What Winter is Doing to Your Asphalt Right Now


As many property owners and managers know, Ohio winters can have a devastating effect on asphalt. Many prepare for the icy weather by having necessary work done to their drives and parking lots before temperatures begin to drop, while others choose to wait until spring and then have the needed repairs done. Why does winter cause so much damage to asphalt pavement?

Asphalt is formulated to withstand moderately significant temperature changes, making it a preferable option to concrete in climates where winters are exceedingly cold. The formation of ice on particularly frigid days is what causes the breakdown of asphalt. The more freezes and thaws in a season, the more destruction there will be.

This phenomenon is called the freeze-thaw cycle, and it is one of the main reasons you’ll notice hasty patching jobs on roads and parking lots when it starts to get warm again. Water seeps into the cracks in asphalt and collects in the ground under the base materials. In moderate weather, this isn’t particularly damaging. When temperatures drop, however, the freezing of the water and its subsequent expansion enlarges any breaks in or beneath the pavement. Every freeze-thaw cycle that occurs progressively damages both cracks and weak areas beneath the asphalt base. This sounds like it would have a very gradual effect on a material as sturdy as asphalt. In actuality, water expands approximately 10% upon freezing and exerts over 30,000 psi during the process. Native Ohioans are very familiar with the shocking amount of damage that can be done to roads and parking lots over the course of a single winter.

While freeze-thaw damage can’t be prevented completely, regular maintenance such as routine sealcoating to seal moisture out of the asphalt, adequate slope and drain installation to prevent moisture from collecting on the pavement’s surface, and similar measures will minimize damage and prolong the time between repairs.

Most Paving wishes you a happy holiday season, and we look forward to working with you in the coming year.