Yes, it can! Rock salt is one of the most damage-inducing substances that could ever contact your asphalt driveway. This is because sodium chloride accelerates the levels of deterioration that are caused by the freeze-thaw cycles in winter, shortening the lifespan of concrete paving materials.
How Rock Salt Damages Asphalt
Although a lot of people will tell you that rock salt is harmless and can be used on asphalt surfaces, this is only half true. As with concrete, asphalt is indirectly affected by rock salt due to winter’s freeze-thaw cycles.
However, your asphalt must already be damaged, cracked, or fissured before the rock salt can do much damage. When the asphalt materials are opened up and exposed to the elements, saltwater can penetrate beneath the surface. Because asphalt is a porous material, mild damage can be done to even healthy asphalt.
Freeze-thaw damage can be identified as potholes, bumps, or surfaces that have faded from dark to light-grey. Cold weather and cold water can make asphalt more brittle and susceptible to breakage when subjected to any internal pressures.
Alternatives to Rock Salt
To eliminate any rock salt damage, you’ll need to use a different deicer. We recommend calcium chloride, as this is effective down to -25° F. Calcium chloride will also perform better, leading to fewer freeze-flaw cycles as it will ward off the cold temperatures from the asphalt materials.
Another alternative is to use plastic shovels instead of metal when you are cleaning your driveway of ice and snow; These are less aggressive towards potentially brittle asphalt materials.
Otherwise, the options are plowing and/or snow blowing, installation of a hydronic or electric heated driveway system, or using portable snow-melting mats, which are specifically designed for driveways.
Heated driveways are expensive to install as they would require the removal and replacement of your existing driveway. Snow melting mats work well to create snow and ice-free lanes for you to exit and enter your driveway safely in your vehicle. They function similarly to heated driveways, but they melt away smaller areas and cost a lot less.
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