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:
- When the temperatures are above freezing, snowmelt or rainwater will make its way into any small cracks in the pavement.
- 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.
- When the weather warms up again, the ice melts and allows water to move even deeper down into the newly expanded crack.
- The cycle then repeats itself, freezing and expanding over again during the next freeze-thaw timeline.