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How to repair potholes?

11 OCTOBER, 2023

Potholes are a huge problem in the UK that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. Potholes can cause real damage and loss if not delt with properly so it’s important to get pothole repairs right the first time. The RAC claim that drivers are now 1.5 times more likely to suffer a pothole breakdown than in 2006, when they first started collecting data. They also revealed that 1,766 drivers suffered pothole-related breakdowns between April and June of 2020 despite lockdown causing a 60% decline in motor traffic volumes according to government figures. Furthermore, reports by the Independent showed that UK drivers are now spending over £4billion repairing car damage caused by potholes each year. Something must change!

The problem is being exacerbated by rapid climate change and years of ineffective pothole repair methods which only work on a short–term basis. Road agencies require durable construction and maintenance methods for the repair of damage that occurs after hard winters due to repeated frost–thaw cycles. Roads are now deteriorating faster than they can be repaired, highlighting the need for a sustainable and permanent solution that can be rolled out quickly and cost-effectively despite governmental budget constraints.

What you need to know about potholes:

  • Potholes need swift corrective action to maintain road safety and prevent accidents and damage to road users and their vehicles.
  • Potholes will expand once they have emerged, but generally stop growing after a certain time. However, other potholes can appear close to an existing one.
  • Potholes can reach a depth of at least 30 mm and an area equivalent to a diameter between 100 mm and 1 m.
  • They arise as a result of fractures, attrition and seasonal effects which have intensified in recent years due to climate change.

Pothole repair methods:

Most road repair contractors and highway maintenance repairs are conducted using hot-asphalt methods which are rather complex. Best to leave this approach to the professionals as it requires expert knowledge and heavy machinery.

Severely damaged roads will require a full-depth repair and replacement which involves the application of a jack hammer to break up the surface and a cut-off saw to form the vertical edging. The eroded material must be removed, and the area dried and dusted to clear away any debris and dampness. An emulsion bond coat is then applied, and new hot asphalt mix is poured into place using a vehicle mounted hotbox. The surface is then compacted using a road roller or vibrating plates which flatten the new substance into a thick, consistent layer.

Sand-dominated mixtures, such as hot-rolled asphalt, have a higher bitumen content and lower permeability making it easy to compact and provides high durability, but the surface is often quite smooth and therefore may require chippings to improve skid resistance.

Aggregate dominated mixtures like asphalt concrete and stone mastic asphalt have a lower bitumen content and higher permeability that require higher compaction energy and have shorter durability.

Cement-based materials are fast-setting and useful in quick pavement repairs, however, in road repairs the material used should ideally match the existing material type or at least match the properties of the surrounding surface to improve the quality and longevity of the repair. For that reason, using cement-based materials to repair potholes is not recommended.

Pothole repair techniques include temporary repairs that are used in emergency circumstances when a pothole represents a potential hazard for safety or in harsh winter conditions where hot repair methods are ineffective. Many contractors will employ a semi-permanent solution, in this case, using hot or cold asphalt. The area is cleared of water, ice or debris, forming the vertical edges to the pothole, placing the mixture into the hole and compacting it using a vibratory plate compactor, drum vibratory rollers or tamper.

Alternatively, thermal patching might be used to tackle several smaller potholes that are clustered together. This method is quicker than a full depth repair and replacement, taking roughly 8 minutes to complete. The heater or infrared heating unit is positioned over the pothole to soften the surface of the road allowing it to be re-worked using a shovel and rake. This method re-uses the damaged asphalt to repair the area, so it is not wasted. Once the original asphalt has been re-worked, new hot asphalt mix is added and smoothed into position and compacted using a road roller to create a strong thermal bond between the repaired area and the new surface.

Cold-mix asphalt is mostly used as temporary repair but there are some permanent mixtures on the market. Some of the main advantages of using cold asphalt is that it can be installed very quickly and easily, it uses less machinery (unless it is an in-depth repair or full replacement of a large surface) and is also applicability in harsh winter conditions. The binder can be either cutback bitumen or bitumen emulsion. Cutback bitumen can be difficult to work at low temperatures and often requires some warm-up time in the sun before use whilst bitumen emulsion can have a relatively short time to break and cure, so relatively fast-setting emulsions are required.

Compared to hot asphalt installations that can only be undertaken when the weather is dry, requiring up to 24 hours to set, various heavy plants and a team of at least three or four professional plant operators to carry out, cold asphalt pothole repair can save contactors valuable time and resources.

Are you looking for a quicker, easier way to fill potholes?

EZ Street Asphalt is a high-quality polymer modified cold asphalt product that provides a First Time Fix to pothole problems delivering sustainable highway repairs without breaking the budget. This cost-effective alternative is also more sustainable, substituting the diesel found in many cold asphalt solutions with biofuel to produce a cold asphalt that is less reliant on fossil fuels and therefore part of the climate change solution.

Cut costs and installation time in half. All that is requires is one person, a brush, a shovel, and a compaction tool. No heavy machinery, no noise, no heat, no mixing, no exorbitant costs, no dust, and no harmful vibrations.

Fixing that bothersome pothole just got a whole lot simpler. In fact, it can be achieved in just 3 easy steps.

  1. Brush away any loose debris in the pothole.
  2. Lay 2 inches of the EZ Street Asphalt into the pothole and thoroughly compact it using a hand tamper or compactor plate.
  3. Repeat this process 2 inches at a time until the pothole is filled. Overfill the pothole by about an inch to allow for a final compaction.
  4. With all factors working against them, the highway maintenance sector is in dire need of a cost-effective solution that can help them combat the impact of climate change without causing more damage to the environment. The solution is EZ.

Red Stag Materials brought EZ Street asphalt to the UK from the USA and Canada where it has been thoroughly tried and tested and are confident that using EZ Street will translate to significant savings in manhours and equipment costs for contractors and local councils.

Red Stag Materials was formed in 2018, as the UK’s exclusive supplier of EZ Street, to provide innovative alternative products to the UK Infrastructure services industry, particularly in Highway Maintenance which is restricted by a lack of variety and creativity in the products they work with. Find out more about their latest road maintenance products.