What To Do When You See Alligator Cracking In Asphalt
Fatigue cracking, which is also known as 'alligator' cracking, is one of the most common ways that asphalt pavement can deteriorate over time. The cracking patterns caused are extremely distinctive and resemble the scales on a reptile's back or the cracking you'd see if you dropped a hard-boiled egg.
Unfortunately, alligator cracking is also one of the most serious problems that an asphalt surface can develop, especially if it's allowed to go without repair.
The Causes Of Alligator Cracking
Unlike surface-level asphalt damage, fatigue cracking is almost always caused by problems beneath the asphalt in the underlying layers. Simply put, alligator cracking happens when the pavement is carrying burdens that the supporting structure can't hold up.
As with any surface, put enough pressure on asphalt and it will crack.
Before You Start
Laying asphalt without properly preparing the sub-base will usually result in surface damage and alligator cracks. This is one of the main reasons that proper consultation with an experienced asphalt-paving contractor is vital when laying asphalt pavement.
1 The preparations needed for an asphalt pavement surface to support passenger cars on a driveway are totally different from what's needed to hold heavy loads, like cargo trailers, on a parking lot surface.
2 A reputable contractor will be able to discuss your specific project needs and provide an expert opinion on what is needed for the project repair.
However, cracking can also be caused by cold-weather damage, which is a significant problem here in the Midwest. Heavy thaws can flood the base of asphalt, deteriorating the substructure and reducing its strength. Repeated freezes and thaws will make the problem even worse.
Either way, once alligator cracking begins, it will not stop without proper asphalt repair.
How To Treat Alligator Cracking
As a general rule, whenever you see any cracks appear in your asphalt, the first thing you should do is apply crack filler or sealcoating, weather permitting, to try to halt the further spread of damage.
We also strongly advise keeping traffic away from the affected area, if at all possible. While there's little chance of vehicles being damaged except in the worst cases, every vehicle passing over the weakened area will damage the asphalt surface further.
Either way, we cannot stress enough that these are only stop-gap measures ... Digging down to discover the underlying problems, then strengthening the asphalt's base, is the only long-term asphalt repair solution. This requires trained experts.
The Correct Way To Repair Alligator Cracking
If your asphalt pavement surface is in need of repair, here are the general steps a reputable asphalt pavement contractor should follow. As always, each unique project is different, but follow this guide to help ensure your bases are covered.
Evaluate the Source of the Problem. To best determine the scope of required repairs, a contractor should evaluate the damage and diagnose the best repair options based on your needs and your budget.
Evaluate the Sub-Base. Typically, alligator cracking is caused by damage or deteriorating of the asphalt sub-base. Evaluating the installation of the sub-base and how to modify it appropriately is important.
Remove Damaged Areas. If possible, an asphalt paving crew can remove the damaged section of asphalt and replace it with a properly installed sub-base and fresh asphalt surface.
Repair the Entire Surface. In some cases, the best and most cost-effective choice is to replace the entire surface. This way the sub-base can be installed appropriately to ensure alligator cracking does not occur again. A new asphalt surface will often provide 20+ years of durability, meaning you won't have to worry about your driveway or parking lot for a long time!
Original article, by Wolf Paving of Milwaukee, Wisconsin