Asphalt Cracking: Types, Causes, and Effective Solutions

Asphalt cracking is a common issue that can compromise the integrity and appearance of pavements.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various types of cracks, their underlying causes, and practical solutions. 

By familiarizing ourselves with these aspects, we can implement timely interventions to ensure the safety, longevity, and aesthetics of asphalt surfaces.

Overview of Asphalt Cracking

Pavement cracking, a common occurrence in asphalt surfaces, presents a variety of patterns and forms that can compromise the structural integrity and aesthetics of roads and driveways. 

Understanding the different types of asphalt cracks and their basic causes is essential to implementing effective repair and maintenance strategies.

To understand the science behind asphalt cracking, check this established educational and government resources.

Importance of Addressing Asphalt Cracking

Asphalt cracking is a major issue that many people have to deal with, and it can lead to safety hazards, accelerated deterioration, and increased repair costs. 

It is critical to address asphalt cracking as soon as possible to avoid these issues.

It is important to fix cracks in asphalt surfaces as soon as possible to extend their lifespan and keep pedestrians and motorists safe.

Asphalt Cracking

Types of Asphalt Cracking

Transverse Cracking

Transverse cracks, which run perpendicular to the direction of traffic flow, are often caused by temperature fluctuations resulting in the asphalt’s expansion and contraction. 

Additionally, heavy traffic loads can exacerbate these cracks, leading to further deterioration.

Longitudinal Cracking

Longitudinal cracks, parallel to the traffic direction, are typically attributed to asphalt shrinkage during the cooling process after installation. 

They can also occur due to poor joint construction, improper compaction, or inadequate support.

Alligator Cracking

Alligator cracking resembles the pattern of alligator skin, and it typically occurs as a result of a combination of factors, including heavy traffic loads, poor drainage, and the aging of the asphalt surface. 

The repeated stress and strain on the pavement cause interconnected cracks that resemble the scales of an alligator.

Block Asphalt Cracking

Block cracking manifests as interconnected rectangular or square-shaped cracks, which often resemble a grid-like pattern. 

It is primarily caused by temperature fluctuations and the natural hardening of the asphalt binder over time.

Edge Cracking

Edge cracks form along the edges of the pavement and are commonly the result of poor drainage, lack of proper support, and insufficient compaction during construction. 

The exposure to water infiltration and traffic loads further exacerbates these cracks.

asphalt Edge Cracking

Wheel Path Cracking

Wheel path cracks are concentrated in areas subjected to the most frequent and intense traffic loads. 

Heavy vehicles and repetitive stress contribute to forming and propagating cracks in these sections, compromising the pavement’s durability.

Joint Cracking

Joint cracking occurs at the junctions between different asphalt sections, such as between new and existing pavements or at intersections. 

Poor joint construction practices, inadequate compaction, and insufficient support contribute to the development of these cracks.

Fatigue Cracking (Reflective Cracking)

Fatigue cracking, often referred to as reflective cracking, occurs when cracks from an underlying layer migrate to the surface. 

This phenomenon is particularly common when an old pavement is overlaid with a new layer.

The movement and shifting of the lower layers lead to the appearance of cracks on the surface, resembling the patterns of the underlying cracks.

Slippage Cracking

Slippage cracking, also known as “crocodile cracking,” forms due to poor bonding between layers within the pavement structure. 

It is characterized by crescent-shaped cracks caused by traffic loads and shear forces.

Causes of Asphalt Cracking

Heavy Traffic Loads

The constant weight and pressure of vehicles, particularly heavy trucks, and buses, can cause cracks to form over time.

As the asphalt bears the brunt of these loads, it becomes prone to cracking and other forms of distress.

Temperature Fluctuations

Temperature fluctuations, ranging from extreme heat to cold, cause the asphalt to expand and contract. 

Over time, these repeated cycles of expansion and contraction can result in cracks, particularly in areas where the temperature variations are more pronounced.

Water Intrusion

Water seeping through cracks is a major cause of pavement deterioration.

When water seeps into the asphalt surface, it can erode the base layers, weaken the pavement’s structure, and help to create cracks.

Poor Construction Practices

Poor construction practices, such as improper compaction, inadequate joint construction, and the use of substandard materials, can lead to premature cracking.

These deficiencies create weak points in the pavement, making it more susceptible to cracks under traffic loads and environmental stress.

Aging and Deterioration

Asphalt surfaces naturally age and deteriorate over time due to exposure to the elements, such as sunlight, rain, and chemicals. 

This aging process diminishes the asphalt’s flexibility and resilience, making it more prone to cracking.

Defects in the Subgrade

Issues within the underlying layers, known as the subgrade, can significantly impact the pavement’s integrity. 

Voids, settlement, and poor compaction in the subgrade can lead to uneven stress distribution on the pavement surface, resulting in cracking.


Asphalt binders can be damaged more quickly when exposed to harsh chemicals such as oil, gasoline, and de-icing agents. 

Chemical reactions weaken the binder’s properties, making the pavement more susceptible to cracking and deterioration.

