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Asphalt Paving Blog

Identifying and Repairing Asphalt Pavement: Post 1 of 3

Cracks in the Road

cracks_in_pavementRegularly inspecting your asphalt and identifying and repairing cracks, divots and rutting can greatly extend the useful life of your pavement. When asphalt driveways, sidewalks, 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 visibly deteriorate within 3 to 5 years.

Common Pavement Problems

  • Cracks
  • Divots and lumps
  • Potholes
  • Rutting and depressions
  • Surface slippage

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.


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.

 Edge Cracks

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, which strengthen and restore the integrity of the surface and prevent future cracking in the area.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Identifying types of cracks and the appropriate method for repair can be a critical step in extending the life of your asphalt driveway, parking lot or roadway. By having your pavement regularly inspected by an experienced professional for cracks and identifying needs for repair and resealing, you will extend its life and decrease your long-term maintenance costs.

What methods are you using to address asphalt cracking and take the necessary steps for repair?

For more information on Wolf Paving or to request a detailed quote for your next paving project contact one of our two offices. If you live or work in the Milwaukee area, call us at 262-965-2121. For the Madison area, call us at 608-249-7931. We have been in business for more than 70 years.


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Topics: Asphalt Pavement, crack filling