Main Types of Asphalt Damage

Main Types of Asphalt Damage

More often than not, asphalt damage is caused by cracks. These cracks can give you a clue as to what may be wrong below the surface. Each type of crack signals a different issue, so it’s vital that you bring yourself up to speed on their variations to know what you might be up against. From there, you can either hire a professional or try to repair it yourself. 

Some other potential causes behind asphalt deterioration or damage include heavy traffic loads, UV or weather damage, poor-quality or drainage and age. Luckily, if you spot the damage early on, you can repair it before any deeper damage occurs. 

Sometimes the repair work will only need to be done on the surface layer, while other times you’ll need to do what’s known as a full-depth replacement patch, which is below the surface layer.

Alligator or fatigue cracks

If you know what an alligator’s back looks like, you should already have a pretty clear image of what these cracks might look like. These cracks are made up of lots of smaller cracks, which all join up with one-another to create this pattern. Alligator, or also known as fatigue cracks, are one of the most common types of asphalt damage. 

Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where the damage hasn’t only occurred to the surface layer. It’s a multi-layer, structural issue, which means that you’ll need to do a full-depth patch repair. Essentially, a full-depth patch repair is when at least a section of the asphalt is removed, from top to bottom, and replaced entirely.  

Linear or longitudinal cracks

Linear cracks, also referred to as longitudinal cracks, are often a result of fatigue cracks that have been left unrepaired. They can also be caused by things like general wear and tear, asphalt shrinkage, poor joint construction or reflective cracking. Reflective cracking simply refers to when you have identical cracks on different layers.

As the name suggests, linear cracks are long cracks that run parallel to the centerline of the pavement. How wide these cracks are will be the deciding factor as to what level of repair is required. 

In general, if they are less than 1.5 centimetres wide, they can be sealed to avoid further damage. If they are wider than this, the cracked layer will have to be removed and replaced with what’s called an overlay. 

Transverse cracks 

Similarly to linear cracks, transverse cracks can be sealed if they are less than 1.5 centimetres wide. If they are wider than that, they should be removed and replaced with an overlay. This type of crack is usually singular, running perpendicular from the centreline of the concrete, or in a laydown direction. 

Some possible causes behind transverse cracks include reflective cracks, shrinking asphalt layers, sudden or large changes in temperature or a problem with the construction itself. 

Edge cracks

These cracks appear one or two feet away from the edge of the concrete or pavement. Often, these are caused due to poor support and drainage, but they can also be caused by drying soil and heavy traffic.

When you have the incorrect drainage in place, water can get beneath the surface layer and wreak havoc on your entire foundation. If you have a lot of vegetation growing along the side of your pavement, this could also be the cause. 

To solve this issue, you’ll need to remove the vegetation. If there isn’t any vegetation to remove and the cracks are too large to be sealed, you might have to reconstruct the entire area to ensure proper support and drainage. 

Block cracks

Block cracks are cracks that more or less take on the shape of large rectangular or square blocks. One of the main reasons behind these cracks is asphalt shrinkage, which happens when the asphalt cannot expand and contract during temperature changes.

Asphalt shrinkage usually occurs when the asphalt mix is placed when it’s too dry, the asphalt is mixed incorrectly or the wrong ratio was used, the incorrect binder was used, or the asphalt was too old. 

Once again, you can seal cracks that are 1.5 centimetres or less in width, and replace the section if they are wider than that.


When alligator cracks are left unrepaired, water can get under the asphalt layer and cause craters or chunks, called potholes. The sections around the potholes can be repaired using a full-depth replacement patch, but they will continue to occur until the foundation itself is replaced. 


Depressions are sometimes also referred to as bird baths, because they tend to fill with water after heavy rain. That’s because these surface areas are slightly lower than the rest of the layer. Depending on how bad they are, you can either repair them with a surface patch or replace the area. 


Rutting usually occurs over the wheel path (the places where vehicles drive over the most). Some causes behind rutting include heavy traffic loads, weak asphalt mixes, water infiltration, a lack of asphalt compaction and a thin asphalt layer. Rutting can either be filled with an overlay or replaced with the right material. 


When the asphalt layer begins to look rough or porous, it’s probably a sign of ravelling. This type of deterioration reduces its grip and slip resistance. It also opens up the layer to the potential of water damage. 

Most often, this is caused because the asphalt was placed in the wrong season. This is a surface issue, so fortunately it can usually be repaired using an overlay.

TDPel Media

This article was published on TDPel Media. Thanks for reading!

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