Being a property manager is not easy! You have to be prepared for both daily and urgent tasks while continuing the long-term care for your property.
Anytime you hire a contractor to do a project for you, you have to worry about cost, timing, quality of work, the return on investment, and more.
It honestly feels impossible to do it all.
At DRYCO, we understand that helpless feeling of frustration, and we want to help.
That’s why we’re sharing our expertise on parking lot maintenance – so you can have peace of mind about at least one part of your property upkeep.
As you read, you will learn principles you can apply to your work, reducing the stress of your job.
Ready to start learning? Let’s go for it!
Why Pavement Maintenance Is So Important
We need to start at the beginning. After all, if you don’t think maintaining your parking lot is important, reading this article is a waste of your time.
Here’s the bottom line:
When we talk about pavement – whether it be new asphalt or a repair job – we’re talking about a lot of money.
for example, putting a slurry coat on asphalt costs about $25,000-$30,000 per mile. However, if that asphalt completely fails and needs to be replaced, your cost is at least $350,000 per mile.
The investment you make in paving your parking lot means that maintaining the asphalt is essential. But the importance of parking lot maintenance goes far beyond return on investment.
Property Value and Curb Appeal
If your property doesn’t look appealing from the outside, chances are a potential buyer will never make it inside. According to Bankrate.com, a good first impression can add 5-10% to the value of your property.
This is because of the “Halo Effect.” The Halo Effect is when we see one positive characteristic in something and it colors our perception of everything else about that thing.
Potential customers and tenants will observe more than your parking lot when they pull in the driveway – but you can be guaranteed that a well-maintained parking lot leaves a positive impression, while potholes turn them off.
Longevity of Pavement
A properly maintained surface lasts longer than one that is not cared for properly. Pavement that isn’t maintained ends up costing you more money in the long run.
But pavement longevity is about more than just money.
When your pavement lasts for a long time, you also cut down on the constant stress and worry you have about fixing urgent asphalt needs.
Now that’s a win-win!
As a property manager, the last thing you want to deal with is a lawsuit because a vehicle was damaged or because a pedestrian tripped and fell in your parking lot.
Unfortunately, such instances do occur.
An owner of a parking lot can be found liable for the following circumstances:
- The lack of a designated walkway for disabled people and others
- A poorly designed structure that creates an inefficient flow of traffic
- Inadequate signals or markings
- The presence of wheel stops, especially when they are placed near handicapped spots
- Insufficient security and lighting leading to abductions and violent attacks
- Uneven surfaces and potholes
- Negligent maintenance of snow and ice
- Blind spots which block drivers’ vision
- Improperly marked handicapped zones
As you can see, keeping your parking lot maintained is essential in guarding yourself against lawsuits. And safety isn’t just important for your customers, it’s important to choose a company that practices safe paving practices as well.
Beyond that, it’s the decent thing to do. Keeping your parking lot up-to-date to protect yourself is ok, but hopefully, you sincerely want to protect the people using your lot as well!
What is Asphalt?
We want to talk about what it takes to keep your pavement maintained. But to do that, we first have to understand asphalt.
Pavement can refer to both concrete and asphalt. The difference between the two types of pavement has to do with their rigidity and how they distribute the load placed on them.
In this article, when we refer to ‘pavement,’ we mean ‘asphalt’. But let’s explore the differences between concrete and asphalt a bit further.
Concrete vs. Asphalt
Technically, asphalt is a type of concrete.
In rough terms, you get concrete when you glue rocks together. And that is what happens both in traditional concrete and in asphalt.
The difference between the two is how you “glue” the rocks together.
A mixture of sand, rock, and portland cement is used to create traditional concrete. On the other hand, we get asphalt when we mix sand, rock, and liquid asphalt (asphalt cement).
With traditional concrete, the portland cement “glues” the sand and rock together. With asphalt, the liquid asphalt “glues” the sand and rock together. We call this “glue” a binder.
