Why Cracks In Your Asphalt Could Lead To Worse Damage

Why Cracks In Your Asphalt Could Lead To Worse Damage

If you notice fatigue cracking or longitudinal cracking,  this is an indication of asphalt stripping. 

If you own an asphalt parking lot, workshop space, or driveway, it’s crucial to inspect it for crack formation throughout the year. With the amount of recurrent use and harsh weather, your asphalt can deteriorate quickly if cracks go unnoticed or unrepaired for any length of time.

While asphalt is hardy and durable, cracks will expose the sub-surface layer, opening it up to severe damage and compromised structural integrity.

What Happens When Cracks Are Neglected?

While a small crack in your asphalt may not seem like a big deal at first, if it is left alone, it will undoubtedly expand. Both foot traffic, heavy vehicle loads, and weather elements will weaken the surface around the crack, enlarging it.

The larger it becomes or the more pressure it is exposed to, the easier it is for water, debris, and chemicals to get in. 

As the sub-base layers become exposed, the aggregate and oil-based binders are impacted, either shifting due to excess moisture, shrinking due to dryness, or crumbling completely.  Severe damage ensues and can look like any of the following.

What Kind of Damage Do Cracks Lead To?

1. Asphalt Stripping

This occurs when moisture sits on the bottom layer of the asphalt, causing the aggregates to pull away from the oil-based binding agents that hold the layer together. The lower layer of the asphalt begins to fall apart or unravel, subsequently damaging the asphalt upper layers. The most common cause for this type of damage is cracks in overlays placed on existing open-graded surfaces, poor drainage under the asphalt, and poor aggregate surface chemistry. If you notice fatigue cracking or longitudinal cracking,  this is an indication of asphalt stripping. 

2. Potholes

When cracks are left to worsen, water can penetrate the asphalt’s layers. Depending on the weather, if the water expands, contracts, and freezes repeatedly, the crack can turn into a pothole.  Combine this with heavy traffic, salt, and ice from winter months, and pothole damage can worsen rapidly becoming large enough to pop tires, bend vehicle rims, and cause major damage to your vehicle’s alignment and suspension systems.

3. Oxidation from Sunlight

If you live in a hot climate and your asphalt is filled with cracks, over time the flexible asphalt binder can harden from oxidation. When this happens, it loses its flexibility, causing the asphalt to shrink and crack further, which leads to more water damage when it does rain or snow.

4. Reflective Cracking

These are cracks that occur in the underlying layers of the asphalt underneath the overlay, due to movement from an original crack. Common reasons why reflective cracking occurs is there are shrinkage cracks, longitudinal joint failures, fatigue cracks, or cracks in the joints of the asphalt. 

 A reflective crack is going to contribute to the premature deterioration of the overlay by letting water into the pavement which weakens its overall structure. You can recognize reflective cracking by looking for material loss (spalling) either at the site of the original crack or in areas where the foundation has become weakened. 

As the sub-base layers become unstable, further distresses can occur such as shoving which are ripples across the pavement, pavement swelling, and depressions in the pavement, which is why it’s important to have cracks repaired immediately. 

If you are a property manager, contractor, or business owner, contact us about our FREE annual parking lot walk thru and maintenance program. Once a year, we will send out one of our parking lot experts to discuss and address the needs of your parking lot. Our goal is to save you time and money by planning and budgeting for future needs.  Contact us now to get started! You can give us a call today at (407) 618-9646 or fill out a contact form


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