Causes of Asphalt Damage and Degradation


Knowing some of the main causes of asphalt damage and deterioration helps you to understand what kind of services you might need to contact us about. The knowledge also helps you understand what exactly a contractor wants to do when you get an estimate or quote. There are many different types of damages, but let’s go over some of the most common forms you may be facing right now…

1. Poor subgrade load-bearing capacity

Sometimes the subgrade is just too weak to support the heavy load that is being asked of it. Subgrade is the native material that the asphalt was paved over– I’m talking about the ground.

Fun fact, nearly all of California has native clay in the ground, with exception of the desert area. While a lot of California is known for loam (a soil mixture of 40-40-20% sand-silt-clay) we do still have some parts known for clay loam or loam with more clay than any other mineral. If you’re in the area, Antioch is known for clay loam.

With that said, when asphalt is paved over silty clay soil early signs of rutting and grooves can be found in pavement after rain storms or heavy long lasting rain.

2. Stagnant Water

As you can see from the above example, water is a huge contributor to most of the damage done to asphalt. Allowing water to pool up and stay on your pavement for long periods of time only invites water to soak into your pavement and irritate the binders that hold your asphalt together. This causes binders to break apart and bind to the water instead. When the sun comes up and dries the asphalt… another danger occurs.

3. Sun Damage / Oxidation

While California’s sunny days are filled with laughter, they are a harsh reality on your asphalt. Asphalt is notorious for absorbing solar radiation. Much like our skin, UVA and UVB rays can transform your asphalt pavement into an ashy and cracked mess. Sun rays can break down binders in asphalt as well. When the binders are separated from the asphalt all that is left is brittle pavement that can no longer stand up to weight on its surface.

4. Oil and Grease Stains

Have you ever noticed oil and grease stains on parking lots or driveways? While they may look harmless, oil and grease also damage asphalt over time. It’s important to take care of it as soon as possible to prevent deeper damage.


There are 3 levels of oil and grease damage to asphalt pavement.

  • Surface Asphalt Stain and Maintenance Prevention

Oil and Grease stains on the surface are not only blemishes on your asphalt. While they leave you with an unmaintained look they also prevent maintenance procedures, like sealcoating, from adhering to the top layer of asphalt. These areas must be cleaned in order to continue with maintenance procedures. No worries, your friendly local asphalt pavement contractor Advance Asphalt, Inc. can clean up the stains for you before applying sealcoat.

  • Surface Asphalt Damage

As with water, oil and grease can find their ways through hairline cracks in aging asphalt. Similar to water they break and agitate binders in the asphalt. You’ll start to notice small depressions and exposed pavement at this go over some maintenance plans for your situation! Contact us at
1-877-780-7283 (PAVE) 

  • Large-Scale Asphalt Deterioration

At this point Oil and Grease stains have penetrated deep past the asphalt and have severely damaged the asphalt top layer and underlying sub-base, causing the asphalt to soften up. When asphalt is softened it requires more extensive treatment. This is a point of no return and it is highly recommended to repair the areas ASAP.