How Temperature Affects Your Asphalt, And What You Can Do About It

You already know the trick to getting a tight lid off a jar, right? Just run the jar under warm to hot water for a little while and it will loosen up enough that you can pull the lid off with ease. While that is a useful tip for jams and jellies, the fact that materials expand with heat and contract with cold isn't always a good thing – especially when it comes to asphalt maintenance. Continue reading to learn more about how the climate affects your asphalt and what you can do to prevent it.

Changes Throughout the Year

Mild temperature changes – even just the subtle shifts from evening to morning – have a devastating effect on asphalt. When it warms up a little bit, asphalt expands. When the temperature drops a few degrees, your asphalt contracts. This is the primary reason for cracks in roads and driveways. The most damage occurs during the hottest and coolest seasons:

  • Summer: The summer months are a time of warmth and heat. But it cools down a little bit in the evenings. During the day, asphalt is expanding at a greater rate than it contracts at night. The uneven stress caused by fluctuating temperatures results in cracked asphalt.
  • Winter: In the winter, however, asphalt contracts at a faster rate than it expands. With all this shrinking, the gravel and other materials pull into themselves, meaning that when the sun is out for a few hours, all that tension bursts outwards and causes noticeable cracks. Water damage is also apparent in the winter; when it snows, water gets into existing cracks and speeds the process of breakdown.

Sealing VS Filling

Whether you own a commercial building and are responsible for parking lot maintenance, you work as a city planner for the roads and highways, or you simply need to redo your driveway, there are 2 options to consider to forestall cracks and prolong the life of your asphalt. These options are to seal or fill your blacktop:

  • Sealing: When you seal your asphalt, you use a crack sealant while placing a new road. This process is pricier, but looks and works better than filling because the sealant is spread in an even coating on the entire area. Crack sealant is made up primarily of rubber so that shifts in the asphalt aren't as destructive.
  • Filling: Crack filling is a liquid asphalt and is less expensive than sealant. It is also a good option for existing asphalt with minor cracks. However, it doesn't look as pristine as sealant because you are only repairing existing cracks. Since it isn't applied throughout the road or driveway, it doesn't last as long as crack sealant, either.

Lifespan of Asphalt

With proper maintenance, asphalt could last up to 25 years. On poorly maintained asphalt, its maximum lifespan drops to only a few years. You will know your asphalt is near the end of its lifespan when it loses all luster, is brittle, and is prone to bigger cracks and potholes than previous years. Good maintenance includes:

  • Filling Cracks Quickly: Fill cracks as they appear, instead of waiting for a specific time period to pass. Don't wait to fill hairline cracks because they will continue to expand until they are taken care of.
  • Resealing Regularly: Crack sealant is designed to last up to 8 years, but if you live in a hotter, drier part of Canada, you should have it resealed every 3 years. If you are noticing cracks or graying, it's definitely time to reseal. Get into a regular routine with this.

Maintaining your blacktop is simple, but important. If you don't use crack sealant or filling regularly, your asphalt will lose its luster and become brittle and damaged. If you are aware of the way temperature and climate changes affects your road, however, you can take measures to prolong its lifespan.