What Causes Those Darn Potholes To Form?

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Every spring, there are people in just about every state who joke that their state's biggest crop is potholes. This is especially true in the northern tier of states. But what causes that bumper crop of potholes every year?


One of the biggest causes of potholes 9s the freeze/thaw cycle. This is a real problem in places where there are frequent freezes. What happens is water gets into any available crack, no matter how small. Unlike most other liquids, water doesn't contract when it freezes. It creates a crystal structure that actually expands which causes that crack to get bigger. When that ice thaws, either from temperature or something like salt, that gives more water the chance to get into that crack and then the cycle starts over again. It doesn't take a lot of time for the pothole to form. Once it does form, the freeze/thaw cycle can get bigger. Once the pothole gets big enough, not only will the water get into the cracks on the road, it will also get under the layers of the road, which can make large chunks of the road to break up quickly. 


An excessive amount of rain can also cause potholes. Instead of causing the pothole to start on the top of the road, the rain starts to wash out the foundation under the road. That will cause a weak spot to form. As traffic goes over that weak spot, it will start to break down, causing the pothole. A small amount of rain doesn't cause the pothole, it generally takes a lot of rain to happen in a short amount of time. The ground doesn't get a chance to dry out after the rain, which means that it's easier for the water-soaked ground to move around. Excessive rain can also cause flooding, and that flooding can aid in the formation of potholes, even if it's just a little bit of rain. 

One theory behind the name pothole comes from potters digging clay out of the road where ruts had formed from wagons or carriages going over the road. The drivers of the wagons would call the resulting holes potholes. These days, there are other causes of potholes. However, like those wagon and carriage drivers who probably got annoyed at potholes, drivers of today get annoyed when they drive over those potholes. Potholes can also cause a lot of damage to cars. That's part of the reason that municipalities make sure that they fix those potholes as soon as possible. If you have concerns about potholes, contact a business such as Lakeridge Paving Company.