Markets – Retail

Asphalt Parking Lots for Retailers and Shopping Centers

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Asphalt Parking Lots for Retailers and Shopping Centers

Asphalt parking lots play a crucial role in the success of any retail business or shopping center. With the retail industry becoming increasingly competitive, it’s essential to make the right first impression on customers the moment they enter your parking lot.

The retail industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade. In the US alone, retail sales grew from $4.53 trillion in 2013 to over $6.1 trillion in 2022. With more physical stores opening every day, parking lots have become a focal point for retailers looking to stand out.

However, parking lots require careful planning and routine care to maximize their lifespan and return on investment.

  • Parking lot design – Layout, materials, drainage and more
  • Maintenance – Preventative and restorative
  • Repairs – Common issues and fixes
  • Safety and security – Protecting customers
  • Sustainability – Eco-friendly options
Properly designing and maintaining your retail parking lot results in:

  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Lower long-term costs
  • Improved safety
  • Greater longevity
By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to partner with an experienced paving company on constructing a new parking lot or improving an existing one.

Parking Lot Design Considerations

Constructing a new parking lot requires careful planning and attention to detail. From layout to pavement mix, every decision can impact functionality and costs down the road.

Layout and Traffic Flow

A parking lot’s layout directly affects the customer experience. The first priority should be safety and ease of navigation.

Considerations for layout:

  • Entry/exit points – Limit to one ingress and egress to control traffic
  • Drive aisles – 15-20 feet wide for two-way traffic
  • Space angles – 90° angles maximize number of spots
  • Space width – 8.5-9 ft standard, more for accessible spots
  • Lot shape – Rectangular lots simplify navigation
  • Crosswalks – Direct pedestrian routes to store entrance

Accommodating expected foot and vehicle traffic patterns ensures smooth circulation through the lot.

Pavement Slope and Drainage

Proper drainage prevents pooling water which can severely damage pavement over time. Consider:

  • Slope – 1-2% grade optimal for drainage
  • Catch basins – Collect and drain water
  • Subsurface drainage – Perforated pipes below surface

Slope should direct stormwater flows to catch basins while avoiding areas for pedestrian travel.

Base Preparation

The soil and aggregates underneath the asphalt surface layer are known as the base. This provides foundational support and stability.

A strong base uses:

  • Subgrade soil – Compacted with roller
  • Aggregate layers – Successive layers of stone
  • Geotextiles – Filter fabric barrier

Proper soil compaction and base thickness minimize cracking and deformation issues.

Asphalt Thickness and Mix

Asphalt thickness is based on expected vehicle loads. Typical retail parking lots use:

  • Surface course – 1.5-2 inches of asphalt
  • Binder course – 2-3 inches of asphalt

Consult an engineer on appropriate thickness for heavy delivery vehicles.

Asphalt mix composition impacts strength and longevity. Options include:

  • Conventional hot mix asphalt
  • Porous asphalt
  • Recycled asphalt

Work with a paving contractor to determine the optimal asphalt mix for climate and usage.

Accessible Parking Spaces and Signage

ADA-compliance is required to accommodate people with disabilities. For parking:

  • One accessible spot for every 25 standard spaces
  • 8 foot+ spot width
  • 5 foot+ access aisle
  • Ramps, curb cuts, and crosswalks

Paint striping and install signs indicating accessible spaces.


Adequate lighting improves safety at night. Strategically place:

  • Pole lights – Illuminate driving areas
  • Wall packs – Enhance visibility near buildings
  • Bollard lights – Low-level pedestrian areas

Use shielded fixtures directing light downwards.


Landscape elements like trees, shrubs, and curbed islands break up wide parking lots into smaller “rooms” for easier navigation.

Ongoing Parking Lot Maintenance

Preventative maintenance maximizes the lifespan of asphalt parking lots by minimizing structural deterioration. Developing a routine maintenance plan prevents more costly repairs down the road.

Importance of Preventative Maintenance

Asphalt parking lots slowly deteriorate each year from weather and wear-and-tear. Without maintenance, minor issues turn into major problems.

Benefits of routine maintenance:

  • Defer more expensive repairs
  • Improve aesthetics – cleaner, newer appearance
  • Enhance safety for pedestrians/vehicles
  • Extend lifespan 10-15 years

Work with a professional contractor to create a customized preventative maintenance schedule.

