Asphalt begins to degrade beginning the day it is laid down. If not properly maintained, your asphalt will likely degrade to the point where your pavement will need serious (costly) work. However, if you catch problems in their early stages, you can take preventative action to avoid future (costly) headaches.
Oxidation is the first visible sign of a pavement distress. Once asphalt pavement becomes oxidized, your pavement will begin to fail (cracks, alligator cracks, potholes, depressions, etc.). Below are three signs that your pavement is oxidized:
1. Your asphalt pavement's color is grey/brown
New asphalt pavement is a dark, charcoal black. If out in the open and without protection, your asphalt is exposed to the elements and oxidizes. One of the first visible signs of oxidation is that the pavement's color fades from black to grey/brown.
2. Raveling occurs
If your pavement has a lot of loose gravel and sand, it's because your asphalt pavement is raveling. Raveling occurs when the asphalt binder breaks down due to oxidation. Asphalt is made up of aggregates, rocks, and sand. It's all held together by a "glue" called asphalt binder. When the binder begins to break down under the stress of UV rays, the aggregates unravel and now you have loose gravel, rock, and sand on your surface.
3. You start to see cracks in your asphalt pavement
New asphalt is flexible, meaning that the pavement flexes under traffic loads. When oxidation occurs, your pavement loses some of its flexibility and becomes stiff. When your asphalt is stiff, it won't flex under vehicle loading, and instead cracks. Once cracks begin to form, water can enter into your pavement and cause serious damage resulting in alligator cracks, potholes, and depressions in your pavement.
What should you do?
Once you notice one of the three signs of early pavement distress, you should strongly consider contacting a contractor to help you determine the appropriate steps to take to prevent your asphalt from degrading further. Typical preventative tasks that your contractor would recommend would be sealcoating and crack filling.
Sealcoating protects your asphalt "as is." It maintains the current condition of your asphalt, and "keeps good pavement good." Crack filling will prevent water from entering into your base course and will prevent the cracks from becoming larger and turning into potholes.
Neglecting these early warning signs will lead to costly repair tasks down the road.
Travis is the Marketing Coordinator for GP Roadway Solutions and its divisions GP Maintenance Solutions, Peterson Sign Company, and Unistrut Hawaii. Connect with Travis on LinkedIn.