How Various Pavement Distresses Can Be Repaired

How Various Pavement Distresses Can Be Repaired

Heavy-traffic, weight, moisture, UV rays, salt, chemicals, deicers, paint, oil, temperature changes, installation blunders, and several other factors can damage your pavement. Damage and wear can cause different kinds of distresses to appear.

If you do not have much experience managing asphalt pavement, the first sign of visible damage will agonize you. If you do not want to feel panicked and clueless if, or rather when, such a situation arises, then the best solution is to learn more about different pavement distresses.

In this post, we make your life a bit easier so you do not have to spend hours and hours on research. Below are some common pavement distresses and their possible solutions.

Alligator Cracking

Alligatoring is basically multiple interconnected cracks on your pavement that resemble the pattern on the skin of an alligator’s back. Alligator cracking is a result of pavement failure caused due to poor drainage, base or surface that is too thin, a weak sub-base/base/surface, or a combination of all of these.

Solution: Full-depth patch, asphalt resurfacing.

Longitudinal (Linear) Cracking

Cracks in a laydown direction or parallel to the centerline of the pavement are longitudinal cracks. These are caused due to reflective cracking, pavement fatigue, and poor joint construction.

Solution: Crack sealing, milling, and overlay.

Transverse Cracking

Single cracks that are perpendicular to the centerline or laydown direction of the pavement. Transverse cracks are caused by daily temperature cycles, reflective cracks from an underlying layer, and poor pavement installation.

Solution: Crack sealing, milling, and overlay.

Edge Cracks

Cracks that travel within a foot or two on the inside edge of a pavement’s surface. These are caused due to poor drainage, lack of support near the edge, base weakening, and heavy traffic.

Solution: Removing all vegetation that is close to the pavement’s edge, thus fixing drainage problems. Crack filling; crack sealing; complete removal and repaving of the surface.

Joint Reflection Cracks

Joint reflection cracks appear in the top layer of pavement, directly above the pavement joints.

Solution: Crack sealing, milling, and overlay.

Block Cracking

Block cracks resemble large interconnected rectangles caused due to the asphalt binder’s inability to shrink and expand with the temperature changes. Apart from the freeze and thaw cycle, too dry a mix, fine aggregate mix with low absorptive aggregates and penetration asphalt, aged dried out asphalt, and poor choice of asphalt binder can all cause block cracking.

Solution: Crack sealing, milling, and overlay.

Slippage Cracking

Slippage cracking refers to crescent-shaped tears or cracks in the surface layer caused due to settling, which probably occurred because of lack of bonding between the pavement layers.

Solution: Partial or full-depth asphalt patching.


Potholes are bowl-shaped holes or depressions caused in the top layer or going farther to the pavement’s base layer. They are caused due to moisture infiltration in unrepaired alligator cracking. As the cracking gets worse, small chunks from the interconnected cracks can dislodge as vehicles pass over them.

Solution: Full depth replacement patch.

Asphalt Depressions (Bird Baths)

Depressions are areas that are at a lower elevation than the surrounding pavement. They are caused due to settling onset by heavy traffic. They become noticeable when they fill up with water after rainfall.

Solution: Full removal and replacement; surface patching; infrared patching.

Asphalt Upheaval

Bumps that form on the pavement due to subgrade swelling. They are caused due to frost heave or moisture under the pavement.

Solution: Full-depth patching.


Raveling is the separation of aggregate particles from the edges inward or surfaces downwards. It occurs when fine aggregate wears away, leaving behind pockmarks on the surface of the pavement. If ignored, the erosion accelerates, causing particles to dislodge.

Raveling can occur due to many reasons, one of which is installing asphalt pavement in cold weather.

Solution: Thin overlay; micro surfacing; chip seal; sand seal; slurry seal.


Ruts are channelized depressions that occur due to consolidation or the sub-grade lateral movement under traffic load. They are caused by improper compaction, insufficient pavement thickness, weak asphalt mix, or moisture infiltration into the pavement.

Solution: Partial or full-depth asphalt patching.

Asphalt Shoving

Shoving or wash-boarding are basically ripples that form at areas with severe horizontal stresses like intersections. It is caused due to inadequate aggregate mix, excess asphalt, rounded aggregate, a weak granular base, or soft asphalt.

Solution: Partial or full-depth asphalt patching. Do you need effective and long-lasting pavement repair? Is affordability standing in the way of your asphalt paving project? Contact National Pavement Partners in Greely, CO, to get a free estimate.