Commercial Construction & Contracting Resources

3 Signs of a Bad Asphalt Parking Lot Base

Posted by Tom Owings on May 18, 2018
Tom Owings

bad asphalt parking lot base

What happens beneath an asphalt parking lot will certainly affect what happens at the surface. That’s because asphalt requires a strong base.

Your asphalt carries the weight of the world on its shoulders (well, maybe not the world, but definitely a lot of heavy vehicles). Think of a good subgrade like a great friend asphalt can always rely on for support and to help carry that weight. A bad parking lot base is like a friend who can’t be counted on and who may even stab your asphalt in the back.

So Here are 3 Obvious Signs Your Asphalt Parking Lot Has a Bad Base

In general, the asphalt will begin showing signs of depression (physical, not emotional). It won’t be able to carry a routine load as well, and even holding itself up can become more difficult.

1. Tire Ruts

Asphalt holds most of a vehicle’s weight where the tires contact the surface. What’s more, parked vehicles sit there in that exact spot, exposing the asphalt and its subgrade to immense weight for lengthy periods of time.

A poor base will allow that weight to depress, or sink, the asphalt lower than the surrounding parking lot surface. This rutting is obvious, as the depressions are often about the width of a standard tire and vehicles will often sit easily within them.

2. Wide Depressions

Sometimes the weakness of the subgrade is so widespread it fails to support entire sections of your commercial parking lot. The asphalt will sink down and sometimes show visible signs of being significantly lower than the rest of the lot.

Unsure? Wait for a heavy rainstorm. Sure enough, that depression will form a large puddle. (Remember: Standing water is a death sentence for asphalt.)

3. Cracks, Gatorbacks, & Potholes

Sometimes if a person is continually let down by an unsupportive friend, that person will have a psychological breakdown. Well, an unsupportive base will eventually cause your asphalt parking lot to physically break down, too.

Asphalt becomes so depressed it tears itself apart - cracking, gatorbacking, and potholing. The problem begins spiraling out of control as the asphalt’s poor structural integrity allows additional water in to erode the subgrade more and create more cracks and potholes.

Can My Base Be Improved to Better Support Asphalt?

Unfortunately, if the base is already bad it’ll be difficult for it learn to get better. It’s stuck underneath the asphalt where it will either do its job or neglect its responsibilities. And it’s not like a person who can simply learn the error of his ways.

Much like the asphalt above it, it must be properly compacted from the start. In the meantime, you may be able to get by with some serious asphalt maintenance.  But eventually, you’ll have to start from scratch with a new base and asphalt surface or try a full-depth reclamation, in which the old asphalt and base are excavated, crushed, mixed with and cement-and-water mixture, and re-compacted for a stronger base.

When you do, keep this asphalt quality control plan and checklist in mind.

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Topics: Parking Lot, Asphalt Paving, civil construction, Ohio construction