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Paving Terminology: The Ultimate Glossary Of The Paving Industries Vocabulary

We’ve compiled the ultimate list of asphalt paving terminology.


As a driveway paving company in Richmond, VA, we feel a basic understanding of the paving industry is great for home and business owners.

You will want to know the best way to keep your asphalt driveway or parking lot pristine.

We’ve compiled the ultimate list of asphalt paving terminology. 

But, instead of only including terminology for asphalt paving, we have included gravel and concrete paving.

This glossary of terms is great to use if you’re looking to hire a paving contractor to complete a project and would like to know some of the lingo.

This page is also excellent for anyone who wants to improve their ability to complete paving jobs on their own.

Paving Terminology


Absolute Viscosity: This measures how sticky asphalt is over time when it’s hot. We measure it in poises at 60°C (140°F). The test involves using a vacuum to make the asphalt flow in a special tool.

Aggregate Spreaders: These are machines that evenly spread small rocks or other materials on a surface.

Aggregate Storage Bins: These are containers that hold different sizes of rocks and feed them to a dryer in the right proportions for making pavement.

Aggregate Trucks: These trucks have lifts to dump rocks where they’re needed for spreading or storage.

Aggregates: Aggregates are mostly stones, gravel, and crushed rock in asphalt (96%). Asphalt cement makes up the rest. It’s the stuff that makes asphalt.

Aggregate Types:

  • Coarse Aggregate: Bigger rocks that stay on a specific sieve.
  • Fine Aggregate: Smaller rocks that pass through one sieve but stay on another.
  • Mineral Filler: Tiny mineral pieces that help make asphalt stable. Common ones include crushed limestone and other dust-like materials.

Aggregate Gradation: This is how we measure the size of rocks in a mix, from big to small.

Aggregate Gradation Types:

  • Coarse-Graded Aggregate: A mix with more big rocks.
  • Dense-Graded Aggregate: A mix with small gaps between rocks when it’s compacted.
  • Fine-Graded Aggregate: A mix with more small rocks.
  • Gap-Graded Aggregate: A mix with big and small rocks but not much in the middle.
  • Open-Graded Aggregate: A mix with big gaps between rocks.
  • Well-Graded Aggregate: A mix with a good balance of different rock sizes.

Air Voids: These are empty spaces in a compacted mix surrounded by sticky asphalt-coated particles.

Alligator Cracks: These are cracks that form a pattern like an alligator’s skin. They happen when the road surface bends too much over a weak base.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA is a federal law that makes sure places follow standards to help people with disabilities. It covers everything from door sizes to the force needed to open them and requires things like Braille in public places. It’s well-known for its rules on accessible parking, ramps, markings, and signs.

Asphalt: Asphalt, also called Bituminous Asphalt Concrete, is a mix of hot asphalt cement and aggregates. It becomes the smooth asphalt we drive on after compacting and cooling.

Asphalt Base: This is an asphalt mix where the biggest stone is no larger than 3/4 of an inch. It’s often used on a stone base at least 2 inches thick.

Asphalt Binder: The layer between the rock base and the top driving surface. It’s made of coarse materials and is thicker than the surface layer. Sometimes used as a driving surface or first layer, but not always.

Asphalt Application: This is spraying the sticky part of asphalt without adding rocks.

Asphalt Distributor: This is a truck or trailer that sprays asphalt evenly on a surface.

Asphalt Emulsion: This is a mix of sticky asphalt and water with a special agent. The droplets can be positive, negative, or neutral.

Asphalt Emulsion Mix (Cold): This is a mix of rocks and sticky asphalt without heat. It can be made in a plant or on-site.

Asphalt Emulsion Mix (Warm): This is a mix of sticky asphalt and rocks made in a hot plant but spread and compacted at a lower temperature.

Asphalt Emulsion Slurry Seal: This is a mix of slow-setting sticky asphalt, fine rocks, and filler that has a slurry-like consistency.

Asphalt Leveling Course: This is a layer of hot mix asphalt of the same or changing thickness used to fix bumps in an existing surface.

Asphalt Pavement Structure: This is a road design where all layers above the ground are made of asphalt.

Asphalt Pavements: These are roads made with layers of asphalt over other materials like concrete or gravel.

Asphalt Prime Coat: This is a thin layer of sticky asphalt put on a surface to prepare it for more asphalt. It soaks into the surface and helps the layers stick together.

