Big Three Enemies of Asphalt - Blog

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Big Three Enemies of Asphalt

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When I talk to customers, the question of “what causes the most harm to an asphalt surface?” comes up quite often. While there are several things that can harm asphalt, there are three enemies of asphalt that are the most common: water, overloading, oxidation.

Water itself is not bad, but standing water on an asphalt surface accelerates the breakdown of the asphalt.  The water is absorbed into the base layer and with cold weather, the water will freeze and thaw which can causes damage to the asphalt.  This problem can be solved by making sure the asphalt has proper drainage by either pitching the surface or installing some type of drain to catch the water and run it off.

Another enemy of asphalt is overloading.  Asphalt pavement is designed to handle a particular amount of weight.  There are two elements to the strength of an asphalt surface: aggregate base and asphalt.  Base usually consists of 6-12” of limestone aggregate and is the back bone of any asphalt parking lot.  The asphalt usually consists of 2-4” and is the wearing surface.  If too much weight is put on the asphalt, it flexes beyond what it’s capable of and starts to crack and rut.  It’s important to design the asphalt parking area to meet the traffic flow.  A shopping center parking lot will need a heavy duty specification for the high traffic flow, while a driveway only needs a basic specification for parked cars.  It’s important to talk to your contractor and decide what is needed for your specific application.

The final enemy of asphalt is oxidation.  Oxidation is the process of the sun “cooking” the asphalt cement (tar) out of the surface.  The asphalt cement is what binds all the aggregate together.  Not enough asphalt cement, the stone and sand start to come apart and you end up with just gravel.  Oxidation will happen no matter what, but you can slow the process down by seal coating your asphalt surface on a regular basis, typically every 2-4 years.  Seal coating can double the life of an asphalt drive.

Water, overloading, oxidation are the three big enemies of asphalt.  All three can be overcome with proper planning, design and maintenance of your asphalt surface.

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