Asphalt Pavement

Asphalt pavement is an integral part of a property. Its condition directly reflects upon the ideology of Management and the Board of Directors. Through a regular maintenance program, asphalt pavement will maintain functionality and achieve a standard useful life.

Asphalt pavement is a system of materials comprised of aggregates (stone, sand, gravel) and asphalt compacted under high pressure to form a solid, but flexible driving surface. Asphalt is the binder, or glue, that holds together the aggregates that comprise the layers of the asphalt pavement system. Overtime, a process called oxidation, which is the natural chemical degradation of materials, hardens the glue that holds the aggregates together. This hardening causes the pavement system to lose its designed flexibility. Therefore, the pavement becomes brittle.

Brittle pavement is susceptible to distress in the form of cracks (especially near the surface where the pavement is in constant contact with oxygen) under traffic loads. The magnitude of the cracking is minuscule at first, but overtime the cracks increase in size. As crack sizes increase, pavement deteriorates at an accelerated rate due to greater surface area exposed to the atmosphere and loss of compaction.

The rate of deterioration increases for two reasons. First, the presence of cracks increases the surface area of pavement exposed to the oxygen filled atmosphere. This results in more oxidation per unit area than uncracked concrete. Second, cracks allow precipitation to infiltrate into the pavement. Depending on the size of the cracks, the precipitation may propagate to the base course or sub-grade and begin subsurface erosion. In many regions, precipitation occurs in conjunction with freeze and thaw cycles that exacerbate deterioration of pavement through expansion and contraction. Expansion and contraction is form of repetitious loading.

Asphalt pavement becomes even more brittle under repetitious traffic loads. This concept is similar to bending a paper clip at the same location repeatedly. At first the paper clip is difficult to bend, but successive bends weaken the paper clip until it eventually breaks. Unlike the paper clip, the successive traffic loads to asphalt pavement cause the cracks to become larger resulting in increased deterioration.

Pavement deteriorates at various rates. However, a standard progression of deterioration is usually observable. First, small surface cracks appear. Then as the age, use, and exposure to the natural elements continues, the asphalt pavement exhibits larger cracks, multiple cracks (alligator cracks), and then potholes. Given enough time, nearly all asphalt pavement will reach this point. The ability to achieve a long useful life for asphalt pavement is a preventive maintenance program.

Seal coat applications are the most common maintenance procedure conducted. A seal coat application is a preventive maintenance surface treatment (usually comprised of asphalt, water, and emulsifying agent) placed atop asphalt pavement to combat the natural deterioration and weatherization of the asphalt. This material has the ability to fill in small cracks and protect the surface from oxidation. Larger cracks require special attention prior to seal coat application.

Crack repairs are often conducted in conjunction with seal coat applications. Crack repairs vary depending on the width of the crack. Regardless of crack width, surface preparation is required prior to commencing repair. Surface repair involves removal of loose debris, dirt, and asphalt chunks. For cracks less than ¼”, a relatively fluid material is used to fill the crack such as caulk. For cracks greater than ¼’ but less than ½”, a more viscous material than caulk is used to fill the crack. Cracks greater than ½” require an asphalt patch cold or hot mix (if large) patch.

Asphalt pavement that receives regular maintenance reflects positively on the Board of Directors, maintains property values, and increases membership moral. Make sure your property conducts this time proven investment.

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