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An asphalt surface requires regular maintenance to keep it in good condition, just like your home or car. As it is constantly in use by vehicles driving or people walking over it, or by being exposed to the weather, the surface will always be under stress of one kind or another. Even the earth moving below or around the surface can cause problems.

This will result in small cracks, holes, depressions, and imperfections in the visible surface. On their own, these defects aren’t a major problem. However, if they are left untreated, they will grow into bigger cracks, potholes, and so on – early detection and remedial work is important. Preventative maintenance will help you avoid larger problems later on.

Here are some things to look for.


One of the most common causes of pavement distress is the ingress of moisture, especially in variable weather conditions.

Surface Drainage water cools and warms up, it’s physical volume will change, causing holes and cracks to develop in the asphalt surface.


To help prevent this, good drainage is essential. Existing drainage systems should be checked every year to confirm they are functioning as intended and contain no blockages. Making sure the pipes are kept free of dirt and other contaminants will aid with this, but in extreme cases, there may be no other solution than to replace the drainage system.


Alligator Cracks

Alligator cracks are cracks in the surface of the asphalt that resemble the skin of an alligator. They are a series of cracks that connect and intersect, causing blocks to separate.

This can be caused by a number of factors, including excessive oxidation of the asphalt, aging of the asphalt, an unstable base, or ingress of water, to name a few.



Reflective Cracks

Another kind of crack to look out for is a “reflective crack”, which matches (or reflects) a crack pattern present in the underlying pavement structure below. The cause of this kind of cracking is the vertical or horizontal movement of the pavement below the asphalt overlay, which may be the base or the sub-base. 

If any crack appears that is wider than half an inch, they should be stripped out and repaved.

Root Damage

As trees and other plants grow, their roots extend further out from their base. Especially common in older paved areas, root damage is caused by these roots extending beneath the asphalt. This will cause the asphalt to rise and break above the root.

This is a safety hazard as it can easily cause tripping, as well as a physical problem that needs addressing. 


Root damage is best repaired by cutting out the entire paved area and removing the root. The base may need repair before a new layer of asphalt is applied. 


Pot-holes are holes that are caused by a weakness in the pavement. There can be a number of causes for this, including an asphalt layer that is too thin, or water ingress through a crack.

If the asphalt is too thin, a new asphalt overlay is the best solution. Continuing to use the surface without an overlay will result in more cracks and pot-holes, making it virtually unusable.

An asphalt overlay is not the cheapest option – filling the holes in would be cheaper – but filling the holes does not tackle the cause of the problem, only temporarily relieves the symptoms.

Before an asphalt overlay is applied, the surface underneath must be prepared. Any loose parts, or parts that are prone to slipping or further cracking, must be made good and solid. Failing to do so will cause the new overlay to slip and crack, or potentially not adhere correctly.

Any access points built into the surface (drain covers, etc) should be raised to match the level of the overlay, and any existing asphalt that is no good should be removed entirely. This can be a lengthy process, but the end result is worth it. You will have a fully serviceable pavement that is as good as new, and will provide many more years of service.


Sealer and Sealcoatingsealcoating your asphalt surface every two or three years, you will help protect it from many of the external factors that can cause damage. While a new overlay can be expensive, sealcoating will only cost pennies per square foot. By

Sealcoating protects the asphalt from damage caused by weather conditions as well as gasoline and oil. A sealcoat that contains sand and latex will significantly improve the surface, with the sand providing skid resistance and latex enhancing the durability of the surface.

Preparation is Important

When you or your community is planning any type of asphalt maintenance or surface treatment, a comprehensive plan should be made beforehand. Giving the residents full details is important, including the details of the work to be completed, the days and times the work is scheduled, and any maps that are relevant to the work being carried out.

You may also need to make them aware of any diversions or new traffic patterns, warn them that any scheduled services that visit their homes may need to be rescheduled, and ensure they have the contact details for the site office in case of any changes or emergencies.

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