What Harsh Weather Conditions Do to Pavements

Salt Lake City is the second driest state in the country next to Nevada. With semi-arid temperatures and a temperate climate, the city experiences hot and cool temperatures, with wet months in between. On most days, however, the area is in a state of subhumid temperatures.

Temperature inversions in the area can cause inconveniences that extend beyond snow-filled yards and cancelled public transport. Roads suffer from unpredictable weather as well. Asphalt pavement becomes susceptible to cracks and potholes when frequently exposed to fluctuating climates.

The road maintenance crew in your locality might apply asphalt sealing on the pavement to protect it from the elements. Also called sealcoating, this process extends the life of asphalt pavements. But how and why do these cracks appear no matter in spite of rigorous maintenance? Recent studies on this matter show that the real culprit behind road holes and cracks are frequent changes in weather.

Water Damage and Winter Exposure

pavement in winter

Pavements made out of asphalt are generally heavy duty and durable. But repeated exposure to the elements, water, and heat wears it down. The surface of an asphalt pavement repels water, but it’s a different story when the water seeps to its base.

If your pavement has cracks, it is especially susceptible to damage. Water, from rain and from melted snow, can seep through the cracks, reach the base, and compromise the stability of the pavement. Water can dissolve most substances if it stays in place long enough. Because of this, despite the repellant properties of asphalt, it is still susceptible to water damage.

Once water enters the surface of the pavement through the cracks and lies stagnant on its base, erosion develops. It wears down the gravel and the asphalt aggregate that binds it together. When this happens, the stability of the pavement crumbles, causing larger cracks, road holes, pot holes, and soil erosion altogether.

During winter, however, the water that permeated through the surface of the pavement can freeze. And when water freezes, it expands. This is detrimental to the structure of the road from the base upward as ice forms. When expansion happens, water requires 10 percent more of its current occupied space in its solid form. Frozen water in cracks and holes forcibly pushes the pavement up and away to make space for its transition to ice. When that happens, cracks grow and the foundation of the pavement weakens.

To make matters worse, your pavement can go through the freeze-thaw cycle, where this entire process repeats as the climate shifts from cool to warm. When water inside the pavement freezes and thaws in a cycle, it results in greater, likely permanent damage to the asphalt.

The Impact of Heat

Just as water is detrimental to the structural integrity of pavements, extreme heat also weathers it down. Hot weather can cause cracks on the road, resulting in gaps that make the base susceptible to further damage.

Asphalt pavements are sturdy materials that can withstand most weather conditions. But age, frequent usage, and repeated exposure to extreme weather conditions wear down the binding materials that keep the pavement together. Cracks, holes, and erosion are detrimental to roads as these may inadvertently cause accidents.

Knowing the major causes of pavement damage allows you to monitor your exterior premises the road and the repairs needed to maintain it.

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