Asphalt Primer: This is a thin, liquid asphalt that soaks into a surface.

Asphalt Rubber – Asphalt Concrete (AR-AC): This is a high-quality mix of sticky asphalt with recycled rubber and good rocks.

Asphalt Rubber Binder (AR): This is regular asphalt with recycled rubber. When mixed with hot asphalt, the rubber expands.

Asphalt Tack Coat: This is a thin layer of sticky asphalt put on an existing surface to help it bond with a new layer. It’s often diluted with water.

Asphaltenes: These are heavy parts of asphalt that come out when we use a certain solvent.

Automatic Cycling Control: This is a system that automatically opens and closes gates in a machine to control the mixing process.

Automatic Dryer Control: This is a system that keeps the rocks at the right temperature as they come out of the dryer.

Automatic Proportioning Control: This is a system that automatically controls the amounts of rocks and asphalt in a mix without manual intervention.


Back-calculation: This is a way to figure out how stiff each layer of a road is based on the weight it carries and how much it bends. In simpler terms, we adjust the stiffness of each layer until our calculated bending matches the real-world bending within certain limits.

Balanced Paving Operation: This means making sure all the steps of laying asphalt happen smoothly without any delays. There are four main steps: making the asphalt mix, transporting it to the site, laying it down, and pressing it to make it solid.

Bank Gravel: This is gravel found in nature, usually mixed with other stuff like sand or clay. The names, like gravelly clay or sandy gravel, tell you what’s mixed in.

Base: Material under the asphalt. Can be crushed stone or asphalt. It supports the pavement. Residential driveways need about 3-4 inches, while roads need 18 inches or more. A good base is crucial for a lasting pavement.

Base Failure: When the layer below the surface can’t support traffic or structure weight. Happens for various reasons like heavy loads, water, or poor design. Fixed by removing and replacing the weak material.

Batch Plant: A factory that makes asphalt mixes. It measures the rocks and adds the sticky asphalt in specific amounts to make the mix.

Binder: Another word for asphalt.

Binder Course: This is the layer of asphalt right under the top layer. It has bigger rocks and less asphalt compared to the top layer.

Bitumen: Another word for asphalt.

Blacktop: Another word for asphalt. But be careful using it because it can mean different things in different places.

Blast-Furnace Slag: This is a non-metallic product made with lime and other stuff during iron-making in a blast furnace.

Bleeding or Flushing: This is when asphalt moves up to the surface of a road, creating a film. It usually happens when there’s too much asphalt in the mix or if the layers are not put together correctly. This often occurs in hot weather.


Cape Seal: This is a road treatment where we first put down a layer of small rocks (chip seal), and then we add another layer of either slurry seal or micro-surfacing.

Cessation Temperature: This is a special temperature for asphalt. When the temperature of the asphalt mix falls below a certain point (usually around 175-180˚F or 80-82˚C), making it denser becomes harder. If we keep trying to compact it, we might damage it. For different types of asphalt (like warm mix), this temperature might be lower.

Channels (Ruts): These are depressions or grooves that can form in the wheel paths of a road over time.

Chemical Modification of Asphalt: Sometimes we change asphalt chemically using something called Polyphosphoric Acid (PPA).

Chip Seal: A layer of hot asphalt oil covered immediately with tiny crushed aggregate. Not great for parking lots because the oil can bleed in hot weather.

C.I.P.R.: Cold In-Place Recycling. Machines grind old pavement into base material for new projects, often adding things like foam asphalt or emulsions for stability.

Clinker: This is a leftover material from burning coal, and it can also include things like lava, Portland Cement, partially melted slag, and brick.

Coal-Tar: A sealer base for asphalt made from refined coal tar. Used for a long time but its cost has gone up.

Coarse Aggregate: These are bigger pieces of rocks that are caught by a specific sieve during the asphalt-making process.

Coarse-Graded Aggregate: This is a mix of rocks that goes from big to small, with more of the bigger sizes.

Cold Mix Asphalt: This is a mix of asphalt and rocks made either in a factory (plant mix) or right on the road (mixed-in-place). It can be stored and used later.

Compaction: Squishing material into a smaller volume. Essential for a good sub-grade and base.

Concrete: Portland Cement Concrete Pavement. A tough material made from cement, gravel, sand, and water.

