Save our Surfaces (SOS) Part I: Common Causes of Pavement Distress


July 11, 2017

pavement distressAs a former facilities manager, I know that putting out fires on a daily basis is part of the job description. However, one of the largest expenses for which you’re responsible—parking lot pavement—doesn’t have to be a source of distress. How, you might ask?

The answer is quite simple: by understanding the cause of pavement failure. This is important so that you and your paving partner can treat the problem and not just the symptom or defect. In the long run, this approach will save you time, money, and a lot of headache.

Yet, sometimes, it’s hard to devote the necessary attention to your pavement assets. Air-conditioning issues during a heat wave or a leaky roof during the rainy season, for example, may take precedence. If that’s a typical scenario for you, a reliable partner in paving can step in and assess your pavement portfolio so you know what’s out there. The following represents a sampling of causes that may be identified and reported back to you.

Common Causes of Pavement Distress:

  1. Lack of preventative maintenance – widespread areas of cracking, oxidized pavement, and faded striping is most likely the result of an irregular or reactive maintenance plan
  2. Poor design/construction – parking lots constructed with inadequate slope (2% slope is the minimum recommendation) will result in drainage problems; also, using the wrong materials will lead to premature failure (materials should be selected based on performance in a specific region)
  3. Insufficient drainage – improper number (or location) of catch basins or damaged or clogged drains can result in areas of standing water or ponding
  4. Weather-related issues – freeze-thaw cycles, for example, may result in widespread cracks, pavement heaving, potholes, or sinkholes
  5. UV rays – the sun’s rays will oxidize pavement and fade striping and other markings
  6. Heavy traffic loads – repeat exposure to heavy truck traffic, especially in areas with a tight turning radius, results in raveling and rutting
  7. Excessive sprinkling – water runoff can damage the subgrade causing raveling, rutting, or widespread areas of cracking
  8. Salt or other dirt/debris – incompressible materials can lodge in and widen existing cracks
  9. Oil spots – oil dissolves asphalt cement (the glue that holds pavement together); idling vehicles, such as those in a drive-thru lane, can be a large contributor to oil spots
  10. Snow plow damage – this may be evident by dislodged bumper blocks or other damage to concrete curbs, sidewalks, transitions, or pavement markings

Identifying the underlying cause is the first step to correct defects and minimize recurrence. The next post examines solutions for these ten causes of pavement distress. Armed with both, you’ll be on the road to stress-free pavement management. If you’re not already linked to us on social media, follow us now so that you never miss a post!



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