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What Is Your Pavement Telling You?

Asphalt MaintenancePavement distress is not the same thing as pavement wear. All pavement materials are going to wear to some degree or another although preventive maintenance (such as sealcoating) can help protect against wear. Pavement distress occurs when things go wrong that are beyond normal wear. Fortunately, your pavement will “tell” you when it is in distress, allowing you to take corrective measures before a complete failure occurs. Here are six signs of distressed pavement to look for when you conduct a visual inspection of your asphalt.

1. A number of cracks that connect to form a pattern that bears a resemblance to a reptile’s scales is commonly referred to as alligator cracking. This is frequently caused by the erosion of the asphalt’s foundation by water that has penetrated beneath the pavement. However, it can also be caused by improper compaction or by allowing traffic on the surface beyond the tolerances the pavement was designed to bear.
2. Wavy marks in the asphalt near locations where cars frequently stop and start is called wash-boarding, corrugation or shoving. Wash-boarding is a sign that there was something wrong with the mix. Perhaps too little aggregate or too much asphalt cement was added, or perhaps the asphalt cement chosen was the wrong type for the climate.
3. Shiny, excessively smooth patches in the asphalt indicate a condition known as flushing. Flushing is caused by too much asphalt cement added to the mix, so it is not unusual to find pavement that shows signs of both flushing and wash-boarding.
4. Wrinkles or tears in the asphalt indicate a bond failure. The asphalt layer needs to remain “glued” to the foundation for the pavement to perform correctly. If the bond fails, the asphalt can tear or wrinkle. Although bond failure is sometimes the result of a structural failure, it is most often the result of an installation error.
5. Wavy lines that show up in the wheel paths are symptoms of a condition referred to as rutting. Rutting is caused by either the thickness of the asphalt layer or the pavement design being insufficient to bear the traffic it has been asked to support.
6. Alligatored asphalt (or alligator cracking) is indicated by a series of cracks that connect to form an area that resembles the scales on an alligator’s back. Alligator cracking can indicate improper compression during installation or an asphalt layer that is too thin for the traffic. However, it is most often caused by the erosion of the foundation by water that has managed to penetrate beneath the asphalt.

Solving pavement distress depends on which problem or problems are present and how much damage has been done. Sometimes, the foundation will need to be repaired, or the affected asphalt sections may need to be patched and replaced. Your asphalt contractor will need to evaluate your site to determine the proper course of action. However, many times, the majority of the symptoms of distressed asphalt can be addressed with an overlay (a layer of asphalt installed over existing pavement) or with the cut-and-patch method (cutting out the defective or damaged asphalt and installing a patch).

If you would like to have your asphalt pavement inspected for signs of distress — or you would like to prevent distress through maintenance — contact the professionals at Fahrner Asphalt Sealers. We have been providing a full range of installation, repair and maintenance services since 1979 to customers throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Lower Michigan and Iowa. Our crews are highly trained, experienced and dedicated to providing the best experience for all customers.
To request your free quote, submit our online form or call (800) 332-3360.

Fahrner Asphalt Sealer is a premier asphalt contractor that specializes in asphalt sealcoating, tennis courts, asphalt crack sealing and repairchip sealing, and additional services.  We look forward to serving you!


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