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What Causes Pavement to Fail?

by | Aug 14, 2018

Pavement, whether used in parking lots, driveways, or pathways, isn’t a permanent feature. Over time, the physical structure of the material will begin to degrade, a process that can be triggered or accelerated by a variety of factors. Fortunately, the opposite is true as well. With proper installation and maintenance from a reputable service company, asphalt can stand up to decades of regular service.

So, what causes pavement to fail and what can be done about it?

Oxidation:
All new asphalt begins a slow and steady process called oxidation. As oxygen in the air changes, the chemical structure of the exposed material also changes over time, leaving it more and more brittle and prone to cracking and wearing down. You can actually see this process in action: brand-new asphalt is dark black but lightens up and stiffens over time.

A regular regimen of sealcoating service, which covers and protects the asphalt below, can reduce the yearly rate of oxidation by as much as 75% as long as the process is started within two years of pavement construction.

Water Intrusion:
When moisture seeps into cracks or penetrates below the pavement layer, it can strip away substrate, leaving pavement unsupported and vulnerable to breaking when under load. Water will also force the asphalt to expand and contract along any seams or cracks—especially in temperate states like Michigan with hot summers and freezing winters. This water exposure, over time, can lead to widespread cracking, the formation of potholes, and other issues that can be costly to fix.

Proper drainage and sloping, combined with crack fixes and sealcoating, will minimize this effect.

Cracking:
Some cracking is unavoidable due to temperature shifts from sun exposure and weather, soil settling, or vehicle weight and use. However, as small cracks slowly allow water and air into the lower layers of the surface, it can trigger (or be early evidence of) more serious and severe cracking patterns, which may seriously compromise or even ruin the paving surface.

Depending on the condition of the pavement, crack sealing, crack filling, or (in serious cases of failure) patch repair or repaving may be necessary to maintain or salvage the surface.

West Michigan Paving Repair Service
If your parking lot, driveway, or other paved surface has been damaged and needs repair, call Stripe A Lot, western Michigan’s number 1 asphalt service company. At Stripe A Lot, we offer informed and professional consultations to identify the cause of your pavement issues as we develop an action plan. We offer free quotes, fast, service, and are always happy to help.

Call us today at 616-772-2559!

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