Parking Structure & Industry Insights
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Parking Structure Waterproofing Systems: Sealers, Sealants, Expansion Joints & Deck Coatings
Every parking structure should have a waterproofing system in place. But your structure’s needs will vary depending on how it was originally constructed and how it’s been maintained over the years. There are four main types of waterproofing systems for parking garages: sealants, sealers, expansion joints and traffic coatings. Let’s take a look at the qualities of each, including application and performance.
Why is parking structure waterproofing important?
While most garages have an overall service life of approximately 75 years when properly maintained, a totally neglected garage may only last one-third of its intended service life. Waterproofing systems play a crucial role in maximizing your garage’s overall service life and should be replaced approximately every 7-15 years, depending on the type of system, to maintain optimum performance. If not managed well, water can cause major deterioration, and this deterioration may lead to costly structural repairs.
Waterproofing systems protect your parking garage by:
- Preventing corrosion of its internal steel framework
- Maintaining joint integrity between floors, walls and fixtures
- Eliminating leaks between different areas of the structure
Another benefit of waterproofing systems is that they help you provide a better visitor experience. For example, leaks from one floor to another may cause mineral-rich water to drip onto occupants’ cars. This water can damage the paint and finishes on these vehicles, leading to very unhappy customers. Additionally, a good waterproofing and drainage system allows for maximum utilization because you don’t have to close off areas of your garage due to ponding in certain parking spaces after a heavy rain.
Different types of parking garage waterproofing systems
Every waterproofing system is designed to prevent water from getting into vulnerable areas of your garage, though some are better than others. Sealers, sealants and traffic coatings — sometimes collectively referred to as parking deck coatings — should be carefully considered to ensure the best fit for your garage.
Waterproofing system options can also be impacted by your garage’s construction. For example, precast structures, which are engineered in a manufacturing facility and assembled at the building site, require special attention to waterproofing at the joints. Cast-in-place parking garages have internal steel reinforcement that is vulnerable to rust and corrosion, making it critical to replace sealants and coatings when they’ve reached the end of their service life.
Parking garage sealers
Sealers are a penetrating waterproofing solution that soaks into the concrete. Because many sealers exist deeper than surface level, they aren’t easily damaged by winter maintenance or extreme swings in temperature. They have a service life of approximately 10 years.
Sealers often cover large areas of your parking structure, sealing the concrete to reduce the risk of deterioration to the concrete itself and to its internal reinforcement. The biggest benefit of this waterproofing system is it offers maximum protection while still allowing a clear view of the structure’s concrete during inspections and assessments — unlike surface-level traffic coatings. That means deterioration can be caught and addressed early on, rather than staying hidden and worsening over time.
Parking garage sealant and expansion joints
Sealants are applied to joints to prevent water from leaking into other parts of the structure. Joint sealant is often made of polyurethane or another elastic material, and it needs to be replaced periodically as the material becomes brittle and begins to crack with age. Within a parking structure, the service life of joint sealants can be as much as 10-15 years, but the service life drops to 7-10 years if the joint has been exposed to UV light or extreme temperature fluctuations — as it would be on a roof, for example.
Additionally, expansion joints are specialized joints that allow your structure to expand and contract as temperatures change. This garage waterproofing feature, which includes compression seals, can protect your structure in areas where physical movement might damage typical joint sealants.
Expansion joints are the most vulnerable part of a precast parking garage, and even cast-in-place structures have joints between walls and floors that are susceptible to water penetration. Thus, the application of joint sealants and the maintenance of expansion joints are critical to keeping your garage in good shape.
Parking garage floor coating
Sometimes called a traffic or deck coating, this type of waterproofing system sits on the surface of your structure, as opposed to penetrating the concrete like sealers. Topical traffic coatings, such as paint systems, create a barrier between your structure’s concrete floor and the elements but are not intended for surfaces that support traffic. But despite these often being the cheapest, quickest way to combat persistent leaks, traffic coatings aren’t an effective long-term solution. Parking garage floor coatings are highly susceptible to wear and tear from winter maintenance. When snowplows travel over a traffic coating, they’re abrading and scraping the concrete surface to remove ice and snow. Unfortunately, that means they’re also damaging the traffic coating. This damage allows water to seep beneath the coating, and now the system put in place to protect the floor is actually trapping water and causing additional deterioration. And because traffic coatings obscure the view of the concrete beneath, it’s hard for experts to catch this deterioration during routine inspections.
Waterproofing failures and service life considerations
Parking structure waterproofing failures happen when these systems wear, crack, chip or become brittle due to improper installation, damage or age. Although the service life of a waterproofing system is less than that of a parking garage, proper maintenance can help you get the most out of the system you choose. That said, there are several conditions that affect waterproofing system service life, including:
- Snow Removal: Particularly with topical coatings, snowplows can damage or chip away at the system as they clear the deck.
- De-icing Chemicals: If not used properly, chloride-based de-icers can be destructive and even reduce the life of your waterproofing system.
