The transition from winter to spring can wreak havoc on asphalt pavements, specifically when it comes to damages to your parking lot. This seasonal passing of the torch is known as spring thaw, and in relation to asphalt pavement maintenance, primarily relates to how increasing temperatures, melting snow, and saturated materials all take a toll on your asphalt parking lot, year after year. To get a better understanding of how severe this change in climate can be, let’s take a look at all the ways spring thaw can affect your parking lot, as well as provide potential solutions to any need for immediate asphalt repair or maintenance work.

Melting Snow

The average annual snowfall throughout Minnesota varies from 36 to 70 inches, which means once the spring sun starts to warm up, all that melted snow has to go somewhere. This abrupt overflow of precipitation can spell trouble for commercial parking lot owners, as water can then slip below the asphalt surface into any cracks or potholes, and in turn, cause damage by weakening the surface and subgrade layers while also potentially expanding any existing cracks or potholes. Once the saturated aggregate base and subgrade materials have become significantly weakened, the sudden implementation of cars or heavier vehicles driving and parking over it will only lead to increased damage to the overall asphalt pavement infrastructure.

Increased Rainfall

In addition to all the thawing and melting snow, springtime means an increase in rainfall, multiplying how much standing water can infiltrate underneath your asphalt pavement surface. This troubling combination of thawing snow and escalating rainfall can wreak havoc on your asphalt parking lot in any of the following ways:

  • Soaked asphalt material expanding underneath the surface
  • Standing water separating oil from asphalt, leading to cracks or potholes
  • Gravel materials becoming exposed or loosened
  • Weakened bond between asphalt aggregate and binder, further damaging the surface and foundation

Extra Traffic

Less snow and warmer temperatures mean more people out and about, as well as more vehicles out on the road. You can all but guarantee your asphalt parking lot will experience more activity throughout the spring thaw, and all that extra weight and increased traffic can only cause more wear and tear. This is why Minnesota enforces spring load restrictions, generally from the beginning of March until the end of April, or the beginning of May.

Spring load restrictions work to reduce the amount of heavy-weight vehicles that can access county and town roads throughout spring, reducing them to a 5-Ton Axle Limit, unless posted otherwise or changed by local ordinance. However, spring load restrictions don’t apply for heavy vehicles such as school buses, utility vehicles, or recycling and garbage vehicles, which means parking lots can still be susceptible to increased asphalt sensitivity due to these large vehicles. Reports indicate that heavier vehicle loads may cause up to five times more damage throughout the spring thaw than they can during the summer months.

Protect Your Asphalt Parking Lot Throughout Spring Thaw

As spring tends to be the preferred season for cleaning, it should also be the time to plan, prepare, and protect your asphalt parking lot. Sufficient springtime preventative asphalt maintenance measures can include any of the following precautions:

  • Seal all cracks and repair all potholes
  • Specify routes for heavier vehicles that access your premises
  • Mark of ‘heavy duty’ sections with thicker pavement sections that can handle heavier loads or vehicles
  • Review or find new solutions for snow removal policies or contractors
  • Ensure your draining correction plan is up-to-par

Bituminous Roadways, Inc. is a proven, experienced provider of asphalt repair and maintenance services throughout the Greater Twin Cities Metro Area. From cracksealing, to pothole repair, to sealcoating, we have all the solutions you need to ensure your asphalt parking lot remains in pristine condition, all year long. Contact us today to request a free consultation, or give us a call at 651-686-7001 to directly speak with one of our asphalt maintenance experts.