How to Get More Mileage From Your Parking Lot with Better Maintenance
As the owner of a commercial or industrial building in the Mid-Atlantic region, you’re responsible for addressing many preventative maintenance issues to ensure the safety and visual “curb appeal” of your property. However, parking lot maintenance probably does not often rise to the top of the priority list.
Be honest—beyond snow removal in the wintertime, have you thought much about your building’s asphalt parking lots lately?
Over the years, continuous usage by customers, vendors, and staff members inflicts wear and tear on your parking lot’s asphalt. Eventually, this creates safety hazards and general unattractive conditions in areas that should be welcoming to visitors and employees alike.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to help preserve your asphalt parking lots and delay or avoid costly, disruptive repaving projects.
The key is to understand what asphalt is as a material, how long it should last, and what factors are damaging. Today we’ll discuss these and also give you some tips on how you can extend the life of the asphalt parking lots on your commercial property.
Quick Review: What is Asphalt?
There are several types of asphalt, and quality can vary greatly depending on specifics of the ingredients and mixing processes. However, asphalt is primarily made of just two components: aggregates and bitumen.
- Aggregates are crushed stone, gravel, and sand—the “hard” elements that make asphalt a durable surface suitable to drive and park cars on.
- Bitumen is the black or dark-colored viscous material that holds the aggregates together. Bitumen is made of a petroleum byproduct known as polycyclic hydrocarbons and typically comprises about 5% of the traditional “hot mix” asphalt used in high-traffic applications like highways and commercial parking lots.
How Long Should Your Asphalt Parking Lot Last?
Since there can be many variables that affect the lifespan of a particular asphalt parking lot, the answer to this question is often complicated. But in general, 15-20 years is considered standard.
If your asphalt parking lot was installed correctly by a professional asphalt and commercial paving contractor like Lyons & Hohl Paving, you can be sure that your parking lot will meet that lifespan expectation with few problems. Of course, regular preventative parking lot maintenance is also critical for longevity, as are particular factors about your parking lot’s location.
What Shortens Asphalt’s Lifespan?
Are there drainage problems on your property’s parking areas following heavy rains, for example? Your parking lot’s asphalt may fail early in areas where water is often pooling on or running across it. Surface erosion caused by water is something that can lead to crumbling, cracking, and potholes.
The chemical fluids and oils that may be leaking from parked vehicles are also detrimental to asphalt’s lifespan. And, heavy traffic can wear down particular sections of a parking lot that get more use than others.
Here in our home service area in southeastern Pennsylvania, our winters are not always particularly harsh. However, we still regularly contend with snow and ice, which are major enemies of asphalt. Exposure to ice melt treatments and road salt in the winter can also be damaging over time.
When the sun begins to shine in the springtime, and the ground beneath your parking lot thaws, the swing in temperature is yet another thing that negatively affects asphalt. Unlike concrete, which is prone to cracking as it expands and contracts with temperature changes, asphalt is a better parking lot paving material. Still, the repeated stress of many changes throughout the years eventually undermines asphalt’s stability.
Better Preventative Parking Lot Maintenance Tactics to Extend Asphalt’s Lifespan
So, how can you fight back against all the threats to your asphalt parking lot’s overall “health?”
As with many other aspects of your commercial or industrial property, your parking lot’s life can be significantly extended with a regular care routine. No, this does not mean that you need to have someone out there scrubbing every single oil stain, but it does mean being proactive about addressing small cracks and potholes and performing regular sealcoating of the entire surface.
It’s true that asphalt is a little needy in terms of upkeep, but a small amount of parking lot maintenance work on a regular basis tends to go a long way. And, as we talked about in an earlier blog post, a qualified paving contractor can take care of the preventative maintenance work for you.
Let’s consider some of the maintenance you should be doing on your parking lot to ensure its long life.
Install and Maintain Proper Drainage
While not entirely an example of preventative maintenance, adequate drainage systems should be installed around your parking lot, ideally at the time of its construction.
Ensuring proper drainage involves good site engineering to handle the vast amount of water your parking lot will shed during heavy rains or snow melts. If this water cannot be accommodated, you will have erosion problems in the surrounding landscape. Features like swales and retention basins can keep runoff from becoming a problem.
Further, drainage systems that are already in place need to be kept in working order to ensure that water continues to flow away from your parking lot. Keep drains clear of debris and be sure that other features of your drainage system are performing as they should be each season.
