Asphalt Paving Blog

Identifying and Repairing Asphalt: Types Of Pavement Damage

asphalt parking lotsYour asphalt is going to see a lot of use; and regular maintenance will help it last longer, make your property safer and worth more. Regularly inspecting your asphalt and identifying and repairing cracks, divots, and rutting can greatly extend your pavement's useful life. When asphalt driveways, roads, parking lots and trails are properly maintained, they have a useful life between 15 and 20 years. When they are not properly maintained, the surface will start to deteriorate within 3 to 5 years visibly.

The challenges your asphalt will face will vary on your location, weather, the subbase under your property, and a few other miscellaneous elements. Being able to recognize problems early and getting them fixed right away will save you a lot of time and money. So we've compiled a list of types of pavement damage so you can get a basic understand of what to look out for and how to fix it.

Click Below To Jump To A Section You'd Like To Learn More About:


Types Of Pavement Cracking

Block Cracking

Block cracking can be identified by squares or circles of cracks in your asphalt pavement. This condition is indicative of the pavement installer using old mix or mix that was too dry when the asphalt surface was laid and typically appear two to three years after installation. Block cracking does not extend into the sub-layers, which means thin overlays or surface treatments can seal the cracks, restore the integrity of the asphalt and help prevent future cracking.

Edge Cracking

Edge cracks are cracks that appear along the outside edges of the pavement. They are typically long and run in the direction of the road. These cracks are caused by the soil under the road drying and shrinking, poor drainage, heavy vegetation along the outside edge road and excessive traffic.

Edge cracks can be filled with your choice of asphalt crack seal or asphalt emulsion. When repairing edge cracks, drainage around the asphalt should be improved, and all vegetation should be removed from the edges of the paved surface.

Fatigue Cracking

Fatigue cracking is also known as alligator cracking. It is characterized by numerous small cracks in a localized area that resemble the skin of an alligator. This type of cracking indicates a flaw in the design or installation of the asphalt surface, chronic excessive loads or poor drainage combined with dramatic temperature fluctuations.

Because this type of cracking indicates a fundamental flaw with every layer of the asphalt from the surface to the stabilizing sub-layers, we recommend full-depth patches, strengthening and restoring the integrity of the surface and preventing future cracking in the area.

Linear and Transverse Cracking

Linear cracking also known as linear or longitudinal cracking occurs along the joints of the pavement. When asphalt is laid across large surfaces, it is typically done in strips or sections. If the joints between the two sections are improperly constructed, cracks form. Additional reasons include shrinkage of the asphalt surface, large, daily temperature fluctuations combined with excess water in and around the surface and cracks in one or more of the sub-layers.

To prevent water from seeping into the asphalt and underlying layers, drainage should be improved around the surface. The cracks should be filled with a combination of asphalt and sand or emulsion slurry.

Reflection Cracking

Reflection cracking is cracking along the surface of the pavement that mirrors sub-layer cracking, the sub-layer joints or shifting in the sub-layers. These cracks are straight and sometimes form a grid across the surface of the pavement.

We recommend filling these cracks with sealants and asphalt fill mixtures to prevent moisture from breaching the surface and causing more damage.

Slippage Cracks

Slippage cracks look like the asphalt is slipping along the surface of the pavement. They are characterized by wrinkles and deep open gaps. This type of cracking occurs when the top layer fails to adhere correctly to the layer beneath it and/or too much sand was used in the asphalt mix.

Slippage cracks need either full or partial depth patches, depending on the severity of the crack and amount of slippage along the surface.

Need help with any of the problems above? Get a free estimate today!




Corrugations are characterized by lumps and bumps in the paved surface. These deformities are caused by pavement mixtures that are excessively high in asphalt and contamination and moisture in the base. They can also occur if a paving installer uses the wrong grade of asphalt for the intended surface.

Corrugations usually appear a few years after installation and can only be repaired by cutting out the affected areas and applying full-depth patches.



Pavement rutting is characterized by indentations along the wheel paths of cars. It is caused by compression of the surface layers, insufficient compaction during install and/or moisture infiltration. It is aggravated by heavy traffic. Rutting is typically repaired by applying cold mill and an overlay or a thin surface patch to fill in and level the roadway.


Grade Depressions

Grade depressions are characterized by sections of the pavement settling lower than the surrounding pavement. These can be identified easily after a rain shower because water pools in the depressions. Depressions are caused by the lower layers settling or failing and improper installation of the surface.

Grade depressions appear over time and are repaired with overlay or infrared patches and cold mill.



how to fill a potholePotholes are a common occurrence in Midwest. They occur when previous pavement damage, including cracks, patch failures, swelling, or rutting, has been left to worsen. Cracks and other pavement damage allow water and other fluids to enter the pavement and expand, contract and freeze, depending on the weather.

This constant expansion and contraction of the water causes cracks to turn into potholes. Heavy traffic, salting and snow removal aggravates pothole damage, creating a hazard for your car. Pothole damage is more apparent in the spring and early summer than at any other time. This is because the ice, snow and salt effectively filled the potholes during the winter. When the ice melts and salt is washed away from spring rains and thawing, the pocked and potted roads become apparent. Until those potholes are repaired, it’s important that you remain vigilant by watching your speed and avoiding potholes when you can. Large potholes can pop tires, bend rims, damage your suspension and cause alignment problems.

