Asphalt is known for its durability. It is used for both commercial and residential property, and it can generally weather a variety of conditions and last for about 25 years. However, even the best-laid asphalt is susceptible to damage over time. The asphalt can deteriorate, due to either normal wear and tear or to other causes.
Improper construction includes poor drainage and asphalt that is over or under compacted. The longevity of your asphalt can also fail if it was applied at an improper temperature. A compacted base underneath the asphalt that is insufficient or improperly placed can also cause damage.
Sunlight creates oxidation that can dry out liquid asphalt. The oxidation breaks down the asphalt and causes it to lose its flexibility. This exposure can cause the asphalt to ravel and shrink, and water can then make its way below the surface.
Water—especially excessive water—can penetrate the asphalt and wash out the base underneath. This can cause cracking that leads to a breakdown of the material and can ultimately cause it to collapse. If you live in an area with high precipitation or a proclivity for storms, water damage even more likely.
When rainwater falls onto a sloped surface, the soil on the slope can erode. This erosion is especially common when the asphalt is applied near or creek or river. The erosion can cause the asphalt to sink, due to the change in its foundation.
Exposure to Chemicals or Petroleum
Gas, oil, and other chemicals that come into contact with the asphalt can soften its surface, which makes it break down more quickly.
As trees grow, the roots apply pressure on different parts of the asphalt. Tree roots grow at will, and it can be difficult to anticipate the direction of their movement. When the pressure builds high enough, the asphalt will break.
While natural disasters like earthquakes are often considered the most detrimental ground movements, yearly movements are actually the most damaging. Every year, the ground constantly shifts as the seasons change. Frost accumulates in the winter and thaws in the spring, with the former substance placing pressure on the asphalt and the latter accumulating on the surface and underneath. These shifts can cause cracks and potholes, and expansion below the asphalt causes it to move.
Clay soil is flexible and therefore adjusts itself to the weather. It shrinks during dry spells and swells when the rains are heavy. If you have clay soil under your asphalt, this adjustment can put pressure on the surface, especially during inclement weather.
Proper maintenance lowers the likelihood of asphalt damage. No matter the cause of the damage, keeping an eye on the condition of your asphalt will make you more aware of any problems. Some culprits, such as gas and oil can be avoided, while others like sunlight and ground movements are outside of your control. The best way to ensure the longevity of your asphalt is to hire a quality construction team and to call on them for scheduled and unforeseen maintenance.