Cracking Up: Do You Know What Those Cracks In Your Asphalt Mean?

Asphalt paving is a great option for parking lots and driveways alike, but it's not without its potential problems. Asphalt is vulnerable to many types of damage, even if it's been properly maintained. Cracks are one of the most common issues, but there are many different types. Recognizing the type of cracks you're seeing is important because it can be a strong indicator of the underlying problem. Here are some of the types of asphalt cracks you might see, what they mean, and what you can do about them.

Fatigue Cracks

Fatigue cracks are the ones that you see in small spaces. The cracks are usually shallow and spread much like scales on the surface. When you see damage like this on the asphalt, it often means that there was a problem with the design of the asphalt area before it was paved or there are drainage issues that have led to water accumulation.

The development of fatigue cracks means that there are structural problems down through the sub-layer of the asphalt, so it will need to be thoroughly patched in order to fix the problem. That means patching from the sublayers all the way to the surface, so you'll want to work with a paving contractor.

Border Cracking

Cracks along the pavement border or outside edges are sometimes called border cracks. They usually run parallel to the roadway, and they're often quite lengthy. If you're seeing cracks like these, it's usually due to soil shifting or heavy vegetation growth along the edge of the pavement that's caused damage.

You can fix these with an asphalt crack repair product or an emulsion application. Before you do, though, eliminate the source of the problem. That means reinforcing the soil beneath by improving drainage and clearing out any vegetation growth around the edges.

Square Cracks

Square cracks, also called block cracks, are visible square cracks on the asphalt surface, They don't go below the surface, so they're easy to address. In most cases, these cracks will appear a couple of years after the pavement was completed, and it's usually an indicator that the mix used was either old or too dry when it was applied.

Since square cracks are shallow, surface-level cracks, you can fix these easily with the application of a surface sealant or emulsion patch. Once that's done, consider having the entire surface sealcoated for more protection.

Linear Cracks

Linear cracks often appear in paving that's been done in sections. These cracks are straight, long cracks that develop along paving joints, where two sections of asphalt come together. It usually happens if the two sections weren't joined properly.

You'll have to fill these cracks as soon as possible to avoid serious structural damage to the asphalt because linear cracks run deep, so they can allow water to seep beneath the surface. In areas with cold temperatures, this is particularly concerning because that moisture can freeze, threatening the structure of the rest of the asphalt.

Mirror Or Reflection Cracks

Straight, grid-like cracks along the pavement are usually reflection or mirror cracks. They're usually mirroring cracks in the sublayers, and they need to be patched right away to keep the pavement secure. You'll want to use an asphalt filler and then seal the entire surface, otherwise you risk moisture and other damage seeping into the cracks.

For more information about how to take care of your asphalt surfaces and identify potential problems, talk with a local paving contractor in your area. He or she can inspect your asphalt and let you know what kinds of things you'll need to watch out for as well as what needs to be addressed sooner than later.