Cracked pavement is a reality we see all around us, from Interstate highways right down to the sidewalks and driveways in front of our homes. As hard and durable as pavement is (whether it’s asphalt or concrete), time and the elements always have their way in the end. It’s really a question of how long the pavement is going to last. If you put thousands of dollars into a new driveway only to have it crack up one or two years later, then obviously your investment was not as effective as it could have been. On the other hand, if your parking lot or driveway goes 15 or 20 years without much need for maintenance or repair, you can be confident that you made a quality investment in your pavement.

Yet even if you hire a good pavement specialist who delivers an excellent result for your home or business, it’s entirely possible (and even probable) that you’ll end up seeing some cracks before too long. This is a normal part of the aging process, especially if you live somewhere with cold winters and hot summers. New Jersey is a prime example. The drastic difference in temperature between the coldest and warmest months of the year causes pavement to expand and contract. Over time, this process weakens the pavement and leads to the development of cracks and other imperfections.

Let’s say you’ve noticed cracks forming on the surface of your asphalt or concrete pavement. What’s the best course of action? Should you attempt to repair the cracks yourself? Should you seek the opinion of a professional? Should you ignore the problem and hope it goes away?

Let’s take these options one at a time. First, it’s true the hardware stores sell a number or products for “fixing” cracks yourself. Usually these “driveway crack fillers” are made of silicone rubber. They’re not designed for structural integrity so much as appearance, although in the case of minor cracks, they can make a nice aesthetic difference.

Contact a professional is another option, though you may feel it unnecessary for just a few cracks. This is a natural response; why invest a bunch of money in a professional house call, when the problem is small and seemingly insignificant? The answer here is not quite as straightforward, since age and weather aren’t the only thing that can lead to cracks. There might also be problems in the base or sub-base layers of the concrete that are causing cracks to form — and there’s no product at the hardware store to address issues like that.

The third option would be to simply ignore the problem. In some cases, cracks will remain isolated. That’s always a possibility. But in some cases, what starts out as a few unwanted lines quickly spreads into a whole web of cracks. Then you’re left with a much bigger problem that needs professional attention.

What’s the best course of action when your pavement is cracking up?

Taking your pavement’s age into consideration is a good idea — as is finding out who installed the pavement, if you don’t already know. There’s a chance your pavement might still be under warranty, and you can get repairs free of charge. On the other hand, contacting a professional to assess your driveway and offer solutions can give a clearer view on whether this is a problem that needs to be addressed right away, or whether you can take smaller measures (such as DIY crack filler) as a temporary fix.