What Is Alligator Asphalt Cracking?

August 31, 2023

Full,Frame,Grunge,Background,Of,Cracked,Old,Asphalt,PavementAlligator asphalt cracking, also known as fatigue cracking or crocodile cracking, is a common pavement distress that occurs in asphalt surfaces. It is characterized by a series of interconnected cracks that resemble the skin of an alligator or crocodile, hence the name. This type of cracking is not only unsightly but also poses significant risks to the integrity and longevity of the pavement. Understanding the causes and prevention methods can help you address alligator asphalt cracking and ensure the durability of your pavement.

What Causes Alligator Asphalt Cracking?

Alligator asphalt cracking is primarily caused by the repeated traffic loads on the asphalt surface. Factors that contribute to this type of cracking include:

1. Aging and Drying Out: As asphalt ages, it becomes more brittle and prone to cracking. Exposure to sunlight, heavy traffic, and harsh weather conditions can accelerate the drying process, causing the asphalt to lose its flexibility.

2. Insufficient Pavement Thickness: If the asphalt layer is not thick enough to withstand the traffic loads, it can lead to premature cracking. Inadequate pavement thickness can occur during the initial construction phase or as a result of heavy wear and tear over time.

3. Weak Subgrade Support: The subgrade, which refers to the soil or aggregate layer beneath the asphalt surface, plays a crucial role in providing support to the pavement. If the subgrade is weak or improperly prepared, it can lead to excessive pavement deflection and subsequent cracking.

4. Poor Drainage and Water Intrusion: Water is a significant contributor to alligator asphalt cracking. Poor drainage or improper slope can result in water pooling on the pavement, leading to saturation and weakening of the asphalt layers. When traffic loads are applied to the weakened asphalt, cracks can form.

Preventing Alligator Asphalt Cracking

While alligator asphalt cracking is a common issue, there are several preventive measures that you can take to minimize its occurrence and impact on your pavement:

1. Proper Design and Construction: Ensuring that the asphalt pavement is designed and constructed according to industry standards is crucial. This includes proper pavement thickness, appropriate selection of materials, and adherence to best practices during the construction process. Working with experienced contractors or pavement professionals can help ensure these requirements are met.

2. Regular Maintenance and Repair: Implementing a proactive asphalt maintenance strategy is essential for preventing and addressing alligator asphalt cracking. Regularly inspecting the pavement for signs of distress, such as alligator cracking or potholes, and addressing them promptly can prevent further deterioration. This may include patching and filling cracks, sealcoating, and overlaying the pavement when necessary.

3. Improve Drainage: Proper drainage is critical for pavement longevity. Ensuring that water is effectively directed away from the pavement surface will help prevent saturation and subsequent cracking. Installing proper drainage systems, maintaining clean and functional gutters, and grading the pavement to allow water to flow away are important steps in improving drainage.

4. Reinforce or Reconstruct: In severe cases where alligator cracking is extensive and the structural integrity of the pavement is compromised, reinforcement or reconstruction may be necessary. This typically involves excavating the affected area, addressing any underlying issues in the subgrade, and properly reconstructing the pavement layers.


Alligator asphalt cracking is a common pavement distress that can significantly impact the integrity and lifespan of asphalt surfaces. Understanding the causes, such as aging, insufficient pavement thickness, weak subgrade support, and poor drainage, is essential in preventing and addressing this issue. By implementing proper design and construction practices, regularly maintaining and repairing the pavement, improving drainage, and considering reinforcement or reconstruction when necessary, you can effectively mitigate alligator asphalt cracking and ensure the long-term durability of your pavement. Remember, a well-maintained and structurally sound pavement not only enhances the aesthetics of your property but also provides a safe and smooth surface for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

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With over 50 years of experience in the design and construction of commercial and residential asphalt paving, Paveco Inc. has the experience and manpower to make your project the best it can be. We use only the highest quality of materials available. Paveco Inc. utilizes the latest technology and equipment available. We have established high standards in Northern and Central Virginia, with attention to quality and detail at an affordable cost to our customers. No matter what size the job is, large or small, we do it all. Contact us today to entrust your next project to Paveco Inc, and see what we can do for you.

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