Imagine dropping a hard-boiled egg. Now, imagine the scales on the back of an alligator.
They’re pretty similar, right? The underlying surface appears to be intact, but it’s riddled with hairline fractures that damage its appearance.
Look out at your sidewalk, driveway, patio or parking lot. Does it look similar?
Though it’s not what anyone expects when they pour brand-new asphalt, this issue, known as alligator cracking, is more common than you think. It’s also more serious.
The good news? It’s repairable! Yet, you’ll need to perform the right steps to make sure your new pavement functions properly and looks great when you’re done.
Today, we’re sharing what to do when you first see those telltale crevices. Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
What Causes Alligator Cracking?
Before we get into how to repair your cracked asphalt, let’s review how it got there in the first place.
Alligator cracking is also known as fatigue cracking. It occurs when there are issues with the material beneath your top layer of asphalt. Over time, this material can buckle when too much weight or stress is placed upon it.
Visualize a human pyramid.
At first, everything is in place and all appears to be going smoothly. Yet, if the people on the very top start juggling, riding bikes, or otherwise straining those on the bottom, it doesn’t take long for the system to break.
This cracking can also happen as a result of cold-weather damage. When snow or ice on top of asphalt thaws, the water can flood its base. In turn, this damages and weakens the sub-structure.
This is especially common in the northern United States, where repeat weather events occur during the winter.
Preventing It From the Onset
Are you pouring a new asphalt drive? If so, you have time to take precautions that can mitigate against alligator cracking.
Begin by making sure the sub-base is as prepared as possible. To do so, you’ll need to take your use case into consideration.
Are you paving a driveway at your home? If so, you can work with your paving contractor to ensure the asphalt is suited to hold the weight of passenger cars.
Conversely, you’ll need to take different precautions if you’re paving a parking lot that may see traffic from heavy loads including semi-trucks and cargo trailers.
Your contractor can take these needs into account and help guide you toward an appropriate solution. When your base is solid from the get-go and able to support the constant pressure it receives, your chance of fatigue cracking diminishes.
How to Treat the Cracking
What should you do when you first notice alligator cracking in your asphalt? If the weather permits, apply a crack filler or seal coating solution to prevent further damage.
During this time, keep traffic away from the affected spot.
Though it’s unlikely that the damaged surface would pose a safety concern to vehicles that drive on top of it, that extra weight they hold can hurt the asphalt even further.
While these coatings are great first-step measures, they act as stop-gaps until experts can perform an official repair. Your paving contractor will need to dig into the asphalt to identify the underlying problem.
Then, the next step includes strengthening the base of the surface to fortify it from the inside out. Here are the basic steps your contractor will perform to repair and restore your cracked asphalt.
Identify and Evaluate the Problem
Your contractor will first identify the source of the issue. Then, they’ll discuss what needs to be done to fix it and what your repair options are based on your situation and your budget.
Assess the Sub-Base
Most likely, the cracks you’re seeing are caused by a foundational issue in the sub-base of your asphalt. It could be damaged, deteriorating, or both. The only way to know for sure is to take a deep dive inside.
Your contractor will assess the sub-base installation and discuss with you ways to modify and improve it.
Removing Damaged Sections
Is your asphalt cracking in certain places? If so, your contractor may be able to remove these sections from your surface altogether without requiring a total surface overhaul.
With those pieces out, the contractor can then install a new sub-base in the correct manner and top it with fresh asphalt.
Repairing the Surface
If the cracking is more widespread, it could be in the best interest of your property (and pocketbook) to repair the entire thing all at once, rather than working in patches as the years go by.
If you’re noticing cracks in one spot, it’s only a matter of time before that compromised foundation affects the remaining area.
If you replace the whole sub-base, you can ensure against future damage. When installed correctly, a fresh asphalt surface can last 20 years or more, making the return well worth the investment.
Turn Your Cracked Asphalt New Again
No one wants to look outside and see a patchwork of cracks all along their blacktop.
If you’ve noticed alligator cracking in yours, it’s time to act. Any delays can exacerbate the problem and make it more difficult, expensive and time-consuming to treat down the road.
Looking for a professional paving contractor that can take the reins for you?
That’s where we come in.
We’re Maryland’s top choice for asphalt and concrete paving, seal coating, patio construction and more. We’re certified and experienced to handle any project, from household walkways to government facilities.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help, and we’ll send that alligator packing.