How do Different Environmental Factors Affect Asphalt?

Over time pavement will deteriorate however, proper maintenance will ensure a longer lifespan.

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Adobe Stock | milosr

When it comes to your pavement, the money and time you spend to make it durable should not go down the drain. Environmental factors can have significant impacts on your pavement performance and cause serious damage.

Let’s take a look at the different environmental factors to watch out for.

1. Temperature

Temperature affects pavement in various ways. Hot temperatures cause asphalt to expand, leading to cracks and allowing for water to seep in. This will begin to erode layers of your pavement, making for an unsightly appearance.

Meanwhile, in the winter months, the cold temperatures at or below freezing will result in cracking, too. If water seeps into the cracks in the winter, the water will freeze and expand causing an even further split. When the ice begins to melt, the water will move deeper into the crack, only to freeze and thaw again. This cycle can lead to the beginning of a pothole or other deep cracks.

2. Precipitation

Water can be extremely damaging to asphalt, as moisture will decrease the material’s strength and durability. When water sits on the surface, particularly during heavy precipitation, the oil separates from the asphalt. If this happens, you can expect asphalt shrinkage, water soaking into the cracks to expand in colder temperatures, and the development of cracks. 

Typically, asphalt isn’t affected much by light rain. Where the problem comes is with insufficient drainage and water logging. Each time it rains, the water builds up, making damage and deterioration only increase.

3. Traffic and Vehicle Loads

 Pavement exposure to heavy loads and traffic can cause pavement fatigue which will bend, stress, and eventually break the pavement. If the pavement experiences heavy traffic from large vehicles, the asphalt will have a consistent wheel load that can cause stress. Also, damage is more significant if wheels are moving at a very slow speed. The ongoing stress will eventually damage the asphalt.

Why Maintenance is so Important

Don’t let your time and money go to waste. Stay ahead of your pavement repair before issues get out of control. Routine maintenance is essential to avoid severe damages.

Some reasons why pavement preservation is so important include:

  • Safety – Whether it’s your sidewalk, driveway, or the middle of the road, uneven pavement can be dangerous. Avoid risk of injury and potential damage to vehicles with quality asphalt maintenance.      
  • Cost – When the damage is extremely deep or large, the repair can be very expensive. Small cracks, though, only need quick fixes, so you can save a lot of money by staying vigilant.
  • Increased lifespan – If you continually keep up with your asphalt maintenance, you can keep your surface preserved and protected for a longer amount of time. This will save you time and money, and you will increase the durability of your asphalt.
  • Curb appeal – Cracks and potholes in your pavement are unattractive, especially in front of your home or a business. Keep your surrounding pavement welcoming to prevent reduced resale value of your home or lost business.

Over time, pavement is going to deteriorate – whether through heat, rain, snow, or simply regular use – and potholes, cracks, and fractures are inevitable. Proper maintenance will ensure safety of your asphalt, prevent further damage, and save you money long term.

This article was contributed by Emma Iammarino with Unique Paving Materials, Cleveland, OH.        

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