Consensus Properties: These are important characteristics of rocks used in asphalt that don’t change, no matter where the rocks come from. There are limits set by Superpave specifications.

Consistency: This is how fluid or thick asphalt is at a specific temperature. We need to compare asphalt at a standard temperature to understand its consistency.

Corrugations (Washboarding) and Shoving: These are types of road problems. Corrugations look like ripples on the road surface and happen where traffic starts and stops or on hills. Shoving is a form of deformation where the road surface gets uneven due to various factors.

Course, Asphalt Base: A foundation made of mineral aggregate held together with asphalt.

Cracking: When asphalt breaks because of weight, age, or heat.

Crack and Seat: This is a technique to fix concrete roads. It involves breaking the concrete into smaller pieces to minimize cracking when we put new asphalt on top.

Crack-Relief Layer: This is a special layer of big rocks placed over a damaged road to reduce cracking when the road moves.

Crusher-Run: This is the whole product from a stone crusher without any screening.

Curing: This is when the asphalt binder develops its mechanical properties. It happens after the emulsion breaks, and the particles stick together on the rocks.

Cutback Asphalt: This is asphalt mixed with a petroleum solvent (a diluent) to make it liquid. Once it’s on the road, the solvents evaporate, leaving the asphalt to do its job.


Deep Strength Asphalt Pavement: This is a type of road that has at least four inches of hot mix asphalt (HMA) on top of a base that isn’t treated to make it stable.

Deflection: Pavement bending under weight.

Deflection Basin: Imagine the shape the road takes when it gets pushed down by a load. This is what we mean by the deflection basin, and we look at it using sensors.

Rebound Deflection: When a load is taken off the road, we look at how much it bounces back. That’s the rebound deflection.

Representative Rebound Deflection: This is the average bounce back of the road, plus a bit more, considering temperature and the time of the year when the road performs the worst.

Residual Deflection: This is the difference between how the road was before and after a load was put on and then taken off.

Deflection Sensor: This is a special electronic device that measures how much the road moves up and down. It’s important to measure this without any tilting.

Delivery Tolerances: This talks about how much we can allow the asphalt plant to vary from the exact mix proportions they’re supposed to make.

Dense-Graded Aggregate: This is a mix of rocks where, when it’s packed together, there are very few spaces between the rocks.

Density: Weight of a material in a certain volume. Asphalt needs the right density for durability.

Densification: This is the process of making a mix denser during compaction.

Design ESAL: This is the total number of times we expect a specific load (like a big truck) to roll over the road during its life.

Design Lane: This is the lane where we expect the most heavy traffic. It could be the outside lane on a multi-lane road or either lane on a two-lane road.

Design Period: This is how many years we think the road will last before it needs a major fix.

Design Subgrade Resilient Modulus: This is a value we use to design the road structure. It’s based on how much the ground underneath can bounce back.

Disintegration: This happens when a road breaks into small, loose pieces because of traffic or weathering.

Distortion: Any change in the original shape of the road surface is called distortion.

Drag Box Spreaders: Devices pulled behind trucks spreading asphalt. Sometimes creates uneven surfaces.

Drum Mix Plant: This is a factory that makes asphalt mixes by drying and mixing rocks and asphalt in a rotating drum.

Counter-Flow Drum Plant: In this type of plant, the burner is at the bottom of the drum, and the rocks enter from the opposite, higher end. This makes the airflow and rocks move in opposite directions.

Parallel Drum Plant: In this type of plant, the burner and rocks enter from the same (higher) end, making the airflow and rocks move in the same direction.

Drainage: Systems to get rid of surface water. Asphalt surfaces are sloped for drainage.

Dryer: This is a machine that dries the rocks and heats them to the right temperature.

Ductility: This is how much a substance can be stretched. In asphalt, it’s more about whether it can stretch than how much it can stretch.

Durability: This is about how well an asphalt road can resist breaking down from the environment and traffic.


Edge Joint Cracks: These are cracks that happen where the road meets the shoulder. They usually occur because the shoulder goes through cycles of getting wet and then drying. Other reasons for these cracks can be the shoulder sinking, the asphalt mix shrinking, or trucks driving over the joint.

Effective Thickness: This is a way of comparing how thick the existing road material is to how thick it would be if we added a new layer of hot mix asphalt (HMA).

Emulsion: A mix made mechanically, like asphalt emulsion. Ingredients that don’t usually mix are combined.