Liquid asphalt is not a liquid until it is heated up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, the liquid asphalt is mixed with sand and rock and applied. As the liquid binder cools, the asphalt hardens into a tough and durable surface.
So, is there any difference between concrete and asphalt other than the binder that is used in them?
The main difference between the two types of pavement is the base underneath them.
A typical residential application of concrete has about two inches of base rock, topped by four inches of concrete. The base rock is most often some kind of crushed stone.
On the other hand, asphalt has four inches of base rock, topped by two inches of asphalt. The base rock is also compacted crushed stone.
Asphalt also requires a subgrade. In essence, the subgrade is compacted soil.
The result of all of this is that asphalt is considered a flexible paving surface, while concrete is regarded as a rigid paving surface.
Asphalt is considered flexible since the total pavement structure “bends” or “deflects” due to traffic loads.
Flexible pavement uses a more flexible surface course and distributes loads over a smaller area. It relies on a combination of layers for transmitting load to the subgrade.
How is concrete different?
Concrete is considered a rigid surface – because of its stiffness, it distributes loads over a relatively wide area of subgrade.
So, the key to maintaining asphalt is making sure the subgrade stays healthy and that the asphalt remains flexible.
What Causes Pavement Failure?
If the key to maintaining blacktop is ensuring that the subgrade is in good shape, then you might guess that the most common cause of pavement failure is due to subgrade issues.
And you’re right!
Here are the most common reasons for pavement failure:
- 60% of pavement failure comes from a subgrade failure due to moisture.
- 20% of pavement failure comes from overloading the pavement.
- 15% of pavement failure comes from inadequate compaction.
- Some pavement fails because of an under-designed section or because of tree roots.
- Properly maintained pavement will last as long as it should and only deteriorate when it reaches the end of its lifespan. Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence.
In short, pavement failure is caused by a number of variables including, water intrusion, stress from heavy vehicles, expansion and contraction from seasonal temperature changes, and sun exposure.
Common Types of Pavement Failure
Before we dive into pavement maintenance, let’s explore some of the common things you might see in your parking lot or road:
Have you ever walked through an asphalt parking lot and noticed loose rocks and debris? If so, the asphalt may have been raveling right under your feet!
In other words, raveling is asphalt that is crumbling away into tiny stones, giving a rough, rocky appearance to the pavement.
There are several reasons raveling may happen:
Sometimes the aggregate particles (crushed stones) used in asphalt cause a layer of dust to form on top of the pavement. When this happens, the liquid asphalt binder bonds with the dust instead of the aggregate. As a result, the stones slowly begin to crumble away.
Raveling most commonly occurs when exposure to the elements causes the liquid asphalt binder in the pavement to oxidize and become brittle. Then, the weight of vehicles causes the brittle surface to crumble.
Water then washes away the crumbled aggregate, diminishing pavement thickness and revealing a rough, rocky appearance.
(Again, notice how important it is to have a healthy subgrade and to keep asphalt pavement flexible!)
Variations in temperature cause pavement to expand and contract, and rain may cause the soil underneath to swell irregularly.
All of this puts stress on the pavement, creating long cracks in the roadway.
As the pavement ages, these cracks will appear with increasing density, forming block cracks. Block cracks indicate that the pavement has lost its flexibility and may require major reconstruction.
Cracking is one of the most common causes of asphalt failure since almost every climate experiences weather swings and some rain.
Here are a few important types of pavement cracking to familiarize yourself with so you can spot the signs quickly:
- Joint Cracking: joint cracking forms along asphalt overlay projects where a flexible concrete base is paved over. Over time the concrete sub-base will expand and contract causing cracks to form along the joints of the concrete.
- Transverse Cracking: transverse cracks run across an asphalt roadway and are caused by settling or shifting base material, improper paver operation, and extreme temperature shifts.
- Linear Cracking: linear cracking runs parallel with the roadway and are most commonly caused by pavement fatigue but can also be an issue related to weaker points in a parking lot or roadway pavement joints.
