For many, winter is “the most wonderful time of the year.” For your asphalt pavement however… not so much. Every spring, property owners/managers are surprised to find out the amount and severity of new/worsening damage, hidden under a blanket of snow. The level of changes that can happen to driveways, parking lots, and roadways during the winter is shocking.

The Midwest is notorious for having brutal and seemingly never-ending winters, which most likely won’t change anytime soon. In January of 2019, Illinois broke a 20-year record for lowest temperature with -38° F. Thankfully, our pavement experts at Pavement Solutions have over 30 years of experience in working with some of the United States’ harshest winter climate.

Here are some things you should consider when it comes to preserving the integrity and longevity of your asphalt investment:

Freeze / Thaw Weather Cycle

Freeze-thaw weather cycles are the real culprit when it comes to winter asphalt damage. The fluctuations in temperature causes moisture to freeze and melt continuously. When water freezes and turns into ice, it expands in size. When this happens inside existing cracks on asphalt surfaces, the pavement stretches further than it can handle. The constant expansion and contraction wears down the asphalt at an accelerated pace and shortens the lifespan of your investment. What starts as minor crumbling, turns into cracks, and then eventually graduates into potholes. Damage caused by freeze-thaw will also show itself in faded pavement markings and line-striping, as well as pavement fading to grey that was once jet black.

The freeze-thaw process:

  1. When the temperatures are above freezing, snowmelt or rainwater will make its way into any small cracks in the pavement.
  2. As temps. drop back down to below freezing, the water within the cracked pavement turns into ice and expands 10% in volume, forcing the asphalt to crumble and the cracks to expand/grow.
  3. When the weather warms up again, the ice melts and allows water to move even deeper down into the newly expanded crack.
  4. The cycle then repeats itself, freezing and expanding over again during the next freeze-thaw timeline.

What you can do:

  • The drainage system, both above and below an asphalt pavement surface, is crucial for maximizing the years of usability. Adjusting the slope on your pavement may be necessary to effectively direct water runoff to a catch basin. Furthermore, installing drain-tile piping helps tremendously with preventing frost heave by removing water from the subgrade and base layers of the asphalt pavement.
  • Cracksealing should happen at least every 2 years in order to preserve your pavement from damage. This offers a hefty safety net from water entering cracks and into the base/subgrade of the asphalt pavement.
Frost Heave

Asphalt pavement that has existing problems within the surface and sub-base will show the effects of winter asphalt damage first. Freezing temperatures cause the water that has seeped below the pavement’s surface to freeze and expand. Which then causes the surface to buckle, shift, and lift upwards, which is also known as “frost heave.”

Frost heave significantly jeopardizes the structural integrity of the asphalt surface. Parking lots, driveways, walkways, and roadways that settle unevenly from frost heaves are unsafe and unattractive. Frost heaves occur below the pavement and are a direct result of freezing temperatures + improper maintenance + improper drainage.

What you can do:

  • Infrared Repair options may be necessary if the asphalt pavement damages require immediate attention, pose a serious safety risk, just can’t wait until the springtime, or all the above.
  • If soil is present, all frost must be removed before ice structures even have a chance to start forming in the parking lot, driveway, or roadway.
  • Get rid of all standing water before freezing conditions start, if possible.
Snow Removal

Asphalt is the most common material chosen for high traffic parking lotsdriveways, and roadways because of its durability. However, sometimes snowplowing can push the limits and lead to major damage. Snowplows are a necessity in the Midwest, and are made to be used without damaging the surface underneath. But if the asphalt is already in a questionable condition, the uneven surface and potholes will only get worse from the plow scraping at them.

If all debris wasn’t cleaned from your asphalt pavement before the snow hit, there’s a high chance for worsening damage. Large pieces of debris frozen to the asphalt will cause major issues with snowplows and won’t bode well for your lot. Chunks of asphalt can get torn from the surface, which gives water another way to penetrate beneath the pavement.

What you can do:

  • Staking edge markers along all curbs, landscaped areas, sidewalks, and walkways is an easy-yet-effective way to avoid damages and to notify the snow removal service of which areas to steer clear of.
  • Be sure to do your research when choosing a snow removal service, hire a professional! Do they use a polyurethane or rubber cutting edge on their plow blades in order to soften the blow on your asphalt? Do they keep their plow blades a 1/2 inch above the surface?

What you can do:

  • Staking edge markers along all curbs, landscaped areas, sidewalks, and walkways is an easy-yet-effective way to avoid damages and to notify the snow removal service of which areas to steer clear of.
  • Be sure to do your research when choosing a snow removal service, hire a professional! Do they use a polyurethane or rubber cutting edge on their plow blades in order to soften the blow on your asphalt? Do they keep their plow blades a 1/2 inch above the surface?

While there are preventative ways to protect pavement from winter’s worsts, there’s a high possibility that your pavement will require maintenance/repairs after a brutal winter. Pavement Solutions, LLC takes all necessary measures to ensure that your asphalt and concrete surface investments will continue to give you use for decades to come.

We offer commercial and residential concrete & asphalt paving, maintenance, and repair services in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Check out our Service Areas to see if you’re in our territory! Request a free estimate or call us for one today.

Posted by C. Butler on 2/4/20