Emulsified Asphalt: This is a mix of asphalt cement, water, and a little bit of something called an emulsifying agent. It’s like a mix of two things that don’t usually mix (asphalt and water). There are two types: one where the asphalt has a negative charge (anionic) and one where it has a positive charge (cationic). The charge depends on the emulsifying agent.

Emulsifying Agent or Emulsifier: This is a chemical added to the water and asphalt to keep them mixed together. It decides whether the mix has a positive or negative charge and controls how fast it separates.

ESAL (equivalent single axle loads): This is a way of measuring how much wear and tear different combinations of axle loads have on a road. It’s like comparing the effect of different types of traffic to the impact of a single 80-kN (18,000-lb.) axle load.


Fatigue Resistance: This is about how well an asphalt road can handle repeated bending without getting cracks.

Fault: This happens when two parts of the road at a joint or crack are not at the same level.

Fine Aggregate: These are smaller bits of rocks that pass through a specific sieve during the making of asphalt.

Fine-Graded Aggregate: This is a mix of rocks that goes from big to small, but it has more of the smaller sizes.

Flexibility: This is about how well an asphalt road can adapt to changes in the ground below it. Having more asphalt in the mix usually makes the road more flexible.

Fog Seal: Diluted asphalt emulsion sprayed on roads to restore color and seal small cracks. Not great for parking lots due to tracking

Fractured Slab Techniques: These are methods to fix concrete roads. One way is to break the concrete into smaller pieces to reduce cracking. Another way is to turn the concrete into small bits like granules.

Full-Depth Asphalt Pavement: Building asphalt structure with specific hot-mix grades for base and surface.


Geotextiles: Fabric-like materials used in paving. They stabilize the base, act as a moisture barrier, and reduce cracking.

Gilsonite: A natural hydrocarbon used in pavement sealers. Solvents are needed, which can harm asphalt if used wrong.

Grade: Slope of a paved surface or leveling a base layer before paving.

Grade Depressions: These are small, low spots in the road, but they’re not spread out over a large area.


Heat Lance: Uses propane and compressed air to clean cracks before sealing. Also warms cracks for better sealant adhesion.

Heavy Trucks: These are big trucks with at least two axles and six tires. Smaller trucks like pickups, panel trucks, and light four-tire trucks are not counted. But if a truck has heavy-duty, wide-base tires, then it is included.

Hot Aggregate Storage Bins: These are containers that keep heated and separated aggregates before they’re mixed in the right proportions.

Hot (or Warm) Mix Asphalt: This is also called Asphalt Concrete.

H.M.A.C.: Hot Mix Asphalt Concrete. A quick term for specifying asphalt work.

Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA): This is a high-quality, well-controlled mix of asphalt binder (like cement) and good-quality rocks. When you press it down, it becomes a solid and uniform mass.

Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) Overlay: This is putting one or more layers of hot mix asphalt on top of an existing road.


Impermeability: This is about how good an asphalt road is at stopping air and water from getting in or passing through it. It’s like the road’s ability to keep things out.

Infra-Red: Pavement repair using radiated heat to soften asphalt for patching.

I.S.A.: International Symbol of Accessibility. The correct term for the handicap symbol.


Joints: Areas where two asphalt sections meet, often seen as seams.


Kinematic Viscosity: This is a way to measure how sticky or thick asphalt is. We check it in centistokes, and the test is done at a high temperature of 275°F (135°C). It helps us understand how the asphalt behaves when it’s hot.


Lane Joint Cracks: These are splits or openings along the line where two lanes of pavement meet.

Laydown: Putting hot asphalt in place with a paving machine.

Lift: This is like a layer or level of material that we put on top of the base or a layer that’s already there.

Limestone: Sedimentary rock used in building and as a base in asphalt.

Lime Treated Subgrade: This is a way of preparing the ground under the road. We mix the soil in the subgrade with lime using machines, and then we press it down. This makes the base material stronger.

Lime-Fly Ash Base: This is a type of road base made by mixing mineral aggregate, lime, fly ash, and water in the right amounts. When we press it down, it becomes a solid and strong mass.

Load Equivalency Factor (LEF): This is like a number that tells us how much stress or damage one passage of an axle on the road causes. It’s equal to the effect of an 18,000-pound (80-kN) single-axle load.

Longitudinal Crack: This is a crack in the road that goes up and down, kind of like a line parallel to the center of the road.


