How Do Potholes Form?

You’re driving down your neighborhood’s beautiful asphalt road when you spy a pothole. You try to get out of the way, but it’s too late as you feel your tire sink and crunch over the pothole. Asphalt potholes are the scourge of drivers across the country, but why does it seem like potholes pop up overnight and what can damage asphalt to the point of creating a pothole?

Let’s figure out what causes potholes and the best to way fix them as well as strategies to keep potholes forming on your beautiful asphalt, to begin with.

How Potholes Form

Causes of Potholes

The number one cause of potholes is water infiltration. Asphalt is put down as a stable, impenetrable surface, but over time asphalt will form small cracks. Water can slowly seep into these cracks and displace your asphalt’s sub-grade materials. Once water finds its way into your asphalt’s sub-layers, it will expand and contract with freezing and thawing cycles, further damaging the pavement underneath the surface.

Eventually, this hydro-excavating effect displaces enough sub-grade material to weaken your asphalt and leave it susceptible to damage. When a vehicle drives over this weakened area, it collapses, and you’re left with a pothole. The continued traffic and freezing and thawing cycles can turn a tiny pothole into a big problem if not addressed right away.

How to Properly Fix a Pothole

Most homeowners grab a bag of cold-mix asphalt to patch potholes in their asphalt, but cold mix asphalt is only meant to be a temporary solution. Because most potholes form in the winter, cold mix asphalt is the only solution, but it should never be a permanent fix.

For a permanent fix, you need to use hot mix asphalt. You may need to wait until temperatures rise to use hot mix asphalt if your pothole formed in the winter, but a permanent fix is the best way to keep damage and other issues from spreading.

How to Prevent Potholes

The only surefire way to completely prevent potholes is by not using your asphalt. Obviously, that doesn’t work for homeowners, but there are ways you can mitigate your chances of getting potholes to begin with.

  • Resealing – Resealing, or sealcoating, your asphalt is recommended every one to two years. Sealcoating your driveway adds a top protective layer that can shield your asphalt from crack-forming sun damage and other elements your asphalt is likely to face.

  • Crack Fill – Potholes are formed when water seeps through cracks in your asphalt, so no cracks, no potholes. Homeowners should regularly scan their asphalt for any cracks and seal them immediately to avoid asphalt issues. It’s best only to use hot rubberized sealant for a permanent watertight barrier.

  • Regular Inspection and Maintenance – Have an asphalt contractor scope out your asphalt once or twice a year to look for any potential pothole issues or seal any cracks that could lead to potholes. Most asphalt contractors can inspect your driveway, seal any potential problems, and sealcoat your asphalt in one go.

Get out of the Hole

Potholes can cause vehicle damage, personal injury, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars per year. Still, you can try to prevent potholes on your personal property by taking proper steps like seal coating. Always make a permanent fix on any potholes to avoid further damage and, when in doubt, call Colorado Pavement Solutions for a free estimate.