- Edge Cracking: edge cracking forms along the edge of a road and is typically caused by water damage, insufficient base material, and heavy road usage.
Want to know how to avoid these cracking issues from the get-go? Read our blog: 3 Pro Tips For A Good Paving Experience.
Alligatoring is an asphalt condition easily recognized by a series of cracks grouped together in one area. As you might guess, the name for this particular asphalt deterioration comes from its striking resemblance to alligator skin!
Alligatoring is almost always a sign that the subgrade for your asphalt has problems.
Here’s how it happens:
Water from rain, drainage, or flooding enters cracks in the pavement and, over time, slowly carries away the “fines” of the subgrade.
This causes unstable, unsupported pavement. In turn, the weight of vehicles causes the unsupported pavement to crack.
Potholes are awful, and various defects in the blacktop can cause them.
If moisture penetrates the sub-base of asphalt, the pavement is weakened and will usually cause potholes.
Potholes can also form in conditions where the asphalt hasn’t been compacted adequately, and the material has begun to ravel out of place.
And finally, potholes also form when alligatoring is left unattended. Alligorating that isn’t dealt with spreads through the pavement like cancer, breaking the pavement into even smaller pieces that are cast aside, eventually forming potholes.
How To Maintain Pavement
We’ve said it numerous times – the key to great pavement is a good subgrade and keeping the asphalt flexible.
In a sense, the two go hand in hand. When the subgrade is not compacted correctly, or when moisture enters the subgrade, the asphalt loses its flexibility.
It’s true that some pavement issues crop up when the asphalt is not installed correctly when it is laid. However, as a property manager, you are most interested in maintaining a parking lot or road after the asphalt is applied.
What’s the key?
Sealcoating asphalt is a must if you want to keep your pavement in good condition. Using proper care in sealcoating your pavement allows you to keep your subgrade healthy and your asphalt flexible.
What is Asphalt Sealcoating?
Sealcoating is to asphalt as varnish is to wood.
It is a protective coating applied to the pavement to provide a layer of protection from the elements.
There are plenty of kinds of sealants to choose from: a few options are acrylic, blended, oil-based, and water-based sealers.
Each type of sealer has its pros and cons. Your best bet is to discuss different sealants with your pavement contractor and get their recommendation.
No matter what you choose, you are doing yourself a service when you sealcoat your pavement. A few of the benefits of sealcoating a parking lot or roadway are:
- Prevent cracks. Sealants close off the pores of the driveway’s base material, preventing water from getting in, and therefore preventing cracking.
- Minimize corrosion. Sealants protect the pavement from the elements and chemical seepage, effectively reducing corrosion over time.
- Clean pavement. Sealants prevent oil spills from staining a surface, making it easier to clean your pavement with a quick sweep or rinse.
- Refresh the look. A fresh coat of sealer makes your aging pavement look brand new! At DRYCO, we even offer parking lot striping services, so the lines in your parking lot are fresh and clean!
How to Apply Asphalt Sealcoating
Let’s make one thing clear right away: if you have a sizable sealcoating project to do, you should hire a contractor. There’s no use being frustrated with the wrong tools and an unending job.
However, if you have a tiny area of a parking lot or roadway that needs sealcoating, you can follow the process we generally use at DRYCO.
- Check the weather before you start. You’ll need at least two days of dry weather and temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the sealer to cure properly.
- Barricade the area that will be sealed. There should be no traffic on a fresh layer of seal coat for at least 24 hours.
- Clean the area that will be sealed. If the area is not clean, the sealer will not penetrate and stick to the asphalt.
- Fill any cracks with crack filler. Don’t rely on the seal coat to fix cracks – it won’t do the job!
- Treat and oil stains with an oil spot primer – these areas need particular attention!
- Apply the seal coat using a brush or squeegee (the manufacturer should specify which should be used).
