How’s Your Hardscaping?

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Untitled Design 4Hardscape surfaces, including asphalt and concrete pavements of parking lots, roadways, driveways, and sidewalks, are often the first visible component of a property seen by condominium owners and their visitors. Asphalt and concrete deterioration are not only visually unpleasant; they also pose a significant slip, trip, fall, and driving hazard. Falling behind on regular inspections and maintenance of these components can lead to unwanted deterioration and safety issues that may have otherwise been avoided. 

As spring and the anticipation of warmer weather conditions approach, building owners and property managers should begin to think about pavement and sidewalk condition assessments. Winter’s wrath of cold temperatures, ground freeze / thaw cycles, frost heave, ice lens, poor site water drainage, and careless snow clearing actions have all potentially compromised these hardscape components to a point that requires attention and possible corrective actions.

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Most building owners see (or want to see) a clean, straight, uncompromised top surface of their asphalt and concrete paved surfaces. Blemishes in the finished surfaces, such as cracks, potholes, and uneven top surfaces, should be recognized as signals of failure and possible safety concerns.

The science dictating pavement performance is in the engineering of the support of visible surfaces. The support mechanism for pavement and concrete hardscapes is native soil excavated to appropriate levels, as well as a layered system of aggregates compacted to engineered specifications. If these underlying structural support layers are better prepared, better performance of the hardscaping materials can be expected. Surface materials failures, such as cracking, misaligned and shifted top elevations, and potholes, are all signals that the support mechanisms have failed and it’s time for localized repairs or, if left unattended, complete replacement.

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Asphalt and concrete surface repairs and replacements are necessary expenses. If not performed appropriately, however, the corrective work will not provide the desired results. It can be frustrating when large capital dollars are spent on a new driveway or sidewalk only to see surface cracking after a few years, requiring premature remediation. An understanding of the underlying conditions and required repairs must be considered when performing asphalt and concrete replacement.

As with many other exterior components of their buildings, the more proactive a condominium board can be with their pavement and concrete components, the longer these assets will function at acceptable levels and at a lower lifecycle cost.

Condominium directors and property managers are encouraged to engage an engineering firm qualified in pavement and concrete design to assess current conditions and identify future concerns. These consultants can help establish and sustain a proactive maintenance, repair, and replacement program that will reduce the threat of emergency repairs and provide fiscally affordable and manageable solutions.

Building Sciences Author

Michael Hensen, P.Eng., RRC
London & Cambridge Branch Manager, IRC Building Sciences Group Inc., a Rimkus Group Company


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