All About Parking Lots

Asphalt Parking Lots

Is An Asphalt Parking Lot The Right Choice For Your Commercial Property?

a closeup of an asphalt parking lot installed by an expert paving contractor

Looking for parking lot ideas or considering a new asphalt parking lot?

  • Which parking lot surface is best when choosing between asphalt, concrete or pavers?
  • What are the benefits of an asphalt parking lot vs concrete or pavers?
  • What type of ongoing maintenance does an asphalt parking lot require compared to the other types of parking lots?

These are all very important things to consider when it comes to a choosing a new parking lot.

Asphalt Parking Lots

Whether you call them asphalt parking lots, black top parking lots, ash-phalt parking lots, tarmac or macadam parking lots… they’re all the same. Asphalt parking lots are described many different ways.

How common are asphalt parking lots? The further North we travel in the United States, the more likely we see asphalt parking lots. The further South we travel in the United States, the more likely we see concrete and/or concrete paver parking lots. This is due to the amount of freeze and thaw cycles which occur in colder regions.

Asphalt is pliable, making it much more forgiving than concrete when it comes to heaving from freeze and thaw cycles. An asphalt parking lot is also very beneficial if you happen to live in a snowy region as the black color of the asphalt can soak in the heat from the sun and melt snow much faster than any other type of parking lot surface.

To install a new asphalt parking lot, in most cases, you’ll need blue print drawings which includes sub grade material and preparation specs, asphalt mix design and installation specs, drainage specs, and striping and marking layout specs. In most cases, you’ll also need to include concrete curb and gutter, sidewalks and handicap ramp specs as well.

In instances where your commercial property is not subject to city and county specifications, you can install a new asphalt parking lot without blue print drawings and engineering but you’ll still need a solid drainage plan. A parking lot can shed large amounts of water and that water must be managed and directed to areas where it will keep from flooding neighbors, streets and even buildings. In this case, hiring a reputable contractor is critical to avoid future problems.

an asphalt paving contractor laying a new asphalt parking lot
a new asphalt parking lot being installed and the roller compacting the asphalt while it's hot

If you already have an asphalt parking lot and it’s showing signs of severe aging and deterioration, or has a tremendous amount of patching and repairs and looks patchy, blotchy and uninviting, overlaying the existing asphalt or completely removing and replacing it may be in order! In most cases, this can also be done without blue prints and specs, but absolutely should be performed by a reputable paving company who will do it right the first time.

All parking lots age and deteriorate beyond repair and eventually become a safety hazard at some point. The goal with any parking lot should be to maximize the life expectancy as much as possible before having to completely remove and replace it. This requires a solid plan with frequent maintenance of every 2 to 3 years.

Of the four types of parking lots, an asphalt parking lot is #3 when comparing cost and #1 when comparing ongoing maintenance.

Cost Chart:

  • Paver Parking Lot – #1 – Most Expensive
  • Concrete Parking Lot – #2
  • Asphalt Parking Lot – #3 – Least Expensive

An asphalt parking lot can be the least expensive option when comparing to other hard surface parking lots.

Ongoing Maintenance Chart:

  • Asphalt Parking Lot – #1 – Most Ongoing Maintenance
  • Concrete Parking Lot – #2
  • Paver Parking Lot – #3 – Least Ongoing Maintenance

An asphalt parking lot requires the most frequent amount of ongoing maintenance when comparing to to other hard surface parking lots.

Life Expectancy Of An Asphalt Parking Lot

A properly installed asphalt parking lot with regularly scheduled maintenance can last up to 20 or even 30 years. That variation in age can be determined by the stability of the sub-grade, the quality of the installation, the type and frequency of maintenance, the drainage plan and the climate of the region you’re located in.

Types of ongoing maintenance you can expect to perform on an asphalt parking lot?

