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What Are The Main Causes Of Damage For Asphalt Parking Lots?


An asphalt driveway and parking lot definitely add beauty and class to your home or commercial space. It looks good and is also easy to maintain. Asphalt pavement has an average lifespan of 12-20 years, which makes it a great investment. But just like any other paving material, it can be exposed to a myriad of elements that can lead to its untimely degradation – something you don’t want!

Knowing the main causes of asphalt damage and recognizing them early can help you prevent potential issues and prolong its lifespan. Let’s check out some of the most causes of asphalt degradation.

Ultraviolet Rays

Ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun are among the main natural factors of asphalt damage. Asphalt consists of aggregates, rock and sand. They are held together by asphalt cement that works like glue. However, prolonged exposure to intense UV light can break down the chemical composition of the binder. Over time, the asphalt surface unravels and the aggregates loosen up. During hot summer months, inspect the pavement for possible melting or loosening of asphalt cement. If you find loose gravel, it signifies the asphalt material is breaking down. If you’re located in an area where the climate can become extremely hot, you can consult a reputable asphalt specialist on what measures to implement.


Asphalt cement contains compounds that react to oxygen. When these chemicals are exposed to oxygen, oxidation occurs. When this happens, the asphalt loses its characteristic black charcoal color and begins to turn gray. And since these compounds enable the asphalt to become flexible, it also starts to lose flexibility. The pavement becomes brittle and cracks under traffic load.

If you start to notice cracks, you can suspect damage due to oxidation. Asphalt repair workers can help you determine whether these effects are a result of this chemical process. They can also help you determine measures to prevent or mitigate this problem – usually, through the application of sealcoat.


Water is a leading cause of asphalt wear-and-tear. Unfortunately, asphalt pavement is exposed to water such as rainwater, water for patio cleaning or gardening, car washing, and melting ice.

Water has an amazing way of assaulting your pavement. It can seep through cracks in the surface. Over time, these cracks open up and more water becomes deposited into the base course of the pavement. In some cases, the underground water drainage causes the problem.

Once the base layer has been infiltrated, the pavement becomes prone to potholes and cracks. It also weakens the pavement and makes it unable to carry heavy traffic load. If not addressed early, structural damage ensues and you’ll be left with no option but to repair the base layer and reinstall asphalt paving. This makes it important to ensure proper drainage and avoid pooling of water near the asphalted pavement.

Vehicle fluids

Vehicles leak small amounts of fuel and oil – and this can prove detrimental to asphalt parking lots. These chemicals adhere to the composition of asphalt. Over time, fuel and oil penetrate the surface and cause the asphalt material to disintegrate. Corrosive car fluids are a more serious problem as they can immediately damage the pavement.

Either way, if exposure to these compounds is not resolved, the aggregates may start to break up and the surface may begin to crumble. After some time, depressions may show up and the surface will further deteriorate and soften. These can all result in more severe damage and require costly repair.

Sealcoating the asphalt pavement gives it an extra layer of protection. You should also regularly inspect the parking lot with attention to areas that are more commonly exposed to car fluid leaks. Cleaning up these areas can help retard its possible effects.

Poor installation

The secret to long-lasting paving is quality installation. This entails the use of quality materials, proper installation technique, and appropriate design. If not installed properly, asphalt driveways are common to cracks and problems. Special attention should be given to the base. If this layer is poorly constructed, issues will crop up soon after installation and the lifespan of the pavement will be shorter. Meanwhile, sub-standard materials are also more prone to damage, especially when exposed to the elements.

To avoid this problem, it is important to carefully choose your asphalt service contractor. Work with reputable contractors who have a proven track record.

Heavy Loads

But even with the best materials and installation techniques, asphalt parking spaces might have patches with flaws and issues. When subjected to substantial weight, these imperfections can be magnified causing some areas to break apart and disintegrate. These flaws can eventually lead to damage, potholes and cracks.

When planning your asphalt parking lot, make sure you consider the kinds of vehicles that are expected to use the space. Keep heavy vehicles away from your parking lot. Place signboards or barriers that will prevent the access of heavy loaded cars in the area.

Rock salt

Sure rock salt can help you thaw away stubborn ice, but it can also hasten the deterioration of your asphalt parking lot. Basically, rock salt increases the number of thaw-freeze cycles, which aggravates the cracking of your pavement.

When snow and rain settle on the asphalt surface, it seeps through small cracks. Once water freezes, it expands and causes the asphalt to break away. As the ice melts, it seeps deeper into the surface. Then it again freezes and expands – thus, initiating a damaging cycle.

As much as possible, avoid the use of rock salt on your asphalt parking lot. If you really need something to thaw the ice, you can sprinkle sand as an alternative. However, if you insist on using rock salt, make sure to clean it up well, removing all traces of salt that can cause asphalt damage.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of factors, both natural and manmade, that can cause asphalt damage. Natural causes of asphalt damage, such as oxidation, UV rays, rainwater, and winter, cannot be prevented. However, there are other causes that you can prevent such as water drainage issues, vehicle fluid leaks, use of rock salt, poor installation, and heavy loads.

To enjoy your asphalt parking lot for a longer time, make sure you address these factors. Asphalt pavement is a great investment that you need to take care of!