Between vehicle traffic, spills, impact damage, UV radiation, heat and the occasional flood, parking lots are subjected to intense stress. Together, these stresses can compromise the pavement long before replacement should be necessary.
That’s why property owners that want to maximize their investment should follow a handful of maintenance-minded rules. Some of these tips require nothing but a little time, but whether it’s a time or a monetary investment, extending the parking lot’s life is well worth it.
Multiple U.S. transportation departments have studied the financial impact of regular pavement maintenance and agree – investing a little in maintenance now means saving a lot on repairs in the future. Once a parking lot starts experiencing issues beyond the surface (potholes, for example), the cost of repairs will increase. The goal is to prevent those deeper problems from taking root and necessitating extensive fixes or replacement.
Here are some six ways to keep your parking lot in excellent condition:
1) Inspect the Parking Lot Regularly
Property owners are the first line of defense for their parking lot. If pavement problems are spotted early, they can usually be resolved promptly and without great expense. Early detection is critical, and that means remaining vigilant.
It’s a good idea to inspect the parking lot daily to check where debris or trash may be building up. A couple times a month – or after a heavy downpour – property owners should check their lot for any signs of damage or potential failure spots. Cracks are an obvious symptom of pavement distress, but also be mindful of where water may be collecting. If water is pooling on the lot, this could be a sign of emerging base failures or where potholes are most likely to appear.
If problems are spotted, bring in a pavement professional to provide an expert opinion.
2) Sweep the Lot Frequently
It doesn’t cost much to hire professional sweeping services, and the cost is well worth it for a couple of reasons. Sweeping preserves the lot’s appearance, which helps make a better first impression.
Also important, sweeping removes sand, dirt and the kind of fine abrasives that will do damage to the pavement’s surface over time. While they may seem harmless to something as durable as concrete or asphalt, these abrasives will eat away at the pavement’s binders and cause aggregates to break off from the surface. And once aggregates start breaking off, the pavement will be exposed to worsening forms of damage.
3) Ensure All Drainage Structures are Free of Debris
Water is pavement’s mortal enemy, and unfortunately it is unavoidable. If water penetrates through the parking lot surface, it will immediately start attacking the binders holding the subsurface layers together. The eventual result is subsidence (caving in) that causes the pavement’s surface to collapse and produce potholes.
The best way to avoid this is to remove anything that may cause water to pool on the parking lot’s surface. For property owners, a simple way to do this is to keep all drainage structures clear of trash, vegetation, and other debris. You’d be surprised how little it takes to clog an inlet or catch basin drain, and once clogged, water will backflow quickly onto the pavement.
If the parking lot’s drains are becoming clogged on a regular basis, this could be a sign that they weren’t properly installed in the first place. That’s worth a professional inspection.
4) Schedule Pavement Sealing Well in Advance
Concrete requires little in the way of sealing. Concrete parking lots are usually sealed following installation to protect the pavement from water damage. Concrete joints need to be resealed every five years or so, as this protects the vulnerable joints from water intrusion.
Asphalt, though, requires more frequent sealing – a process termed sealcoating. During sealcoating, an asphalt emulsion is broomed or sprayed onto the parking lot’s surface, and this sealcoat acts like a protective wax. It essentially “glues” the asphalt’s surface aggregates together, protecting the surface from wear, water, and UV radiation.
Sealcoating is the single most important step property owners can take to preserve their asphalt parking lot. Ideally, it should be scheduled immediately following installation and every 2-3 years thereafter.
5) Repair Any Cracks as Soon as They Emerge
Most of the time, the first sign of parking lot damage is cracking. Cracks come in many forms and can be caused by a huge variety of stresses, so it’s highly recommended that property owners contact a pavement expert if cracks are present.
When the pavement professionals inspect cracks, they want to know how wide the cracks are, whether they’re spreading or widening, and how installation or operating conditions may be exacerbating the problem.
With this information, an experienced parking lot contractor can identify the right course of crack repair. This could be filling the cracks with flexible sealant or rubberized asphalt, injecting epoxies deep into the pavement (concrete), repairing with patching compound (concrete), or even stitching the pavement together when severe cracking is present. The goal is to seal up the cracks in such a way that water cannot intrude into the parking lot and accelerate failure.
6) Set Aside Funds for a Future Overlay or Other Surface Treatment
Concrete should last for 30 years without the need for resurfacing, but when asphalt reaches middle age (around 15 years), surface treatment will likely be necessary.
There are several surface treatments options for asphalt pavement, but for asphalt parking lots, the best option is an overlay.
During an overlay, the top layers of the asphalt (about 1-2 inches) are milled down and either hauled off or mixed into a new batch of pavement. If there are any base issues, the underlying soil is stabilized so it can take loading. Once that’s done, a new surface of asphalt is rolled over the existing pavement and compacted.
With a professionally installed overlay, property owners can expect to get another 10-15 years out of their asphalt before additional extensive repairs should be needed. If the subsurface layers of pavement are kept in excellent condition, they may take multiple overlays before full-depth replacement is required.
In any case, surface treatments restore asphalt parking lots to excellent condition and can greatly add value to the owner’s investment.
With a Little Attention, and a Reputable Parking Lot Contractor on Call, Property Owners Can Keep Their Parking Lots in Excellent Condition
Commercial properties can’t go without a parking lot. It’s an essential piece of infrastructure, responsible for facilitating safe vehicle and pedestrian traffic. But it’s also a part of the property’s curb appeal, and it helps make that valuable first impression.
There are plenty of reasons to keep your parking lot in excellent shape, and it’s easier than it seems. If property owners keep an eye on their parking lots and bring in an parking lot expert when maintenance or repairs are needed, they can expect decades of value out of the pavement.
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