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Our Midwest seasonal freezing and thawing cycle is brutal on pavement. This winter brought wide temperature swings, and we’re just now starting to see the damage. It’s not just the temperatures that are to blame for springtime potholes. De-icing materials (like commercial-grade rock salt) compromise protective sealcoating and breakdown asphalt and concrete over time.
Pavement Damage Caused By Freezing, Thawing and De-icing
Take a quick springtime walk just about anywhere right now and you’ll see driveways heaving, curbs splitting, and roads pitted with potholes. See if you can spot any of the following in your neighborhood.
Heaving is caused by water getting underneath the asphalt into the aggregate. When temperatures drop, water freezes and causes the asphalt to heave upward. The heaving creates gaps that can cause additional damage to pavement and even to building structures. Severe heaving can actually stop doors from opening and closing properly.
Raveling happens when pavement thaws and tiny holes allow water to seep in. Unsealed asphalt absorbs water like a sponge. The water then freezes in the cracks. Without sealer, the water penetrates and causes the aggregate mix of little stones and sand to come loose. If you’ve got areas of loose gravel on your driveway or community parking area -you’ve probably got raveling.
Open cracks indicate that water has seeped all the way down into your asphalt and that the base underneath is likely wet. Open cracks are formed by (you guessed it) freezing and thawing. Little cracks can grow up to be potholes.
Named for its resemblance to scaly reptile skin, alligator (also called crocodile) cracking is a series of cracks that begin with longitudinally and are then connected by transversely. This condition indicates the pavement can no longer tolerate the weight of vehicle traffic. If you see this in your community you will need to replace that section of asphalt entirely. Patching alligator cracking is not a viable long-term solution.
Potholes get all the attention because they can bust tires and swallow small pets whole. They’re caused by ice and snow melting as part of our seasonal freezing and thawing cycle. Water gets into a small hole in the pavement, and as temperatures fall, that water freezes, expands, and forces the pavement to rise. As traffic flows over the raised pavement, a depression is made, the pavement cracks, and a pothole is born.
Sinkholes Near Catch Basins
Catch basins (or storm sewers) take surface water into the storm drains to prevent flooding. They also take a lot of abuse, including being clogged with debris and developing adjacent sinkholes. Salt, freeze/thaw cycles and heavy traffic are to blame. It’s important to note that a sinkhole is a sign of a damaged catch basin and poses a liability to your HOA (Home Owner’s Association). You’ll need a reliable contractor to assess the severity of your sinkhole in order to determine one of several possible repair options.
Booking Pavement Projects For Summer
Once you’ve assessed the damage, it’s important to get organized. Paving contractors start getting busy around mid-April. You’ll want to begin talking to them early to get on their schedule for a summer project.
Make sure to ask:
- Are you familiar with ADA requirements for our local village/community?
- Will you help us pull permits?
- Do you guarantee your work?
- Can you provide references?
- Can we see examples of your work?
Pro Tip: Make sure you ask to see work that is at least 2-3 years old so you can see how it’s wearing.
No matter who you decide to work with, it’s important to tackle your problems immediately. Letting them go will only create bigger, more expensive problems next year. Contact us to take a look at the condition of your pavement and provide helpful advice.