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Asphalt Distortion Guide

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Asphalt distortion is an unsightly and oftentimes damaging issue that can affect your driveway. Understanding the causes and repair options can help you avoid total paving failure.

Types of Distortion

Several types of distortion can affect an asphalt driveway. Rutting, ripples, and depressions are very similar to each other as they all involve the development of low areas in the paving. Ruts often follow the line of the tires of the vehicle most often parked on the drive. Ripples are similar to ruts, except they may be more narrow and there is often more of them, similar to ripples on water. Depressions are low areas that hold water, often roughly circular in shape.

Swelling is the opposite, as the pavement comes up instead of sinking down. You may end up with a single smooth bump or a bump that is cracked on top. Sometimes you get a series of bumps that look similar to ripples except the lowest point of the series is not below the level of the surrounding pavement. This type of distortion is called shoving.

Distortion Concerns

The main concern about distortion is that often it indicates more severe issues that could lead to paving failure. Cracks often develop over distorted pavement simply from the stress on the asphalt that caused the distortion. In depressed distortions, the concern is greater because these can collect water. If the water freezes and expands, especially inside a crack, the paving may crumble and potholes can form.

Distortion can also indicate issues in the subgrade, or base, that supports the asphalt. Poor drainage is a common issue, for example. If water doesn't drain around the asphalt properly, it will slowly compromise the base. Distortion may be the first symptom that something with the drainage is amiss.

Remedies and Repairs

Repair can be difficult, depending on the size and extent of the distortion. The first task is to address the underlying cause. If drainage is a problem, for example, your asphalt service may need to install sub-pavement drainage to help preserve the base. If rutting is the problem, you may need to change driving patterns on the driveway to minimize the problem.

Once the root cause is addressed, the asphalt can be repaired. The only exception is if substantial base damage has occurred — in this case, the drive must be replaced completely. Small depressions can be patched using a hot asphalt medium. Larger damage may require grinding down the top layer of asphalt and then resurfacing with a fresh layer of smooth, unbroken asphalt

Contact an asphalt paving service for help if you notice any type of distortion on your driveway.