Roads, parking lots and other large-scale pavement projects typically require curb and gutter structures to function reliably. As such, curb and gutter structures are everywhere, and pavement contractors spend much of their time installing and maintaining them.
When developing a commercial property, a curb and gutter system is a vital part of that development. Without an effective system in place, commercial properties tend to develop maintenance and stability issues.
Here, we’ll go over the importance of installing a proper curb and gutter system, and how the professionals handle the job.
Parking, Durability, Erosion Control and Safety – the Practical Reasons for Installing Curb and Gutter Systems
Curb and gutter systems are simple pieces of engineering, but they serve multiple roles for a commercial property. Some of those roles include:
- Stabilizing adjoining pavement – Curb and gutter systems form the edge of other pavement structures, whether they’re streets, sidewalks, driveways, or walkways. With their edge position, curbs fortify pavement that’s under load. In effect, they prevent the road from warping or cracking while subjected to vehicle traffic.
- Protecting against erosion – Curbs and gutters are primarily responsible for capturing and redirecting runoff due to rain or chemical spills. It’s essential for properties to have a reliable drainage system in place, as excessive runoff will eventually erode soil and vegetation. If unchecked, erosion can threaten the entire property’s stability and cause major foundation problems.
- Defining roadway and parking boundaries – Curbs delineate the division between road and walkway. They’re a vital barrier for pedestrian safety, providing a visual cue for vehicles and pedestrians to take note of. Curbs are also a physical barrier to vehicles, preventing distracted or dangerous drivers from suddenly leaving the road and striking people.
A Quality Curb and Gutter System Also Improves “Curb” Appeal
Curb appeal isn’t the primary reason for installing curb and gutter structures, but it’s certainly an important consideration. It’s especially important for neighborhoods, businesses, and multifamily complexes like apartment homes. These areas rely on their outward appearance to attract desired clientele or residents.
Curb and gutter systems accomplish this in two ways. One, the curb and gutter itself helps with an effective first impression. Are visitors likely to focus on your curb and gutters when assessing your property? Probably not, that is unless that system is sloppily installed. Cracks, crumbling, discoloration, and an uneven surface can all attract attention for the wrong reasons, and you don’t want people forming the wrong idea about your business before they step through the door.
Curb and gutter systems also make it easy for property owners to control any litter or debris that blows onto the property. Curbs and gutters trap the trash so it can be gathered and disposed of properly and efficiently. Street sweepers, for example, work so well because they’re designed to fit with curb systems.
How Do Professionals Install Curb and Gutter Structures?
There are plenty of reasons to include curb and gutter construction in any commercial development project. Another reason is cost effectiveness, because curbs and gutters can be quickly installed by an experienced concrete contractor.
Some Houston contractors still prefer to form curb and gutters by hand. That process looks a bit like this:
- Marking out the project – Before the heavy machines are brought in, the pavement team first walks through the project site and marks out where the curb, joints, and drainage structures (like the gutters) will be installed. This is done with high visibility marking powder. The area will usually be staked prior to excavation as well.
- Excavation – Once the project site is marked out and double-checked, the pavement team will begin excavation. An excavator or backhoe is used to dig out the dirt, and it’s common for the excavation team to dig out an area about 2 to 3 feet wide, and up to 2 feet deep, depending on the project. Following excavation, an aggregate base is installed – its purpose is to stabilize the concrete and ensure its structural integrity.
- Place the formwork – Now that the pavement team has room to work, they’ll block out the pouring areas using formwork. This formwork may be made from wood or metal, and it’s used to define the curb’s shape prior to placement. Spacers are placed at intervals and define where the curb will be jointed. Precise leveling and angling is critical during this part of the job.
- Pouring the concrete – With everything blocked out, the team can proceed with pouring. Concrete is poured from a low height to prevent air from becoming trapped and to aid in proper finishing. Gutters are usually poured first, and once the concrete has taken shape, the formwork can be removed.
- Compaction and curing – The curb is then compacted using a roller, as this optimizes the concrete’s strength and durability. It’s then leveled, smoothed, and finished. Finally, the curb is allowed to cure. During this final step the space between curb segments is filled with mortar.
Houston contractors who prefer handmade curbs may do so because of their crew’s skill set or the project’s demands. However, many Houston concrete teams have switched over to curb machines (also called power curbers), which can form and lay the curb during a single pass.
Some curb machines are guided using a string, but modern machines rely on more sophisticated means, like laser guidance. Prior to operation, the concrete is mixed and deposited into a hopper installed on the power curber. During operation, the curb machine creeps forward while the concrete is passed to the machine’s former. This mold-like attachment precisely shapes the wet concrete as it exits the machine, creating an uninterrupted linear stretch of curb.
Power curbers can be used to lay a variety of curb and pavement shapes and sizes, and guarantee precision results.
Curb and Gutter Structures Protect a Property, So Consider Them an Investment
Curb and gutter systems are a structural necessity for properties. They ensure efficient drainage, protect pedestrians, fortify pavement structures, and establish clear boundaries for people and motorists. As a bonus, they can also improve a property’s appearance – a side bonus that nonetheless adds value.
These benefits, though, are only attainable if a reputable Houston contractor is trusted with installation and maintenance. A Houston experienced contractor will provide precision work that lasts, and do so with cost and time efficiency as top priorities.
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