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July 25, 2008

5 Min Read
The Self-Storage Parking Lot: Prevention and Maintenance for Pavement

Here’s a riddle: What’s the first and last thing a customer will encounter when visiting a self-storage facility but always the last for an owner to think about in the list of maintenance to-do’s? Give up? The parking lot.

It’s not a funny riddle, by any means, especially for tenants who must deal with an unkempt parking lot. Everything else about their first visit to your site may get a glowing report, but the parking lot experience could just be the clincher that makes or breaks a rental deal. As banal as it may seem in the overall scheme of storage operations, it still makes that first and lasting impression on a potential tenant.

A Clean Sweep

Perhaps the first and most basic step in maintaining a tidy parking lot is to give it a good sweeping. If it’s a bigger job than one employee can handle without getting carpal tunnel or sweeper’s elbow, hire a professional street sweeper.

If your site is in heavy-weather locales, consider seasonal care. Springtime can be a frantic season for removing sand/salt residue and twigs or branches tossed about during snow and ice storms. Summer storms that whip through areas of the country can also leave plenty of debris, as do the deciduous trees in autumn.

Use common sense, but don’t be afraid to peek outside and walk the entire lot regularly for a good checkup. It’s good for your health and the health of your business.

Patch Work

If you’ve walked your lot and discovered areas in disrepair, don’t despair: It’s not an indicator that the whole parking lot needs a costly repaving. “If budgets are tight and safety or aesthetics are an issue, start a corrective maintenance plan,” says Steve Brahney of Brahney Pavement Solutions in Hillsborough, N.J.

Most important, don’t delay taking action if you’ve witnessed destruction already in the works. “By allowing your parking lot to deteriorate, you only increase the money needed for future repairs,” Brahney cautions. The average cost to rebuild a parking lot today is more than $45 per square yard.

“Hot, rubberized crack sealing is the best money spent if you can’t afford to overlay your parking lots,” he continues. “Crack sealing can extend the pavement life up to seven years and usually costs as little as 5 cents per square foot, depending on the quantity and severity of cracks.”

Here’s another riddle: What’s the biggest culprit when it comes to cracking the asphalt? Hint, it attacks regularly, often without warning, but can be warded off if proper protection is used. Could it be a coat of armor? Close, but no cigar.

“The single most destructive force against asphalt is water,” says Donna May of Cross Metal Buildings, Bulverde, Texas. “If asphalt is not maintained and water gains access, it undermines the subsurface so that pressure causes asphalt to crack.”

It’s hard to believe water can cause so much damage, but a quick science lesson can clear any doubt. “Water allows plants to take hold and grow,” May explains. “The force of water expanding and contracting due to temperature variations causes degradation. Preventing water from seeping into asphalt by proper sealing maintenance is very important in preserving the life of drives and parking areas.”

Keeping in Line

There’s a little known joke among pranksters that goes like this: “If you don’t see a speed limit sign posted in a parking lot, there isn’t any!” Put a stop, literally, to speeders by posting signage that reminds them to move at a snail’s pace. Slow means “safe” in parking lot law, particularly at a busy self-storage on a Saturday. Most municipalities dictate 10 mph as a safe limit.

If signs aren’t enough to deter speedsters around your lot, consider adding speed bumps. Contact an asphalt contractor to determine the best locations for the bumps, advises Todd Slyngstad of Silicon Valley Paving, San Jose, Calif. “The speed bumps should always be striped. The intent is to get the attention of the driver and let him know a speed bump is ahead.”

Beyond the installation, bumps require little maintenance, but should be seal-coated to protect the asphalt and repainted when the stripes fade, Slyngstad adds.

Line painting in parking lots should also be part of the plan to keep spaces well identified and ensure vehicle and pedestrian safety. Lastly, for those particularly problematic areas, bollards may be installed to ward vehicles away from too-close proximity to the office or other restricted areas.

More Than Meets the Eye

This quick overview of parking lot repair and upkeep is by no means exhaustive. Discuss your needs with a professional contractor who can steer you in the right direction. Check with asphalt suppliers for names of professional contractors, advises John Wilson, of San Antonio-based John L. Wilson & Associates. “And then check references. Plus, go and see a job they’re working on to judge quality and performance. It tells me a lot about a company when I visit a jobsite.”

Parking lot maintenance requires continuous vigilance, checking every nook and cranny for upkeep, Wilson concludes. “Walk your site all the time and make sure it’s free of debris that will bother customers. And always address problems immediately. With asphalt atrophy, it only gets worse.”

Want to educate yourself even further or land more maintenance tips? Visit www.insideselfstorage.com and do a keyword search on parking lots (or any other topic). Plenty of articles will pop up, giving you a bounty of ways to keep busy beautifying and protecting your property and business.

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