Your driveway needs to be smooth, not just because it’ll look nice, but so that it won’t damage your car. That’s why longitudinal cracking is such a problem for homes with asphalt driveways. It can be caused by a number of issues, including repeated overloading, sub-quality installation, or simply flooding damage. In any case, the damage is usually reparable and able to be mended in a way that isn’t just filling potholes. In any case here’s the lowdown on alligator cracks formed in asphalt.

”Don't taunt the alligator until after you've crossed the creek.” - Dan Rather

Alligator Cracking Causes

Not quite as bad as a gator in the road but...
I've heard of tough roads but this is ridiculous. Source: Minada

Usually the reason that fatigue failure occurs in asphalt is due to traffic loading, but this isn’t the only case. The localized environment also plays a critical role. When the asphalt is laid on thick, the cracks start at the top of the structure and high localized tensile stresses from tire-pavement interaction. The following damage resembles a sort of “alligator-scale” pattern. Other forms of stressors include:

  • Flooding
  • Shifting soil
  • Extensive subterranean pressure
  • Support failure
  • Structural failure
  • Frequent overloading
  • Erosion
  • Poorly installed material
  • Poorly maintained driveway
  • Edge of the structure is damaged

The Different Types of Cracking

Much like the name implies, it does resemble alligator plating
Late stage damage to a road. Source: Wikipedia

There are also different ways that cracking turns into alligator patterns. Identifying the means of distress can often result in finding solutions to the problem. If you understand the way that the pavement is cracking, you’ll have an easier time repairing the damage. There are roughly seven common types of cracking in pavements in driveways. Here are the different types of cracks in asphalt pavement.

  1. Slippage Cracking - Crescent shaped half moons that form from issues with the pavement layer bonds
  2. Reflection Cracking - Form between joints in pavement because the older layer moved
  3. Transverse Cracking - Cracks perpendicular to the centerline of the pavement when the asphalt layer shrinks
  4. Longitudinal Cracking - As noted before, longitudinal cracks occur parallel to the centerline of the asphalt
  5. Edge Cracking - Similar to longitudinal cracks but near the edges of the pavement
  6. Block Cracking - Literally appearing as large, block-like cracks caused by a wide shift in temperature
  7. Fatigue Cracking - The infamous cracking caused by poor installation or overloading

How to Stop Distressing

What a road looks like with extensive cracking.
Whole stretches of highway tend to resemble this. Source: Flickr

Usually the most common (and sometimes, the least effective) means of solving a cracking issue is to pour more asphalt over it. Because of the nature of the material, the new asphalt bonds well with the old and in a perfect world, would be seamless. But that’s not always how it works.

For example, longitudinal cracking occurs most frequently in permafrost regions. Which in turn means that layering asphalt over asphalt won’t correct the issue, just delay further damages for a while. The real issue is with the surrounding environment. But because this can rarely be addressed under taxpayer’s dollars, it seems that most states are stuck perpetually fixing their own road systems. If you’re a homeowner however, you can have your driveway sealed and the sub-base altered to enjoy a long lasting, smooth pavement.

Need to fix alligator cracking in your asphalt driveway? Not sure where to begin? Contact a professional today to get a free quote and get started.

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