In this article we will help you identify your asphalt failures and how to properly fix and avoid future failures.

If you have a commercial asphalt parking lot with any of the failures listed below call Eaton Asphalt today. Northern Kentucky’s asphalt contractor for over 100 years, contact us for a free quote.

Identifying Asphalt Failures Repairing, and Reducing Asphalt Failures

An “asphalt failure” refers to anytime when an asphalt surface no longer holds its original shape. This creates issues in stability and the durability of the asphalt system.  The longer an asphalt failure lingers the more serious its repair becomes. The longer water and traffic that can enter the surface and disturb the base the more in depth of a repair will be required.  Learn about these failures and how to fix and avoid these costly failures in your asphalt system.

Before we discuss how to identify these failures it is important to address the importance of correcting these failures correctly.  If you have a pothole, rut, depression, or cracks it may be tempting to have an asphalt contractor simply cover the parking lot or roadway with a thin asphalt overlay. This is NOT an acceptable solution and should never be considered for your property. The surface layer needs to be placed on a structurally sound base in order to hold up over time. If an existing pavement is cracked or provides inadequate structural support the initial failure will show through even the best constructed overlay and cause premature asphalt pavement failure in the form of returning cracks, ruts, and potholes.  To maximize your asphalt’s life, it is crucial that any failed sections of pavement be repaired before a new surface is laid.

Asphalt failures include raveling, shoving, upheaval, rutting, depressions, cracking, and potholes.  While asphalt pavements are an attractive value with their durability and ride quality they are still subject to some faults.  Addressing these.


Raveling is a form of disintegration of the asphalt. This failure will happen in the presence of traffic with high volume and speed.

Causes: Hardened asphalt (due to mix or age), poor asphalt mix used in installation.


Shoving, also known as “wash-boarding” is best described as ripples forming across the asphalt. This is usually observed at locations with significant horizontal stresses, like intersections.

Causes: Excess asphalt, excessive fine aggregates, too soft of an asphalt mix, weak granular base.


Upheaval is the exact opposite of a pothole. Upheaval is when the surface bulges into a bump from the subgrade swelling.

Causes: Distress below the surface such as frost and freezing temperatures causing a subgrade to shift and expand.


Rutting will commonly follow the wheel path of traffic forming a depression in the asphalt.

Causes: Insufficient pavement thickness, lack of compaction, weak asphalt mix.



These asphalt problem areas are easy to spot after it has rained. They are low spots in the pavement surface.

Causes: Settlement in the subgrade, failure in base asphalt layer, poor construction technique.



There are several types of cracking that can occur in an asphalt surface.  Each has different causes and different repairs. Some are load related and some are due to temperature changes.


                Alligator Cracking

Called this due to its resemblance of an alligators skin this is a fatigue crack.

Causes: Too thin of pavement, overloading (resulting in weakened base and subgrade).

                Longitudinal Cracking

Cracks that appear parallel to the center of the pavement. These are not load related failures.

Causes: Poorly constructed joint, cracks in an underlying layer, asphalt segregation during installation.

                Reflection Cracking

Cracks that form over joints and cracks in a concrete pavement or deteriorated asphalt pavement.

Causes: Created by movement in the old pavement.


Repairing Asphalt Failures

None of the above failures can be fixed by just laying a new coat of asphalt over the repair area. Many of these asphalt repairs involve milling or cutting out the pavement and stabilizing the base the ensure the failure does not come back again and ruin your new asphalt overlay.

If your asphalt parking lot is exhibiting any of these symptoms contact the asphalt experts at Eaton Asphalt today.


Preventing Asphalt Failures

The best way to reduce asphalt failures is to ensure that you have a properly designed and installed asphalt system. It is important to have your lot designed by a professional with the proper mix designs and asphalt depths for the traffic and loads your lot will be subjected to.

Your asphalt parking lot will only perform as well as it is installed.  This begins with the asphalt plant that is supplying your pavement.  At Eaton Asphalt, we own the plants, which allows us to control the entire process and provide you with high quality custom asphalt mixes to meet and exceed your paving needs.

Eaton Asphalt features a total quality control program to ensure all materials produced exceed customers’ requirements and expectations. Eaton Asphalt uses a certified liquid asphalt binder lab and AASHTO accredited mix design labs in addition to field testing to make sure the materials and mix are not only to spec but are at the highest standards.

Once the asphalt arrives to the job it is important to have a crew that knows how to properly lay the asphalt. Our crews are experienced professionals led by superintendents and foremen with decades of paving experience. Proper compaction is essential to the longevity of your asphalt system.

With over 100 years of experience in Northern Kentucky, Eaton Asphalt Paving Co. has paved everything from small commercial lots to miles of heavy highway on I-75, we know a thing or two about identifying asphalt failures!