Parking lot damage tends to accumulate long before it’s detected. It’s easy to look over minor, cosmetic issues with your parking lots, but those minor issues eventually become major issues. And those major issues eventually become replace-the-entire-lot-issues.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If your asphalt or concrete is protected from wear, age and damage from the outset, the pavement will last longer. In fact, you can get decades out of your parking lot if it’s well-maintained.
Without Preventative Parking Lot Maintenance, Your Pavement Will Fail Early
Pavement is tough and parking lots are designed for vehicles, so why is preventative parking lot maintenance so important?
Asphalt and concrete are two extremely durable materials, but pavement includes more than that hard, tough surface layer. Underneath the surface are layers of soft, flexible pavement, along with layers of aggregate and the native soil under that. These subsurface layers can be rapidly compromised if they are affected by water, ice, impact or loading.
That’s the primary risk of allowing minor pavement problems to worsen. Cracks, potholes, blowouts, spalling, warping, depressions, raveling and other forms of damage expose the layers under the surface. This provides an avenue for water to intrude and weakens the pavement against future loading and impact.
Preventative maintenance and frequent parking lot inspections can detect these early signs so that the underlying pavement can be preserved.
What Does Preventative Concrete Maintenance Include?
Concrete generally doesn’t need much preventative maintenance because it is that durable. In colder regions, concrete parking lots may be sealed to protect against ice formation, but that’s less of a concern along the Gulf Coast.
However, regular cleaning will prolong the life (and appearance) of your concrete parking lot. How? Concrete slab is jointed at regular intervals to improve the pavement’s flexibility and control cracking. When exposed to heat, the concrete expands into the joints, preventing unregulated cracking.
If incompressible debris and aggregate get into these joints, it will prevent the concrete from properly expanding. The result will be cracks. Joint sealant can keep incompressible matter out, but only if professionally applied.
Aside from the occasional cleaning and sealing, the best way to protect your parking lot is to repair any minor issues as soon as they emerge. Concrete repairs may include epoxy injections, mortar patching, cross-stitching, or dowel bar replacement. If damage is widespread or deep, concrete slab replacement may be necessary.
What Does Preventative Asphalt Maintenance Include?
Asphalt is also durable, but it requires a bit more preventative maintenance than concrete does. Some of these maintenance procedures include:
- Sealcoating – During sealcoating, a thin layer of asphalt emulsion is applied to the parking lot’s surface. Sealcoat is typically applied in two layers to promote proper drying. Once dried, sealcoat acts like a protective wax-like layer. It shields the asphalt from water, weather, and chemical exposure, and it also holds the asphalt together like an adhesive, which helps it tolerate loading better.
- Crack filling – During crack filling, rubberized asphalt is heated, melted, and injected into the pavement’s cracks. Once the filler dries, it provides a flexible seal against water and plant growth, which can infiltrate deep into the pavement and cause the asphalt to shift.
- Patching – Asphalt patching is designed to remove failed areas of pavement and replace them with a new patch. During patching, the pavement team will sawcut around the edges of the failure and remove the deteriorated asphalt. Once removed, the pavement crew will tack the inside surfaces of the hole, fill it with hot mix and compact it. It’s common for parking lots to be patched up in areas before a full overlay is recommended.
- Chip sealing – Chip sealing is a less expensive, shorter lasting overlay option. During chip sealing, new asphalt is mixed with large pieces of aggregate (the “chips”) and compacted over the existing asphalt’s surface.
Chip sealing can extend the life of an asphalt road or parking lot, but it’s not ideal for high traffic areas and will only extend the life of the pavement by another five years or so.
- Hot mix overlays – A hot mix overlay is a complete resurfacing of the asphalt. Before the overlay is installed, the existing pavement is evenly milled down to a pre-specified depth. This is usually around a couple inches. After milling and aggregate removal, the existing pavement is tacked, and a new hot mix of asphalt is rolled out and compacted. If properly installed, an asphalt overlay may extend the lot’s lifespan by 10 years.
Why It’s Important to Maintain Your Parking Lot’s Condition
Property owners frequently make the mistake of neglecting their pavement, but this is a bad idea. There are several reasons why your business should aim for a well-maintained parking lot, including:
- Minimizing liability for damage or injury – Potholes and an uneven lot surface can put vehicles and pedestrians at risk. A deep pothole can compromise an axel or dent a transmission pan. Lot damage can cause motorists to lose control of their car and put people in danger. If a pedestrian trips over a pothole or crack, they could break a bone or trip in front of traffic.
If your parking lot is in poor condition, you may be held liable for any injury or vehicle damage. Preventative maintenance can prevent this exposure to liability.
- Improving traffic flow through the parking lot – Any holes or uneven pavement will also cause motorists to stop or steer their car around, which slows traffic through the lot. Even worse, discoloration and wear can make it impossible for drivers to see your lot’s striping. They won’t know where parking spaces or lines are, making it difficult to drive through the area without going the wrong way or getting turned around. Preventative maintenance includes striping, so your lot is easily read and understood by motorists.
- Boosting your company’s curb appeal – Customers will judge your property on its visual appearance, and your parking lot contributes to this impression. Preventative maintenance also maintains the rich look of fresh asphalt or concrete.
- Optimizing your pavement’s lifespan – Preventative maintenance can extend your parking lot’s useful life by decades. That’s decades before your business will need to invest in pavement.
As you can see, a quality parking lot affects several aspects of your property’s performance. Preventative maintenance preserves that just-installed quality.
What Are Some Signs That Your Pavement Needs an Inspection?
If you haven’t scheduled preventative maintenance in a while, your parking lot may already show signs of damage. In fact, some of these signs may show up shortly after your lot is installed. After asphalt or concrete pavement is installed, it’s normal for minor cracking to emerge, and those should be addressed with crack filling or other repair methods. If not, they may spread and widen over time, exposing deeper layers of pavement.
Other signs of pavement distress include:
- Warping, such as rutting or shoving
- Surface deterioration, such as blistering, delaminating or raveling
- Surface aggregate and texture loss
- Depressions and uneven pavement
If any of these signs are present, repairs are needed to preserve the pavement’s performance, safety, and appearance.
Work With an Experienced Pavement Contractor for Inspections and Preventative Maintenance
Regular preventative maintenance pays off down the road, especially if it’s provided by a reputable contractor. An experienced pavement contractor will be able to quickly assess your pavement’s condition and where it is in its life cycle. If repairs are necessary, a reputable contractor will have the equipment and crew to get the job done.
If a round of preventative work is all that’s required, a reputable contractor can provide an array of preventative services for your parking lot.