Depending on the severity of the potholes, they can be patched, filled or cut out and replaced with full-depth patches. We prefer to use our custom mixed cold mix asphalt for filling and repairing potholes because it works well in all temperatures and can be used in wet, dry, cold or hot weather. It can even be used to fill potholes that contain water.

how to fill a potholeIf the potholes are small, they can be easily filled with our cold mix, and the repair can be pressed and flatted until it is level with the road. If the hole is exceptionally large or there are several potholes in the same area, the entire section of pavement may need to be cut out and a larger repair may be needed.

Want to learn how to fill a pothole yourself? Download our free eBook!

Our eBook covers:

  • Why potholes form
  • The eight step repair and fill process
  • Pothole prevention
  • The importance of pothole repair and maintenance
Get your eBook on how to properly fill a pothole or contact us and we'll help you out!


Asphalt Pavement Swells

Shrinking and expanding soil beneath the paved surface cause pavement swells. This typically occurs when the paved surface rests above soils that contain minerals and clay that are dramatically affected by fluctuations in humidity and moisture content. As the air around the asphalt surface becomes dryer, moisture from the soil is reduced, causing the soil to shrink. Additionally, on wet, rainy and humid days, soil moisture increases, causing the dirt to expand.

Pavement swells can also occur when water freezes within the soil and creates frost heaves. As the soil shrinks and expands under your asphalt pavement, it causes the surface to shift, which results in cracked, wrinkling and bulging sections. This type of damage should be repaired as soon as it is located to prevent further damage and the need to replace the surface completely.

Since pavement swells are directly related to the underlying soil’s susceptibility to moisture and water, they can only be corrected by cutting out the damaged area of pavement and installing a full-depth patch.

pothole patching

Patch Failures

Patches are designed to fix damaged pavement. Unfortunately, improperly installed patches and deterioration of the surrounding pavement, combined with harsh weather, can reduce the patch's useful life.

When an asphalt pavement patch failure occurs, the previous patch must be cut out of the pavement and the edges of the hole smoothed and made ready for a new patch. Deep or full surface patches are typically used to fill the hole, smooth the area and prevent future damage.



Weathering refers to the daily temperature and moisture fluctuations that your paved surface experiences daily. When asphalt pavement is first laid, it is a deep, rich black. This indicates that the pavement is moist and flexible and resistant to water and chemical penetration.

Over time, sunlight, daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations, and exposure to chemicals and liquids breaks down the asphalt surface and fads the pavement's color. As the pavement breaks down, it becomes more susceptible to cracks, divots and potholes.

By properly maintaining your asphalt surface, you will be extending its useful life. Proper maintenance includes sealcoating your driveway, parking lot or road every two to three years. It requires identifying cracks and potholes and having them filled and sealed, and it involves knowing when to replace the surface.



Raveling of asphalt parking lots, roads, driveways and paths occur when:

  • The asphalt pavement binder has excessively hardened
  • The mixture used to pave the road was of poor quality.

When these two things occur, the roadway or paved surface is more susceptible to hot and cold temperatures, sunlight, rain, and ice, which deteriorates the surface faster than normal rate.

Raveling usually only affects the surface of the asphalt pavement and can be repaired by using an overlay treatment to smooth and seal the road.



Bleeding is also known as flushing. This type of pavement damage is caused when an asphalt binder leaks through the surface of the pavement, creating a black, shiny coating. This leaked or bleeding material quickly becomes sticky and messy, and it can create excessively slick areas during rainstorms.

Asphalt binders bleed through the surface of the pavement when too much asphalt is used in the construction mix, excessive sealant is used in cracks and joints and when seal coating is improperly mixed. Heavy traffic aggravates asphalt bleeding and can create ruts and bleeding along tire tracks.

Bleeding can be corrected by applying a coarse sand mixture across the paved surface to soak up and remove the excess binding material. If the bleeding is excessive, the roadway's surface may need to be removed, using a motor grader, and resurfaced.


Polished Aggregate

When soft aggregate is used to create asphalt pavement, such as river rock, the small stones start to polish under heavy traffic and tire wear. This can create a slick surface that becomes dangerous in wet, snowy or icy conditions.

Fixing polished aggregate can be accomplished by applying a non-stick slurry seal, BST or an overlay treatment. We do not recommend the use of fog treatments to correct polished aggregate damage.


Surface Treatment Aggregate Loss

Surface treatment loss of aggregate occurs when the asphalt is not spread and compressed immediately after spreading or is left to cool to a temperature that is not optimal. It can also occur if the installation company used a compressor with a steel roller instead of pneumatic tire rollers. This can be corrected by laying and spreading a hot, coarse sand mixture and compressing the mixture with a pneumatic tire roller instead of a steel wheel roller.


Need help with anything on this list? Give us a call! At Wolf Paving, we build asphalt solutions designed to look better and last longer. Get a free estimate here or call us at 262-965-2121 for the Milwaukee and Oconomowoc area, or 608-249-7931 for the Madison and Sun Prairie.

Want to learn more about Wolf Paving before you get in touch? Learn about our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.

asphalt project planning guide

Topics: Asphalt Pavement, crack filling