FM Articles

Make Sure Your Parking Lot Is Ready

Parking Lot

The ability to quickly transition and pivot during the pandemic has been key for many business owners across all U.S. industries struggling to weather the storm of COVID-19. For facility managers, one poignant example is the use of their spaces. In lieu of shutting their doors completely, many have had to come up with whole new ways to utilize their existing buildings and spaces, including their parking lots.

Whether it was transitioning parking lots at vacant retail locations or hotels to become COVID-19 testing sites or restaurant operators navigating how to transition parking lot space to outdoor dining space, lots have been a focal point for change at many facilities.

The adaptations will likely continue through the fall months as well, with studies showing that the risk of COVID-19 transmission increases indoors. While safety remains top of mind through the pandemic, pivoting outdoor lot space can decrease the risk of transmission for employees and patrons, but investing in costly repairs to ensure the lot is up to par may prevent some building operators from exploring parking lots as an option. With budgets tighter than ever for many businesses across the country, operators are tasked with figuring out quick ways to transition outdoor parking lot space to protect individuals on the premise, while also protecting operating budgets.

There are a few items to keep in mind to ensure that a transition is happening as safely, efficiently, and as affordably as possible:

Understand the different types of parking lot repairs. With many companies feeling the financial crunch during the pandemic as a result of lost revenue, thinking about coming up with additional dollars for maintenance can seem daunting. As an operator, make sure you understand your options before diving into a transition project.

More often than not, parking lots that have damage don’t require an entire repave. The lifespan of a parking lot sits at anywhere between 10 and 15 years, so there are options to repair the lot to make sure patrons are safe rather than fronting the funds for an entire repave.

Generally speaking, there are five levels of repairs:

  1. Crack Sealing: The least extensive repair, which involves filling small cracks (less than ¼ inch wide) with a liquid filler.
  2. Seal Coating: If several cracks have already been filled, seal coating protects the vulnerable points in the lot from the elements. This process is ideally done every 2-4 years after initial crack sealing.
  3. Resurfacing: This involves adding a new layer of asphalt on top of the existing lot’s surface. Ideally, it can add about 10 years to the lifespan of the lot and is more affordable than a total replacement.
  4. Milling and Resurfacing: Removing the first layer of asphalt and replacing the surface directly underneath it, which can be a costly repair, but it will extensively prolong the life of a lot.
  5. Full Lot Replacement: Lots typically only need to be completely replaced when 25% or more of the surface is damaged. Since this is the most extensive measure, it is generally only utilized when there are structural issues below the surface level of the lot.

Self-audit your lot. Once you understand the different types of repair options, you’ll have a better idea of the type of damage you should be looking for.

Looking for items like potholes, cracks, and rutting – which is when the pavement shows grooves from wear and tear – should be where an operator starts an audit. When auditing your lot for damage, make sure you’re paying attention to both the number of damaged areas as well as the severity of the damage.

When facility managers are reaching out to paving contractors for a repair quote, it’s helpful to be clear about the level of damage up-front so that the quote is as accurate as possible. Provide the number of cracks, potholes, and areas of rutting in the lot, as well as a description of the level of severity for each problem area.

This will also help arm facility managers with expertise to navigate a conversation on how to make the project affordable. To make sure you’re getting the best quote, it is also worth contacting several contractors in the area for an estimate. Some contractors will be flexible with services, especially during challenging times.

Keep up on your facility’s parking lot maintenance. It’s important to stay up-to-date on routine repairs across the entire site, and this is especially true for parking lots. By keeping up on routine maintenance like sealcoating, you can extend the life of your parking lot – sometimes almost doubling it.

Waiting until parking lots have visible damage often puts operators in a tough financial spot, especially during a difficult time. Scheduling yearly parking lot maintenance can save thousands of dollars in the long-term and can allow facility managers to be prepared for any parking lot transition that needs to be made.

If the pandemic has taught business owners and facility managers anything, it’s adaptability. As operators try to plan for what the future holds over the next several months, it’s certain that goals will shift, but being proactive in your approach to planning and reminding yourself that adapting and pivoting are a part of this new normal will ensure that you’re prepared for any transition that lies ahead.

Bob Lester is president and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Dura-Seal (Dura-Seal on Facebook and LinkedIn), a sealcoating, asphalt, and concrete services company. He has worked in the paving industry for over 20 years, leading two buyouts, an acquisition, and the sale of an equipment manufacturing company at Dura-Seal. Prior to joining the company, Bob studied business finance at Otterbein University.