What Happens to Asphalt During the Winter?

Your asphalt surface has many enemies, a primary one being sunlight. But winter—even if the sun barely shows itself—brings its own set of problems for your driveway and/or parking lot. Winter weather can be hard on asphalt, which is why it is important to do what you can to protect your surface.

How Winter Affects Asphalt

Here are the main ways that the year’s coldest season can cause problems with your asphalt:

1. Low temperatures can lead to cracking.

Asphalt looks tough. It is tough. But Mother Nature is tougher. When the temperature drops low enough, it can cause the material in your driveway to contract. The contractions can lead to cracking. Every crack results in a weakening of the surface. As the cracks add up they will cause weakening and speed up the degradation of the material. If left unrepaired, these cracks can cause your driveway to fail sooner than it would otherwise, resulting in costly replacement.

2. Freezing and thawing steadily degrade the surface.

Water and the freeze-thaw cycle are responsible for breaking down mountains all across the planet. Just a little water seeping into a crack, then freezing—which causes the water to expand—is enough to wedge apart the toughest stone. So it is no surprise that this process can tear about an asphalt surface as well.

Of course, for the freezing water to do real damage, it needs a crack to penetrate the surface. That is why professionals recommend you have all cracks in your surface repaired sooner rather than later. Getting a crack filled is relatively quick and affordable. You just want to make sure it is done right. The type of filler and the way it is applied needs to be based on factors like what your surface is composed of and the climate where you are located.

3. Deicers can damage surfaces.

There are a variety of deicing products available that do a great job of melting ice and snow. However, some of these products are capable of damaging certain asphalt surfaces. That is why you should consult a professional in your area about what type of deicer you should use, and how much of it should be applied. It is a good idea to be sparing with deicer anyway for environmental reasons, but this is especially true if you want to avoid degrading your driveway and parking lot.

4. Snow plows can cause damage.

Most professional snow plow operators know to set their plows at a level high enough to avoid scraping the smooth, hard surface underneath the snow. But mistakes happen, and not every snow plow is run by a professional. It is possible for a plow to scrape off the protective layer on top of the driveway and/or parking lot, exposing the subsurface to the ravages of UV rays, water seepage and more.

5. Melting snow can cause rapid water accumulation.

When enough snow falls and then melts, it can lead to pooling and runoff which can create problems with your asphalt and the areas surrounding it. The heat retention of the material causes melting more quickly than many other surfaces, so you can wind up with a lot of water in a short period of time. The water can wear away at any cracks or exposed areas and can carry contaminants into the nearby environment.

One relatively new solution to this problem is porous asphalt. The porousness of the material allows up to 70% of the water to travel through the surface and into a layer of small stones below. Then the water is absorbed into the ground much like it would be on a bare, natural surface.

Repair Winter Damage

If your driveway and/or parking lot have sustained damage due to cold winter weather, or if you want to minimize damage from existing damage or potholes, please contact us. The Roadbuilders team is ready to help with your repairs and asphalt paving needs!

Horton Admin