Maintenance Mix: This is a mix of asphalt and crushed rocks used in small areas to fix holes, dips, and damaged spots in existing roads. People use their hands or machines to put down and press the mix.

Mat, Asphalt: New asphalt behind the paving machine during the laying process.

Maximum Aggregate Size (MAS): This is the biggest size of crushed rocks in a mix, and it’s one size larger than the NMAS.

Mechanical Spreaders: These are boxes on wheels that spread the mix. They are attached to and pushed by dump trucks. For hot mix asphalt (HMA), the boxes are pulled, and for chip spreading, they are pushed.

Medium-Curing (MC) Asphalt: This is a type of cutback asphalt made of asphalt cement and a substance that isn’t too quick to evaporate.

Mesh: This is the opening in a sieve, which is like a tool for sorting rocks.

Micro-Surfacing: This is a mix of special asphalt, crushed rocks, additives, and water. It’s used for a thin resurfacing of the pavement, about 3/8 to 3/4 inch thick.

Milling Machine: This is a machine that moves by itself and has a cutting head with special tools to break down and remove layers of asphalt from roads.

Mineral Dust: These are the tiny bits of crushed rocks that pass through a specific sieve.

Mineral Filler: This is a finely divided mineral material, and most of it can pass through a specific sieve. Limestone powder is a common type, but other substances like stone dust, hydrated lime, Portland cement, and certain naturally fine minerals are also used.

Modified Asphalt Rubber – Asphalt Concrete (MAR-AC): This is a good-quality mix made with modified asphalt rubber binder (AR) and well-graded, high-quality rocks. When pressed down, it becomes a solid mass.

Modified Asphalt Rubber Binder (MAR): This is regular asphalt mixed with recycled ground tire rubber. When it reacts with hot asphalt, it spreads the rubber particles and compounds.

Multiple Surface Treatment: This is when two or more layers of road treatment are put on top of each other. The rocks in each layer are usually half the size of the rocks in the previous one. It can be a series of treatments that create a thicker road layer, up to 1 inch or more. A multiple-surface treatment is stronger and keeps water out better than a single-surface treatment.


Natural (Native) Asphalt: This is asphalt that comes from nature, made from petroleum through natural processes. These processes involve the evaporation of certain parts, leaving behind the asphalt. The most important natural asphalt is found in places like Trinidad and Bermudez Lake. People often call asphalt from these places “lake asphalt.”

Nominal Maximum Aggregate Size (NMAS): This is the size of the largest rocks in a mix, and it’s one size bigger than the first sieve that holds more than 10 percent of the rocks in a set of sieves.

Nondestructive Testing (NDT): When we’re talking about checking roads, NDT means doing tests that don’t damage the road. It’s like testing how the road reacts to being driven on without breaking or harming it.

Notched-Wedge Joints: This is a way of joining parts of a road so that it’s safer for drivers. A notched-wedge joint has a special shape with a notch at the top and bottom. The slope between them is like a connection, and it makes the road transition safer compared to a regular butt joint.

Nuclear Density: Measuring the density of placed material using a specialized instrument.


Open-Graded Aggregate: This is a mix with fewer fine rocks, and the gaps between the rocks are big and connected, usually more than 10%.

Open-Graded Asphalt Friction Course: This is a special kind of road surface. It’s made of a mix with lots of gaps, allowing water to quickly drain through the road and off to the side. The mix has mostly one size of big rocks. This type of road prevents tires from skidding on wet surfaces and gives a good grip for vehicles.

Overlay: Putting new asphalt on an existing surface made of asphalt or concrete.


Pascal-Seconds: This is a way to measure how sticky or runny something is. 1 Pascal-second is the same as 10 poises.

Pavement Base: This is the layer of the road right above the ground but below the top layer you drive on.

Pavement Structure: It’s the whole road, including all the layers on top of the ground.

Penetration Grading: This is a way to classify asphalt based on how easily a needle goes into it. There are five grades for paving: 40-50, 60-70, 85-100, 120-150, and 200-300.

Penetration: This measures how easily a needle can go into a sample of asphalt under certain conditions.

Performance Graded (PG): This is a way of grading asphalt based on how well it performs in different temperatures and as it gets older.

Planned Stage Construction: This is when different parts of a construction project are done one after the other according to a plan.

Plant Mix (Cold): This is a mix of asphalt and rocks that’s made in a plant but doesn’t need to be heated before it’s used.