- UV Light: Waterproofing systems on the roof of your structure that are constantly exposed to the sun will need to be replaced more often.
- Poor Drainage: Anywhere water is allowed to lay for a prolonged period may be more susceptible to waterproofing system failure.
- Extreme Temperatures: Constant freeze/thaw cycles or exposure to extreme heat can impact waterproofing, especially joint sealants.
- Dynamic Loads: Most parking structures are in constant flux as vehicles move around within them, and this movement can stress your system.
No matter what waterproofing system you need, routine inspections are necessary to ensure your parking structure is in good condition. Water is one of the most detrimental elements when it comes to maintaining your parking garage, so by putting a waterproofing system in place early, you can prevent any issues and avoid costly structural repairs.
Parking Garage Spring Maintenance Checklist
From snow to ice to wind, parking structures are subject to the worst conditions winter offers. As we move into warmer weather, now is the time to assess the winter damage your parking structure may have endured during the colder months so you can prioritize necessary maintenance and repairs. By performing regularly scheduled condition assessments and proactive maintenance, you can maximize the service life of your structure and also lower operational costs, reduce safety hazards and prevent premature structural failure.
How did winter wreak havoc on your parking structure?
No matter your parking structure’s age, construction type or condition, aggressive winter maintenance can cause damage that triggers costly repairs, downtime and even premature failure.
Snow & the freeze-thaw cycle
Damage related to winter maintenance activities can be significant. Pushing snow against the perimeter of the structure might seem like the right thing to do, but this could impose excessive loads against the perimeter walls and spandrels, causing them to bow outward. This can result in significant structural damage, requiring emergency repair. Also, piling snow more than a few feet can quickly exceed the design capacity of the garage, resulting in structural damage or collapse. Lastly, skid-steer loaders, often used to push or load out snow, can easily create damaging overloading conditions with full buckets of wet snow.
Plows and skid-steer loaders used to move snow can cause significant damage to traffic coatings, expansion joints and joint sealants. This damage allows water to penetrate below the surface, which can accelerate deterioration, particularly during fluctuations in the freeze-thaw cycle. An experienced professional can help evaluate and plan safe winter maintenance practices.
Ice may seem like it’s only a concern during the coldest winter weather, but it also causes problems that manifest later. Improper use of de-icers can cause corrosion, as chemicals like chloride in the de-icers migrate into a reinforced concrete slab, causing delamination or fractures.
Ice can also clog drains, which leads to standing water. In addition to creating a safety hazard for customers and staff in the winter, pooled water can corrode concrete, leading to additional damage later. Ice buildup can also cause damage in unexpected places, like wall joints or drains.
Water can cause as much damage in winter as it does other times of the year. Whether it’s coming from rainfall or melted snow, it can cause significant stress that impacts your structure’s health. When water contacts concrete, it can seep into it, rusting and delaminating internal structures, like reinforcing steel. Water combined with chloride, as found in de-icers, can accelerate corrosion.
Prepare your parking garage for spring.
As you move into the spring season, it’s time to proactively identify winter damage so you can avoid costly and unplanned repairs down the road.
- Inspect joints and surfaces for cracks, chips and other damage.
- Examine waterproofing coatings as well as roof-level and architectural sealants, especially as they near the end of their service life.
- Sweep parking surfaces to remove loose debris and clear any cracks that formed during winter. Loose debris on the surface can create a slip-and-fall hazard, while debris that falls into cracks can widen the crack even further.
- Ensure drainage systems are cleared of debris and functioning properly to avoid the risk of standing water that can come with spring storms.
Post-winter assessments are essential to a proactive maintenance program that helps lower costs, mitigate risk and maximize your parking garage’s life span. Whether your structure experienced a normal winter or a 100-year storm, our structural experts can assess any damage and develop a proactive maintenance plan that reduces the impact of wintry weather on your business.
Along with an assessment, a proactive maintenance program will also prioritize and implement needed actions such as fixing concrete damage, repairing waterproofing coatings or performing a chloride-removing pressure wash. This approach might also identify gaps and help prevent damage during future winters. For example, it might suggest that third-party snow removal contractors receive additional training to reduce damage from snowplows.
Spring ahead with the right parking garage predictive maintenance partner.
As the weather warms, a proper maintenance assessment, prioritization and implementation are key to keeping your parking structure healthy. StructureCare’s team is ready to help you navigate post-winter challenges and ensure that your parking garage is ready for the spring season — and all the seasons that follow.
Learn more about winter damage repair and restoration solutions to protect your parking structure investment.
Preventive vs. Predictive Maintenance Guide for Parking Garages
Every environment. Every season. Every day. Your parking structure is constantly exposed to harsh conditions that impact its structural health. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to protect your investment with a strategic maintenance approach.
Learn how a well-planned, regular predictive maintenance program that addresses three maintenance categories is the key to managing your parking garage’s structural health — and your budget. Get your free guide: “Preventive vs. Predictive Maintenance: How to reduce costs, mitigate risk and maximize parking structure service life with a proactive approach.”
