No Job Too Small

By Chris Thiede | September 28, 2010

Edited by Mike Larson

Wolf Paving, Oconomowoc, WI, is a different kind of paving company.

One of the largest paving contractors in southern Wisconsin, Wolf has the capacity to tackle large road and highway projects, but it also welcomes small commercial and residential jobs.

Wolf Paving helped develop much of Waukesha County as Milwaukee's population started expanding westward in the 1950s. It paved the roads for nearly all of the area's early subdivisions as well as some of the county's major highways.

Even as the company grew and expanded its reach to cover most of southern Wisconsin, Wolf never turned away from the smaller jobs. Today, the company remains committed to smaller projects as a way to stay diversified and focused on offering a full range of services.

Many of its customers, especially general contractors, need pavers who can handle any size job. "We have a great reputation as a full-service paver," says Devin Wolf, vice president of Wolf Paving.

Over the years, the company's smaller jobs have included more than 15,000 residential driveways, as well as parking lots, golf cart paths, playgrounds, and tennis courts.

Today, the company known for paving many of the roads and highways west of Milwaukee remains positioned to also be competitive in the light commercial and residential markets.

It starts with their asphalt-mixing capabilities.

In-House Advantage

Wolf Paving began as a sand and gravel supplier in 1941. Soon afterward, it began manufacturing asphalt for the growing western Milwaukee suburbs.

The company developed an expertise in asphalt and created more than 50 custom mixes to meet the needs of different customers and applications.

According to Devin Wolf, it's not unusual for large paving companies to operate in-house asphalt plants, but it's rare for pavers who work on small jobs to have that capability.

He feels his company's capability to design and mix its own asphalt enables it to meet light-commercial and residential customers' needs more easily than other contractors can.

"It allows us to get the right mix when we need it, and not rely on another supplier," said Wolf. This self-sufficiency means that Wolf Paving is not at the mercy of third-party asphalt plants. "We can meet the specific needs and schedules of all our customers," he says.

When most asphalt plants close in the fall, many pavers have to wait until spring to get asphalt for projects. Wolf Paving has more flexibility in setting its own schedule. "For projects that finish in the late fall, we don't have to worry about getting material before the plants close," said Wolf. "We can even open our plant in January if we need to."

Operating its own plant also allows Wolf Paving to provide the exact custom asphalt mix a project requires, including a full complement of e-mixes and superpave mixes.

Mixes are designed to meet different traffic and longevity requirements, depending on the specifications of the municipalities and contractors that need them.

On a recent project, a large national retailer required the same specific mix used at all of its locations — a mix not typically used in the Midwest.

No other asphalt plant in the state offered the special mix, but Wolf Paving was able to deliver it. "We wouldn't have been able to do that if we didn't mix it ourselves," said Wolf.

The Workhorse

Working on light commercial and residential jobs also requires having equipment suited to the requirements of small projects.

Among the key pieces of equipment are rollers that provide effective compaction yet are able to maneuver in tight corners without damaging the asphalt mat.

The soft bases, steep grades and tight corners of parking lots and driveways can be a challenge. "Not tearing the mat apart during compaction is a big challenge," said Conrad Morgan, a foreman at Wolf Paving. "With small areas there are more turns and more chances of tearing."

The workhorses in Wolf Paving's compaction fleet are the company's two BOMAG BW120AD-4 tandem-drum rollers. Compact and maneuverable, the 47-inch, 5,732-pound BW120AD-4 is ideal for light commercial jobs, yet it is large enough to complement Wolf's larger rollers on highway jobs.

Morgan added that, besides size, the BW120AD-4 has features well-suited for light jobs. "With the pressurized water system, we don't have to stop and refill the water tanks, so we get done sooner," he said. "With the dual drum drive, it goes up steep hills." Morgan added that the BW120AD-4 also has vibration in both drums, which provides better, faster compaction.

In addition to the BW120AD-4, Wolf Paving also operates two 59-inch, 15,015-pound BW141AD-2 rollers and a 51-inch, 7,853-pound BW135AD. Because of their sizes, the BW141AD-2 and BW135AD are better-suited to larger road and highway projects.

But it's the BW120AD-4 that Wolf uses most. "The 120 is used on everything we pave," said Morgan.

Wolf uses its BW120s as finish rollers on roads and highways,complementing the work of the larger rollers. On small projects, the BW120AD-4 is the primary roller.

Wolf Paving purchases its equipment from Miller-Bradford & Risberg, a BOMAG distributor based in Sussex, WI.

Although residential construction and its related paving projects have decreased dramatically in recent years, Wolf Paving has remained busy and is poised for success when the market bounces back.

Editor's note: Chris Thiede is with PKA Marketing, Mequon, WI.