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Parking Problems: Strategies and Tactics to Prolong Lot Life

By Doug Haymore

The parking lot is a significant financial investment for any institutional or commercial facility, so maintenance and engineering managers should focus on extending the life of the asphalt or pavement. By design, the parking lot is subject to a lot of use and is exposed to weather elements that can wear it down. While managers cannot do much about weather exposure and regular use, their staffs can use these strategies to protect the investment.

Keep it clean. Maintaining a clean parking lot can prevent significant and costly damage to the asphalt. Dirt and debris deteriorate paving material, which ultimately can shorten its life. Regular sweeping of the parking lot is critical in protecting the pavement, plus it also has other benefits.

For instance, ongoing parking lot sweeping is viewed as a best practice for controlling stormwater runoff and can improve curb appeal. Some situations require more than sweeping to clean the parking lot. Oil drips, stains and even gum will not be removed with sweeping alone. In those cases, technicians should use pressure washers.

Do not put off repairs. It is more cost-effective to quickly take action at the first signs of raveling, transverse cracks, longitudinal cracks, or minor block cracking than it is to wait and let the pavement continue to decline. Technicians should identify any signs of deterioration or damage and take immediate corrective steps. If the parking lot is not on the regular maintenance checklist, managers should consider adding it.

Exercise caution in winter months. If the facility is located in a region that experiences snowfall, managers and technicians will need to take extra care to protect the parking lot. Snowplows are often engaged to clear the snow, but operators should be careful when using them on the parking lot. Plow blades are sharp enough to scratch or gouge the pavement and can push along loose objects or debris that can lead to cracks. When creating snowplows, managers can reduce the risk of damage to the asphalt by ensuring the driver is experienced in clearing parking lots and that the pavement boundaries are clearly marked.

Technicians also should be sparing in their use of deicing agents, such as rock salt, because too much can hurt the asphalt. Technicians can use alternative products, or they can use a mix of salt and sand to create traction and melt snow while at the same time decreasing saltwater runoff.

Sealcoat the asphalt. Sealcoating the parking lot can do wonders to extend the life of the asphalt. The average life of properly laid asphalt is 10-30 years, but that is under ideal conditions, and it is nearly impossible to ensure ideal conditions for parking lots.

During the sealcoating process, applicators add a weatherproof barrier to the asphalt, which acts as a coat of protection. It is designed to wear away under the conditions that typically would damage the asphalt. The sealcoat takes the brunt of rain, snow, oxidization, sun exposure and any other elements. Sealcoating can double the lifespan of pavement and cut down on repairs and maintenance. If the parking lot is sealed within two years after it was installed, technicians should need to reseal only every two-three years to maintain the protection.

Preventive maintenance is the best approach to protecting investments in parking lots. By following these tips, a manager can make sure a parking lot remains an asset and does not become a liability.

Doug Haymore is the president and CEO of http://Command7.com, which focuses on helping national, multi-site companies deliver consistent brand experiences by providing comprehensive maintenance services across their entire portfolio of properties.