Asphalt Paving Glossary: The Terms You Should Know

Asphalt Paving Glossary

Asphalt Paving Glossary: Asphalt paving projects are an investment in your building and local infrastructure. To fully understand the ins and outs of what these projects entail, it’s a good idea to learn about commonly used terms and phrases in the industry.


ADA – The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, outlines specific requirements for parking lot and building access in order to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities. It’s important for your asphalt construction contractor to comply with this law during your project.

Aggregate – While the exact aggregate used in paving varies among projects, these construction minerals and materials consist of sand, gravel, stone, recycled concrete and sometimes clay and pumice. It’s a big part of the asphalt paving process for roads, driveways, and parking lots.

Alligatoring – When dense asphalt cracks form close together and over a widespread area of your pavement, it often resembles alligator scales. Low-quality labor and materials can be a common cause, as could water damage and high-traffic wear and tear.

Asphalt Concrete – You may be more familiar with the terms “asphalt” or “blacktop.” Asphalt concrete is a mix of aggregate and binder (or bitumen) that’s used to make parking lots and roadways. 

Base – Of the many layers that make up pavement, “base” refers to the deepest and first layer of asphalt. The subgrade is the lowest level, and on top of that is aggregate. Many layers of asphalt are then installed on that aggregate — the base is the layer directly above the aggregate. 

Crack Sealing – Sealing cracks when they first happen is important maintenance when it comes to extending the life of your asphalt paving. During this process, cracks are filled with a hot rubberized joint sealant that has aggregate added to increase adhesion.

Drainage – When water and sediment pools up under asphalt paving, it can lead to hazards (cracking, potholes) that are dangerous to drivers and pedestrians. Work with a contractor to build road surfaces that slope and have a catch basin nearby for drainage.


Asphalt Paving Glossary


Expansion – When the temperature gets warmer, the base of asphalt paving can expand. When that happens, there will be major cracking. Although there’s nothing you can do to control the weather, you can mitigate the chances of expansion by choosing an experienced contractor and high-quality materials. 

Frost Heave – What expansion is to the warmer months, frost heave is to the winter months. Water gets underneath the asphalt and swells as it freezes in the ground. The swelling will cause cracks and potholes in the asphalt as it “heaves” upwards. 

Gravel – While you may be quite familiar with gravel itself, it’s easy to overlook the importance of this component in the asphalt paving process. The collection of small rocks and rock fragments become aggregate — a major component of asphalt paving.

Line Painting – Once the pavement is installed, it must also be painted, especially when it comes to municipal projects. Markings control driver and pedestrian traffic — this includes crosswalks, right-of-way arrows, disabled parking symbols as per ADA guidance, and parking spaces.

Milling – This is how sections of pavement are removed when patching and repairing (the optimal choices) aren’t an option. Milling can be used to recycle road surfaces to be ground up as aggregate for future asphalt paving projects. 

Oxidation – As soon as asphalt paving is exposed to oxygen, the oxidation process begins. Over time, asphalt becomes stiff, brittle, and prone to cracking as the pavement continues to oxidize. Seal coating is a great way for your asphalt contractor to help maintain the quality of their work and mitigate oxidation. 

Patching – Total repair and repaving aren’t always necessary, and durability is one of the biggest selling points of asphalt pavement. Patching means that only the small areas that need repair get fresh asphalt It’s a cost-effective way to get pavement back to looking new.


Asphalt Paving Glossary


Regrading – Paved asphalt needs to be leveled to help drain away water that could otherwise cause extensive damage. Regrading is also known as leveling, the process of flattening and smoothing the surface. 

Seal Coat/Sealcoating – Protecting against weather conditions and ultraviolet rays, sealcoating is applied to vulnerable and high traffic and exposure. Sealcoating should be done when the asphalt is applied and used consistently to maintain the quality of well-installed asphalt pavement.

Sinkholes – As the layers below the asphalt starts to dissolve from water erosion, aggregate shifts and forms holes below the pavement. As those shifts grow into empty spaces, the asphalt surface collapses in.