What is a Cold Planer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A cold planer is a piece of heavy equipment which is used to tear out materials like sidewalks and roadways. Suitable for asphalt concrete as well as bituminous pavement, cold planers are most commonly operated by road construction crews. Large construction companies may retain them for specific projects and they are also sometimes available through companies which provide equipment rental. The cost of a cold planer, new or used, varies depending on the type and the available functions it offers.


The cold planer has a head which can be used much like a drill to break up material so that it can be removed. The angle and depth can be adjusted to allow the cold planer to cut down to precisely the desired depth. This allows crews to do things like removing the upper layers of a road while leaving the lower layers intact, controlling this stage of the project with a high degree of accuracy. Readers who have watched road crews removing part of the roadway may have noted that when the underlying layers are exposed, they are often grooved. This is a result of the cold planer's drill head.

Large designs include a container which is used to collect the material ripped out by the planer. In other cases, crews have the option of loading a second machine such as a dump truck with the material as it is torn out, or pushing it to the side in so-called “windrows” for later disposal or collection. The cold planer may be designed as an attachment for a tractor or another piece of equipment, or as a self enclosed motorized vehicle which is driven or pushed over the pavement to tear it up.

Alternate names for cold planers include pavement recyclers, milling machines, and pavement planers. Several manufacturers of heavy equipment make cold planers along with attachments and replacement parts which can be used during maintenance operations to keep a cold planer in good working order.

Operating a cold planer requires some skills, because the worker needs to be able to adjust the machine to the appropriate depth and to control it. In addition, ear and face protection must be worn while operating a cold planer because the devices are noisy and pieces of pavement material can be churned up into the operator's face. Caution must also be used by workers in the vicinity to avoid being injured by the device.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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