A Quick Look at Potholes and How They Form

A Quick Look at Potholes and How They Form

September 30, 2019

Encountering potholes while driving is an all-too-familiar problem for motorists. Potholes are considered a form of asphalt failure that’s brought about by the combination of traffic pressure and water. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to prevent potholes from developing. From the causes to repairs to prevention, below is a list of the most common questions people have about potholes in Kentucky.

What is a pothole?

In asphalt, a pothole can be described as an unevenly cracked area in the surface where the paving material has been worn or washed away. The size of potholes range in diameter from a few inches to several feet, and can be a few inches deep or more. If potholes are not fixed quickly, the problem will only get worse, the roads will remain bumpy and vehicle will experience damage to tires and alignment.

What makes up asphalt?

Asphalt is a popular and sustainable paving material that consists of aggregates (generally sand, ground rock or gravel), binders (such as bitumen) and fillers. Together they give asphalt surfaces a desirable adhesive quality that holds the mixture together, making it easier to pour and spread. Asphalt is heated before pouring to allow for more workable time, and to cure it as it cools slowly.

How do potholes form?

Everyone knows what potholes are. They are holes in the roadway that vary in size and shape, and they’re typically caused by expansion and contraction after water penetrates the ground under the pavement. If the groundwater under an asphalt road freezes, the way it makes room for itself is by expanding, bending and cracking the pavement. These actions, followed by thawing, can weaken the materials in the pavement to the point that gaps, pits or voids form in the surface beneath it. And the more vehicles drive over a pothole, the more weight it’s subjected to, which makes the cracking worse and the holes bigger.

How do you fix potholes?

When caught early or before they totally collapse, potholes can actually be pretty easy to fix. An emergency patch repair in the winter uses something called a cold patch that can be applied at any temperature. The cold patch, though not a permanent solution, fills the hole to prevent further damage. Ideally, the cold patch should be replaced with a hot asphalt mix when the weather warms up. The reason hot asphalt is for warmer weather is because cold weather will cause it to cool and harden too quickly.

What are some pothole prevention methods?

Potholes are the inevitable result of the combination of weather conditions, fluctuating temperatures and heavy vehicles traveling regularly over the same roads. Although it’s not possible to prevent all potholes from forming, the risk for pothole development can be minimized. Asphalt contractors can be onsite to ensure proper drainage during asphalt installation, then come back for regular inspections thereafter. Another important step in pothole prevention is choosing a high-quality asphalt mix in the first place.

Now that you know what causes potholes in Kentucky, you’ll be able to identify possible problems with asphalt surfaces. Call the team at K.O. Asphalt for all your asphalt needs!

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