asphalt failure signs

Signs Of Potential Or Existing Asphalt Failure

Being able to recognize the early stages of asphalt failure is crucial in saving both time and money. Early detection allows for you to fix the problem before it leads to larger issues and/or the need for complete re-installation.

There are several signs that your asphalt is already failing, or will begin to deteriorate soon, and some are more obvious than others.

Obvious signs of asphalt failure:

  • potholes sign of asphalt failurePotholes – Most potholes begin relatively small and are a result of weaknesses in the subgrade. Small potholes can turn into large ones quickly if not addressed. If you live in areas that experience harsh winters (like CT), severe pothole are a common occurrence and are most commonly remedied in early spring. Read more on potholes HERE.
  • Cracking/Alligator Cracking – Cracking means that your pavement is suffering from some form of fatigue. Most commonly, these cracks are caused by excessive loading, moisture, or subgrade failure. Cracks can be extremely detrimental to your pavement because they allow for water penetration of the base layer. Water is the single most damaging element to asphalt and is the most common reason for asphalt failure. When water seeps into the cracks in your pavement, and reaches the base layer, the subgrade softens resulting in a pavement lacking a firm structural support system. During winter, these cracks can result in potholes due to freezing a thawing and the heave associated with this cycle.

Less obvious signs of asphalt failure:

  • pavement rutting asphalt failureLongitudinal Cracks – These types of cracks run parallel to traffic, and because of this are often hidden to the untrained eye. However, this type of failure often indicates that the subbase is fracturing and sliding away from the pavement itself. Often this will also indicate that traffic is weakening the subgrade because the cracks are parallel to vehicle flow and concentrated along the travel line.
  • Reflective Cracks – This is when a newer top coarse of asphalt begins to fail as the result of an older surface below is failing. The newer asphalt layer works to temporarily increase the reliance of the asphalt which makes this condition even harder to spot. When does this happen?
    • When new asphalt is laid on an older course of weak and/or failed asphalt
    • When asphalt is laid on failing concrete or above concrete joints
    • When asphalt is placed on large boulders that are mixed into a subgrade
  • Rutting – Ruts in asphalt are a result of traffic wear and downward stress. Here are some causes:
    • Heavy loading
    • Studded tires
    • Poor subgrade
    • Inadequate pavement thickness
    • Defective mix
    • Fast traveling vehicles

Regular inspection and maintenance of your asphalt is extremely important in preventing asphalt failure. It is likely that repairs and maintenance will need to be completed after winter. Regular inspection by a professional ensures that even the less obvious signs of asphalt failure are spotted and remedied before it is too late. Contact EastCoat Pavement Services for all of your paving and asphalt repair needs.

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