Plant Mix Base: It’s the foundation layer of a road made in an asphalt mixing plant.

Plant Screens: These are screens that separate heated rocks into the right sizes before they go into the hot bins.

Pneumatic-Tire Roller: This is a compactor with a bunch of tires. It pushes the ground with an overlapping pattern.

Poise: This measures how sticky or runny a fluid is.

Polished Aggregate: These are rocks on the road surface that have become smooth because of traffic.

Polymer-Modified Asphalt (PMA) Binder: This is regular asphalt with added materials to make it perform better.

Portland Cement Concrete Pavement (PCCP): Tough material made from cement, gravel, water, and sand, also known as concrete.

Potholes: These are holes in the road that happen when parts of it break.

Power Sweeper: This is a machine with a rotating broom that cleans loose stuff off the road.

Present Serviceability Index (PSI): This is a way of combining measurements to figure out how well a lot of different roads are doing.

Present Serviceability Rating (PSR): This is a rating given to a specific section of a road.

Present Serviceability: This is how well a specific section of road is doing its job right now.

Primary Control Sieve: This is the sieve that helps figure out the size of materials in a mix.

Pumping: This is when the road surface bends under heavy loads, sometimes pushing out water and soil along joints and edges.


Quality Assurance (QA): This is all about planned and organized actions that give us confidence a product or a place will work well. It includes things like making sure the quality is good (quality control), making sure people agree it’s good (acceptance), having an independent check, solving problems, making sure labs are doing things right, and checking if people are qualified.

Quality Control (QC): This is the system used by a builder or worker to keep an eye on, judge, and adjust their work to make sure the final result meets the expected quality. It involves things like testing, checking, inspecting, and fixing things if needed, all to make sure the work stays on track and meets the standards.


RAP: Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement. Ground asphalt is put back in a mix at the plant. Used for environmental and economic reasons.

Rapid-Curing (RC) Asphalt: This is a type of asphalt that’s made by mixing asphalt cement with a quick-evaporating liquid like naphtha or gasoline.

Raveling: This is when the pieces of gravel and other materials start to come loose and separate from the surface of the pavement.

Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP): This is old asphalt pavement that has been dug up, crushed, usually by a milling machine, and then used again as a part of making new pavement.

Reclaiming Machine: This is a special vehicle that has a cutting and mixing tool inside a closed space. It grinds up the old pavement and mixes it with liquid asphalt to make it usable for new pavement.

Recycled Asphalt Mix: This is a mix of materials made after processing old asphalt pavement. This can happen at a plant with hot or cold mixing, or right on the spot with cold processing.

Reflective Cracking: Cracks in an asphalt overlay from cracks in the layer below. Special materials reduce this.

Residue: This is what’s left of the asphalt binder after the liquid used to mix it (like an emulsifying agent or a cutback) has evaporated or cured.

Resilient Modulus of Elasticity (MR): This is a lab test that checks how stiff and bouncy pavement materials are. It involves loading and unloading a sample of the material at a certain rate, and the result depends on how long the load is applied, how often, and how many times.

Resistance Value (R-value): This is a test used to figure out how strong bases, subbases, and subgrades are for designing pavement thickness.

Road Oil: This is a mix of asphalt cement and low-volatility oils, usually similar to the slow-curing (SC) asphalt grades.

Roadway: This includes all the places where vehicles are meant to travel, like secondary roads, highways, streets, and parking lots.

Roughometer: This is a tool that measures how bumpy a pavement surface is, showing the roughness in millimeters or inches per mile.

Routing: Enlarging cracks in the pavement to make a uniform reservoir for sealant, boosting durability.

Rubblization: This is the process of breaking down a concrete pavement into smaller pieces, turning the old pavement into a solid base that works well with a new asphalt overlay.


Sand: This is the fine stuff, smaller than what a No. 8 sieve would let through, that comes from natural wear and tear on rocks or from processing rocks.

Sand Asphalt: This is a mix of sand and asphalt cement, or sometimes cutback asphalt or emulsified asphalt. You can make it with different combinations of sand, clay, or other materials like gravel. You can mix it on-site or in a plant. It’s used for both the base and surface layers of construction, and it might or might not have mineral filler in it.

Sandwich Seal: This is a surface treatment where they put down a layer of big rocks, then spray on some asphalt, and cover it with smaller rocks.