Here’s a pro tip from us: always apply two coats of sealer.
The first coat of sealant requires all the preparation (steps 1-5 above). But when you apply two coats of seal coat right away, you can skip all the preparation on the second coat. It’s a definite win when it comes to return on investment.
When you choose DRYCO as your sealcoating contractor, we’ll come and take a look at the job to make sure we have a good action plan. We’ll then seal your parking lot or driveway using our spray-on seal coat machines for an impeccable finish.
When to Apply Asphalt Sealcoating
We know protecting your pavement with seal coating is important. In fact, studies show that proper seal coating can double the lifespan of pavement!
But how often should you apply a seal coat to your blacktop?
Your first application of sealant should come within two or three years of the asphalt being applied. After that, a seal coat should be applied every three to five years.
The PASER System
Sealcoating is an amazing way to maintain your pavement and extend its lifespan.
Unfortunately, it can’t fix pavement that is badly damaged. With badly damaged asphalt, you have two options: remove and replace the asphalt or perform a full-depth rehabilitation.
Ideally, you won’t ever need to execute a full-blown repair like that.
And if you keep an eye on your pavement, you won’t need to. But here’s the tricky part about managing asphalt pavement:
During the first 75% of pavement life, the pavement often performs well. The untrained eye generally can’t pick up on the indicators of stressed pavement in those years.
In the last 25% of pavement’s useful life, the paved surface seems to fall apart rapidly, resulting in you needing to take emergency measures to fix it.
The key is to execute preventative maintenance, even when the pavement still seems to perform well. This dramatically decreases the sudden drop-off you notice in your pavement’s performance.
Thankfully, there is a system that can help you stay on top of your parking lot maintenance. It’s called the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) System.
Here’s how it works:
You rank all the paved surfaces on your property on a scale of 1-10. Failed surfaces are a one, and brand new asphalt is a ten.
Each level of ranking defines the specific visual attributes that are consistent with that level. For example, an eight on the PASER system might include:
- All cracks sealed or tight (open ¼” or less)
- Very slight or no raveling
- Very few patches in excellent condition
Then, each “level” or number has an associated course of action. This allows you to know exactly what you need to do as soon as you see it in your parking lot or roadway.
Planning Pavement Maintenance
Trust us when we say you want to plan ahead when it comes to pavement and maintenance. It will save you time, stress, and money.
The PASER system is a useful tool for helping you get started on that path. Ideally, it helps you keep the pavement maintenance wheel spinning.
It should look something like this:
- Make a regular survey of paved assets using the PASER system
- Convert the data you gather into decision making information
- Integrate pavement maintenance into long and short term operational plans.
Why is this so important?
Because when you start putting together a pavement maintenance and repair budget, you will likely realize that you cannot afford all the needed work during the next construction season. This is especially true when you need to make unforeseen, emergency fixes.
However, when you plan ahead, you can build a multi-year pavement maintenance strategy. Then you can stay a step ahead and decide what work can be completed in the next season.
At DRYCO, we’re happy to help you develop a long-term pavement maintenance plan so you can have peace of mind when it comes to your parking lot.
If you’re interested in receiving assistance with more than just parking lot maintenance make sure to read our blog: 4 Exterior Services Every Property Manager Should Outsource.
Being a property manager is a tough job – no one can argue that point.
But you can make it easier on yourself when you properly maintain your pavement and make a good plan for the future.
If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, greater Sacramento, or California’s San Jose and Central Valley and need an asphalt project completed, contact us at DRYCO today.
We are uniquely equipped as a one-stop company for pavement, concrete, and fencing services. We’d be happy to complete any project you have from start to finish, including technical evaluation, scope development, and pavement maintenance plans.
With over 270 employees and 50 crews, we can do your whole project, saving you the headache of working with multiple contractors. Beyond that, we can do it fast – so you don’t have to interrupt your business for long periods of time.
Contact us today – we look forward to hearing from you!