Parking Lot Winter Damage

Winter weather varies across the continental US, but a few constants remain. Firstly, whether you are in Washington state or Florida, it’s colder. Some states experience deep freezes lasting months, some just have colder temperatures in general. Either way, it’s guaranteed that your temperatures will be lower in the winter months than the spring, summer, and fall. Another constant across many states in the winter is more precipitation. There are winter rains, snows, sleet, freezing rain, and snow melt. Whether your state is blanketed in snow for much of the winter, or you get a few light dustings throughout the cold months, there is more water to deal with. Finally, the nature of the business you receive changes over the winter. Schools see a down-tick as they have winter holidays. Outdoor businesses often also see downswings in winter business, especially if they are near beaches or based on summer activities, like mountain biking, swimming, or surfing. Some businesses see massive upswings. A ski resort will probably have more traffic on its parking lot in winter than a kayak rental shop will. Additionally, during the colder months, people drive more. Walking and cycling to businesses becomes less feasible, so some businesses that get visitors year-round can expect even more vehicles on the parking lot in winter. 

There are plenty of factors that affect your asphalt pavement in the winter. We can help you analyze those factors, and mitigate them.

Colder weather

Whether your state is nestled in the subtropics, hanging out in the dry desert, or up against the Canadian border, it’s going to be colder in winter. The main problem that happens with asphalt during the winter isn’t actually sustained cold, it’s changing temperatures. As temperatures fluctuate, chunks of material expand and contract. This is especially true for parking lots. Parking lots are essentially giant chunks of asphalt paving in the earth. As winter temperatures change, the pavement changes in size. So does the earth that the parking lots are placed in. The size changes in the soil and the asphalt don’t always match up, both substances have extremely different compositions. Asphalt tends to have less water, and harder, denser material than soil. Earth, depending on the location, can have a lot more water, resulting in more expansion during cold winter months. Either way, the friction and squeezing of the pavement by the earth can cause cracking as tension is added and released. This is especially prominent in typically wet places that have cold, intense winters. 

Another big problem with the cold weather is that water that has leaked into the asphalt expands as well. This can exacerbate existing cracks, as the water erodes the asphalt just as it does in rocks. Water in small cracks expands and causes those cracks to expand with it. This is called frost heave. 

When the temperature fluctuations are faster and more severe, expect more damage from these types of cracking.

Winter precipitation

Snow is a big problem for asphalt in the winter. The sitting water that accumulates on top of pavement can melt and refreeze time after time. This causes the water to seep into the asphalt, and then freeze, worsening existing cracks, and forming more, as mentioned above. Additionally, when snow does melt altogether, as can happen often during the winter, the asphalt will be left with large puddles of standing water, which need to be cleared. Long story short: you don’t want water sitting on top of your parking lot, it will only lead to damage.

Another danger of having snow/ice on the lot is that it becomes slippery, and markings are hard to see. Parking lot accidents injure over 60 thousand people every year. This risk gets worse in the winter because of the lack of traction due to ice and snow. Not being able to see the markings on the lot doesn’t help anyone either.

Tools used to reduce snow accumulation also can damage the lot. So if you are coating your lot with chemicals, be extra careful and pay attention to what you are using. Snow plows can actually damage the lot quite a bit as well. They can rip of the seal coating when scraping the pavement, leaving new openings for future snow melt to get into.

Well, my state doesn’t get much – or any – snow, so I don’t have to worry, right? Not exactly. You can still expect winter rains, storms, and cold water to do a number on your lot. Even in places like Texas, where the snow only lasts about a week or less on average, it still melts and needs somewhere to go. 

The main damage that comes from winter precipitation is cracks and potholes. Water building up on the lot can seep in, cracking it, and eventually breaking out large chunks of pavement. The snow melt chemicals and damage from snow plows can make this damage worse, and cause the markings on the lot to fade.

Here is an in-depth winter parking lot and sidewalk maintenance manual. It can give you the specifics on how best to care for your paving.

Mitigating winter damage

If you wish to decrease winter damage, Reliable Paving can help. We are a large team of experienced paving contractors. During the winter, we can help you with everything you need to keep your parking lot in tip-top shape. 

Our advice on maintenance:

  • Parking lot inspections to maintain your lot’s standards.
  • Building/maintaining a proper drainage system for winter snows and rains.
  • Keeping the lot clean so that chemicals and water don’t build up.
  • Get a snow-removal team on-call if you get a lot of snow. These teams can remove ice too.
  • Repainting/restriping.
  • Crack sealing.
  • Seal coating.
  • Pothole patching.

Fortunately, we can do most of the above list on our own. For anything we can’t do, we’ll point you in the right direction. If you want a parking lot that is properly sealed for the winter, has good drainage, and is tough enough for your needs, Reliable is the best choice. Contact us today whether you want to restripe, fix damage, repave, build drainage, make a new lot, or if you have any other asphalt paving needs.