will stop their services entirely and either move into doing different materials (like concrete paving, for example) or doing snow removal.

Major paving projects need to wait until the spring when the ambient temperatures reach an acceptable range.

Paving contractors like Goodmanson Construction don’t like this answer because we love saying “yes.” It’s our favorite thing in the world to say “yes” to a new project. But in this case, there are good reasons for putting it off until the conditions are right for it.

If you’re curious as to why we’re saying “no” for now, you’re going to want to read ahead. But if you’re OK with a simple straight answer of “not till spring” and want to get a jump start on the next paving season, contact us today to get your parking lot paving project or anything else started today.

Why Can’t You Do Asphalt in the Winter?

The simplest answer is because asphalt plants close in the wintertime, but that just kicks the answer down the road a ways. Why do asphalt plants close in the winter?

Just like concrete, asphalt has specific conditions under which it can develop best. But unlike concrete, asphalt needs compaction in order to work.

In case you’re curious, we put out a blog on the conditions concrete needs to cure properly in the winter too. Concrete is a possibility in sub zero temperatures, so if you need something done with concrete you should contact us today to set up a quote. The costs for concrete work are going to be greater, but the concrete plants are still producing and we’re still pouring so it’s still a possibility in the winter.

The Key to Asphalt is Compaction.

When asphalt comes out of a paver, it’s actually quite a loose mix of the asphalt binder and the aggregate. A paver will smooth out the asphalt and maybe give a little bit of compaction but not nearly enough for any useful purpose.

No, what you need is either a large roller or a small compacter that will compress the asphalt down and force that binder and aggregate together in a stiff material that will then cool and harden into a smooth surface. If you don’t compact, you end up with almost like a rough black gravel surface.

Think of it like the pieces to a puzzle. You spill the pieces out on the ground and it’s just one big lump. But when you compact asphalt, that’s like fitting the pieces together so they stick together. So if you were to step on a puzzle pile, the pieces would likely come apart, but if you step on a puzzle that’s properly fitted together, that’s like stepping on properly compacted asphalt.

Cold Temperatures means less time to compact asphalt before it cools too much and the binder hardens.

That’s the key to remember. Asphalt takes time to compact and it’s a race against the clock in cold weather conditions. You only have a limited time where the asphalt is still workable and can be properly compacted before it begins to stiffen and the binder no longer “binds” to the aggregate.

In sub zero temperatures, you’re looking at a window of only a few minutes. That’s nowhere near enough time to get appropriate compaction in.

At best you could fill in a pothole with some fresh asphalt and tamp it down, but as far as a full section of road or parking lot? Not going to happen in the winter. You won’t have enough time to compact it.

What do I do if I need asphalt done?

Right now, if you need asphalt repair, you’ll be best served with some temporary patching until things warm up again in the spring. It’s the unfortunate reality because when we say asphalt can’t be done in the winter, we mean it. You can get small patching done (because job site will be small enough where the asphalt mix won’t need a lot of compaction) but the bulk of the work will have to take place in the spring.

You can still get quotes on the work, though. If it’s a total asphalt parking lot replacement you’re looking at, we still want to talk!

You can contact us today to get started on a quote for the spring. Or get in touch if it’s approaching winter and you need to see if we’ve got space left on our calendar. The earlier we know about your needs, the better access you’ll have to the prime scheduling for your paving projects.

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