All too often, parking lot cleaning is at the bottom of facility managers’ priority list. This is to the detriment of the property as an unkempt lot gives a negative impression, potentially resulting in damage to the building’s (and its owner’s) reputation.
Since the parking lot is the first thing people see when entering a property, it should be treated like a welcome mat and cleaned routinely. This can improve a building’s curb appeal and help prolong the parking lot’s life, saving facility managers time and money in the long-run by reducing the need for invasive repairs.
The Dirty Truth Behind Parking Lots
Salt, sand, gravel, dirt, trash and other debris collect on surface parking lots, all of which pose a hazard to vehicles and pedestrians. Should accidents occur due to poor maintenance or negligence, property owners can be found liable.
Excess gravel and dirt can create an unstable surface. If a motorist suddenly brakes, tires may loose their grip with the road resulting in a skid.
An accumulation of salt and sand used to melt ice and snow during winter months can obstruct visibility of, and wear away, pavement markings, which keep parking lots organized and guide both foot and vehicular traffic to safety.
On windy days, a dirty parking lot will kick up fugitive dust. This fine dust can cause health problems or allergies, alone or in combination with other pollutants
Wind may also blow debris such as nails, screws and broken glass onto vehicles, building occupants or passersby.
When travelling at high speeds it can be very dangerous, inflicting injury on contact. Moreover, debris may cause pedestrians to slip and fall, which is a commonly reported parking lot injury.
This same dirt and debris, along with other abrasive particles native to parking lots, can act like sand paper when vehicles drive over it. The constant grinding wears the pavement and promotes raveling, a process in which the stones separate from the binder causing rapid deterioration. If this occurs, a pavement sealer is required to restore the binder. While this provides a layer of protection to the asphalt from damaging factors, an abundance of dirt can prematurely wear the sealer, which will render it ineffective.
Over time, dirt can also accumulate in pavement cracks and become a breeding ground for weeds. As the plants grow, they can cause the asphalt to heave and crack more.
Further, a dirty parking lot can become a feeding ground for rodents and other pests, which is unsanitary and can be dangerous.
What Lurks Below the Surface
Underground garages face the same dirty issues as surface lots and then some.
Below-grade parkades often have poor ventilation, resulting in stale and stagnant air. This intensifies odours from trash, urine, cigarette butts, vehicle fluid leaks and rainwater, which is regularly tracked in and takes longer to evaporate than on surface lots. Dirty water also sits in floor drains and catch basins, contributing to undesirable underground garage smells.
Because these parkades aren’t exposed to the elements, rain doesn’t wash away salt residue from the roads. Salt is corrosive to steel rebar — the backbone of all parking garages — and the membrane system usually installed on concrete decks (except for the lower level) to protect against water ingress.
The Master Cleanse
When it comes to parking garage cleaning, a sound and cost-effective program includes regular power sweeping and, in the case of parkades, pressure washing.
Power sweeping is a fast and easy way to keep a parking lot looking clean and tidy. It involves the use of vacuum-type sweepers, which maintain constant contact with the ground to easily suck up dirt, gravel and debris, and require minimal effort to operate. Sweeping should be performed once or twice a year, though the frequency will depend on the amount of accumulated dirt and vary by lot location.
Pressure washing removes the tough stuff — excess salt, compacted dirt buildup and vehicle fluid stains — leaving the garage in pristine condition. It’s employed after sweeping and any oil stains or heavily soiled areas have been pre-treated with specially formulated products. Parking facilities should be pressure washed at least once per year, typically post-winter, to keep the garage clean and to maintain the integrity of the structure.
Dan Georgen is president of The Parking Lot Guys Inc., a Toronto-based company that provides preventive, predictive and corrective parking lot maintenance and construction.
Dan can be reached at 416-638-3110 or [email protected]
This article was originally published in the May/June issue of Facility Cleaning & Maintenance magazine.