By using two percent of the replacement cost for your lot each year on maintenance, you can extend the life of your pavement by fifty percent, or an average of five years. In order to avoid costly repairs and prolong a full parking lot replacement, defend your pavement from forces that threaten to damage it in the first place. Taking the proper steps to extend the life of your pavement from the day after you perform capital improvements will prevent the parking lot from needing early replacement and save you money.

Pavement maintenance includes traditional methods such as sealcoating, removal and replacement, patching and general repairs. While the traditional approaches are critical, there are also some less traditional strategies that should also be included in a full pavement maintenance plan:

Crack Sealing

The most important line of defense for cracking pavement is proper crack sealing. Cracks left untreated leave pavement vulnerable to external forces–notably water. As water permeates the pavement through these cracks, it washes out the subgrade underneath the pavement and weakens it through excess moisture, causing soft spots in the base. In colder regions, the moisture in these cracks freezes and expands, leaving behind large voids, cracks and potholes in the spring.

An example of Crack Sealing:
One crack totaling 100 LF long in the second year after a resurfacing project may cost $100 to repair. If that crack is left unsealed, by the fourth year it will likely be three cracks (300 LF) – expanding on either side as the pavement weakens below. In the fifth and sixth years it can be as high as 500-700 LF. Unsealed cracks inevitably widen to 4’ -8’ and the same location now requires removal and replacement with a budget of $1,500 (actual costs vary). The cost of filling the crack three times ($300) would have a five-time return on investment over doing nothing at all for five to seven years.

Addressing these cracks is the first step to extending the life of your pavement. Cracking occurs for many reasons, and taking early action helps to slow further deterioration.

Storm Structures and Drainage System

Storm structures and drainage systems are one of the most important aspects of a parking lot to maintain. A properly functioning drainage system can extend the life of your pavement by conveying water off of the pavement to areas designed to handle excess moisture. A drainage system that is not functioning properly can lead to:

  • Flooding on the pavement
  • Slip and fall hazards
  • Traffic, congestion and potentially even accidents as a result of flooding
  • Damage to nearby property
  • Weakened pavement subgrade from poor drainage
  • Liability for freeze-thaw damage

Storm structures degrade when surface water enters the pavement and sits in the gravel base over time, creating holes in the structure that are not always visible. The water slowly erodes the structure and causes a hole to develop, causing damage. When a storm structure is damaged, the reoccurring flow of water passing over the storm structure causes it to deteriorate at a rapid rate. This damage over time enlarges as the pavement settles and ultimately cracks the pavement. When the storm structure becomes too damaged, the entire parking lot becomes exposed to water damage and the structure can collapse. Repairing the storm structure immediately will prevent further damage to the structure while protecting the rest of your parking lot.

An example of structure damage:
When the pavement around the structure cracks in the early stages, a qualified contractor may be able to seal the structure and repair the pavement easily for $1,000 (actual costs vary). If that same damage is left unattended and unrepaired, the damaged pavement surrounding the structure can grow by as much as five hundred percent, potentially needing replacement instead of a simple seal. The cost of not attending to the structure in its early damaged state can raise the cost by three to five times the cost of the original repair to as high as $5,000.

Repairing these storm structures immediately will prevent further damage to the structures while protecting the rest of your parking lot.

Preventing Third Party Pavement Damage

One of the most overlooked aspects of parking lot maintenance is protecting the pavement from third party risk factors such as:

  • Careless snow removal
  • Delivery trucks and other heavy equipment
  • Sloppy pavement removal and repair
  • Damage from landscapers, roofers and other contractors

Many causes of pavement damage come from preventable external forces. Your pavement is engineered to adhere to its environment, and in the same respect, third parties should be mindful of your pavement design. Here is how you can avoid unnecessary damage to your pavement:

Choose a Reputable Snow Removal Contractor
In cold climates, snow removal is a must for any parking lot. However, snow plowing can take its toll on your pavement. Using a reputable snow removal company will help protect the pavement during the winter months. Damaging elements of snow removal include:

  • Sharp snow removal blades dragging on pavement
  • Excessive use of rock salt to your landscaped areas and concrete pavements
  • Unnecessary use of deicing chemicals that damage asphalt
  • Heavy equipment use on weak pavement
  • Damaged storm structures and broken curb and gutter

Snow removal damage leaves behind vulnerable cracks that widen throughout winter and deteriorate once the snow melts. Carefully choosing a snow removal contractor that understands the effects of the equipment and chemicals on your pavement allows you to avoid unnecessary repairs in the spring. As a best practice, we recommend videotaping the condition of the lot prior to the snow season and reviewing the video for any new damage when the season is finished. This can remove your liability to as to whom “caused” the new damage, allowing the contractor to pay for the repairs, not the owner.

Keep Heavy Trucks and Equipment Off the Pavement
Heavy weight from delivery trucks and waste management equipment can cause unnecessary stress on your parking lot. If the pavement was not engineered to withstand the weight of heavy equipment, large trucks can cause the pavement to crack under the weight. Installing signs and pavement markings in your lot banning large vehicles and trucks from weaker pavement areas designed for cars will ensure that your pavement does not buckle under weight it was not designed for.

Ensure Correct Pavement Repairs
When access to sewer pipes or electrical lines located underground requires cutting into your parking lot or sidewalk, the pavement should be removed cleanly and replaced properly. Haphazardly removing or replacing pavement leaves it vulnerable to a multitude of risks, including damage to the overall pavement structure. Never accept temporary repairs or re-use existing materials. Ensure a paving contractor is completing the repairs—not a general labor crew who does not have the experience required to reach the quality standards and total area of repair required. When accessing pipes underground, ensure that the pavement is being properly cared for in the process. When choosing a pavement contractor to complete the work, check the company has an Experience Modification Rate (EMR) of a 1.0 or lower.

Document Pavement Status and Damage
Landscapers, roofers, and other contractors come into frequent contact with your pavement. Always document the status of your parking lot prior to committing to a contractor. This will reduce your liability if any accidental damage occurs to the pavement.

Parking lots are often replaced too soon as a result of avoidable damage. Each market has unique challenges, and knowing the biggest threats to your parking lot’s health is the first step to extending its life.

Choosing a national pavement contractor with experience balancing business goals with local constraints is the best way to guarantee you will get the most out of your budget. By partnering with an experienced pavement contractor from the beginning and following cost-effective maintenance techniques, it’s possible to extend the life of any pavement.