Prioritize Your Parking Lot Maintenance

The cost of a total parking lot excavation and replacement is quite steep. Just like going to the doctor is cheaper than going to the ER, and putting oil in your car is cheaper than buying a new engine, maintaining your parking lot is easier on your pocketbook than replacing it.
Kurt Schwartz with KM International says the first step in maintaining your investment is through crack repair. “You want to stop water from infiltrating and washing away base material. It will wash away the bottom, which will cause the upper layers to sink and cause spiderweb or alligator cracking. Asphalt stays pliable even after 20 years. When water washes away the base material, it causes potholes.
This is why crack filling is more important than sealcoating.
“Most people think of sealcoating first, but you need to crack fill first. Start by cleaning the crack and open it up to allow rubber in. Large heat lances and portable heat lances like our Crack Jet II will open up the crack to allow rubber in. The crack is an upside down V and you need to open it up to allow more rubber down in the crack, which will allow for maximum adhesion. Some applicators use a router to create a smooth wall but it doesn’t give it the fingers that will hang on to the rubber. When you have a smooth wall, the rubber will pull up. Also, if the area is damp while applying the rubber it will also pull up, which is why it’s important to have a heat lance.
“Some folks will use a wire wheel or high pressure compressor, but that doesn’t open or dry the crack out. Of course, those things are better than nothing. In a good, better, best scenario, a wire wheel is good, high force air compressor is better and a heat lance is best. That heat lance will open up the crack, dry it out and etch out the walls to allow the rubber to adhere to walls.
“Some guys want to power wash the crack, which is really bad because you’re putting moisture in it.”

To fill a crack, you can use a full size heat lance, which can cost thousands of dollars. You will also need an air compressor. There are several models on the market including the “Hot Rod” Heat Lance by Cimline Pavement Maintenance Group and SealMaster’s Hot Air Lance.
KM International makes a portable heat lance. “It’s a self-contained unit about the size of a striper with a Honda engine and a two stage compressor,” says Schwartz. The unit is designed for versatility to either walk behind or tow. The hot air dries moisture in seconds and blows cracks clean while etching the walls and surface of cracks. “It eliminates the need for cumbersome compressors, routers and wire wheels.
“The small portable unit eliminates time and labor cost. When you are working and run into a 30-minute rain shower, you have to shut down. But once the sun is out, you can fire up the heat lance and be right back in business. Most guys are trying to be as competitive as possible, but if you have to go back two to three times because of weather, then you keep paying the guys to drive back and forth.”
Schwartz says the biggest difference between the Crack Jet II and other heat lances is the cost. “With the larger heat lance you need an air compressor and a truck to pull the trailer down the road. With the Crack Jet II, one person can maneuver it–greatly reducing labor cost.”
He does say that you can get more production out of a larger heat lance unit. A municipality may already have a big air compressor and a larger unit might make sense for them, but the sales team at KM International will help guide their clients toward the right equipment for the job.
“Using different rubber for different climates is important,” says Schwartz. “There are also different ways to melt it. There’s direct heat, which we don’t recommend because of the risk of overheating. It can flash and catch fire or just overheat and deteriorate the rubber. We recommend the thermostat-controlled method. The size of your jobs will determine the size of the unit. We have the KM 55 which is self-contained, thermostatically controlled and insulated with a 100-500 degree controller. The unit uses a 50,000 BTU propane heating element which will use half the propane as direct fire units. If you crack fill full-time, then go with an oil bath rubber melter.”
After the rubber is melted, you can apply it by pouring it out of a pour pot or a pumping system.

Like any job, preparation is key. “The cleaner your lot is, the better you are. Don’t just go out with push brooms,” says Schwartz. “Oil spots are tough areas to cover up with sealcoat. We use an infrared heater to heat up and remove oil spots. You can also use oil primer.
“If it’s a large parking lot, plan ahead with the maintenance crew. If it’s a mall parking lot, map it out and shut it down for a minimum of 24 hours. The hardest job is just mapping everything out, but by working with the property manager and with proper planning, you can ensure that your sealcoat is beautiful. What you don’t want is for them to mow the grass right after you sealcoat and end up with grass blown on it.
“When using coal tar sealer, make sure you use the right amount of suggested water mixture ratio and the proper amount of sand. You can add black beauty or silica sand to keep it from becoming slick–a black shiny driveway can be like black ice. It also fills in small voids and gives the sealcoat something to bond and stick to over the existing sealcoat.”
Depending on whom you talk, some will recommend spraying on the sealcoat, while others prefer to squeegee. “We like to spray it on to get an even coat,” says Schwartz. “Don’t spray it on landscaping and be cautious with overspray. There is still a certain amount of hand work that needs to be done. You need to squeegee around curbs etc. in parking lots. We recommend a two-coat application in drive lanes. In parking stalls you don’t necessarily need two, but where they drive all of the time, you’ll need it.”
Schwartz says these steps will help protect the investment in the parking lot and prolong the life of the asphalt.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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