Paving the Way: A Comprehensive Guide to Parking Lot Construction and Care

in Business

Parking lots are vital infrastructure for businesses, office parks, shopping centers, airports, and any facility needing to accommodate vehicle access. With hundreds or thousands of cars traversing them daily, these parking lots endure substantial wear and tear from weather and traffic over time. Keeping them well-maintained not only enables safe, convenient customer access but also positively represents your brand’s professionalism.

Understanding how professional parking lot paving works, including material options, installation processes, and upkeep best practices, allows you to make informed decisions when constructing or renovating your facility’s lot. This guide explores essential considerations around asphalt versus concrete paving, ideal lot attributes, paving steps, and proactive maintenance for maximizing your investment’s durability.

Understanding Asphalt and Concrete: The Two Main Players in Paving

Asphalt and concrete constitute the two predominant paving materials used in parking lot construction today. Both offer advantages and disadvantages regarding cost, longevity, aesthetics, and maintenance needs.

  1. Asphalt: Asphalt, also known as blacktop, consists of dark liquid asphalt cement mixed with variously-sized aggregates like sand and crushed stone. It is the cheaper, more popular parking lot paving choice allowing simple repairs. However, excessive heat and prolonged ultraviolet sun exposure degrades the binding cement over 5-20 years before needing resurfacing. Frequent seal coating helps prolong service life.
  2. Concrete: Concrete mixes cement, sand, gravel, and water to create hardened grey slabs extremely durable against weathering and wear from vehicle traffic. Though significantly more expensive upfront, it lasts far longer than asphalt with little maintenance, typically needing only expansion joint repairs over 25+ years before major resurfacing. Its lighter colour also stays cooler.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Parking Lot

Determining whether asphalt or concrete best suits your parking lot paving in Michigan depends on several key factors:

  • Budget: Asphalt costs roughly $3-6 per square foot installed, while concrete runs $6-12 for materials and labour. Long-term costs also vary based on durability and repairs needed.
  • Traffic Volume: Concrete withstands 3+ times more traffic poundage over decades before cracking or rutting. High truck/SUV volumes necessitate fortified subbases to prevent asphalt deformation.
  • Drainage: Concrete’s minimal seams, compared to asphalt’s many elevation points, increase flood risks without proper grading. Slotted drains and large storm drains help prevent standing water accumulate on both materials.
  • Climate: Year-round warm weather accelerates asphalt degradation from heat/UV exposure, demanding greater maintenance. Colder climates and seasonal freezes crack/pothole both without proper base stability.
  • Desired Aesthetics: Decorative concrete stamping creates colourful patterns, while uniform dark asphalt provides a neat, subtle appearance many prefer.

Benefits of Asphalt Paving for Parking Lots

When cost and maintenance considerations fit your facility priorities, asphalt brings numerous advantages as a parking lot surfacing choice:

  • Durability: Modern asphalt mixtures leverage polymers for enhanced flexibility and strength resisting drips/cracks. Properly installed, it handles weathering and everyday use well over 10-20 years.
  • Cost-effective: Fewer materials plus easier installation equate to major savings compared to concrete. Facilities on tight budgets reap quality and affordability long-term.
  • Smooth surface: Liquid asphalt levels evenly during installation, offering cars and pedestrians stable, skid-resistant traction. Gradual rutting only demands mill-and-overlay resurfacing every 8-15 years to restore smoothness. Proactive sealing maximizes smoothness between replacements.
  • Water drainage: Asphalt’s non-rigid composition absorbs surrounding ground expansions/contractions without cracking. Careful slope grading prevents hazardous ponding while enabling natural runoff filtration.
  • Relatively quick installation: With minimal subbase curing requirements and faster spreading/compacting procedures, asphalt paving projects finish in days rather than weeks like poured concrete. Businesses resume operations quickly.
  • Repairs: Localized asphalt repairs for cracks/potholes take hours utilizing the same hot mix as the original construction. Concrete demands specialty materials and drying times for patched segments.
  • Recyclable: Milled asphalt gets refined and incorporated into new batches. Over 99% recyclability makes it very environmentally friendly.

The Paving Process: From Preparation to Completion

Professionally paving a parking lot requires careful planning and phased coordination for successful quality and longevity.

  1. Site Evaluation: Initial geotechnical core sampling determines pre-existing materials, compaction, water table height, and infiltration rates of the area being paved. This data informs needed excavation depths and drainage provisions for a stable subbase building.
  2. Excavation and Base Preparation: Laborers remove top soils and debris using bulldozers, backhoes, loaders, and dump trucks based on geotech findings. Compactable aggregate materials get layered and compacted in thin lifts to create extremely stable foundations, preventing surface buckling.
  3. Edge Restraints: Concrete curb edges bordering planted grass beds provide clearly defined perimeters, protecting against erosion and material shifts near soft soils. They also direct drainage runoff into catch basins.
  4. Paving Material Installation: With the subbase fully cured, dump trucks deposit hot liquid asphalt or ready-mixed concrete to designated areas. Asphalt gets evenly spread by grader machines or hand tools before compacting to the specified depth, while concrete is poured and then smoothed. Both are left to adequately set.
  5. Striping and Stencilling: Freshly paved lots get painted with directional arrows, parking spot delineators, handicap symbols, fire lane markers, and custom text by professional crews according to permit requirements. Stencilling enhances visibility.
  6. Sealing (Optional): Although optional, asphalt sealants protect against UV damage and water infiltration, optimizing smoothness and longevity between replacements. Some facilities choose decorative colour-tinted options. Multiple thin coats and annual sealing work best.

Keeping Your Parking Lot in Top Shape: Maintenance Tips

With paved parking lots representing major investments, ongoing preventative care preserves their structural integrity so they last for decades. Here are the best practices for maximizing durability:

  • Regular Crack Sealing: Left unfilled, cracks enable water intrusion, eroding subsurface stability and spreading over the seasons. Sealant fills defend against this deterioration.
  • Pothole Repair: Fluctuating temperatures enlarge holes, compromising lot integrity if neglected. Timely hot patch repairs keep trouble spots contained.
  • Sweeping and Cleaning: Periodic power-sweeping removes accumulated silt, mud, and gravel that could otherwise clog drains or track into buildings. Signage enforces no leaking vehicle policies.
  • Drainage Maintenance: Yearly cleaning clears debris from slotted inlets and underground pipe routes preventing hazardous backups or floods under heavy rainfall.
  • Snow Removal: Ploughing followed by de-icer applications creates clear, navigable surfaces during winter weather while minimizing refreeze meltwater pooling.
  • Professional Inspections: Annual lot evaluations determine necessary repairs for prompt attention, preventing bigger issues long term. Seal coating renews aged asphalt.


With expansive parking facilities enduring constant use in all conditions, proactive construction and vigilant upkeep are vital for preserving the visitor convenience and flawless functionality businesses depend on. Whether choosing economical asphalt or robust concrete to meet site-specific needs, adhering to proper base stabilizing, installation, and preventative maintenance best practices ensures your investment stays smooth, safe, and optimized for decades rather than needing premature replacement. For professional assistance with executing material selection or repairs tailored to your region’s climate and regulations, consult a qualified local paving contractor.

Image Credits: Sven Mieke

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