Facility Management | August 25, 2022
4 Answers to Common Pavement Questions
Many companies adopt a “wait until it breaks” approach for addressing their pavement, waiting until it is fatigued—known as alligator cracking—and potholed. While this strategy might free up a facility manager’s budget in the short term, it can lead to a higher total cost of ownership for that asset over time. If problems like these are addressed before they occur, through proactive preventive maintenance and well-timed corrective measures, you can improve the long-term cost-effectiveness of your pavement approach.
It's true. These activities can burden a facility’s budget but, like going to the dentist, brushing and flossing are an inexpensive way to avoid crowns, root canals, and worse.
To better understand why this is the case, here are answers to four common pavement questions:
So, what causes your pavement to break?
Climate and usage are two of the main factors that contribute to pavement degradation. As you consider the pavements across your portfolio, understanding where and how each is used will help paint a clearer picture of your pavement needs over time.
Pavement in areas with cold winter seasons, freeze/thaw conditions, high precipitation, and high temperatures requires more upkeep than pavement in a climate with less variation in temperature over the course of the seasons.
These types of conditions – whether their extreme nature or their fluctuations – place additional stress on pavement that does not occur, or only occurs to a lesser degree, in places where the weather is mild or constant.
Even parked vehicles can cause damage to your asphalt pavement if parked long enough on a hot day. As asphalt pavement gets hot, it becomes malleable. Therefore , a parked car may leave a depression in your pavement, or a heavy truck turning on your pavement may ravel the surface or leave a depression.
The relationship between vehicle weight and damage to pavement is exponential. To put this into perspective, one-fully loaded trash truck can cause as much damage as approximately 10,000 passenger cars. When traffic like this is not routed properly through your lots, it puts undue stress on areas that were not designed for these kinds of loads.
Of course, over time, even normal loads will wear on pavement. If you own or operate retail property, your customer visits will wear on even the best-designed asphalt systems.
How long does it take for pavement to degrade?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), with ongoing preventive maintenance and corrective measures like sealing joints and full-depth patching, a new parking lot should last between 20 to 30 years, depending on your climate and use.
With improper use, or without these preventive and corrective measures, some pavements will fail far sooner, which can have big consequences.
Let’s do some rough math to illustrate how this translates to total cost of ownership:
If you paid $1M for a parking lot that was intended to last 20 years, you’re essentially paying $50,000 per year for that asset.
If you were to “wait until it breaks” and only get 15 years out of it, you’ve lost $250,000 in value and are now spending another $1M to replace that asset five years before you expected to do so.
Had you spent $150,000 in planned maintenance, you could have kept your capital budget on track and saved $100,000 over that asset’s full 20-year life.
How do you preserve your pavement and ensure the lowest total cost of ownership?
As a surface degrades to “poor” condition, the cost of repair is up to 30 times more than if it were in “good” condition. USDOT’s National Center for Pavement Preservation published an article explaining the importance of ensuring that funds are used for the best-suited repair type.
It states that prioritizing the “worst first” is not a financially sustainable option. Instead, companies should “focus on integrating reconstruction, rehabilitation, and preservation in the proper proportions to improve network conditions and ensure the most efficient allocation of funds.”
Common preventative maintenance includes joint sealing and seal coating, which will cost around $0.20 per square foot. Spot patching costs around $5.00 per square foot, and a full reconstruction of your parking lot would cost much more: around $8 per square foot (2020 prices).
*Prices reflect data from 2020 through Q1 2021. Current pricing is higher due to inflation. This chart is intended to demonstrate the relative cost differences between these vital maintenance and repair activities.
A standard maintenance schedule for new asphalt concrete should look like:
Every 1-3 Years: Crack repair and preventative maintenance
Every 3-5 Years: Seal coat, crack repair, and preventative maintenance
Every 10-15 Years: Two-inch mill and overlay
When should you call a pavement consultant?
If you have new or recently replaced pavement, a facilities management consultant specializing in pavement can create a detailed plan, covering the upkeep and repair of your pavement assets. A consultant also understands the best types of sealants and seal coating for the local climate, ensuring money is not wasted on ineffective repair materials.
Your maintenance staff can perform a basic visual survey of pavement for cracks; however, a consulting firm that specializes in pavement preservation can take it a few steps further. They will provide an accurate, detailed report and make recommendations for ongoing repair, considering loadings, soil conditions, and other unseen factors.
If your staff is new or untrained it is possible that they might not have the time or knowledge to sufficiently clean out old sealant from cracks. If your staff is inexperienced in asphalt repair or new to the facility, call a professional and make sure you get the work done correctly.
Ultimately, if it looks bad but you’re not sure how bad, hiring a firm to help run a pavement condition index on your pavement network will start the process of prioritizing your pavement budget needs.
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