Home Improvement, Road Construction

What Causes Cracks in Pavement? | Types of Cracks

Cracks in Pavement

Pavement cracks can arise due to various factors, including environmental conditions, traffic loads, and construction quality. If left unattended, these cracks can worsen and compromise the structural integrity of the asphalt surface.

The asphalt pavement is designed, installed, and maintained for a long lifespan. However, occasional crack sealing and repairs become essential over time. Understanding the various types of cracks and employing suitable repair techniques is crucial, or you can opt for a pavement contractor. This comprehensive guide will delve into the causes behind cracks, identify different crack types, and outline effective solutions for their repair.

Types of Crack

Asphalt remains durable only with proper maintenance. The cracks in the pavement are different, as they also exist with various severities, which require special ways for their patch repairs to protect pavement structure. This section will discuss different kinds of cracks in the road and the uniqueness, reason, and proper methods used for their repairs.

Alligator Cracks

Fatigue cracks are sometimes referred to as alligator cracks because they look like an interwoven mesh of cracks similar to an alligator’s hide. Their expansiveness tends to extend over larger distances and areas, and they often occur on the roadside, in overcrowded areas, and in locations with repeated loadings.


  • Weak Base: The lack of base-layer support – usually results from poor construction methods and a poorly defined subgrade.
  • Excessive Load: Congestion of heavy traffic or overloaded weight trucks causing high stresses at the pavement surface.
  • Poor Drainage: The improper draining of water leads to a weakened bottom, which also results in the saturation of the concrete and a weakened bottom.

Repair Methods

  • Cut and Remove Damaged Areas: Delete the corrupted parts and discard them completely.
  • Stabilize Base: To make a strong base layer in order to support it.
  • Overlay: Resurfacing the damaged layer using a new layer of asphalt.

Block Cracks

In this case, block cracks form irregular but rectangular connected cracks in the form of large blocks or grids on the pavement surface. These defects often develop in old pavements of different sizes and depths. To avoid block cracks, you should have better than efficient permeable driveway options


  • Low Asphalt Content: Thin asphalt binder in the mixture creates a poor pavement structure.
  • Low Temperature: Cold shrinkage resulting in cracking.

Repair Methods

  • Fill with Joint Sealants: The application of the crack filler joint sealants.
  • Resurface if Severe: When the situation is dire, all that part should be covered in new asphalt.

Slippage Cracks

One of the types of crack– slippage cracks are often in a crescent shape, and they result from asphalt slippage within any of the two surface layers.


  • Weak Bond Between Layers: Insufficient bonding between asphalt layers.
  • Heavy Traffic: Movement of the layers under constant heavy traffic loads or in case of sudden braking.
  • Inadequate Tack Coat: Insufficient bonding material between layers.

Repair Methods

  • Cut and Remove Damaged Area: Remove the damaged area to eliminate the part with compromised quality.
  • Clean and Replace: Wiping it out completely, repouring, and then using adequate bonding to avoid more slipping.


Potholes are bowl-shaped openings on a paved surface in different sizes and depths.


  • Water Penetration: These include water flowing into cracks and expansive freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Freeze-Thaw Cycles: Repeated freeze-thawing of water in pavement cracks.
  • Traffic Stress: Continuous heavy trafficking of weak areas of pavements by vehicular movement.

Repair Methods

  • Remove and Repair: Elimination of the damaged area altogether.
  • Fill and Compact: Suitable filling in space, proper compaction, and lasting repair.

Why Do Roads Crack?

Roads can become cracked due to their exposure to several internal and environmental factors. Knowledge of these reasons is vital in proper pavement management as well as maintenance.

Water Infiltration

The leading cause of pavement distress is water infiltration.

Water can penetrate the pavement surface, weakening the base, which can result in erosion as well as thermal contraction expansion phenomena during frost cycles. Water entry into pre-existing cracks may aggravate them and lead to more destruction.

Temperature Fluctuations

The frequency of freezes and thaws in any region tends to generate extremes in temperatures, which play a significant role in cracks in the road.

The asphalt expands and compresses due to changes in temperatures. The contraction of the asphalt during colder weather causes stress, which can lead to cracks if not properly managed. The asphalt also expands in warm temperatures, increasing tension stress on the pavement structure.

Excessive Load Stress

The weight of heavy vehicles exerts pressure on the surface of pavements, leading to their wear out.

The persistent traffic, especially by trucks well beyond the pavement’s weight limit, wears out the material. These loads subject the structure to stress that develops and propagates cracks with time.


Over time, asphalt weakens structurally and is prone to breaks and cracks.

The binding agents of asphalt deteriorate over time due to direct UV radiation, oxidation, and others. The aging of the material results in less flexible pavement becoming brittle and prone to breakage.

Tips to Prevent Cracks in Pavement

Several preventative measures during the life cycle of an asphalt surface pavement could mitigate pavement cracks. Implementing appropriate installation methods, regular maintenance, and timely remedial measures will play a significant role in reducing the development of cracks and upholding the overall structural soundness of the pavement.

Quality Installation Techniques

  • There must be a sound sub-base beneath the asphalt surface before its application.
  • It should be noted that there are specific requirements for using high-grade asphalt mix with appropriate aggregate particle size and optimal binder level.
  • Providing pressure relief for the pavement and resulting in less overall stress distribution is achieved by using asphalt at the depth of the suggested layer designed for specified traffic loading.

Routine Maintenance

  • Regular inspection enables early surface distress or crack detection.
  • Crack-sealing prevents more water from entering the road and stops gradual deterioration.
  • For instance, it prevents stress points on weak road surfaces where cracks might form due to accumulated dirt, snow, or similar obstacles.

Timely Repairs

  • Prompt repair aims to stop crack extension and prevent further damage deterioration.
  • It is necessary to use adequate repair techniques like filling up cracks with appropriate materials and effective compactness to obtain long-term solutions.
  • Regular resurfacing or overlaying the pavement will reinforce the surface and prolong the pavement’s lifespan, thereby minimizing cracks.


Quality installation during construction, regular maintenance, and timely rectification of defects are some of the means that help prevent cracks in pavement. Following correct installation procedures, periodic checks, and immediate response to crack symptoms reduce the risk. Additionally, appropriate repair measures accompanied by preventive approaches are vital in enhancing the durability and reliability of asphaltic roads.

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