To Replace Or Repair? A Paver’s Dilemma

THE PROBLEM: an aging asphalt parking lot, showing signs of distress. THE QUESTION: whether to attempt to repair it and patch it up as best as you can do, or to give it up as a bad job and start again from scratch.

This is a dilemma that will face every asphalt paving contractor in Michigan sooner or later.

And no matter how much experience you have in the business, this is the kind of question which will haunt your working life on a regular basis.

It can be hard to know the answer to this perennial poser.

So here we, with the help of, compile a handy reminder to both homeowners, looking to renew their driveway and to the professional in a quandary. Here’s how to work out what to do with your damaged parking lot.

Most of the problem of what to do with your aging asphalt lies in what exactly the issue seems to be with it. So, here’s a recap of the things that it could be;


Rutting are depressions in the asphalt which are caused by wheel tracks.

These are obviously dangerous, because the grooves can fill with water when it rains, potentially causing vehicles to skid.

Rutting may also occur because of sub soil or even issues with the design of the road. This will not get better by itself.

If the rut is only a third of an inch or less, it may be safe to leave it. Anything else needs immediate attention and should be leveled and then a new surface applied.


The other major problem that asphalt faces is cracking.

This might mean cracks around the edge, shrinkage, slippage, widening and more besides.

The cause of cracks are manifold. It could be from water, the sun or the effects of the freeze-thaw cycle on the asphalt.

Whatever the size of the crack, it is bad news and it needs to be stopped in its tracks and filled immediately. A small crack may become worse and a large crack can mean something very serious indeed.

So now we have recapped on the two most common causes of problems with asphalt surfaces, we come to the dilemma – to repair or replace.

This is our rough guide to which approach to take when;



Smaller cracks – ones which are under a quarter of an inch wide or straight, can be repaired by the timely application of a crack filler.


The crack sealer goes on first, before any sealcoating or resurfacing can be done.

Smaller cracks can be filled quite easily with a liquid filler. The you can move straight onto sealcoating


This shouldn’t be done for the first six months of an asphalt lots life anyway. After that, it should be inspected annually and usually resealed every two to four years.


Any cracks should be filled prior to resurfacing. Resurfacing the asphalt will add about two inches to the depth of the structure and can extend its life by up to fifteen years.

This is cheaper and easier than a replacement of the entire parking lot. Be warned, though, this shouldn’t be attempted in colder weather.


Repairs should be carried out on younger asphalt lots, which have fewer serious issues with them.

Done correctly, a resurface or repair can add years onto its potential lifespan.


Inevitably, there are times when further repairs to a parking lot are simply flogging a dead horse.

These times are usually in older surfaces, which are getting to the end of their natural lifecycle (i.e twenty years or over) but also when there are serious underlying issues with the base.

If there are sub soil and construction problems, then you are better off biting the bullet and replacing the entire parking lot.

Other occasions are when even a younger road or lot has so much damage (i.e. over 30% of its total area) that there is no other option but to replace the whole thing.

Could Cooking Oil “Heal” Cracked Asphalt?

Road chiefs in England are considering using a radical new solution to the perennial pitfalls of the pothole – and it comes from an unlikely source.

Highways England, the body in charge of English roads is trialing the use of cooking oil, to help prevent and fix cracks in roads.

Sunflower oil is believed to be able to help stick cracked and broken asphalt road surfaces back together again and it is hoped it might increase the road’s life by up to a third.

If this sounds strange, then the inspiration behind it is even stranger – it comes from a Spanish TV chef contest!

Engineer Dr Alvaro Garcia got the idea from watching contestants in a TV show using oil that ‘spherified’ into little caviar like globes.

He copied the method to make sunflower oil capsules, with a hard shell. These are added to the asphalt and it should help them stick the damaged road surface back together, possibly adding another twelve to sixteen years of life onto it.

This is more of a preventative measure than an actual cure. It will not help repair potholes which are already there, but it can help stop future ones from happening.

And it is not limited to sunflower oil, any oil could be used to create the same effect – it is just that sunflower oil is the cheapest possible solution.

It helps by making the bitumen thinner and easier to spread across the cracks in the road.

Usually, an application of bitumen takes a couple of days to set and the road has to be closed whilst it is happening. The addition of sunflower oil capsules speeds the process up by four hours.

Also, it helps prevent holes from happening – as long as they are under one millimeter to begin with.

The capsules are being trialed over a five yard stretch of road and added at a proportion of 18.5 liters of the oil capsules to each five tons of asphalt.

The research was conducted by the University of Nottingham, who sourced the sunflower oil from a local supermarket!

Highways England have stated that if the trial is successful, it will be rolled out across the whole of the networks roads and highways.

So could this be also set to come to a highway or pavement near you in Michigan?

Watch this space and find out!