Sealing cracks, patching, pothole repair, sealcoating and re-striping

A new asphalt parking lot should NOT be sealed until it is a minimum of 6 months old. The asphalt should then be re-sealed every 2 to 3 years thereafter to slow down the deterioration process. Deterioration is caused by the elements – specifically, oxidation from the sun, rain and snow, freeze and thaw cycles and the amount of traffic the parking lot receives. The more traffic, the more frequent your asphalt parking lot will need to be sealed. However, only a quality commercial grade asphalt sealer is recommended and should only be applied by a reputable seal coating contractor.

Asphalt by nature cracks, and unlike concrete, there is no way to add controlled joints in asphalt to help control where it does crack. When cracks develop, they should be sealed with a hot pour rubberized sealer. Sealing the cracks will help to prevent further damage and pavement failures like alligatoring and potholes. Ultimately cracks should be sealed every fall when the asphalt is cool and they are open at their widest. The fall season is the optimal time for sealing cracks so when the heat from summer comes back around and the asphalt has warmed and expanded, the cracks are sealed tightly from rain and water runoff. Cracks sealed in the heat of the summer have the potential of opening up in the winter again when the asphalt has cooled and the cracks have contracted again, allowing melting snow and water to penetrate them. This is tough to avoid since most parking lot maintenance companies provide crack sealing services in conjunction with sealcoating, which can only be performed with temperatures of 50 degrees and rising. This is why in most areas of the country sealcoating is performed only in the summer months.The best maintenance plan should include crack sealing services in the fall of each year. This will most certainly save money long term avoiding costly patching services.

Choosing The Right Parking Lot For Your Commercial Property

When choosing between an asphalt parking lot and the other three types of parking lots, take into the consideration these things:

Budget – Curb Appeal – Climate – Amount Of Ongoing Maintenance – Durability

If the short term, up front cost is a deciding factor, asphalt parking lots are an excellent, low cost option depending on the size of your parking lot and the thickness requirements. The long term trade off however, is asphalt parking lots require more ongoing maintenance. If cost is not as important of a factor, and aesthetics are more important, then concrete parking lots or paver parking lots are the alternatives for a hard surface parking lot. While initially the up front costs are higher, long term, they require less maintenance therefore less maintenance costs.

Also, take into consideration the effects of an asphalt parking lot if it’s not maintained properly or how it can look as it ages.

an asphalt parking lot that was not maintained properly
an older asphalt parking lot and the effects of aging and oxidation from the sun

Asphalt parking lots can be a beautiful and economical solution for commercial properties. They provide a very sharp, clean, sleek black look which is more inviting to prospective tenants and their customers. The black color of an asphalt parking lot is also very appealing for snow melt in the wintertime. The black asphalt heats up from the warmth of the sun and melts off the snow and ice much faster. Asphalt parking lots come in only one color, but there are, however, new sealers on the market which offer a variety of colors to choose from. See some different Colorful Design Ideas For Asphalt Parking Lots.

When it comes to durability, keep in mind the amount of traffic and the type of traffic your parking lot will endure. Fire stations, car washes, or any other type of business who have to endure exceptionally heavy vehicles, an above average amount of heavier vehicle traffic, or an above average amount of water runoff, a concrete parking lot may be much better, as a longer term solution. Learn more about concrete parking lots here.

If you’re considering having a new asphalt parking lot installed, an existing one overlayed or completely removed and replaced, see our Asphalt Parking Lot Installation FAQ’s section for more information to ensure yourself a good, quality long lasting job.

You can also learn more about the ongoing maintenance of an asphalt parking lot by visiting our Asphalt Parking Lot Maintenance FAQ’s section!

Before you hire a contractor to install or perform maintenance on your asphalt parking lot, be sure and review our video and eBook series, “The Most Common Ways Asphalt Installation Contractors Rip Us Off And How To Avoid Them”™. You’ll learn everything you need to know in order to hire a reputable contractor and get the job done right the first time!

Or make it easy on yourself and save time, money and future headaches by hiring one of our pre-screened and background checked asphalt companies to install, remove and replace or perform maintenance services on your asphalt parking lot. Learn more or request an estimate from one of our Trusted Asphalt Installation or Asphalt Repair Contractors in your local area!