Sandy Soil: This is mostly fine particles smaller than what a No. 8 sieve would allow, and it usually has some material that’s even smaller, passing through a No. 200 sieve. It often shows some characteristics of being able to change shape.

Saw-Cut and Seal: This is a method to stop cracks from showing up in new asphalt overlays. They make joints in the new overlay right over the joints in the existing pavement.

Scaling: This is when the surface of concrete breaks off or disintegrates.

Screed: Paving machine part that distributes and compacts asphalt.

Sealcoating: Applying sealant to protect and improve the look of asphalt. Used on low-traffic streets.

Segregation: This is when the asphalt mix isn’t even. It can be because the big and small pieces of aggregate aren’t distributed well (physical segregation) or because the temperature isn’t consistent across the mix (thermal segregation).

  • Physical Segregation: Uneven distribution or separation of big and small aggregate sizes throughout the mix.
  • Thermal Segregation: Uneven temperature distribution throughout the mix.

Self-Propelled Spreaders: These are spreaders that have their own power and two hoppers. The spreader pulls the truck as it dumps its load into the receiving hopper, and conveyor belts move the aggregate to the spreading hopper.

Sheet Asphalt: This is a hot mix of asphalt binder with clean, angular sand and mineral filler. It’s usually used for special purposes like lining reservoirs or covering landfills.

Shoving: This is a type of movement where the pavement bulges in a localized area.

Shrinkage Cracks: These are cracks that form interconnected blocks, usually with sharp corners or angles.

S.H.R.P.: Strategic Highway Research Program. Federal research guiding pavement materials and methods.

Sieve: This is a tool used in labs to separate different sizes of materials.

Single Surface Treatment: This is when they apply a single layer of asphalt to a road surface and cover it immediately with a single layer of aggregate. The thickness is about the same as the biggest size of aggregate.

Skid Hazard: This is anything that could make the pavement surface less resistant to slipping or skidding.

Skid Resistance: This is how well an asphalt surface can resist slipping or skidding, especially when it’s wet. It depends on factors like the right asphalt content and rough surface texture of the aggregate.

Slippage Cracks: These are crescent-shaped cracks caused by horizontal forces from traffic. They happen when there’s a lack of bond between the surface layer and the one beneath it.

Slow-Curing (SC) Asphalt: This is cutback asphalt made of asphalt cement and oils with low volatility.

Slurry Seal: Coating streets with a mix of asphalt emulsion, aggregate, and additives. Not for parking lots due to tracking.

Soil/Cement Base: This is a hardened material made by mixing and compacting soil, portland cement, and water. It’s used as a layer in a pavement system to reinforce and protect the subgrade or subbase.

Solubility: This is a measure of how pure asphalt cement is. It checks how much of the asphalt cement can dissolve in a specified solvent.

Source Properties: These are critical characteristics of aggregate, and they depend on where the aggregate comes from. Different agencies set the values for these properties.

Spalling: This is when a concrete pavement breaks or chips at joints, cracks, or edges, usually forming fragments with feather edges.

Stability: This is how well an asphalt mix can resist changing shape under loads. It depends on both internal friction and cohesion.

Standard Deviation: This is a measure of how much a set of values deviates from the average.

Stationary Plants: These are asphalt plants that are built to stay in one place because moving them is not cost-effective.

Steel-Wheel Static Rollers: These are rollers with steel wheels that apply their weight directly to the pavement.

Steel-Wheel Vibratory Rollers: These are compactors with steel rolls that apply weight and vibration. You can adjust the force by changing the vibration frequency and amplitude.

Stoke: This is a unit used to measure how easily a fluid flows, based on its viscosity and density.

Stone Base: Layer under asphalt, supporting the surface and binder. Made of crushed stones.

Structural Overlay: This is a new layer of asphalt added to increase the strength and ride quality of the pavement system.

Subbase: This is the layer just below the base course in an asphalt pavement structure. If the subgrade soil is strong enough, it might serve as the subbase.

Sub-grade: Prepared soil supporting a pavement system. The foundation.

Sub-grade Failure: When prepared soil under asphalt can’t support the structure or traffic. Fixed by removing and replacing the weak material.

Improved Subgrade: This is when we make the subgrade, which is the soil under the pavement, better for construction. We can do this in two ways:

  • Adding Good Stuff: We mix in good materials like granular substances or stabilizers such as asphalt, lime, or Portland cement into the soil to make it stronger.
  • Putting on Layers: We can also add layers of special material on top of the subgrade to make it even more solid before building the road.

