What You Need to Know About Asphalt Installation and Repair

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Asphalt is a paving material used to make roads, sidewalks, and parking areas. Asphalt is a mixture made of an aggregate and a binder. The aggregate forms the bulk of the mixture and is usually gravel, sand, and crushed rock. Sometimes the aggregate includes recycled materials. The binder is the viscous, sticky material that holds the aggregate together and makes a solid surface. The binder is usually bitumen, which is made of petroleum.

Asphalt is usually heated when used in high-use areas such as highways, airport runways, and roads designed for heavy use. Cold asphalt can be implemented for light-use areas such as trails, sidewalks, and tennis courts.

Asphalt can last a long time if it’s maintained well. How long can depend on a lot of factors, such as your weather, the weight and amount of traffic it receives, and the quality of maintenance. In general, you should expect an asphalt driveway or parking lot to last for 20 to 25 years. In areas with a lot of freezing weather, like Chicago and Minneapolis, pavement might not last as long as it does in southern cities such as Jacksonville or Houston. If you want your paving to last as long as possible, be consistent with maintenance and get it repaired as soon as you notice damage.

Installation

First, the preparation of the site takes place. Any old paving material must be demolished. The ground must be prepared, leveled, hardened, and sloped. Water drainage is important to help the asphalt last as long as possible.

The next step in the process is the beginning of the installation. First, the sub-base must be installed. This step is very important for stability and to provide a foundation for the road. It will be compacted well and then it will be checked with a process called a proof roll. This extremely heavy machine will test the base to see if it is sturdy. If it flexes too much, it will be repaired. When the sub-base is ready, a binder layer is applied. This is a mix of large aggregates like gravel, and oil. This layer supports the top layer and provides the strength of the pavement. Finally, the asphalt surface is applied. This layer has small aggregate and is smooth and more attractive.

The last step involves finishing the surface and making smooth connections and transitions onto other roadways, sidewalks, and driveways.

Wear and Tear

All pavement wears over time. Normal use can cause damage to asphalt and your pavement will last longer if you have repairs done as soon as possible by a reliable asphalt repair company. Potholes, raveling, and fatigue cracking can all be symptoms of pavement succumbing to wear and tear. Fatigue cracking is common in old pavements and is also called alligator cracking because it looks like an alligator’s skin.

Water and Weather

Water and weather can be some of the most impactful influences on asphalt. It is also one of the least preventable. Proper sloping and drainage can help prevent issues with water settling and erosion, but otherwise many weather-related issues cannot be prevented and must be remedied as they appear. Cycles of warmth and freezing can be especially stressful to pavement. In areas of the south, such as Montgomery, Jacksonville, and Atlanta, the extreme heat can stress the pavement enough to cause damage.  

Frost heaves can cause the pavement to distort and shift, and can push the roadway up into mounds. Cracks and potholes are caused by shifting in the ground during the freeze and thaw cycles.

Poor Mix

Since asphalt is a mixture of different materials there can be a variety of types of pavement. A commercial asphalt company should know what aggregates and binders to use for each specific situation. A variety of factors can influence what mixture to use, including weather, intended use, weight load, and what kind of base the pavement is being placed over.

A failure to get the correct mix of materials can cause failure in the surface. The cause of damage can usually be identified by the kind, pattern, and location of cracks, allowing repair companies to effectively repair the problem.

Poor Construction

Asphalt must be laid correctly or cracks, depressions, and faults can form. There are several steps to construction and doing any of them incorrectly can lead to faulty pavement. Longitudinal cracks, transverse cracks, slippage cracks, rutting, rippling, and depressions can all occur on the surface due to problems with construction.

These problems can be caused by an unstable road base, inadequate compaction, poorly constructed joints, shrinkage, and using thin layers.

Repair

If you have any issues affecting your asphalt, you should get them inspected and repaired as soon as possible. Leaving cracks and other issues until later can make the problem a lot worse and you could end up needing a whole new pavement rather than a repair. The most common types of asphalt repair are patching, crack filling, and sealing.

Patching is done to repair areas of damage, such as potholes and large problems. The damaged asphalt is removed and a new layer is installed in its place. Crack filling is done with a hot rubber mixture that allows the area to be more flexible while preventing water intrusion. Sealing is both preventative and cosmetic. It repairs any beginning cracks and weathering while also restoring the color and finish of your surface. It also helps protect the surface against future damage from the the sun, weather, and traffic.