Posted on: December 14, 2018

How Cold Weather Can Damage Asphalt and Roads

Sadly, winter isn’t very good for our roads and the cold weather can damage the roadways. This article will explain why this damage occurs and what you can do to prevent it from occurring.

The first problem faced by asphalt surfaces is the materials they are made from. They are designed to be flexible in warm conditions. However, when the temperatures drop they become more brittle, making it easier for cracking to appear. Although heavily used roads will form cracks and potholes in the summer months, they occur easier and are more prevalent in the winter months. Cracking, however, is a relatively minor problem that can be solved quickly. The real problem, occurs with the freeze-thaw cycle.

During winter the freeze-thaw cycle occurs, this cycle causes most of the damage to roads during winter. The first part of the cycle occurs when it snows or rains. The moisture falls through the cracks in the road. While in summer, the water would drain away in the soil, in winter the moisture gets frozen in place. When water is frozen, it expands. When it expands it causes the cracks in the brittle road to grow larger. This cycle continues to repeat throughout winter, with the water being re-thawed sinking further under the road, then re-freezing and causing the cracks to expand even further. Another, potentially more damaging effect of the freeze-thaw cycle is frost heave.

Frost heave refers to upward movements of soil and rocks due to the freeze-thaw cycle. This process occurs because, as the ice freezes it attracts water to it through the soil. This sucks both water and dirt towards the surface. This process affects fine soils in subfreezing temperatures most. With the ability to destabilise buildings frost heave can create a huge amount of damage to roadways and asphalt surfaces. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to protect asphalt surfaces from these damaging effects.

The cold temperatures, the freeze-thaw cycle and frost heave combine during the winter months to cause damage to roads and asphalt surfaces. Thankfully, there are simple measures that we can take to prevent this. Firstly, you can make the asphalt slightly angled, this will make the water run-off the surface into gutters. This makes it harder for water to get trapped in any cracks and cause damage. If you might be susceptible to frost heave you can install drain pipes beneath the soil to stop it from occurring. However, the most effective of protecting your asphalt surfaces this winter is to regularly maintain them. Sealing over small cracks will prevent water from entering the crack and starting the freeze-thaw cycle.

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