Maintain Your Parking Lot’s Surrounding Landscaping
Keeping landscaping in shape around your asphalt parking lot is just as important as maintaining your property’s drainage systems to help extend your parking lot’s lifespan.
Many commercial parking lots today have “islands” of plantings or grass interspersed with sections of parking spaces. Seasonal mulching and trimming of shrubbery, as well as regular mowing of grass during the spring, summer, and fall, is required to keep plantings from becoming overgrown and encroaching on parking surfaces.
If curbing is not installed around your planting beds, mulch and dirt will likely wash out onto the asphalt and can contribute to cracking and erosion where the materials contact each other.
Additionally, think about the types of trees that may be on your islands or around the edges of your lots. Large trees can provide excellent shade for employees’ cars that are parked in your lot for long hours each day, but some tend to grow their roots outward instead of downward, and that means roots pushing through your asphalt over time.
Do your homework before installing new trees around your parking areas. Consulting an arborist in your area to check what trees are best for streetscape planting will help you choose trees that are friendlier to buildings, parking areas, and other systems on your property.
Clean and Clear Debris Regularly
Power washing or even simple old-fashioned broom sweeping are a few simple ways that you can clean up debris.
If you have waste collection bins like dumpsters or even trash receptacles for the convenience of customers located in your parking lots, it’s essential to regularly inspect those areas and assure that loose trash is not accumulating on the asphalt. Accumulated debris and garbage can damage surfaces over time by staining or even contributing to deterioration. Keep your parking lots clean!
Power Washing Improves Your Asphalt’s Appearance
Power washing specific areas on a seasonal basis may also be something you might consider adding to your list of parking lot maintenance tasks. This won’t necessarily extend the lifespan of your asphalt, but it is great for aesthetic purposes.
If you’ve had unusually poor weather and dirt has washed across the surface of a specific area, it’s best to clean it off instead of allowing it to remain on the asphalt. Power washing can easily accomplish tough cleanup jobs like this.
Don’t Forget to Clean Up Those Oil Stains
For stains, such as those caused by leaked vehicle fluids and oil, you may have to use specialized cleaning solutions for removal. Leaked fluids will lead to asphalt deterioration if left alone and not properly cleaned. For more information on the best approach to cleaning these stains, give your paving contractor a call for advice.
Quickly Fix and Fill Potholes, Seal Cracks, and Patch Surfaces
As asphalt ages, it naturally develops cracks, and can also develop low spots or potholes that require patching.
Crack filling—or sealing—is a process that involves pouring a rubberized sealer into the cracks to keep them from turning into potholes, which are more costly to repair. Often, low spots and holes will need excavating before they can be filled in and patched, so if you do not have potholes today, the name of the game is prevention.
The ideal time to have sealing, patching, and repair work done is in the fall season, though you may find that summer is more convenient for your contractor. Repair work, along with the next item on our preventative parking lot maintenance list, allows for a more coordinated approach to problems.
Keep Up With Sealcoating
If your parking lot is older than six months, it is ready to be sealcoated at any time. Repeat applications of sealcoating should then be made every other year to once every three years, depending upon weather conditions and the amount of traffic your parking lot accommodates.
Sealcoating restores the surface of your asphalt parking lot to keep cracks at bay and to slow natural deterioration caused by weather conditions and changing seasonal temperatures. It is critical to have sealcoating work performed by qualified contractors, as not all sealers are created equal. While it may be tempting to hire a handyman or have your regular parking lot maintenance crew apply sealcoating for you, it is best applied with specialized equipment by experienced technicians.
Don’t Neglect Parking Lot Striping
Obviously, there is much to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining your parking lot, and we have a little more to go! Maintaining the painted striping that defines parking spaces and handicapped areas of your lots is something that needs attention every few years, especially following sealcoating applications, which totally obscures lining. Your paving contractor can help you with this restriping task.
Need Help Caring For Your Commercial Parking Lot in Southeastern PA?
Ultimately, as technological applications in asphalt surfaces continue to evolve and improve, there may well come a day when minimal regular parking lot maintenance will be required to preserve the longevity of your asphalt.
In the meantime, investing the necessary resources and time in the steps described above will enable you to increase the practical lifespan of your parking lot while also boosting its attractiveness and appeal to customers, clients, and staff members.
For assistance with getting your Lancaster, Reading, Downingtown, Coatesville, or West Chester-area parking lots looking and performing their best, get in touch with Lyons & Hohl Paving now!