Some of the basic components of a homeowner association's common elements are the parking lots and, often, the community roads. While asphalt is a durable material when installed properly, it requires periodic maintenance to ensure it performs to its maximum useful life. Asphalt pavement is basically sand, gravel and glue consisting of 92 percent stone aggregate, a mineral filler combined with 8 percent asphalt binder. This combination allows it to stay in place and repel water. Because it stays dry, it has the strength to carry traffic loads and lasts a long time. It does, however, have drawbacks:

  1. Poor resistance to the sun, salts and chemicals: Asphalt is a complex mix of thousands of chemicals with predominantly open chain molecules with a high degree of double bonding. What this means to the average mortal is that open chained molecules provide easy access for sun, salts and chemicals which breaks them down and destroys their binding and waterproofing properties. The visual indicator of this breakdown is the change of color from dark black/brown to gray.
  2. Poor resistance to petrochemicals: Asphalt is the heaviest and final component of petroleum distillation. The distillation process separates the asphalt from other byproducts like gasoline and oil. Since these byproducts are similar in molecular structure, they easily dissolve chemicals in asphalt.
  3. The drying process: As unprotected asphalt ages, the oils migrate to the surface and are burned off. As this continues, the pavement hardens and shrinks, producing hairline cracking. Cracking allows water to penetrate the water repellent barrier to the ground below which, in turn, causes ground swelling and sinking which causes more damage to the asphalt. Advanced deterioration causes "alligatoring" (cracked surface area resembles an alligator's back), heaving, sinking and disintegration.

No pavement has ever been constructed that does not need maintenance. Maintenance is the art of keeping pavements in full service, with minimum expense, and the least inconvenience to the public and the residents. Improper maintenance is usually worse than none at all. Preventative maintenance is a wise investment. There are several basic forms of maintenance:

  1. Sand Slurry Sealer: Also called seal coating, this procedure will protect against oxidation and spills while making the asphalt visibly attractive. This application should be applied at least every five years or more frequently if use is heavy and deterioration is apparent. Applied at proper intervals, it will prolong the life of pavement indefinitely at a fraction of replacement cost.
  2. Crack Sealing: Cracks are usually caused by either a failure of the base, water damage or excessive weight on the pavement surface. Cracks can easily be repaired by installing a hot pour material to fill them. The crack sealer provides a waterproof bond and is rubberized to give support while the pavement expands and contracts in changing temperatures. Cracks that go unsealed will continue to allow water into the base structure, causing severe damage to the pavement as the base deteriorates. A pavement crack inspection and correction should be done annually.
  3. Patching: If significant deterioration has taken place, removal and replacement of certain areas may be possible. If excessive ground water or poor soil conditions have aggravated the problem, corrections should be performed before applying the patch.
  4. Overlayment: At intervals of 20-30 years, asphalt paving requires a 2" overlay to refresh the surface. That process includes repair of selected areas that have extensive deterioration. The overlay will buy the paving years of new life but the same maintenance should be repeated as with the original surface to ensure good performance.

"Under all is the land" but pegged right next to that is your asphalt paving. As such, it demands the best of care. Make sure to include asphalt maintenance and repair in your 30-year reserve plan.

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