Proper asphalt crack repair is crucial at all times of the year, but repairing cracked pavement from winter weather—and during the winter season—can present unique problems. Winter weather brings a host of challenges. Cold or freezing temperatures, ice, snow, sleet, hail, increased winds, and plenty of moisture can wreak havoc on your asphalt repair projects. So if you’re looking to do some work on your driveway, roadway, or parking lot this winter, here’s what you need to know.
What to Know About Fixing Asphalt in the Winter
What Kind of Damage Can Winter Cause to Asphalt?
The primary thing you should keep in mind regarding winter and asphalt damage is the freeze-thaw cycle. For our clients in the Northeast United States, this is an annual phenomenon that can cause a lot of trouble in terms of asphalt damage that lasts all year long—and even structural damage that can cause much bigger, more costly issues down the line.
The freeze-thaw cycle works like this: when moisture from snowmelt and rain leaks into existing cracks in the pavement, it freezes and expands the surrounding asphalt. This can make existing damage worse, widening cracks and causing deeper grooves in your pavement because asphalt is relatively porous. When the outdoor temperatures begin to warm again, this water under the surface of the asphalt thaws. Then, it hardens again during the next freeze. Over time, this repeated cycle can cause cracks and breakage.
But deterioration doesn’t end there. Sometimes, the asphalt surface undergoes “frost heave,” when the top layer begins to buckle and warp. This is what causes uneven asphalt surfaces, bumps, and lifts that can mean trouble for vehicle and foot traffic alike. Additionally, the underlying structure of the asphalt, down to the soil layers beneath the surface, can begin to change in nature. They may become more permeable and therefore more vulnerable, and eventually they may be unable to support the structure of the asphalt lying on top.
What Other Damage Can Happen During Winter?
The truth is that pavement cracks and the freeze-thaw cycle aren’t the only culprits in asphalt damage from winter. Potholes are a common phenomenon on asphalt of all types. Potholes are formed either from water damage (think the freeze-thaw cycle) or from the pressure of traffic atop the pavement. The top layer of pavement and the base and sub-base layers begin weakening with increased traffic, especially from heavy machinery and automobiles. These can eventually cause breakage in the asphalt that leads to widening holes as each layer in the pavement begins to collapse.
Additionally, facility managers in snowy, icy areas know that snow removal services are both a blessing and a curse. After all, removing snow through shoveling, snow plowing, and drying up ice with salt is critical to keeping your facility’s occupants and customers safe from slips and falls—which could spell liability issues for you. But all of these snow removal methods can also cause cracked pavement and other damage. Heavy snow plows bear a lot of weight on vulnerable pavement, and the scraping and dragging mechanisms of the plow could remove vital layers of your asphalt, including your pavement sealer.
Metal shovels, in particular, can cause dents in your asphalt. And rock salt, composed of sodium chloride, can lead to pitting and deterioration, shortening the lifespan of your asphalt—especially if it’s not protected by a sealant.
What Is Crack Sealing?
With all of this said, there are things you can do to nip certain risks in the bud. One of those solutions is to repair the existing cracks before they become more problematic or are exposed to a moisture content that could cause issues when the freeze-thaw cycle occurs. Asphalt crack repair is perhaps one of the most vital short-term solutions you can make to mitigate the risks associated with winter weather. So if you don’t have the means to do more extensive asphalt repair, paying mind to those cracks and getting them filled in is a great start.
Can you crack seal in cold weather? Great question. While warmer, dryer months are generally ideal for performing this type of project, that doesn’t mean that you need to wait until spring or summer to repair cracks in your asphalt. Through a variety of means, this work can still be performed in winter. The key is to ensure that the crack is dry and warm. While this may seem impossible for properties located in chilly, snowy New England, there are tools to help achieve this.
A hot air lance can help you get the right conditions in which to perform asphalt crack sealing, even in cold temperatures. A knowledgeable asphalt technician can use this hot air lance to warm and dry out the crack, making it well-equipped to handle the filling and repair. In fact, cracks tend to be more open in winter, often making this season an ideal time to perform these types of repairs. After this is done, a hot sealant is poured into the crack to fill in the gap, meaning a smooth surface with no vulnerability to leaking rain or snowmelt.
What Is Cold Patching?
Remember those potholes we talked about? Well, they can also be addressed during the winter through a solution called cold patching. This type of asphalt repair service involves temporarily filling the exposed pothole with a material that will allow cars and trucks to drive on it without vehicle damage, plus it will help mitigate the widening of the pothole and weakening of the underlying base and sub-base.
Typically, the filler material used is ground-up asphalt or even gravel. This can “level out” the surface for some time, though it may need additional filling as the material starts to deteriorate and gets sloughed off from traffic and inclement weather. This temporary solution is relatively cost effective, and it could save your asphalt for a few months until you can do a proper hot mix asphalt repair job on the pothole. A hot mix asphalt repair job uses hot asphalt to fully and completely fill the pothole. This is best done in dry, warm seasons, so it’s a good service to schedule for spring or summer. In the meantime, don’t let those potholes turn into something worse; fill them in through a cold patch asphalt repair service!
The Importance of Filling in Cracks in Your Asphalt
As we’ve stated, even the smallest cracks in your pavement can cause more serious damage later on. So if you’re wondering, when should I fill my driveway cracks? The answer is: as soon as you possibly can. Whether it be through a winter-friendly service like cold patching or crack sealing using a hot air lance, you can still address those pesky cracks before they mean thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in structural damage to your asphalt.
Why else should you fill in asphalt cracks? It’s important for any commercial or industrial facility to maintain an ADA-compliant property. For liability reasons—and to ensure you’re keeping your property as user-friendly as possible for people of any ability—you’ll need to address structural damage in your driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks.
Trust Cassidy Paving for Your Winter Repair Services
From cold patching to crack sealing and other winter-friendly services, you want to ensure you’re working with a knowledgeable and experienced asphalt repair company. If you’re located in New England, consider reaching out to Cassidy Paving to see what types of services you may be in need of and how we can help. Cassidy Paving offers short-term solutions to issues like cracks and potholes in the winter, plus an extensive array of full asphalt repair and resurfacing services when the weather warms up once again.
Headquartered in Haverhill, MA, Cassidy Paving knows winter weather inside and out. We’ve worked with clients spanning multiple industries—commercial, industrial, and government clients alike. We’re happy to advise you on your most pressing asphalt issues and what can be accomplished during those chilly Northeast winters, as well as when to schedule other types of asphalt repair services throughout the year. Our full-time crew has over 100 years of combined experience and is bonded with full liability and full workers’ compensations insurance.
When you work with Cassidy Paving, you can rest assured that every project we complete is appropriately staffed with our subject matter experts and that we’ll communicate with you about the work every step of the way. Our team uses top-of-the-line equipment to get the job done right, so you won’t be looking at making more asphalt repairs down the line. Plus, we’ll work with your schedule, budget, and any seasonal considerations—we want your asphalt repair services to cause the least disruption to your team, your workflow, your productivity, and your profitability. Need some simple cut and patch repairs? Or perhaps you’re looking at a full depth reconstruction and brand new paving this year. Cassidy Paving can help guide your decision-making process and ensure your asphalt projects run as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. Contact us today to speak with one of our friendly, helpful representatives to discuss your asphalt paving needs.