Now more than ever it's important to be a savvy and educated consumer. This is especially true when you are managing a property with a large asphalt parking lot. Asphalt repair in your parking lot can be one of the biggest expenses you will come across when maintaining a property, so learning ways to reduce asphalt cost should be a priority.
Many paving contractors don't take the time to educate you about what can be done to save money in your parking lot. The reason for this is often times it feels too much like an up sell, or in an effort to keep things easy for their customers, they just focus on the current project and scope of work that the customer is looking to get done.
With that in mind we decided to set up a round table with our asphalt estimate team, and discuss some of the most important things that property owners can do to reduce the cost of owning a paved parking lot. The question presented to them was simple; What can people do to save money in their parking lots? Well after milling the idea about, they started to give me some great ways to save some money in your parking lot. Keep in mind these are not a one size fits all solution, but if any of these apply they can potentially save you a lot of money over time.
Number 1: Install Concrete Swales & Flow Lines
When it comes to parking lots there is one enemy that paving contractors can agree upon and that’s water. I have written several blogs in the past about this one enemy because it's so very true. Water needs to move off your asphalt and go somewhere else, and the thing that works best at doing that is a concrete swale, or flow line. Water that is allowed to sit, or constantly run over your asphalt will destroy it faster than almost anything else. The answer is to move the water to a flow line or concrete swale. The basic idea of the swale is to move the water off of your parking lot and onto the city street where it can get to a storm drain. Sure, installing these swales will cost you some money, but over time you will find the cost will be well worth it. Typically parking lots with swales and good drainage last for many more years then asphalt with poor or no drainage. If you don’t have them now, consider getting them installed. You won't be sorry.
TLDR: Swales cost money now, but can increase the life span of a parking lot by many years.
Number 2: Apply 2 Coats of Seal
Many people think it's an upsell to offer a 2 coat application of slurry seal, but in fact most if not all sealcoating manufacturers recommend it. Three of the largest sealcoat manufacturers in our area all suggest this and the reason for that is simple. A two coat application of seal last much longer than a single coat. Sounds like an obvious statement, but keep in mind that most California parking lot owners and managers are only taking the single coat option. That second coat option is often times skipped, and it really shouldn’t be. Many contractors are only offering one coat in an effort to keep their estimate competitive, Also, it comes down to the customer that can't afford the additional downtime of applying that second coat of seal. It is important to remember that seal coating not only makes your asphalt look blacker, but it keeps more oil in the asphalt allowing it to remain flexible longer, and flexible asphalt is less likely to crack!
TLDR: Spend the money on that second coat of seal every other year.
Number 3: Thicker Asphalt (where it's needed!)
Asphalt thickness is another one of those issues that doesn’t come up often enough when bidding pavement repair projects. The thing about thicker asphalt is, it doesn’t need to be installed throughout an entire parking lot. Just spending one day on your parking lot can tell you where weigh load abuses are happening, sometimes these abuses are necessary, take for example a typical Southern California shopping center. The front parking lot doesn’t receive the same weight load as the rear parking lot where large trucks and vehicles are unloading their cargo, or where garbage trucks are entering and exiting. If you keep fixing an area of your parking lot and that same area keeps failing, there is a good chance that you need a thicker pavement solution. The key is to design a custom paving plan that includes the areas that typically get heavier weight loads, an intelligent repair will last far longer than an ignorant one.
TDLR: Heavy trucks need heavy duty pavement. Install it.
Number 4: Treat Oil Spots Early
In parking lots oil spots are pretty ugly, but worse than that, they are breaking down your asphalt. They start off as harmless little stains, and more and more they get built up into large blotchy circles that nothing will stick to. If left unattended long enough, they will continue to unravel your asphalt until it becomes a full fledged pothole. The solution is pretty simple when it comes to this problem but will often be overlooked. Oil spot primers are perfect for the job, oil spot primers can be used on any type of asphalt surface, including parking lots, airports, gas stations etc. These primers seal oil, gas, and grease spots on pavement prior to coating and helps prevent oil spots from bleeding up through freshly applied pavement sealer.
TLDR: Use oil spot primers before the oil stains turn into potholes destroying your asphalt.
Number 5: Sealcoating Bi-Annually (every two years)
California is pretty good when it comes to sealcoating their parking lots. We are a image conscience state and most property owners understand that a clean and well maintained parking lot typically leads to a parking lot that feels safe and inviting, but how often should you be sealcoating? The short answer to that question is typically every two years. Sealcoat should be applied every two years and with two coats as mentioned above. If you can get on this schedule and stay on this schedule from day one of your parking lot, you will be amazed at how few repairs will need to be done in your parking lot. Keep in mind your parking lot will not be pitch black for two years, but it will be protected. The cost difference between pavement repair and sealcoating is very large. So keep that asphalt sealed.
TLDR: Seal every two years and expand the life span of your asphalt by a long time.
Number 6: Fix your Irrigation
Sigh…..Ever feel like a broken record? I have talked about this one so many times now I can only imagine me saying out loud while sleeping. (Note to self ….ask wife if she hears the words "Bad Irrigation" when sleeping) Bad irrigation waste water, bad irrigation leaks water all over the parking lot, bad irrigation causes most of the problems we see in parking lots today. Maybe what I really need here is one of those sexy headlines that people can't resist like "Want to learn how Oprah became a millionaire", then just tell people to fix their sprinklers. If you haven't figured out by now, fix your bad irrigation. Call your local landscaping contractor, or better yet talk to mine here, and get him to fix your bad sprinklers and irrigation. You're gonna save a ton of dough.
TLDR: Sprinklers……Fix em
Number 7: Seal Your Cracks
This one is another service that often gets ignored by parking lot owners and managers. Asphalt cracks for many reasons, but the main reason is it gets old, it gets brittle, and then it just cracks. The problem is that asphalt doesn’t bridge like concrete does, so when these cracks open up, they allow water to flow under the asphalt and erode the base on which your paving sits. Once this base erodes, your parking lot starts taking on some serious damage. So when you see the small cracks start to appear in your parking lot fix them early. The wider these cracks are allowed to grow, the more severe the damage is that they will cause. Eventually cracks get so wide that they cannot be sealed or filled.
TLDR: See cracks in asphalt / quickly seal cracks in asphalt.
About this List & #8
So this list really is just about good pavement maintenance suggestions. These suggestions are designed to prolong the lifespan of your asphalt, and the longer your asphalt last, the less money you have to pay over time, simple concept but it's true.
Also, keep in mind that none of these items matter if you hire the wrong contractor. A good contractor is really number 8 on our list. Nowadays it's very simple to do your due diligence. With tools such as the CSLB website here it's easy to see who has insurance and workers comp, or the "Orange County Court Case look up" service here will tell you how many times a contractor has been sued for breach of contract. With a simple search you can learn a lot about how well your contractors stack up. Also, check reviews and referrals on sites like Yelp, Google, or Angieslist. Just type in (company name + reviews). We encourage you to hold all your paving contractors to this same standard and we invite you to start with us. We know we will do well because we have worked hard to earn the reputation we have.