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Asphalt Pavement Life Cycle

While most asphalt can last up to 15-20 years before the next complete resurfacing project, regular maintenance to counteract the California and Bay area weather at early signs can extend pavement up to 25-30 years. You’ll notice that your asphalt will start to get noticeably more gray in color, which are signs of chemical oxidation or the aging process. This means that the binders in the asphalt are starting to slowly degrade, making the pavement easier to wear down and crack. Soon after the process of “raveling” begins, further breaking down “fines” or the binder which causes the asphalt surface to have a more textured rocky look. This is when you’ll see loose pieces of rocks and debris.

At this point, it’s best to contact your paving contractor and request maintenance. This is preventative maintenance to keep your asphalt long lasting, too long of a wait after this point risks irreversible damage and a need to remove the damaged area completely.

The Average Life Cycle of Asphalt

Pavement:

  1. Brand New Pavement:  This is when the asphalt is fresh sporting a sleek, professional look in a rich dark color. However, right after asphalt is laid it begins to degrade immediately, with weather conditions only hastening the process.
  2. Oxidation Process:  Chemical breakdown of important binders, key factors in this are sun exposure, weather changes, traffic rates and loads. All these environmental changes lead to graying and aging, also known as “age-hardening.”
  3. Raveling Starts: After hardening, the pavement is more likely to crack as the binders begin to degrade and the asphalt isn’t able to contract and expand with changes due to weather and traffic loads. If water gets into the cracks…
  4. Subgrade/Subbase Erosion Begins:  This means water seeps into the asphalt and begins to wash away the ground or base underneath it. Destabilizing the asphalt above causing a crackling effect on the surface. Soon after larger pieces of asphalt begin to break off.
  5. Irreversible and Needs Attention:  These are irreversible damages of asphalt that need to be completely replaced and will only get worse with time. These include upheavals, shoving potholes, etc.