Love Your Parking Lot

Love, cold temps, and maybe a little snow may still be in the air, but with spring and summer right around the corner, you might start thinking about inspecting the parking lots you sweep. If the parking lot needs some attention, then letting the property manager know early can help them plan for those expenses as well as give you time to fit them in. Todd Dunlap, commercial division manager for Slurry Pavers in Virginia, talks to us about common problems that arise when sealcoating.

“The key to preventing most problems in a parking lot is to assess the condition of it annually,” says Dunlap. “The first step is to make sure the parking lot is a good candidate for sealcoat. Sometimes, the owner of the parking lot neglects to keep up with basic maintenance to the point where it needs a more extensive repair such as an overlay.”

So, if the asphalt has pot holes, cracks, other problems, sealcoating alone won’t help. “Basic maintenance such as crack seal, patching, and sealcoat can extend the life of your asphalt for years,” says Dunlap. “A few areas to take note of prior to recommending a sealcoat are: how bad is the asphalt cracking (i.e. depth, width, and lengths); how many areas need patched; and how saturated is the lot with oil. I address all the necessary prep work with the property owner prior to recommending the proper maintenance. Your parking lot is like your car, you need to keep up with the basic maintenance. You can reduce the cost and the extent of the repairs, if you assess the condition of your lot annually. Neglecting to make simple repairs such as crack seal, patching, and sealcoat can cost you in the long run.”

The following are some common problems that arise when sealcoating.

Sealcoat Turns Gray

“If I ever see it gray too quickly, it’s typically because we applied it early or late in the year when the temperatures are cool,” says Dunlap. “When it’s cold, it takes it longer to cure making it gray and wear quicker. The ideal time for our area is from mid-April to the end of October. I never have that issue because I start in April. You want to make sure the conditions are right before you apply your sealcoat (i.e: temperatures, sun, rain, etc.) When the time changes in the fall, and we lose an hour of daylight, our window to work is shorter. The sealcoat needs the sunlight to cure properly.”

Sealcoat Starts Peeling or Flaking

“Areas that I have seen the material begin to flake or peel are along buildings or curbs,” says Dunlap. In these areas, the sealer is applied with a squeegee in order to cut in without getting material everywhere. It is similar to painting a wall, you cut in the edges first. If the areas don’t receive ample sunlight or time to dry, occasionally it will flake or peel. In instances where this has happened, we clean it up and reapply it. Again, if the weather conditions are right you shouldn’t have this issue.”

Dirty Looking Stripes

“If you stripe the parking lot before it has completely cured or dried, the sealcoat will bleed through the paint causing the lines to turn brown,” says Dunlap. “In the summertime, you can put your first coat of sealer down and it will dry in about 45 minutes. Of course, that’s after you’ve done your pavement prep and soaked any areas saturated with oil. The second coat should take about 30 minutes to dry.

“I’ve noticed different types of paint work better than others. I use Sherwin Williams, which provides a bright white line.”

Sealcoat Wears Out Too Soon

“A good sealcoat should last two to three years,” says Dunlap. “When you go and look at a mall parking lot with heavy traffic for instance, you might want to put two coats in the parking stalls and three coats in drive areas. This will help with the wearing of the material due to large amounts of traffic.

“It could be the time of year that caused it to wear quickly. In colder temps, it takes longer to dry and cure and will sometimes turn gray and wear quicker.

“It could also be because they may not be using the right ratio of emulsion, water, and sand. Incorrect mixes of materials can cause it to wear quicker.”

Crack Sealants

“A crack sealant should last years if the cracks are cleaned and the material is applied properly,” says Dunlap. “One thing we do when we crack seal is we use a squeegee to help push the material into the cracks. The squeegee also leaves a small overband that is paper thin that helps keep the material in the crack.”

How to Tell if You’ve Done Something Wrong

“Something is wrong if it wears quickly,” says Dunlap. “If you are mixing it to the right ratio it should set up properly. Within an hour, the first coat should be dried, and within 30 minutes, the second coat should dry. If it takes more than an hour for the first coat to dry in the summertime, then you may have too much emulsion and not enough water. During the summer, the ground is the hottest, helping the water to evaporate and allowing the sealer to dry.”

Quality Materials

“I use the Tarconite and Jennite sealers from Neyra,” says Dunlap. “I’ve never had an issue with their material and like the finished product. Both are coal tar emulsion sealers. A lot of companies are using asphalt based sealers.

“In parking lots, I like to use the parking lot sealant by Crafco to seal the cracks. The parking lot sealant is made to withstand the twisting and turning of cars.”

Allow It To Cure

“The longer you keep traffic off a newly sealed parking lot, the better,” says Dunlap. “Letting a newly sealed lot sit overnight is ideal but in many cases they need to be opened within a few hours.”

Scuffing and Tearing

“When cars twist and turn to get into a space, you might see a tire track or scuffing on a really hot day,” says Dunlap. “Scuffing is when the aggregate in the sealcoat (sand) rolls due to the pressure of the car. Over time, traffic will iron these areas out.”

Oil Spots

“If the lot has a lot of oil spots, then we use an oil spot primer,” says Dunlap. “It soaks up the oil allowing the sealer to bond the asphalt. If you don’t address the oil either by patching or using the primer, the sealer will not bond and sometimes bubbles and flakes.”

Like a relationship, a parking lot needs you to pay attention to it, protect it, and nurture it to keep it healthy. By following these tips and others, you can ensure that your customer’s parking lot lasts.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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