An asphalt pavement can only last for so long, before signs of ageing and deterioration start showing on its surface. Just like our skin, constant exposure to the sun, weather, natural elements, and stress can cause damage, brittleness and flaking. Soon enough, you will begin to notice cracks snaking their way along the length of your driveway or parking lot, as well as patches of moss or algae, discolorations and fading, depressions, ruts and uneven sections.
Below are four categories of asphalt damage based on severity. Our experts provide corresponding repair methods to counter them.
Category 1: Oxidation
Oxidation causes asphalt to fade and turn gray, especially if it is at least a few years old. Fresh asphalt generally has a rich black color, due to the element called bitumen, a tar-like substance used as binder that holds together the aggregates in asphalt mixes. With constant exposure to the sun, bitumen slowly evaporates, while leaving behind the aggregates. This gives asphalt a faded appearance and indicates it is becoming brittle as it dries out. Unfortunately, the fading is often uneven, which means that some sections might appear darker or lighter than others, making the surface of your asphalt look unsightly.
The Solution: Sealcoating
Give your asphalt the protective make-over it deserves by applying a fresh coat of sealer. Sealcoating not only brings back the beauty of your asphalt, it also creates a barrier that protects your pavement from direct exposure to the elements and a waterproof film that prevents moisture from seeping into the foundation. Check out our comprehensive sealcoating guide for methods, tips, techniques, and best practices.
Category 2: Cracks and Minor Potholes
Moisture from rain, snow, drainage runoffs and spills is the major culprit that causes asphalt to deteriorate rapidly. When moisture seeps into unsealed asphalt, it gets trapped beneath the surface. During winter, this trapped moisture freezes and expands, causing the foundation to weaken and the surface to split.
Newer asphalt with most of its bitumen content still intact can counter the effects of this continuous freeze-thaw cycle by flexing to accommodate the expansion of frozen moisture. However, as asphalt ages and loses its flexibility, it becomes more brittle and vulnerable. Instead of flexing, the surface splits and cracks. This means that more moisture can soak into the foundation and cause more damage. Cracks that are not filled in a timely manner grow larger and form into potholes.
The Solution: Crack and Pothole Repair
Remove all forms of vegetation growing out of the cracks and potholes with a heat lance or torch. Use a crack cleaning machine, sweeper, blower, or a good old push broom with stiff bristles to clean off loose debris and sand. Hose the entire surface of the pavement with clean water, or use a power washer. The idea is to ensure that the asphalt is as clean as possible. Allow the entire area to dry thoroughly.
For cracks that are less than ½” use cold-pour crackfill. Apply hot-pour rubberized crackfill on cracks that are 1” or less. For a wide network of cracks that looks like the skin of an alligator, use Gator Patch. For gaping potholes, we recommend using the cold patch asphalt repair. For a more in-depth process on how to fill cracks and potholes, check out the following resources pages: Guide to Asphalt Crack Repair and Asphalt Patching.
Category 3: Large Holes, Ruts, and Uneven Depressions
When cracks and potholes are not filled right away, the damage tends to grow more extensive, especially in areas where there is high traffic, such as in parking lots. Constant stress from heavy vehicles and regular traffic can create depressions on the pavement surface or continuously chip off chunks of aggregate until the potholes grow too large for crackfill.
The Solution: Cut, Patch, and Sealcoat
When the holes on your pavement are too large and extensive for crack filler, we recommend cutting out the damaged section using a gas-powered pavement saw. Clear the section of loose debris and pour enough pothole repair patch until the material flush is with the rims of the cut-out. Tamp down with a handheld metal tamper until completely compacted, adding and tamping as you go, until the surface of the patched hole is even with the rest of the pavement. Do the same for sunken and distressed areas.
For larger areas, we recommend using a vibrating plate compactor or an asphalt roller to get an even surface. Allow the patch to cure for at least 24 hours and apply sealcoat for a uniform finish that protects the patch.
Category 4: Crumbling Asphalt
If you’re cleaning your driveway with a blower, gas-powered sweeper or broom, and you notice that larger pieces of the aggregate also get blown or swept away with the debris that you’re trying to remove, your asphalt might be completely deteriorated and should be replaced.
The Solution: Repaving Damaged Asphalt
Depending on the extent of the actual damage, there are two options that you can choose:
- If a small section of the asphalt is rutted but most of the aggregates are still intact, use an infrared asphalt heater to repair the damage. Position the machine over the affected section and wait until the asphalt is completely heated. Once the patch has been heated through, use a sturdy rake or shovel to spread the heated material back into place and tamp down until completely compacted. Allow to cure until the patch has hardened before reopening to traffic.
- If the damaged section is too wide and extensive for DIY repair, call a professional asphalt maintenance contractor to have the old asphalt recycled in place, or your property repaved.
RY2X2 INFRARED ASPHALT HEATER
- Reheats asphalt for easy repairs
- For asphalt seams, alligator cracks, & more
- One-person operation
Asphalt repair can be very costly, depending on the severity of the damage. Which is why we highly recommend that you fill cracks and potholes right away and sealcoat your driveways and parking lots every 2 to 3 years. This will help prevent extensive deterioration and having to spend too much for repair and restoration.