field guide

Making Your Parking Lot Built to Last

Not all paving maintenance dollars are worth the same. They don’t all provide the same degree of impact – in other words each maintenance option has a Maximum Value Threshold. Understanding how to leverage this Maximum Value Threshold will let you do more with less.

Making your Parking Lot Built to Last - Field Guide Cover Art
Peter Kramer
Peter Kramer


One of the largest investments you manage is the asphalt pavement surrounding your buildings, but that large investment rarely gets the time and attention it needs.

Got six minutes? In the time it takes you to read this field guide you will do more for extending the life and value of your parking lot investment than just about anything you’ve
ever done.


Get the Biggest Bang for your Pavement Buck

The first step in making sure your pavement is built to last is to develop a pavement philosophy and define goals for each pavement you manage. 

Because your pavement professional understands asphalt, they can work with you to develop and align your pavement philosophy with your goals. Your approach will likely vary from property to property, so defining goals for each property is essential in making sure each property’s pavement is “built to last.” 

But whatever your goals for individual properties, your overall goal should be to invest your pavement maintenance money where it can do the most good -- you want to get the biggest bang from your pavement buck! You want to invest in maintenance approaches that cost-effectively extend the life of that initial pavement investment as long as possible. The longer you can make your pavement last before you need to reconstruct it, the lower the lifecycle cost of that pavement. 

What is a pavement philosophy, you ask?

It is your business’ view on its paving assets and how they support the business’s goals.
Built to Last Assessment Example pages

Why to Avoid "Worst-First" Pavement Repair

Extending pavement life relies on preventive maintenance. 

Waiting will cost you.

You want to deal with pavement issues before they become bigger problems, so the sooner you identify a potential problem, the easier and less costly it will be to repair it. This also means – and it should be part of your pavement philosophy – that you most likely will not be spending money on “worst-first” issues. 

Most property managers believe in a “worst-first” approach to pavement management – they allocate their budget to repair first the damage that looks the worst. But research has conclusively demonstrated that spending money on other slighter issues, fixing them before they can become “worst” problems, is the more cost-effective way to extend pavement life. 


To reach that overarching goal requires a pavement evaluation of each property, which many professional contractors will provide for free. A professional pavement evaluation will include an in-person walk-through of your parking lot, during which the contractor will take photos and measurements. The purpose of the walk-through is to assess the condition of the pavement, identifying defects and potential problems so recommendations regarding maintenance or repair can be made. 


Once the pavement has been evaluated, the contractor will put together a written plan -- often termed a pavement management plan -- designed to make sure your pavement will last as long as possible. The plan will outline improvements or maintenance that need to be made immediately, short-term steps that can be taken, and long-term maintenance, repair and rehab options. 

Church Parking Lot Sealcoat and Striping

Research has conclusively demonstrated that spending money on other slighter issues, fixing them before they can become “worst” problems, is the more cost-effective way to extend pavement life. 

Timely Repairs are Cost-Effective Repairs

Not all pavement management plans are the same. The right plan will balance the needs of your pavement with short- and long-term budgets, and with your goals. 

Selecting the Right Plan

The right plan will present the most cost-effective maintenance or reconstruction options because – and this is crucial – not all maintenance dollars are worth the same! They don’t all provide the same degree of impact – in other words each option has a Maximum Value Threshold. That means that each maintenance option can only do so much, so it’s essential to match the maintenance option to the pavement damage at the appropriate time to assure you get the max value from that maintenance option. 


Consider what might be an “immediate need.” Clearly any safety issue tops the list, and potholes, too. But there are other defects that must be addressed immediately as well. A good example is alligator cracking, often termed chicken-wire cracking, where the asphalt is cracked into small shapes that can look like the rough skin of an alligator or chicken-wire fencing (though the cracked blocks in their early stages are usually larger than chicken-wire openings). This type of cracking often indicates water damage to the base beneath the asphalt surface. 


Here’s another timing-related example. To attain the maximum value for any maintenance option, that option must be installed properly and at the appropriate time in the life of the pavement. Sealcoating is one of the most cost-effective maintenance options available for sound, well-maintained asphalt pavement. When applied every two or three years, pavement sealer will protect asphalt pavement from all sorts of damage and slow its deterioration. It’s a good buy. 

However, if pavement has not been maintained - if it has extensive cracking, numerous potholes, or significant raveling -- sealcoating is not an appropriate maintenance option. Because that pavement already exhibits significant damage, applying sealer is throwing good money away. It’s not a cost-effective option at that time because it can’t provide its max value to that damaged pavement. 

Real pricing for each approach brings clarity to decision-making. 
Paving maintenance pricing table

The Right Plan for “Built to Last” Pavement 

So, this all ties together. Once you have aligned your pavement philosophy with your pavement management goals, an evaluation by a pavement pro will help you assess the condition of your pavement. Once the assessment has been completed, a plan can be developed to outline maintenance and repair options according to their max value threshold. 

The right plan will provide immediate, short-term, and long-term maintenance options. And it will identify which options are the most cost-effective at the moment – in other words which options when applied immediately will provide their maximum threshold value. Those are the ones to focus on.

Concrete curb replacement in bank parking lot
The right plan for your property will address:
Immediate Actions
Short-term project needs
Long-term maintenance options

Carrying out the ‘Built to Last’ plan

Then it’s decision time. 

Essentially you and your contracting pro will triage the pavement with the aim of selecting the options that provide the maximum long-term value. Working in line with your budget, you’ll select the options based on immediate need, cost, and max value threshold impact. If you can lock in a plan for the long-term you might be able to delay some types of maintenance a year or so, freeing funds for some more immediate needs.

Spraying parking lot striping for ADA requirements
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