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Why Is Compaction Crucial To Asphalt Pavement Quality?

Key Takeaways:

  • Compaction is one of the most important steps in asphalt installation. It guarantees the quality of the pavement & ensures its intended function.
  • Proper compaction creates a stronger, more durable pavement that can withstand fatigue & exhibit resistance to excessive loads.
  • Compaction must be done correctly to ensure the strength and flexibility of the pavement are retained. It also results in a reduced rate of deterioration of the pavement from water damage.
  • Poorly compacted asphalt can fall prey to pavement failures like cracks, rutting, raveling, slippage, and depressions.
  • In addition to compaction, many other factors can affect the longevity, durability, and functionality of asphalt pavement.
  • Atkins Paving offers exceptional pavement installation, repair, and maintenance services in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Asphalt is a versatile paving material. It can be recycled, repurposed, reclaimed, and even mixed with homogenous reinforcers to create design mixes for industrial paving. But as the science goes, there are conditions to fulfill to turn a highly viscous liquid into a formidable road. In asphalt’s case, compaction is critical to achieving quality pavement.

If you are a property manager for a portfolio of paved assets and need a paving job done in a hurry, think again. In today’s blog, Atkins Paving will cover the importance of taking the right time to compact pavement.

What Does Compaction Do for Pavement?

Asphalt compaction is essential in ensuring the strength, durability, and longevity of the freshly installed pavement. It’s a whole science unto itself, but proper compaction ensures the paving material has been thoroughly worked into place with the right amount of pressure to form a solid and unified surface.

How Compaction Affects the Quality of Pavement?

The quality of a paved surface is directly affected by compaction. Poorly compacted asphalt can cause premature failure in cracking and other visible damage forms. On the other hand, well-compacted asphalt will last much longer. It will exhibit minimal issues far easier to repair than more widespread damage caused by negligence and environmental factors.

Read also: Why Is Temperature Monitoring Essential In Asphalt Paving?

What Happens If Asphalt Is Not Compacted Enough?

Many issues can arise if there is too much air in the asphalt. That is why various equipment like drum rollers & compactors ensure any air voids are minimized in the mat’s thickness.

Asphalt compaction enables rigidity in the pavement, helping the surface take on vehicle loads for extended periods without deformation. So, unprecedented pavement failures can arise if the science behind asphalt installation is slightly off.

Reduced Rigidity & Strength

Asphalt pavement is flexible, but the compaction results in an air-void content that reinforces and solidifies the mat without making it too brittle. Too much air in the mix will destabilize the pavement, reducing tensile strength and encouraging stress cracks.

Decreased Durability

Asphalt binders are the adhesives applied between the pavement layers. They need a certain quantity of oil content to remain functional for decades, thus holding the pavement together & allowing for minimal maintenance. Too much air in the mat from poor asphalt compaction will lead to more room for binder deterioration & drying out, resulting in accelerated hardening of the binder.

Lower Fatigue Loading

Any aggregate-flexible mixture will eventually deform under constant application of loads, such as the vehicles on highways or busy intersections, and even parking lots. That means poorly compacted asphalt is the reason behind pavement depressions & birdbaths.

Asphalt compaction guarantees the pavement can withstand fatigue for longer periods without deforming.

Moisture Intrusion

Water can damage asphalt pavement in the long run, which is why a seal coat is applied as soon as the pavement has cured. But if there is a higher air void content in the asphalt, it will begin to soak up moisture regardless of a seal. Next will be the impact of freeze-thaw damage, and the outcome will be cracked pavement.

Surface Erosion

This is also called raveling, and it involves the loss of the top layer of the pavement, which includes the seal coat and the asphalt itself. Although it can occur on compacted pavement after a long time, higher air content from poor asphalt compaction can speed up the damage.

Uncontrolled Compaction

Have you ever seen longitudinal tracks in the pavement, like tire-track impressions worn into the road? That is called rutting, and the ‘spongy’ nature of poorly compacted asphalt is to blame here. It can also be a design mix fault. Still, in most cases, it is the asphalt compacting under vehicle loads in an uncontrolled manner.

It is not only an eyesore, but it makes for a dangerous road to traverse. The rutting also results in material displacement under the asphalt mat and needs full-depth repair to rectify.

Factors That Guarantee Quality Pavement

1. Design Mix

Depending on the purpose of the pavement installation, the mix is developed at the asphalt mixing plant. Temperatures can reach up to 270F to 325F, but it is not too high to burn or vaporize the oil. The mixture, for the most part, is asphalt cement & aggregate that is kept hot to ensure fluidity of the mixture.

2. Transport

HMA must be transported within a range of 275F to 300F to ensure it binds with the tack coats & the aggregate upon installation. These trucks are designed to deliver payloads right to the paving site with minimal heat loss.

3. Temperatures

At the time of installation, the HMA’s temperature needs to be around 250F to 300F for it to be spread out and compacted as soon as possible. In colder regions, the compaction times have to be prompt because once the asphalt drops below 280F, it becomes challenging to compact it any further.

4. Compaction

A newly installed mat needs to be compacted up to 9% to 10% of the air void content for most mixes and then allowed to cure. Asphalt compaction is a significant reinforcer of the pavement’s foundation as it curbs material displacement under continuous vehicle loads.

Failing to sufficiently compact both the sub-bases & the asphalt mat will lead to unfortunate & costly pavement failures.

5. Maintenance

Freshly paved asphalt needs not any treatment or maintenance for a minimum of 90 days. However, once that period is over, the surface is best sealed to retain the essential oils that give the binders their strength and protect them from moisture intrusion & oxidation.


Hire An Experienced Paving Contractor for Pavement Installation

Atkins Paving serves Myrtle Beach, SC, with unparalleled paving services & a commitment to quality asphalt. Our team follows only the best in paving technology & trends to bring you pavement engineered to last for decades. And rest assured, our maintenance plans will perfectly fit your budget!

Explore our services & be sure to drop in for a free estimate on your spring paving project!