Asphalt is a relatively durable and flexible surface. Asphalt roads and driveways are common in cold locations because they stand up reasonably well to the expansion and contraction that occurs as temperatures shift. However, even these durable surfaces eventually wear out. While your driveway doesn't see as much use as a major road, it still takes a lot of daily abuse.
In many cases, you can keep your driveway looking good and functioning well through maintenance and repairs, but you will eventually need to tear out and repave the entire thing. If you have an older driveway, it's crucial to understand why driveways fail and how you can recognize the signs that yours may be past its prime.
What Happens When a Driveway Fails?
Driveway failure isn't typically something that occurs as a single, catastrophic event. You generally won't wake up in the morning to find your driveway sinking into the Earth, for example. Instead, driveways tend to degrade slowly, becoming more and more problematic as they wear out. Because these problems occur gradually, it's often easy to ignore them until the situation is critical.
In general, your driveway has probably "failed" once it no longer provides a smooth, load-bearing surface for your vehicle. There may be large, potentially damaging potholes or ugly cracks. You may also notice more severe problems, such as pooling water or drainage issues threatening other parts of your property.
Driveway failures also tend to accelerate since cracks and holes allow more water to seep below the surface, weakening the driveway's foundation and creating the necessary conditions for frost heaves. Driveways in this condition can be dangerous since heavy loads (such as work trucks) can cause the weakened surface to break or collapse.
How Can You Tell If You Need to Repave Your Driveway?
A good rule of thumb is to consider whether your driveway suffers from discrete problems or larger, systemic issues. A few unconnected cracks or potholes may be repairable, for example. On the other hand, many connected cracks or potholes connecting to long breaks indicate that your driveway may have much deeper structural problems.
You should also look for signs of pavement breaking up and separating. As asphalt wears out, it will typically break apart into chunks. While you can technically repair these missing sections, it's often challenging or impossible to seal them entirely against further water intrusion. As a result, these repairs will often fail quickly, sometimes leading to even more severe problems.
Once you notice these issues, there's a reasonable chance that your driveway is well beyond the point of repair. A reputable asphalt paving company can help determine if you have any alternatives. Still, replacement is often the most cost-effective long-term option once an aging asphalt driveway passes the point of no return.
For more information, contact a company like Sol & Simon Asphalt Paving.