Different Types of Asphalt Pavement Distresses — and What You Can Do About Them

Over time, asphalt pavements deteriorate because of age, traffic repetition, climate changes, drainage issues, poor construction, and several other reasons. In order to perform the right kind of repairs, you need to know what type of pavement distress you are dealing with.

As commercial asphalt contractors, we’ve seen and repaired our fair share of cracks and pavement deteriorations. That’s why we wanted to provide a quick guide on the different pavement distresses your commercial property may be experiencing and what you can do to fix the problem.

Fatigue Cracking

Also known as alligator cracking, fatigue cracking is the cracks that form on asphalt pavement that resemble the pattern on the skin of alligators. Fatigue cracks develop because of load-related issues, such as repeated traffic. These cracks often form where the wheels of vehicles frequently drive. The pavement is susceptible to fatigue cracking if it has a weak base course or subgrade or is laid too thinly.

Longitudinal Cracking

Unlike fatigue cracks, longitudinal cracking does not form because of load-related problems. These parallel cracks down the road’s centerline are caused by poorly constructed joints, shrinking asphalt layers, or cracks in the underlying pavement layer.

Edge Cracking

Edge cracking is a type of longitudinal cracking that occurs near the outer edge of the pavement. These cracks appear because there is not enough support on the pavement edge.

Reflection Cracking

Reflection cracks form on the pavement surface over joints or cracks in the underlying concrete pavement. They may also develop because the old pavement shifts underneath.

Block Cracking

These cracks are usually large and rectangular. They are caused by the shrinkage of the asphalt pavement due to temperature changes. Because of the environmental impact, block cracks can even form on roads that are not often used.

Slippage Cracking

Slippage cracking occurs when the asphalt pavement is low-strength or has not been adequately bonded with the other pavement layers. These crescent-shaped cracks form when drivers turn or brake.

Transverse Cracking

Like longitudinal cracks, transverse cracks are not related to load issues. Instead, they are often caused by the shrinkage of the asphalt. However, they may also be formed by reflection from another crack. Transverse cracking can be found perpendicular to the centerline of the road or drive.


Raveling is the deterioration of aggregate particles in the asphalt cement from a poor-quality mixture. It occurs because of frequent traffic.


Every driver has come across a pothole at some point in their life. These bowl-like holes in the road or driveway are caused by the continued deterioration of another type of asphalt pavement distress.


A pavement distress caused by a failing underlying pavement layer is depression. These pavement flaws are localized low spots in the pavement. They are especially noticeable when it rains, and these depressions fill with water.


Rutting is a type of pavement distress that forms in the wheel paths of the road or drive. It is a depression caused by the consolidation of the pavement layers or subgrade. Rutting is most commonly the result of weak asphalt mixtures or an insufficient pavement layer thickness.


Caused by excessive amounts of fine aggregate, too much or too soft asphalt, or a weak granular base, shoving is the formation of ripples in the pavement. It is sometimes called wash-boarding.


Pavement distress may occur when pavements are patched. If the pavement is not compacted correctly or the underlying pavement is in poor condition, patching distress will likely arise with time.


The opposite of a depression is an upheaval. This type of pavement distress is characterized by the upward movement of one spot of the pavement. It is caused by the swelling of the subgrade.

Polished Aggregate

This type of distress is considered a skidding hazard because the aggregate is worn down into a smooth finish. These spots will need to have their roughness restored to protect the safety of drivers.


Another skidding hazard is bleeding. This occurs when too much asphalt reaches the pavement’s surface and reduces its skid resistance. The pavement mixture may have been made with too much asphalt, or the sealcoat may not have been properly applied.

What to Do with Asphalt Pavement Distress

Despite their quick and economical construction, asphalt pavements are still high quality and last a long time. However, they are still susceptible to some distresses, especially if proper construction isn’t done or suitable materials are not used. By understanding the various types of asphalt pavement distresses, you can take the right steps in repairing the pavement and extending its service life.

Commercial paving contractors can help you determine if the damage on your property needs small repairs or patching, hot asphalt patching, sealcoating, or repaving. They can also help answer questions like “can you lay asphalt on top of concrete?” so you can have a pavement solution that will serve your company well.

Get in touch with our team today to discuss asphalt pavement repairs and preventative maintenance!

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