3 Things You Should Know About Driveway Cracks

Most driveways and other asphalt surfaces will eventually develop cracks, with more cracks typically appearing as the asphalt ages. While most cracks are a normal (and repairable) part of asphalt aging, you shouldn't ignore them or allow them to remain unaddressed for long. Although a few cracks don't necessarily mean your driveway is failing, they can lead to larger problems. 

Next time you're walking across your driveway, look closely at the surface and examine it for signs of cracks. As you perform your inspection, keep these three critical asphalt crack facts in mind to know when you should call a professional paving service.

1. Asphalt Cracks Come In Many Shapes and Sizes

Cities, businesses, and homeowners all use asphalt to pave roadways, parking lots, and even sidewalks, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that there's plenty of research into how asphalt can fail. Asphalt cracks may look similar to the untrained eye, but different sizes, shapes, and patterns can tell you a lot about what's happening with your driveway.

When investigating cracks on your driveway, consider their size, how close they are to the driveway's edges, and whether they run parallel to the driveway's centerline or direction of travel. Long, straight cracks often occur due to shrinkage or poor installation, while many interconnected and spiderwebbed (or "alligator scale") cracks can indicate a loading issue.

2. Cracks Cause Additional Damage

Imagine if your home's roof had one small section of missing shingles. The missing shingles would be an eyesore, but the larger issue would be their inability to redirect water away from the vulnerable underlayment and decking. Similarly, cracks in your asphalt provide a vulnerable location for water to seep into the subgrade material.

Water that seeps below your driveway's surface will inevitably cause additional damage. Freeze and thaw cycles are the greatest threat, but drainage issues created by cracks can even be a problem in warmer climates. Any water that sinks below the asphalt will ultimately cause soil shifting and may create voids that cause potholes—fixing cracks when you notice them can prevent these issues.

3. Fixing Cracks Can Extend Your Driveway's Life Span

An asphalt driveway can last twenty years or more, but you can meaningfully extend this life span by caring for the most critical parts of your driveway. In addition to allowing water to damage your driveway's foundation, crack edges will eventually begin to ravel. Raveling is a process by which the asphalt binder and aggregate separate, causing the driveway surface to appear to crumble.

The longer you ignore damaged sections of your driveway, the more the material will break down and fail. When combined with damage caused by water infiltration, these effects can accelerate problems with your driveway and eventually make repairs too expensive to consider. On the other hand, quickly repairing cracks will help you avoid an expensive driveway replacement.

Contact a local asphalt service to learn more.