Asphalt is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere that cars or people travel, and has been decades. With time, however, even materials as strong and reliable as asphalt begin to wear and break down.
Depending on how old your own asphalt surface is, the type of repair you need may vary. Nearly flawless surfaces will naturally require a much different type of asphalt maintenance than crack-riddled, highly damaged ones – and with all the confusing terminology and various factors to keep in mind, you aren’t alone if you find the prospect of maintaining your asphalt daunting.
If you’re one of those people getting their “crack sealing” and “seal coatings” mixed up, or you just want a plain language guide on keeping your asphalt in shape, you’re in luck. We’ve put together a brief guide to help walk you through the process of determining which asphalt maintenance option is right for you.
We’ll organize this guide in sections, each pertaining to a certain stage in an asphalt surface’s life. Starting with nearly-new asphalt and ending with heavily damaged, feel free to jump to whichever section is most relevant to your surface.
New or Undamaged Asphalt
If your asphalt surface is new or nearly new, you’re likely under the impression that you’re in the clear as far as asphalt maintenance goes – and we wouldn’t blame you for thinking so.
In many cases, newly-laid asphalt is ready for action the moment it’s dry. However, as is the nature of asphalt itself, maintenance will always be necessary eventually, and there are steps you can take to preemptively safeguard your asphalt’s strength now.
One of the best things you can do for your asphalt is to give it regular, thorough check-ups. An asphalt expert can identify weaknesses and faults in your asphalt before they become a real problem and can recommend treatments to keep your asphalt healthy. Hairline fractures and depressions on the surface are problems that can even affect asphalt that seems flawless on the surface, ones that may be difficult to spot without expert help.
Scheduling check-ups for your asphalt can help keep it looking and feeling great, no matter the stage of its lifespan – but the sooner the check-ups start, the better the results will be. Signing up for yearly, bi- or tri-yearly check-ups is an investment in the continued, long-term premium feel of your asphalt surface.
Preventing Damage Before It Happens
For those who want an extra-premium feel, you may choose to invest in asphalt sealcoating.
Asphalt seal coating is a specialized treatment for new and nearly-new surfaces that works to prevent damage, enhance surface appearance, and provide an extra smooth and premium feel while walking or driving.
Sealcoating is applied with a spray gun by an asphalt maintenance company, like Coatings inc. Once applied, it actively works to protect your surface by “sealing” it from the elements. Normally, asphalt is susceptible to damage from water, wind, tires, pedestrians, temperature, and even UV light from the sun. All these things break down the bonds that make asphalt strong, even at the molecular level in the case of UV light, which weakens it over time. Seal coating acts as a shield against these factors, letting you enjoy your pristine asphalt for longer.
Sealcoating is a favorite for organizations that value a high-class look and feel to their driving and walking surfaces, like HOAs and commercial parking lots. Primarily because seal coating does wonders to prevent flaws and provides a surface with a luxurious blacktop aesthetic. For surfaces where smoothness is an absolute must, like airport taxiways, asphalt sealcoating is something you can’t do without.
Mildly Damaged Asphalt
If you’ve had your surface for a few years now, and it’s starting to show some signs of wear and tear, you may have what’s considered a mildly damaged surface.
In this stage, asphalt is still serviceable. Although, in asphalt, the rate of damage only increases as the damage gets worse – bigger cracks grow faster than smaller cracks. For the best longevity, it’s best to nip these problems in the bud before they have time to grow into something more serious.
Which asphalt maintenance is best for your surface depends on the type and severity of the damage present. If your surface’s problems consist mostly of small cracks or minor potholes, you may consider a novel approach to its repair – infrared repair.
Infrared repair uses infrared light to superheat existing asphalt to seamlessly blend it with new, filler asphalt. For instance, in the case of your average pothole, an infrared repair truck will aim its light gun at the pothole to melt the asphalt around it down. Then, as new asphalt is added to fill in the hole, the new asphalt melds together with the old.
The result is a perfectly smooth finish that’s indistinguishable from new asphalt to any driver. Infrared repair works for small cracks, potholes, and uneven surfaces.
If your problem is the appearance of large cracks, albeit few in number, crack sealing is likely the best call. Crack sealing works best for cracks that are greater than 1.5 inches in width, and are thus not the best choice for a series of smaller cracks. Crack sealing is likely the form of asphalt maintenance you’re most familiar with – it involves pouring tar into large cracks to prevent them from growing, and to re-smoothen the surface.
Heavily Damaged Asphalt
Surfaces that are greatly cracked, riddled with potholes, and/or uneven in many places can be considered heavily damaged. Asphalt this damaged can be hazardous to both people and cars alike.
At this stage, solutions like asphalt crack seal and sealcoating are unlikely to be enough. Depending on the leveling and scope of the damage, you may be able to repair a heavily damaged surface primarily by using infrared repair. Infrared asphalt maintenance may work for surfaces that are largely cracked, or on potholes. The result will, unfortunately, leave something to be desired in terms of aesthetics, but this can still prove to be a more cost-effective solution.
Occasionally, it may be too expensive or labor-intensive to perform an asphalt maintenance. On surfaces that suffer from large amounts of cracking, potholes, and uneven surfaces, it may be a better idea to consider a full replacement. We understand that this isn’t the preferred course of action for many out there, but when the cost of repair exceeds the cost of replacement, it’s likely time for a new surface.