COMMON ASPHALT TERMS & DEFINITIONS
If you’re hiring an asphalt contractor for pavement repair or maintenance, it’s important to understand the terms being used to describe your project. Below are common asphalt terms and definitions to help you understand what service you are getting and why it’s important.
Aggregates – A mixture of different sized stones, crushed rock and gravel. This makes up approximately 92+% of hot mix asphalt. The rest is made up of asphalt cement.
Alligator Cracking – this crack pattern closely resembles alligator scales. Alligator cracking is a cause for concern. The cause is typically an issue with the base, subgrade, or drainage; and repair is often more complicated than crack filling.
Asphalt – (Bituminous Asphalt Concrete) also referred to as “hot mix asphalt” or “flexible pavement”. This is a mixture of aggregates and hot asphalt cement. When placed and compacted and then cooled, the end product is asphalt pavement.
Asphalt Binder – This is a near-liquid petroleum byproduct used to bind the pavement together. Also referred to as Asphalt Cement.
Blacktop – This is the common “slang” term for asphalt. This can have a variety of meanings based on context.
Cold Patch – this asphalt patching method requires no heat. It is a reliable solution for potholes and large cracks on roads with low-medium traffic volumes. Holes will be filled with a cold asphalt mix and then compacted.
Concrete – A mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water dried into a hard, compact building material. Most commonly used for sidewalks, curbs, and driveways.
Contraction – freezing temperatures can cause asphalt to contract. This movement in the overlay, subgrade, and base is the cause of serious cracking on roadways in the winter.
Crack Routing – This is done pre-crack filling. A specific piece of equipment is used to follow the crack and clean it out to make sure it accepts the crack sealing material. Crack filling can be done without routing, but it has been proven that the crack repairs will last longer when this is added to the process.
Crack Filling – Repairing cracks while they are minor will help you avoid potholes and asphalt deterioration. We’ll use a hot rubberized sealant to fill the cracks in your pavement and prevent degradation.
Crack Sealing Deficiency – This term is used to describe crack sealant/filling that no longer prevents cracks from spreading. The cause of crack sealing deficiency ranges from problems with the base or subgrade to improper sealant application.
Deterioration – Pavement deterioration is considered any breakdown of the asphalt surface, including cracks and potholes.
Drainage – Typically asphalt surfaces are sloped to maximize the removal of surface water. This is done for vehicle safety as well as to protect the longevity of the asphalt pavement.
Geotextiles – This is a technical yet generic term for a fabric-like material used in the paving process. These can be manufactured with specific characteristics based on asphalt needs. An example of a performance characteristic would be stabilization of base material preventing migration into the sub grades.
Hairline Cracks – Very small cracks, no wider than ¼”.
Hot Mix Asphalt Concrete (HMAC) – This is the technical name for what is often referred to as “asphalt,” “hot-mix,” “blacktop,” etc. To avoid being misunderstood, you should always use this term when requesting asphalt pavement work.
Infrared Patching – A cost- & time-effective repair solution, infrared patching includes heating the asphalt in problem areas until it is workable. Deteriorated pavement will be removed and new asphalt mix added then compacted. Infrared patches can be driven on almost immediately and last longer than most patching solutions.
Line Painting – Also known as pavement striping, line painting is the act of painting roads and parking lots with traffic control marking; including parking stalls, traffic arrows, and crosswalks. Done correctly, you can maximize parking space and effectively control vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Patching – Pavement deterioration does not always require repaving. Asphalt patching is more cost-effective than repaving and often yields similar results. Most methods involve the removal of bad asphalt, the addition of new asphalt mix, and compaction.
Potholes – cracks allow water to breach the subgrade and base of asphalt pavements; causing faster deterioration. These weakened areas will worsen with contraction and as vehicles drive over them; ultimately causing the large, deep holes known as potholes.
Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) – Ground asphalt that is added back into a fresh asphalt mixture at an asphalt mixing plant. This is gaining popularity for economic and environmental purposes.
Sealant – This term can refer to the rubberized sealant to fill asphalt cracks, but most often, it refers to the sealant used to coat and protect asphalt surfaces from water and other harmful elements.
Sealcoating – Sealcoating is an important asphalt maintenance task. Sealant is applied to the surface of asphalt pavements to prevent water, UV rays, oil, salt, and other elements from causing deterioration. It helps asphalt driveways and parking lots last far longer.
Slope — This refers to the degree to which a paved surface is angled to aid in the drainage of water.
Testing – The method used to examine a constructed asphalt pavement for depth and makeup information.