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steel column below grade

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I have a general question regarding steel columns below grade.  We use a
typical interior column to footing detail that encases the steel column
with concrete below grade.  This is fine when the top of footing is at
bottom of slab sub-base.  My question is what would you recommend when the
top of footing is three feet or more below top of slab?  Should we keep the
column encased in the concrete or will coating the column with asphalt
emulsion be adequate?  We typically indicate that the column be encased in
concrete with an isolation joint at the slab level, but a contractor is
questioning the detail by saying that the top of concrete at the slab level
will be difficult to finish.

Thanks in advance.

Mike Brown, P.E.
CSHQA Engineers in Boise, ID