Subgrade Resilient Modulus: This is a way to measure how strong the subgrade is. We use tests where we repeatedly load soil samples to check how much stress it can take. The result is called the Resilient Modulus (MR), which tells us about the soil’s ability to handle stress.

Superpave™: This stands for “Superior Performing Asphalt Pavement.” It’s a smart way of picking and specifying asphalt and designing the asphalt mixture. This method focuses on making sure the asphalt pavement will perform really well, considering things like the climate and the amount of traffic on the road.

Superpave Gyratory Compactor (SGC): This is a machine used in the Superpave mix design. It compacts samples of hot mix asphalt to analyze how much space it takes up. We measure this during the compaction process to make sure the asphalt mix is just right.

Superpave Mix Design: This is a system for designing asphalt mixtures. It brings together choosing the right materials like asphalt and aggregate, and figuring out how much of each to use. The design considers the climate and how much traffic the road will get. It’s all about making sure the asphalt will perform well under specific conditions.

Surface: Asphalt mixed with small stones, laid at least an inch thick. Top layer for driveways.


Tack Coat: Asphalt oil is applied to old pavement during overlay paving. Bonds old and new asphalt.

Test Strip (Test Section): Before we build a whole road, we often make a small part first. This small part called a test strip or test section, helps us check if the asphalt mixture we plan to use meets the right measurements and density. It’s like a practice run before the real thing.

Tracking: Material carried by tires, shoes, or wheels from pavement to unwanted places.

Transverse Crack: When there’s a crack in the road that goes sideways, following a line that’s almost perpendicular to the center of the road, we call it a transverse crack.

Transverse Joint: Joint in asphalt across the road.

Travel Plants: These are special moving machines used in road construction. There are three main types:

  • Moving Mixer: It moves over a prepared row of aggregates on the road and adds asphalt as it goes. At the back, it leaves a mixed row ready for spreading.
  • Aggregate Receiver: It gets aggregates from trucks, mixes them with asphalt, and spreads the mix as it moves along the road.
  • Batch Mixing Units: These are like portable mixers. They bring materials to the site, mix them, and apply them.

Truck Factor: This is the number of times a vehicle passes that equals the effect of one passage of a standard truck. It helps us understand how much impact different vehicles have on the road.


Upheaval: When parts of the road lift up because the ground underneath swells, we call it upheaval. It’s like a localized bump in the road.


Viscosity: Viscosity is like how thick or thin a liquid is. For asphalt, it’s a way of measuring how easy or hard it is for the asphalt to flow. The more viscous, the slower it flows.

Viscosity Grading: This is a system that puts asphalt into categories based on how thick or thin it is at specific temperatures. It helps make sure asphalt is consistent for the weather and how it’s used.


Wedging: Applying a layer of asphalt for leveling before the final surface. Fixes imperfections in the current pavement.

Well-Graded Aggregate: Well-graded aggregate means the different-sized pieces in the mix are pretty evenly distributed, from the biggest to the smallest, including the filler. It makes for a balanced mix.

Wet Mixing Period: This is the time between starting to mix the asphalt material in a machine (pugmill) and when it’s ready to be used. It’s the period when everything gets nicely mixed.

Whirl Spreaders: These are spreaders attached to dump trucks. They drop aggregate onto a spinning disc. The disc’s speed decides how wide the material gets spread.

Workability: Workability is about how easy it is to place and compact the asphalt mix. It’s like asking how well the mix can be shaped and smoothed out.


Yield (Spread Rate): Yield, or spread rate, is about how much material is applied to an area or how far it will cover. It’s like understanding how much you can get done with one load of material


To conclude our article “Paving Terminology: The Ultimate Glossary Of The Paving Industries Vocabulary,” we want to say thanks so much for reading, and we hope you can use these terms to better understand your paving contractors’ lingo.

Plus, if you love to take on home improvement projects yourself, we hope this glossary of paving terms helps you improve your paving knowledge.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Richard’s Paving at 804-614-4099 or use our contact page.

We are a gravel and asphalt paving company that provides service in Richmond, VA, the surrounding areas, Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, and Northern Neck.

Our paving company has been in business for 15+ years and has plenty of references. 

We’d love to help you out.

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