How To Repair/Fixing Methods for Asphalt Cracking

Crack Sealing

Crack sealing is a preventive maintenance technique that involves sealing or filling cracks to prevent water infiltration and further deterioration. 

Early damage repair extends the life of the pavement and reduces the need for costly repairs.

To accurately determine the materials needed for crack sealing and calculate the quantities, you can use our Asphalt Calculator Tool.

Asphalt Crack Sealing

Crack Filling

Crack filling is different from crack sealing in that it aims to restore the pavement’s strength by filling cracks with the right materials. 

This method helps to prevent cracks from expanding and becoming worse.

Patching and Pothole Repair

Patching is essential for addressing localized damage and preventing minor cracks from developing into larger potholes. 

Properly executed patching procedures restore the pavement’s smoothness and safety.

Patching and Pothole Repair

Resurfacing or Overlay

Resurfacing, also known as overlaying, involves applying a new layer of asphalt over the existing surface. 

This method restores the pavement’s appearance and structural integrity, effectively concealing existing cracks and preventing new ones from forming.

Milling and Repaving

Milling is a comprehensive solution for severe cracking, as it involves removing the damaged layers before applying a new asphalt surface. 

This process eliminates existing cracks and provides a fresh, durable pavement layer.

Slurry Sealing

Slurry sealing is a cost-effective surface treatment that involves applying a mixture of fine aggregate, asphalt emulsion, and water to the pavement surface. 

This protective layer minimizes the appearance of minor cracks and enhances the pavement’s skid resistance.


Microsurfacing is a thin layer applied to the surface of a road to improve its appearance and repair minor cracks.

The application of a micro surfacing mixture improves surface texture and extends the pavement’s life.

Preventive Maintenance Techniques

Incorporating preventive maintenance into asphalt management programs is essential for minimizing cracking and prolonging pavement life. 

Regular inspections, surface treatments, and timely crack repair are key components of effective preventive maintenance.

Crack Sealing

Purpose and Benefits of Crack Sealing

Crack sealing serves as a barrier against water infiltration, which can lead to further damage and deterioration. 

By preventing moisture penetration, crack sealing minimizes the risk of crack expansion and extends pavement life.

Suitable Conditions for Crack Sealing

Optimal weather conditions are crucial for successful crack sealing. Dry weather and moderate temperatures ensure proper adhesion and curing of the sealant material.

Process of Crack Sealing

Cleaning the Crack: A vital preparatory step is to thoroughly clean the crack. Removing debris, dirt, and vegetation ensures the sealant will adhere properly.

Applying the Sealant: The selected sealant material is carefully applied to the cleaned crack, filling the void and preventing water intrusion.

Curing and Drying: It is essential to allow the sealant to cure and dry completely for it to last and be effective. Adequate curing time ensures a strong bond and long-lasting protection.

Transitioning seamlessly to the next section, we delve into the distinctive approach of crack filling.

Crack Filling

Distinction Between Crack Sealing And Crack Filling

While crack sealing primarily focuses on preventing moisture penetration, crack filling is geared toward reinforcing the pavement’s strength by filling cracks with suitable materials. 

This technique helps prevent further crack propagation and minimizes future pavement distress.

Types of Materials Used for Crack Filling

Various materials are utilized for crack filling, each with unique properties that contribute to the pavement’s durability and resistance to cracking.

Materials such as asphalt rubber, polymer-modified asphalt, and cold-pour crack sealants are commonly employed.

Application Process for Crack Filling

Preparation of Cracks: Proper preparation is essential for ensuring effective crack filling. Thoroughly cleaning and clearing debris from the cracks create a clean, receptive surface for the filling material.

Material Application: The selected crack-filling material is applied to the crack, thoroughly filling the void and reinforcing the pavement’s structure.

Finishing and Leveling: Ensuring a smooth, even surface after crack filling enhances the pavement’s aesthetics and usability. Proper finishing and leveling contribute to a visually pleasing and safe pavement surface.

As we transition to the next segment, we shift our focus to addressing more extensive pavement damage through patching and pothole repair.

Patching and Pothole Repair

Identifying When Patching is Necessary

Effective pavement management involves identifying the appropriate timing for patching and pothole repair. 

Potholes, often resulting from unchecked cracking, require prompt attention to prevent further deterioration and hazards.

Steps for Effective Patching

Removing Damaged Asphalt: Patching begins with the meticulous removal of damaged asphalt material. Excavating the affected area prepares it for the subsequent repair process.

Cleaning the Area: Thoroughly cleaning the patch area is essential for achieving optimal adhesion between the existing pavement and the patching material.

Applying Patching Material: Using high-quality patching materials, the damaged area is filled and leveled to restore the pavement’s integrity.

Compaction and Leveling: Proper compaction and leveling of the patching material ensure seamless integration with the existing pavement, minimizing the risk of future cracks and distress.

Moving ahead, we explore the merits of resurfacing or overlay as a strategic approach to rejuvenating asphalt surfaces.

Resurfacing or Overlay

Resurfacing or Overlay

When to Consider Resurfacing

Resurfacing, an effective preventive maintenance strategy, is a viable option when widespread cracking compromises the pavement’s integrity. 

