With all the factors that affect the integrity and longevity of your asphalt paving projects—including heavy vehicle and foot traffic, age, damage from accidents, and more—seasonal changes tend to rank high on the list of threats to your pavement. Winter in particular can cause a whole host of issues, and if you’re not mindful to make repairs quickly, you could be shelling out much more in both money and lost productivity if the damage worsens. That’s why staying on top of deterioration, no matter how minor it may seem now, is of the utmost importance.
What does asphalt look like when it starts to deteriorate? Let’s discuss a few common signs of deteriorating asphalt and what you should be looking for as you inspect your property.
The Freeze-Thaw Cycle
How does winter affect asphalt? Let’s start by talking through the freeze-thaw cycle, a common phenomenon in most places throughout the United States, but a particularly pressing issue for facilities located in the snowy, icy Northeast. This phenomenon occurs due to temperature fluctuations. Particularly in the winter and spring, when the climate is unpredictable, the freeze-thaw cycle can occur quickly and without you even knowing what’s happening beneath the surface of your pavement.
Essentially, this cycle occurs when moisture leaks into the pavement through cracks. These cracks can be minuscule or sprawling—it doesn’t matter. Once moisture reaches the layers beneath the surface layer, known as the base and sub-base, you could see this cycle begin to occur. When temperatures cool down to below freezing, that rainwater or other moisture will freeze too. This will create an expansion in the pavement as the frozen water expands. Then, when temperatures warm to above freezing, the pavement is left weakened. Plus, fresh water from snow or ice will melt, seeping into the asphalt cracks and adding to the amount of moisture below the surface.
Eventually, the initial cracks will widen, potholes and other deterioration will form, and the surface of the pavement will begin to buckle. Of course, for facilities located in New England, you know that this cycle may happen many times throughout the year. So let’s explore what signs you should be looking for in your pavement that may indicate damage from the elements after a harsh winter.
Not only can the freeze-thaw cycle affect the asphalt itself, but it can also reach all the way to the soil beneath the pavement. In this case, you may see a phenomenon known as frost heave. This upward swelling of the soil occurs when freezing moisture has penetrated the ground, resulting in layers of ice.
Once ice is present in the soil, it may expand upward or outward, creating frost heave in the pavement. This can eventually push the surface of your pavement upwards, creating uneven spots that are multiple inches higher than the rest. It could also cause cracks or potholes in your asphalt paving.
If you’ve driven on any heavily trafficked roadway, you’re probably familiar with the “bump” that occurs when you navigate over a pothole. While minor potholes may be a slight nuisance, large ones are enough to pop a tire or affect a vehicle’s alignment. Beyond that, potholes are a sign of deterioration that shouldn’t go unresolved, as they indicate weakened pavement that could quickly degrade into something much more severe and costly.
Potholes occur when pieces of asphalt pavement have eroded away. They typically start as small holes or cracks and gradually deteriorate into holes that may be up to multiple feet wide and several inches deep. Potholes are particularly prone to widening and deepening during the freeze-thaw cycle, which is why it’s so important to stay on top of even the tiniest cracks in your pavement, as they may turn into large, problematic potholes later on.
Spalling occurs when there is excessive stress placed on the pavement at the joint or crack. While this is often caused by heavy traffic loads, it can occur when the pavement is weakened from moisture, the freeze-thaw cycle, or other factors.
Spalling may consist of one long, deep crack in the pavement—usually at the joint—that breaks the pavement into two distinct pieces. Or, it can present as medium severity cracks with several small fragments of loose or missing pavement.
Also known as crocodile or alligator cracking due to the pattern, which looks like the scaly hides of these animals, fatigue cracking consists of interconnecting cracks that span the surface of your asphalt. It may cover a certain portion of your asphalt, or it may extend out across the entire surface.
These types of cracks usually indicate an issue in the sub-base layer of the asphalt, and they can eventually lead to potholes. You’ll want to address fatigue cracking as soon as possible when you see it.
Linear cracking typically occurs due to the penetration of moisture in the asphalt. Also called transverse or longitudinal cracking, these long, relatively deep cracks in the pavement usually show up on the corners of a slab of pavement, where the joints connect.
Linear cracking often occurs due to poor drainage. So if you’re seeing this type of deterioration in your pavement, it may not be enough to simply fill the cracks; you may also need to upgrade or replace your drainage system to further prevent linear cracking in the future.
Damage from Snow Removal Services
One final thing to assess as you inspect your asphalt after winter: any damage from snow removal services like shoveling, salting, or plowing. Of course, these services are necessary during the winter months—especially in New England—to keep your vehicle and foot traffic safe and reduce your liability risks.
Despite its benefits, rock salt can also cause pitting in your pavement, and metal shovels and heavy snow plows can lead to dents in your asphalt’s surface. This is why it’s crucial to partner with a knowledgeable snow removal service during the winter months—even if it costs a bit more in the immediate term. Trust us, your asphalt will be better preserved when you have expert snow removal services taking care of your property in chilly winter weather.
How Asphalt Paving Services Can Help Solve These Problems
So now that you know what kinds of damage you’re looking for after the winter months, what can you do about these issues when you find them? First, contact a reputable asphalt paving company that can help you assess the severity of your asphalt damage and provide you with a quote for each repair. Then work with this team to decide on an optimal schedule for making these repairs—taking into account any downtime that may affect your productivity or profitability, the ideal weather conditions for these projects, and your business’ budget and scheduling concerns.
Small cracks and potholes may be able to be resolved more quickly than larger structural issues. Through asphalt paving services like cut and patch repairs or overlay, you may be able to address more minor needs rapidly, before they deteriorate further. And if the weather is still too snowy or icy to complete a paving project, an expert asphalt paving company should be able to provide you with a temporary fix to decrease your chances of things worsening until you can complete the project fully in the warmer months.
If there is severe damage that is affecting the base or sub-base layers of the asphalt, you may need more extensive repairs. This could involve a complete repaving project like full depth reconstruction or pulverizing and grading services. Be sure to work with a team of subject matter experts so you can get the best advice about how to repair your pavement—with no ulterior motives or misleading information.
Call Cassidy Paving Today to Get the Ball Rolling
If you’re located in New England, you know the importance of taking care of asphalt deterioration issues quickly and expertly. That’s why you should look no further than Cassidy Paving, a family-owned and operated asphalt paving company headquartered in Haverhill, MA serving clients throughout Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. We know winter weather and have vast experience in repairing all of the asphalt issues stated above. Besides making repairs or executing full repaving projects, we also offer responsible snow removal services, parking lot restriping, and ADA compliance improvements for your property.
Even in the winter, planning ahead for asphalt improvements is not only possible—it’s recommended. So even if things are still looking blustery in your area, our team of subject matter experts at Cassidy Paving is happy to begin the process of assessing, prioritizing, and planning projects for spring, summer, and beyond. You’ll be thrilled by the outcomes of our projects—each one staffed with knowledgeable teams and state-of-the-art equipment. In fact, our full-time crew has over 100 years of combined experience and is bonded with full liability and full workers’ compensation insurance.
We also take pride in our customer service. Not only will we answer all of your questions and address your concerns from the start, but we’ll communicate with you throughout the life of each project. Plus, we offer a guarantee on all new paving services to ensure your complete satisfaction. Contact us today to speak with one of our helpful representatives about your asphalt paving, repair, or maintenance needs.
Read more about how winter affects pavement: