The Right and Wrong Way to Repair Potholes

Just about every road gets potholes at some point. Whether it’s from age, bad weather, or the road was paved poorly to begin with, potholes show up. But, how are they repaired? As with most things in life, they can be fixed the right way (and become lasting improvements on the road) or the wrong way, meaning they quickly open up again. Repairing potholes quickly and correctly is important because it prevents further degradation of the road.

How exactly do potholes form?

Potholes are caused by water. Water seeps into the areas underneath the road, and then it expands and contracts with changing temperatures, even in places with stable weather. In places with extreme weather, this problem is exacerbated.

As the water expands and contracts, vehicles continue to drive over the road. This eventually wears down the weak piece of road, causing it to open. Thus, a pothole is formed.

When can potholes not be repaired?

Small hairline cracks that are one-eighth an inch or less can’t be filled with asphalt, and they are usually safely ignored. However, if an area is covered in a large network of these cracks, then a surface seal can be used over the area. The surface seal must be fluid enough to seep into the cracks and securely bind them.

How can potholes be repaired?

The wrong way

It seems easy enough just fill in the open hole in the road or parking lot with new asphalt, right? This actually is just a temporary stopgap. The pothole will almost certainly reappear, and the area between the old asphalt and new asphalt will become the weakest part of the road.

The fast and easy way to fill in a pothole with asphalt is commonly used by less-experienced and less-professional workers. It’s common to see these types of repairs in developing areas or poverty-stricken regions that can’t afford proper workers, equipment, or training.

The right way

To properly repair a pothole, there are several steps that must be followed. And different procedures are followed depending on the size of the crack or pothole.

Clean The pothole

The pothole can easily be cleaned by hand with simple tools like shovels and rakes. First, small pieces of stone, asphalt, and other debris must be removed. Afterwards, high pressure water, high pressure air, sandblasting, or a wire cleaner can be used to clean out fine materials. The cleaning process ensures that the adhesive used will bind the filler to the road properly, and that the filler won’t simply break apart or come in the near future.

Measure the pothole

After cleaning, the crack or pothole must be measured for depth and length. This gives a good idea of how much material will be needed for the repair, and if other equipment besides asphalt can be used in the pothole.

Repairing cracks

In order to conserve sealant, a backer rod is often places in the cracks. The rod simply reinforces the structure and enables repairers to use less asphalt for filling in the crack. The backer rod should be non-compressible, non-shrinking, and non-absorbent, and have a higher melting temperature than the asphalt used to fill in the crack.

Filling in the crack

After the crack is cleaned and prepared, it’s sealed with liquid asphalt. Various types of equipment can be used for pouring the asphalt (depending on the size of the crack). The filler should fill the crack from the top to the bottom, but should be about one quarter to one eighth of an inch lower than the surface of the crack. Completely filling in the crack prevents air bubbles from forming and weakening the newly-filled crack.

Patching a large pothole

Quick repair

A quick repair is a surface-level patch that is often temporary. Asphalt is poured on the pothole and the surface is leveled. This prevents further destruction of the road, but will not last long.

Full repair

The full repair of a pothole is a much more intensive process. The entire surface area of the pavement must be removed before the patching process begins. Deep patching removes the top four inches or more of asphalt so the hole can be repaired, while full-depth patching removes the entire area of pavement to start from the ground up. Full depth patching can be used for concrete and pavement, while deep patching is used only on asphalt.

Full-depth patching may even require removal of the surface below the pavement (the sub-grade), and may require drainage. Full-depth patching requires not only repair equipment but also excavation tools, as the pavement is removed (about one foot deep or more) and is cut out in square shapes. So, if you have seen square or rectangular holes in the road, the pavement was probably undergoing a full-depth patch.

The full-depth patch should be filled with a dense, hot-mix asphalt. A well-filled full-depth patch will be slightly overfilled as there will be some compaction thanks to traffic.

For more in-depth information on pothole repair, check here.

If you are interested in U.S. government procedures and policies regarding repair of potholes in asphalt paved surfaces, look here.

Is it urgent?

When it comes to sealing cracks and patching potholes, it’s important to nip the problems in the bud. Once the paved area gets to a significantly poor condition, it’s no longer viable to repair, and it’s better to remove it and replace everything.

Getting potholes filled

If you have potholes on your property that you need filled, you probably want it done properly. This ensures one-time fixes that won’t require additional visits from contractors. Be sure to hire a professional paving contractor with a proven record. If you happen to be looking for one, look no further than Reliable Paving. Our high-quality asphalt paving work will ensure that you get the best service for your job.