This approach offers a refreshed appearance and enhanced performance.

Steps Involved in Resurfacing

Surface Preparation: Surface preparation is a critical step in resurfacing. Proper cleaning and repair of the existing pavement create an ideal foundation for the new asphalt layer.

Application of New Asphalt Layer: The application of a new asphalt layer over the existing surface restores the pavement’s aesthetics and structural strength, effectively concealing and mitigating existing cracks.

Compaction and Finishing: Thorough compaction and finishing ensure the new asphalt layer adheres well to the existing pavement, resulting in a smooth, cohesive surface.

Continuing our exploration of solutions, we delve into the benefits and intricacies of milling and repaving for more severe cases of asphalt cracking.

Milling and Repaving

Milling, an advanced technique, is employed to address severe cracking and distress. 

By removing damaged layers and providing a fresh surface, milling lays the foundation for a stronger and more resilient pavement.

Milling Process and Equipment

Specialized milling equipment is utilized to meticulously remove the old and damaged layers of asphalt. This precision ensures the removal of existing cracks and imperfections.

Application of New Asphalt Layer

After milling, a new layer of asphalt is applied, restoring the pavement’s functionality and appearance. The fresh surface effectively mitigates existing cracks and offers enhanced performance.

Slurry Sealing

Slurry sealing, a versatile surface treatment, involves applying a mixture of fine aggregate, asphalt emulsion, and water to the pavement surface. 

This protective layer serves as a barrier against cracking and enhances skid resistance.

Preparation of the Surface

Preparation is essential for successful slurry sealing. Thoroughly cleaning and assessing the pavement surface ensure optimal adhesion and longevity of the slurry mixture.

Slurry Mixture Application

The slurry mixture is carefully and evenly applied to the pavement surface, effectively filling minor cracks and restoring the pavement’s texture and appearance.

Benefits and Limitations of Slurry Sealing

Slurry sealing offers notable benefits, including enhanced pavement performance and improved skid resistance. However, it may not be suitable for addressing severe cracking or distress.

As we move on to the next segment, we will discuss the intricacies of micro-surfacing, a technique designed to address minor cracks and extend pavement life.


Microsurfacing is a specialized technique designed to address minor cracks, surface distress, and imperfections. This thin overlay restores the pavement’s appearance and performance.

Application Process and Equipment

Advanced equipment is utilized to apply the micro surfacing mixture uniformly across the pavement surface. This meticulous process ensures an even distribution and a seamless finish.

Advantages and Considerations

Microsurfacing offers significant advantages, including improved skid resistance, enhanced appearance, and extended pavement life. However, it is most effective for minor cracking and surface imperfections.

Transitioning to the final segment, we underscore the crucial role of preventive maintenance in mitigating asphalt cracking and ensuring long-lasting pavement performance.

Preventive Maintenance Techniques

Preventive maintenance is the cornerstone of effective pavement management. Regular inspections, timely interventions, and strategic surface treatments are paramount for minimizing cracking and extending pavement life.

Regular Inspections and Assessments

Frequent inspections allow for the early detection of cracks and distress, enabling proactive measures before issues escalate.

Surface Treatments and Seal Coating

Surface treatments, including seal coating, provide an additional layer of protection against cracking and deterioration. These measures safeguard the pavement and contribute to its resilience.

Addressing Small Cracks Before They Worsen

Timely intervention is critical for preventing minor cracks from developing into major issues. 

Prompt repair and maintenance mitigate the risk of crack propagation and pavement deterioration.


It is essential to have a thorough understanding of the different types and causes of asphalt cracking in order to effectively manage pavements. 

By identifying the root causes, we can implement targeted solutions that improve pavement durability.

Emphasizing the importance of routine maintenance and timely repairs highlights the need for preventive measures. A proactive approach reduces the effects of cracking and ensures the longevity of asphalt surfaces.

Consult pavement professionals for complex pavement issues. Their expertise ensures sound strategies and sustainable solutions.

A holistic approach is needed to address asphalt cracking, including understanding the types of cracks, their causes, and repair techniques.

By adopting these strategies, we can create safer, more durable, and more attractive asphalt surfaces that will last for many years.


What is asphalt crack?

Asphalt crack refers to a fissure or gap that forms in an asphalt surface, often caused by age, weather, or stress, leading to pavement deterioration.

What are asphalt cracks called?

Asphalt cracks are commonly referred to as fissures or gaps that develop on asphalt surfaces due to factors like aging and stress.

What is asphalt used for?

Asphalt is used primarily in road construction and maintenance. It’s a mixture of aggregates, binder, and filler, creating a durable and flexible pavement surface.

What causes asphalt to shrink?

Asphalt shrinks primarily due to temperature changes. When exposed to high temperatures, it expands, and when cooled, it contracts, leading to surface cracks and deformation.

Does asphalt shrink in winter?

Yes, asphalt can experience shrinkage in winter due to cold temperatures causing it to contract, which can lead to the development of cracks and other forms of pavement distress.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top