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Does winter gritting cause potholes?

Does winter gritting really cause potholes?

It seems pernicious potholes are particularly prominent after prolonged patches of cold icy weather. The question is does winter gritting and de-icing salt cause this damage? Does salt cause potholes?

It’s easy to come to this conclusion, especially as more potholes appear during winter which is also when gritting predominately takes place. However, before we can answer this question, it’s important to first understand how potholes occur and secondly why we use winter salt when gritting.

What causes a pothole?

Potholes are caused by the expansion and contraction action when water seeps into the asphalt surface and freezes. This process creates cracking to the surface and over time these cracks deteriorate leaving behind open voids.

The deterioration process is then accelerated when vehicles are driven over the compromised surface (due to their weight), which is why we regularly see potholes appear in high-traffic locations.

Freezing night-time temperatures combined with warmer daytime conditions make this time of year the perfect recipe for potholes to appear.

The damage caused by potholes soon adds up, with millions of drivers affected every year.

  • Pothole damage cost UK drivers £1.7 billion last year
  • In 2019/20, pothole-related repairs cost local authorities nearly £6m in paid claims
  • Repairing Britain’s pothole-troubled roads now exceeds £12 billion.

How winter gritting salt prevents ice from forming

Salt is used to create an impurity in the water to lower the freezing point to below zero. Salt is more effective at preventing ice from forming rather than melting ice, which is why we carry out gritting at night when the temperatures are at their coldest. Hence, gritting roads works by doing it in the middle of the night. Salt is generally 100% effective down to a temperature of -9 degrees Celsius, which is extremely cold and seldom experienced in the UK.

Armed with these facts, we can now answer that winter gritting doesn’t cause potholes. If anything, it helps prevent potholes from forming in the first place.

Simple pothole advice: be proactive rather than reactive

You have a duty of care to everyone on your site and must ensure it is safe and risk free. If incidents occur, employers place themselves at risk of legal action.

When it comes to potholes, our advice is simple: be proactive rather than reactive. Regular site inspections and the immediate repair of any defects will keep you one step ahead of potential problems and compensation claims.


Find out how our expert winter maintenance team can help…

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