Living on an island, especially one as populated as Hawaii, means our roadways are under constant abuse. With only so many places to travel on an island, and millions of visitors every year, it’s no wonder our roads are in perpetual repair-mode.  Add in the effects of heavy rains, year round sunlight and plentiful tree growth, and we start to recognize why our road closures, construction sites and pothole complaints seem to be never ending.

There are so many factors that affect the strength and durability of asphalt.  However, though some elements may be unavoidable, being aware of ways to prolong the life of one’s asphalt can save the headache and hassle of never-ending fixes.  So, here are five of the most common asphalt adversaries and steps that can be taken to preserve your asphalt:

Excessive Sunlight

Just as UV rays can pose a threat to your skin, excessive rays can also adversely affect asphalt.  Over time, asphalt that is exposed to large amounts of sunlight will begin to fade and show signs of age much faster than areas that are kept in the shade.  This happens as UV rays oxidize the tar in asphalt causing it to weaken and break down. As this happens, the lack of tar holding the aggregate together causes the asphalt to crumble as it loses it’s strength, leaving pieces of gravel behind.  

We realize it can be a challenge to keep asphalt covered all hours of the day.  However, when possible and especially during the hottest times of the year, it might be a good idea to put a temporary shelter, such as a tent, over your driveway, sidewalks or other paved parts of your home to prevent overexposure to the sun. This simple hack can add years to your asphalt and can prevent fading of paved surfaces. 

Standing Water

Water is plentiful in many parts of Hawaii due to year-round rain showers.  However, no mater the water source, any type of puddled water when left on asphalt materials for an extended period of time will likely cause damage.  As asphalt ages, cracks and divots can develop, creating opportunities for standing water.  This can lead to the break down of chemicals in the asphalt, which can weaken the structure. Once it is sufficiently weakened, cracks and divots will further break down and may lead to hazardous conditions such as potholes and uneven surfaces.

In order to avoid this from happening, we suggest getting rid of water at the first sign of pooling. Using a wide push broom, sweep away any water that may be collecting on asphalt surfaces.  For larger puddles, consider using a commercial-grade water pump to keep areas dry and to avoid premature asphalt disintegration.

Tree Roots

Another common factor speeding up the erosion of asphalt is the sudden appearance of overgrown root systems.  Tree roots are very strong and, depending on the type of tree, can cause significant damage to asphalt.  We have seen roots extending up to 70 feet from their trunk before finally pushing through and destroying large chunks of roadway.  In many cases, where a section of asphalt is right next to a large tree, the roots were found to be growing directly beneath the asphalt causing uneven pavement, shifting infrastructure and deep cracks.  

If you notice a bump surfacing beneath the asphalt on your property, consider hiring a landscaping or tree trimming expert.  There are a few things that can be done to remedy the situation.  One possible solution to prevent root invasion is to install root barriers before planting a tree. These barriers work by deflecting roots deeper into the ground and away from foundations, pavement, sidewalks and more. Another solution is to cut the offending root.  We suggest enlisting the help of an expert for this tip as the removal of even the smallest portion of a tree’s roots may harm or kill a tree.  Lastly, if you find your trees are growing too quickly and extensively, the previous remedies may simply not be enough.  In this case, it may be necessary to call a tree removal expert to chop down the problem tree.  While we only recommend this as a last resort option, if you must decide between the integrity of your foundation and a tree, we would strongly urge you to choose the former. We also recommend that the tree be removed to avoid any potential hazards arising in the future.  

 Heavy Vehicles

If you’ve ever driven on a road that has a pattern of large divots or potholes, there’s a good chance this road is frequented by heavy traffic or large construction vehicles. Asphalt is designed to hold a lot of weight, but only to a certain point.  When overused by heavy vehicles, especially repeatedly in the same spot, the weight will cause the asphalt to bend more than it should, leading it to eventually crack.  When this happens, the aggregate will break down and will eventually be left with gravel. 

While there isn’t much that can be done about this problem, if the situation can be controlled, we recommend limiting the use of roads showing signs of excessive wear.  If at all possible, when using an overweight vehicle, a balanced use of different roads can go a long way to preserve the asphalt.   

Motor Oil

If you notice an oil spot developing on your asphalt, chances are you have an oil leak in your car that needs to be fixed.  Similar to water erosion, when motor oil sits on top of asphalt, it penetrates and begins to break it down.  As the asphalt breaks down, it is susceptible to cracks, crumbing and other elements that will further break down the materials.   

Until you can get your oil leak fixed, we suggest changing up your parking spot.  By parking in different spots, the likeliness of oil buildup will decrease.  If you do notice a healthy buildup of motor oil, cat litter, baking soda or commercial absorbents should be used to remove the oil as soon as possible.  This is sure to prolong the life of your asphalt and will maintain a cleaner aesthetic in your driveway. 

At Seal Pros Hawaii, we recommend sealcoating your pavement every 1-3 years to keep it protected from the elements described above.  If you’re dealing with cracked pavement, potholes or other signs of wear in your asphalt, give us a call.  We have the expertise to keep your commercial or residential property in top shape and our service is unmatched.  We look forward to helping you with your next pavement project. Aloha! 

The Seal Pro’s Hawaii Ohana