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Why do potholes form?

14 AUGUST, 2021

What causes potholes to form?

Potholes are more than a nuisance. They can cause serious damage to your vehicle, and if you are the owner of a business with a carpark or private road, can seriously impact your reputation. Even hitting a pothole at a low speed can result in a number of wheel and tyre problems such as buckled wheels, cracks and lumps in your tyre and cracked alloys.

So how do potholes form?

Firstly, rainwater seeps into slight cracks in the asphalt to form puddles between the roadbed and the asphalt layer. At night lower temperatures cause this puddle to freeze and push the asphalt layer up. When day breaks and the ice melts, it is absorbed into the already weakened roadbed and leaves a dent in this layer. Now there is a pocket of air between the asphalt and the roadbed which breaks apart as vehicles drive over the weakened surface. The broken asphalt falls into the cavity in the roadbed which creates a hole in the asphalt surface and larger cracks and potholes form as the process repeats itself. Pothole problems and road cracking can quickly accelerate if they are not adequately repaired.

What are some of the pothole repair methods that currently employed by the highway maintenance sector to fill potholes?

What’s the difference between hot and cold asphalt?

Using Hot asphalt is one of an effective methods of repairing large, deteriorated road potholes although it is rather complex and is best left to the professionals as it requires expert knowledge and heavy machinery. For this reason, it is an expensive and time-consuming process, however this method is one of the most effective in prolonging the life expectancy of the road.

The Full-Depth repair and replacement method aims to prolong the life of existing asphalt roads by removing and replacing the damaged asphalt. To do this the repair area is swept clean and cut away using a floor saw which should create straight cut edges around the problem area. A jack hammer is then used to break up the surface of identified area into smaller chunks. The broken material is then removed to a specified depth, usually around 4 inches, using a skid steer. Any remaining asphalt chunks, dirt and dust are cleaned away to ensure that the underlying surface will bind well with the replacement asphalt. An emulsion bond coat is then applied to the excavated area. A new hot asphalt mix is then poured into place using a vehicle mounted hotbox and compacted using a road roller which flattens the substance into a thick, consistent layer. Ideally, the material used should match the existing material type or at least match the properties of the surrounding surface to improve the quality and longevity of the repair.

This method should be undertaken when the weather is dry. Trying to use this method in frozen, icy, or wet conditions could reduce the durability of this repair. If the pothole is in a high-traffic area the road will need to be closed off while this work is undertaken. It also requires a number of sophisticated, heavy plants and a team of at least three or four professional plant operators to carry out a job like this, which means it is more time consuming and requires a bigger budget.

Thermal Patching

This repair process is best suited to discrete areas of defects particularly where several smaller potholes can be repaired in one go. Firstly, the damaged area must be assessed and cleaned of water and debris. Then, the heater or infrared heating unit is positioned over the pothole or damaged asphalt and heated to a material specific dependant temperature to soften the surface of the road without burning it. This should take roughly 8 minutes but will vary according to the road surface material. Both wind and ambient temperature will largely affect the heat times as well as the time the material will remain workable during the repair. Once the material is sufficiently softened the machine can be removed and the softened material can be re-worked using a shovel and rake. This method means that the damaged asphalt can be recycled and converted into a workable condition, so it is not wasted. Once it has been raked back into place, new hot asphalt mix is added and smoothed into position. This hot mix must then be compacted using a road roller to create a strong thermal bond between the repaired area and the new surface.

This method is considered permanent and must be undertaken by experts who are trained to operate the required machinery for the job. This method is quicker to use, requires less disturbance to the road and recycles the original asphalt so less is needed to fill in the pothole. It also reduces the carbon footprint of traditional full-depth asphalt patching by around 85% and is more cost effective. There is no saw cutting or jack hammering involved which means there is no dust, noise or harmful vibrations making it easier and safer for workers.

An EZ solution

Although these pothole solutions are effective in permanently resolving your pothole problems, they are noisy, time consuming, costly, weather dependant and require some serious man power and expensive equipment.

Red Stag Materials was formed in 2018 to provide innovative alternatives products to the UK Infrastructure services industry, particularly in Highway Maintenance which is hamstrung by a lack of variety and creativity in the products they work with. Red Stag are the UK’s exclusive supplier of EZ Street Asphalt, a game-changing product in the cold asphalt market.

So, what is EZ Street Asphalt?

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. 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.

All that this 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. A quick, easy and cost-effective solution to an ordinarily time-consuming and expensive problem.

To solve your pothole problems and upgrade your infrastructure contact Red Stag Materials Ltd for an EZ solution.