Asphalt: Surviving Cold Canadian Conditions

Jun 21, 2024

Asphalt: Surviving Cold Canadian Conditions

It is easy to forget about our asphalt surfaces but asphalt doesn’t forget you, it fights the harsh Canadian cold day and night.  Asphalt in Alberta faces extreme elements. Between the process of snow falling onto it, melting into a pool of water, and then freezing and forming a layer of ice, asphalt needs protecting. To ensure that Calgary doesn’t turn into a production of Disney on Ice with cars skating around, The City of Calgary implements the following plan:

When road surfaces are below -5 degrees Celsius, with a forecast of colder temperatures, a sanding chip mixture (3% salt, 97% fine gravel) is used.

The City applies approximately 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of road salts annually in order to keep Calgary on the move in difficult winter driving conditions.

How Does Salt Affect Asphalt?

Salt has no affect on asphalt. Of course, this is assuming that a professional asphalt paver installed hot-mix asphalt, which consists of sand, stones, and petroleum. This blend needs to be precise in order to prevent the road from freezing in the snow and in order to keep it from deteriorating when salt is applied.

Salt’s Affect On The Environment.

Environment Canada‘s 5-year research plan concluded that:

Road salts pose a risk to plants, animals and the aquatic environment…Environment Canada Implemented a Code of Practice to minimize their effect on the environment and have been successful in minimizing the risk.

It is important to remember that salt is the best means of prevention as defined by Environment Canada. There have been changes in the ratio of sand to salt depending on the temperature, and the amount of snow. Currently, this is the best solution with minimal risk to the environment and it allows for safe driving on our roads.

Salt Does Not Cause Potholes

It is a massive misconception that potholes are formed by salt.  Potholes are caused by excess water or snow enters the cracks the road from the edges of the road. Over time, this goes through a scientific process called osmosis where the water expands and contracts as the water cools, and heats up. While water goes through this process, it weakens the asphalt. The road surface under the snow and ice will rise as the water freezes and eventually once it melts, the area under the surface remains hollow and separated.  Now that the asphalt in this area is weakened, cars will drive over this area, applying pressure that causes the road in that spot to collapse, therefore creating a pothole.

What To Do About Potholes

If you see a pothole on a major road in Calgary report it to The City of Calgary.

If the pothole needs immediate repair or if you have a pothole in your driveway or parking lot give Calgary Paving a call and get a free estimate!

To learn more about pothole repairs and asphalt resurfacing click here