How Freeze-Thaw Cycles Can Damage Asphalt in Portland Oregon

Every spring, you may notice cracks and potholes in your asphalt driveway or in parking lots you frequent, but why? In environments like the Pacific Northwest that experience some freezing temperature during the winter, asphalt paving can be in danger of damage from what’s called the freeze-thaw cycle.

What is a freeze-thaw cycle?

A freeze and thaw cycle is pretty much what it sounds like: when temperatures see-saw from above to below freezing. This cycle is primarily about water freezing during winter and then thawing when temperatures rise a little, only to freeze again. It’s particularly severe when there is precipitation such as snow, which flows into cracks in paving when melted and then freezes again when the temperature drops.

How can a freeze-thaw cycle damage asphalt paving?

While asphalt is a durable paving material, water can flow into any little cracks or depressions when temperatures are above freezing, washing away aggregate and soaking into the sublayers that keep the paving surface stable. Since water expands when it freezes, any water that’s inside a crack will widen that crack when it freezes, which can break the asphalt. Puddles that freeze can further break up asphalt and create potholes. Asphalt itself also undergoes structural changes with temperature, since it contains petroleum-based components that are liquid when hot and hard when cold. This means that in the summer, asphalt paving can better withstand impacts and pressure, but it can become brittle in freezing temperatures, cracking and breaking under pressure.

Even in moderate climates like Oregon, asphalt driveways and parking lots are at risk for damage due to this freeze and thaw cycle. A trusted paving expert like the asphalt contractors at K&L Industries will know the best asphalt maintenance steps to take to ensure that your driveway or parking lot will be protected from weathering and water damage. Not only do they have the expertise to properly install asphalt paving to avoid these issues, they can also help you out if you experience cracks or potholes from this freeze-thaw cycle. If you find you have asphalt damage in the spring, call Oregon’s asphalt experts, K&L Industries.

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