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What Causes a Pothole

Posted by Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel on 07/08/17 12:45

What Causes a Pothole


The science facts about potholes and human nature it seems, means potholes are destined to be a perpetual nationwide problem.

But when you understand what actually causes potholes it’s possible to see that it is within our power to make our lives easier to combat the problem.   

The constant exposure to the elements of ice, rain and direct sunlight all effect the materials that make up our roads, paths and carparks. But…

Water is the biggest menace for road surfaces

As rainwater runs-off, it can take the top layer of road surface with it but, on a poorly maintained or poorly drained roads, tracks, car parks, when water is allowed to sit on the road’s surface and permeate, it accumulates under the road itself and settles into the sub-base.

When this water expands and contracts due to temperature change, damage is caused from under the road itself, pushing on the surface and causing deterioration, which left unchecked, results in a large hole in the road. 

When water that penetrates the road surface then freezes, it expands and then thaws creating cracks. When this freeze-thaw is repeated, it leaves a cavity beneath the surface of the tarmac that then collapses.

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Relentless Weight of traffic

Whilst materials and techniques improve, roads are not permanent structures and will deteriorate over time from the constant use.

Potholes start to form when the weight the road has to carry, becomes too much for it.

As well as repeated light traffic, heavy vehicles such as lorries, tractors, forklifts etc. all have the capability to cause indents, which will eventually become potholes. As we’re not going to give up our cars to any large degree, this cause isn’t going to go away.  

Fix rather than Maintain mentality
The cost of completely repairing a road can run into thousands of pounds and that’s why the ‘patch, mend and make do’ approach is one that many businesses adopt.

Filling a pothole with gravel; or simply laying a fresh topping of tarmac will not deal with the structural issues that are undermining the strength of the road so that within months, sometimes weeks, potholes carry on appearing across the surface.


No one likes spending out on repairs unless it’s really necessary but leaving tarmac to deteriorate is a false economy.
When a tarmac surface that is generally in fair condition, for every £1 spent to rehabilitate and repair smaller holes and cracks, £4-5 is saved against a repair that is left to when the surface is in poor and very poor condition. The full cost is also the extra disruption to business caused by major works.
  • Carry out regular pro-active checks for line cracks opening up, depressions, water pooling and wearing away of joints and sealing material on past repairs
  • Temporary repairs need to be done straight away to avoid risk of injury to people and damage to vehicles
  • Modern repair techniques and materials make it affordable and quicker to carry out smaller number of repairs before the surface deteriorates to a poor condition. Seamless repairs also provide much more of a permanent repair


 Pothole repair options... 

Temporary Pothole Repair

Click here to find out how to temporarily repair a pothole.  


Permanent Repairs

Hiring a professional will not only save you money but will ensure potholes are repaired effectively the first time. We are a one-stop, pothole repair shop and specialise in providing long-lasting, cost effective solutions to pothole repair


Find out more


Topics: Pothole Repair

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