How To Extend Life Of Asphalt Pavement With Preventative Maintenance

How To Extend Life Of Asphalt Pavement With Preventative Maintenance

Certain asphalt maintenance and preservation methods extend the life of asphalt and reduce the frequency in which surfaces need to be extensively repaired or replaced.

There are three types of pavement maintenance operations:

-Preventative Maintenance: Anything that improves overall functionally and extends the life of pavement. This includes a variety of surface treatments that ultimately decrease the need for constant maintenance and service activities.

-Corrective Maintenance: This includes any measures taken after an issue or defect arises including loss of friction, rutting or cracks.

-Emergency Maintenance: This entails any repairs that must be conducted immediately such as filling a severe pothole. This also includes temporary treatment measures used to resolve an issue before more permanent repairs are conducted.

It’s important to focus on preventative maintenance in order to extend the life of pavement and reduce how often you need to perform corrective or emergency maintenance. A consistent preventive maintenance program ensures the best results over time, as different treatments serve different purposes. An effective program will not only extend the life of surfaces but also prove cost-effective.

Preventative maintenance includes crack sealing, chip sealing, fog sealing, thin overlays and rut filling.

Some Important Preventative Maintenance Techniques Include

Prevent Water Damage To Pavement

When water gets inside pavement it freezes and thaws with temperature fluctuations, leading to permanent pavement damage. The best way to deter this type of damage is to prevent water penetration as much as possible. Installing quality drainage systems and ensuring they continue to work well is fundamental to preventing water damage. It’s also important to fill in any cracks as soon as possible, and regularly seal pavement as needed.

Add Sealcoat As Needed

Sealcoat is a necessary form of treatment used to extend the life of pavement and slow the rate of deterioration. Pavement cracks need to be sealed as needed. Adding regular sealcoating prevents elements like the sun from oxidizing surfaces while improving appearances and replacing eroded surfaces.

Beware that adding too much sealcoat shortens the life of pavement so it’s important to find a happy medium.  New sealcoat should only be added when the former coat has worn away from traffic, causing large segments of bare pavement to show through.

Fill In Cracks ASAP

As cracks surface in asphalt it’s important to seal or fill them as quickly as possible. Cracks in pavement will otherwise lead to problems by allowing water inside the roadway base and subgrade, leading to breaking up of the pavement and potholes.

Depending on the extent of cracks, they may or may not be good candidates for filling or sealing. The only cracks that should not be filled or sealed include if there’s failure in the subsurface, or cracking is not the result of water problems (for instance, if the subgrade is sandy soil.)

Cracks that measure in width between 0.2 and 0.75-inches as well as cracks that show 0.1-inch movement should be sealed. Cracks caused by extensive block or alligator cracking may be better repaired with surface seals or partial depth patching.

Add New Wearing Surface

Fog sealing, thin overlays, rut filling, ultra-thin wearing courses, very thin overlays, and microsurfacing applications all leave pavement with a new wearing surface. As a result, the overall life of the pavement is extended because the pavement is not incurring direct wear and tear that actively breaks it down and leads to failure.

When To Perform Preventative Maintenance 

Don’t want until after a problem arises or else you’re performing reactive maintenance. You don’t want to perform maintenance too soon or at the wrong time either, or else you risk decreasing the lifespan of surfaces. Instead of basing preventative maintenance on traffic loads, it’s best to be on a set time schedule. A condition survey and non-destructive testing can help determine when and what maintenance is necessary.

The Michigan Department of Transportation serves as a good example of the direct benefits of a regular preventative maintenance programs. Since actively relying on preventative maintenance they have seen optimized roadway conditions that remain within their set preservation budget. They also enjoy more stable and predictable funding needs. 

In the past, preventative maintenance was less common because there wasn’t enough information regarding how cost-effective these treatments can be. As a result, there was a lack of federal aid for maintenance. Instead, highway agencies strived to reduce road closures as much as possible. Without preventative maintenance any form of repairs is ‘reactive’ instead of ‘proactive,’ and is more extensive and costly. When emergency repairs arise it can consume a large portion, if not all of a limited maintenance budget. On the other hand, routine preventative maintenance is planned and more affordable, all the while reducing the possibility of an emergency arising.