Common Defects

Look out for these common asphalt defects:


Cracks allow water penetration leading to base erosion and potholes. Different types include:

  • Hairline cracks
  • Alligator cracks
  • Block cracks


Surface disintegration via lost aggregate caused by:

  • Poor construction
  • Lack of sealcoating
  • Insufficient compaction
  • Weathering/aging


Gray, weathered appearance indicating asphalt hardening and becoming more brittle.


Sealcoating protects the asphalt surface from fuel, oil, weather damage and prevents oxidation.

  • Apply every 2-3 years
  • Closes hairline cracks
  • Improved appearance
  • Sweeping beforehand removes debris

Coal tar-based sealers are carcinogenic. Use asphalt emulsion-based sealcoat instead.


Parking space striping and directional arrows fade over time. Re-striping improves visibility and safety.

  • Use latex acrylic paints
  • Repaint faded lines every 1-2 years
  • High durability in high-traffic areas


Frequent debris and sediment removal with professional sweeping prevents collection in landscaped areas resulting in:

  • Cleaner appearance
  • No clogged catch basins
  • Less re-suspension into air
  • Reduced slip/fall risks

Target heavy debris areas first then entire lot.

Snow and Ice Removal

Harsh winter conditions introduce safety risks mitigated by:

  • Plowing – Clear snow promptly
  • Deicing – Apply salt/chemical agents to melt ice
  • Sand – Increased traction

Begin when snow depth reaches 2 inches.

Parking Lot Repairs and Rehabilitation

Inevitably, the cumulative effects of weather and wear necessitate more intensive parking lot repairs and rehabilitation.

Full-Depth Asphalt Replacement

Severely distressed, pothole-laden areas with extensive cracking often require full-depth removal and replacement of deteriorated pavement layers.

  1. Excavate damaged asphalt
  2. Repair base as needed
  3. Pave new asphalt surface
  4. Restripe

Full-depth replacement significantly outlasts short-term patches.


Asphalt patches offer a cost-effective fix for moderately distressed areas less than 50 square feet. This entails:

  • Mark boundaries of damaged area
  • Square off patch and excavate to sound base
  • Fill excavation with fresh asphalt
  • Compact flush with surrounding pavement

Milling and Overlay

Milling and overlay involves removing 1-2 inches of surface layer and replacing with new asphalt. Benefits:

  • Smoothes roughness
  • Corrects moderate rutting
  • Enhances drainage
  • Extends lot lifespan

Use for overall deterioration and moderate cracking.

Catch Basin Repair

Damaged catch basins lead to flooding and icy conditions in winter. Repair options:

  • Clean accumulated debris/sediment
  • Reconstruct deteriorated structure
  • Upgrade gratings and frames

Inspect regularly to ensure proper drainage.

Concrete Repairs

Common retail concrete repairs:

  • Control joint sealing – Fill cracks
  • Slab jacking – Lift settled areas
  • Mudjacking – Inject material beneath to level
  • Grinding – Smooth vertical offsets

Quickly address joint deterioration to limit damage.

Additional Considerations

Supporting features beyond the pavement boost functionality and appeal.

Security and Safety Features

Retail sites handle valuable merchandise necessitating security elements like:

  • Perimeter fencing
  • Access control gates
  • Bollards protecting building entry
  • Camera surveillance

Other measures to ease navigation and prevent accidents:

  • Clear directional signage and painted arrows
  • Night lighting
  • Wheel stops to prevent encroaching on landscaping


Sustainable paving solutions are easier on the environment. Options consist of:

  • Permeable pavement – Allows stormwater drainage through surface into base reservoir. Reduces runoff.
  • Warm mix asphalt – Lower production temperatures conserve fuel.
  • Recycled asphalt – Reuses old asphalt to reduce landfill waste.

Signage and Wayfinding

Strategically positioned signs reduce confusion navigating the lot. Use for:

  • Store/business identification
  • Parking restrictions
  • Accessible spaces
  • Directional flow instructions

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Installing EV charging stations accommodates green-conscious consumers and improves public perception. Promote availability to position as forward-thinking.


A parking lot serves as the gateway to any retail establishment. With the rising competition, construction decisions and ongoing maintenance both play a pivotal role in attracting and retaining patrons. Partnering with an asphalt paving contractor simplifies creating a parking lot tailored to your business needs and budget.

Let the professionals at Buck Bros Asphalt Paving & Concrete help maximize your ROI through optimized parking lot design, quality construction, and preventative maintenance plans. Contact us today for your free quote!

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