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What Causes Potholes to Form In Winter Weather?

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If you have a driveway or a private road, you're likely to notice the formation of potholes as the winter turns into spring. Understanding what it is about winter weather that causes potholes to form and how you can prevent this from happening in the future will help you maintain your roadway.

What causes potholes to form in winter weather?

Potholes form because of cracks in the roadway. When water soaks into the pavement, it's absorbed into the soil beneath the roadbed. During the winter, temperatures drop to freezing and the water beneath the road turns to ice.

Water expands as it freezes, raising the pavement and loosening the gravel. This causes the original cracks in the roadway to expand, which allows more water to be absorbed into the soil beneath the roadway, causing greater fluctuations in the pavement when the temperatures freeze again.

As the asphalt loosens, cars driving over the asphalt erode away parts of the road and a pothole develops. The more cars drive over the roadway, the worse the pothole becomes.

How can you prevent the formation of potholes on your driveway or private road?

The best way that you can prevent this process from occurring is to seal the cracks in the roadway at a dryer, warmer time of year, like at the end of the summer.

What can you do to seal cracks in the road?

There are numerous products available in hardware stores and home improvement centers that will allow you to seal the cracks in the road as a DIY project. Examine each product carefully and choose a crack sealer that specifically states it will fill a crack the size you're attempting to seal.

Clean out the crack by removing loose debris and weeds. Pull weeds by hand, then use a stiff wire brush to clear out loose chunks of gravel. Sweep away any dust, then apply the crack sealer so it overfills the crack. Finally, use a squeegee to flatten the sealer over the crack. Do this at a time when the forecast is predicting dry weather for a couple days.

If you feel the cracks are too large or a pothole is already forming, you may want to consider calling a specialist. If you have any questions or concerns, there's more info here.

Can you do this during the winter?

You can, but if the freeze or thaw cycles have already begun, then it may be too late to prevent potholes this winter. If this is the case, then you'll have to get roadway repair in the spring when the ground is fully thawed, and resolve to seal any cracks during the summer and early fall when the weather is dry.