Just by hearing the name, alligator cracking, you likely already know what we are referring to. This is because you’ve probably seen it before and/or because this type of pavement fatigue gets its name from the way it looks. Its distinctive pattern of cracks resembles the scales on a reptile’s back. Alligator cracking is one of the most common ways that asphalt pavement deteriorates overtime, but is also unfortunately one of the most serious.
What Causes Alligator Cracking?
- Poor installation methods are often a common culprit.
- Alligator cracking is more than just surface-level breakage. It is classified as fatigue cracking and is almost always caused by problems beneath the asphalt (which is why it’s so serious).
- Crocodile cracking occurs when the pavement is carrying loads that the supporting structure and base cannot support. This is likely due to the sub-base being built improperly (too thin or compacted unevenly).
- Poor drainage can also contribute to alligator cracks in asphalt.
- Fatigue cracking does not simply happen overnight, but overtime and generally begins with small cracks that see further damage due to the elements and traffic burdens. Repairing small cracks can help to lessen the chances of serious fatigue cracks. But, if the base of your pavement or asphalt were installed incorrectly, chances are, serious deterioration is unavoidable.
Preventing Alligator Cracking:
- Hire Reputable – Laying asphalt pavement without properly preparing the sub-base, without properly planning for an effective draining system, and/or using the wrong material (and inadequate thickness) will often result in damages that lead to premature deterioration. Researching your contractor and hiring a reputable company is the most important first step to any paving project.
- Preparation Is Key – You may think preparation work is a good area to cut some corners, especially if you’re trying to lessen cost, but it’s NOT! Preparation sets the tone for how your pavement will wear and how it will handle the elements. Your pavement needs to be properly prepared and constructed to suit its unique needs (typical traffic volume and loads, weather conditions, etc.) For example, a driveway’s structure that only sees a few passenger cars daily will differ greatly from a roadway that experiences fast and heavy traffic loads, like cargo trailers.
- Proactively Maintain & Repair – Minor cracks in asphalt can progress to large deficits, like fatigue cracking and breaking down. When you are proactively maintaining your asphalt and filling minor cracks, you can help to avoid larger deficits like alligator cracking.
Repairing Alligator Cracking:
- Temporary Fix – Sealing cracks; as mentioned above, as soon as you spot cracks in your asphalt, they should be filled and sealed.
- Long-Term Fix – Removing asphalt and discovering what the underlying problem is beneath the surface is the only way to provide a long-term solution for alligator cracks. Once the route of the problem is found, you can fix it and ultimately strengthen asphalt’s base to avoid continued fatigue cracking (that will ultimately lead to complete pavement deterioration).
If your pavement is experiencing severe alligator cracks in several areas due to improper base installation, it may be more cost effective to replace the entire surface. This will allow for proper preparation, proper installation of the support sub-base, and installation of asphalt to the proper thickness.
A proper installation is the first step in determining how your asphalt will fare the conditions. From there, putting together a plan for maintenance and repairs is key in preserving the health and structure of your asphalt.
If your parking lot is experiencing alligator cracking, you’ll want to have a professional inspect the affected area to first discover the route of the problem. Implementing a long-term solution to this issue is key in preserving the life of your asphalt. Remember to do you research before hiring a paving contractor to avoid having to do the job twice. Contact EastCoat Pavement today for your free asphalt repair, asphalt maintenance, and/or asphalt paving consultation!