Advice for Repairing Potholes


Every year, property owners and managers are faced with repairing those ugly and hazardous potholes in their paved surfaces. There are several options, and just as many opinions, when it comes to properly repairing potholes.


The Federal Highway Administration has stated, “The goal of patching operations should be to place patches that last as long as the surrounding pavement.” How does one determine which repair method is best? According to the FHA, matching the repair methods to the specific factors of the pothole is the key to success. These factors include: hazard liability, timeliness of the repair, size of the pothole, condition of the surrounding pavement, moisture, budget limitations and how long the repair should last.


When it comes to method of pothole repairs, the primary options are: “throw-and-go,” “throw-and-roll,” “skin patch,” “infrared patching” and “remove-and-replace” patching.

  • Throw-and-Go. This patching places cold-mix asphalt into the pothole, letting the traffic compact it. This is a temporary “quick fix” option and generally the least effective.

  • Throw-and-Roll. This method also places cold-mix asphalt in the pothole but uses compaction equipment to “roll” the asphalt. An article in the Pavement Maintenance and Reconstruction magazine stated this method to be “a slight improvement over the throw-and-go approach.” The primary advantage for cold mix applications is for emergency situations as it is quick and can be used during cold temperatures and when moisture is present. It should be noted that eventually potholes repaired with cold-mix asphalt will need to be removed and replaced with hot-mix asphalt for a permanent repair.

  • Skin Patch. This method refers to the use of hot-mix asphalt placed like a bandage on the damaged area. The area should be cleaned and dried, tack oil applied for adhesion, and hot-mix asphalt placed and compacted in the pothole. Most experts view this type of repair as temporary.

  • Infrared Patching. Infrared technology heats the area of repair so that the existing pavement around the pothole is workable. The old asphalt is scarified, any dirt or debris is removed, and new hot-mix asphalt is installed, raked to grade and compacted. An advantage to infrared patching is seamless edges of the patch as the new asphalt blends with the heated existing asphalt to create a seamless patch. Michael Groh, president of Pavement Consulting Inc., said, “Using infrared technology according to the manufacturer’s recommendations is an excellent to approach pothole repair.” Infrared patching also is the most environmentally friendly method, reducing product waste, fuel consumption and pollution.

  • Remove-and-Replace. This patching method is considered the most permanent pothole repair method. The repair usually includes saw-cutting around the failed area and into stable pavement, removing the failed asphalt to a depth where the subgrade is sound, grading and compacting the subgrade, installing the appropriate depth of asphalt (4 to 6 inches is common) and thoroughly compacting the new asphalt. While remove-and-replace patching is the most permanent, it also is the most expensive as it requires more labor, equipment, materials, trucking and time.


One of the most important factors is identifying a quality contractor you can trust to help you match the method of repair to your specific situation. In addition to providing pothole repair, have your contractor prolong the life of your asphalt surfaces by crack sealing and seal coating as a part of a maintenance program to protect your asphalt investment. The cost spent on maintenance will extend the life of your paved areas and save you a significant amount of money over time.


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