When It Comes to Parking Structure Repairs, Don’t Wait
There are many factors that may make your building’s maintenance needs different from those of the parking garage just down the street. But all garages require some level of upkeep to ensure they’re safe, functional and able to be maintained cost-effectively. Putting off routine maintenance and small repairs allows deterioration to occur, and that deterioration — if not taken care of in a timely manner — can accelerate and lead to higher overall costs.
Understanding the three levels of parking structure maintenance and repair
There are three levels of maintenance and repair that help keep your parking structure in good condition throughout its service life. The first two items on this list should be completed regularly, and the main idea in doing so is to reduce the likelihood of having to address the third item — large-scale repairs and restoration.
- Interim Maintenance
Interim maintenance refers to routine, small tasks you do that are important to the overall health of your garage. If you think of your car, for example, you regularly have the oil changed, get it inspected and take it to the car wash to keep it in good condition.
For your parking garage, this means having the structure inspected frequently to catch any potential issues. Interim maintenance can also refer to completing minor repairs and ensuring your staff is up to date on best practices for chemical use, winter maintenance and other tasks.
- Service Life Replacements
Just like tires and brakes on a car have to be replaced periodically, so do your structure’s waterproofing systems, lighting and other items. These are called service life replacements, because these items were never expected to last the life of your garage.
By replacing key systems as they wear out, you’re preventing deterioration from setting in. A waterproofing system, for example, protects your parking structure from leaks, corrosion and water migration through joints, which over time can cause structural damage that’s costly to fix.
- Repairs & Restoration
Imagine you’ve owned your car for 20 years and never once changed the oil. Would you be surprised if a mechanic told you the reason you broke down is because the engine needed to be replaced? This category is similar to that situation because, in many circumstances, completing interim maintenance and service life replacements timely and effectively can mitigate the need for large-scale repairs.
When damage reaches this stage, it often gets addressed through structural repairs that take some — or all — of your parking garage out of service. The result is time-consuming repairs, costly projects and, ultimately, lost revenue.
Emergency repairs vs. planned repairs in parking garages
Emergencies can happen at any parking garage, but by keeping up with maintenance, you’re reducing the likelihood of one happening to you. Emergency repairs are unexpected, are unpredictable and can be costly. You often have to address them in a hurry because the consequences could be catastrophic if the issue isn’t resolved.
On the other hand, planned repairs are well-timed, cost-effective and less disruptive. For instance, if you manage a higher education parking structure, you may be able to plan necessary repairs for summer break rather than needing to close a section of your garage mid-semester.
Another way to think of emergencies vs. planned repairs is to compare reactive vs. proactive thinking. You can wait until you — or worse, a customer — notices a problem, or you can get into a routine where you always know the condition of your garage, including how it will impact your budget.
What does the term “cost of deferral” mean for parking structures?
So, as mentioned earlier, time is your biggest enemy when it comes to parking structure deterioration. The term “cost of deferral” means that the cost of repairing your garage goes up exponentially if small issues go unaddressed and are allowed to become larger problems.
Experts can usually identify small, observable symptoms as soon as deterioration begins, which is why regular inspections are so important. Over time, this deterioration accelerates, and what began as a minor issue may turn into a safety concern, potential hazard or structural problem.
Exploring a real parking garage maintenance and repair scenario
Let’s look at a scenario that demonstrates what we mean by “cost of deferral.”
- After several months of significant rainfall, you notice red staining on one wall of your garage. It seems like a cosmetic problem, so you ignore it. A month later, several customers complain of water dripping onto their cars. You check the area they mentioned, which is near the area with staining, but you don’t observe any active dripping.
- A few months go by, and you get a call that during a recent rainstorm, water was rushing down an interior wall of your garage. You have someone come out to look at it, but the quote they provide is more than you’d like to pay. Plus, you don’t have time to coordinate repairs, because it’s your busy season.
- You decide to deal with the issue later. A year later, after a long winter, the red staining on the wall is more significant, and you notice that a large crack has formed in one of the support columns. An expert comes out to look at it and explains that a structural repair is necessary. It will require you to close off two floors of your garage during your busiest season, and the quote is significantly higher than the one you received a year ago. At this point, you must have the crack repaired to avoid a catastrophic failure, so you go ahead with the repair.
If experts had stepped into this scenario sooner, they could have identified the root cause of the water problem. For example, maybe they would have pointed out that joint sealant on the roof had cracked due to age and allowed water to leak between floors. If the joint sealant had been replaced back when the initial staining on the wall was noticed, the problem could have been avoided completely with a minor repair that cost several thousand dollars rather than a large-scale restoration that costs several million.
Predictive maintenance as a solution for parking garage structures
With total neglect, a parking structure may only last one-third of its intended service life. But predictive maintenance can help you maximize your structure’s life while protecting your customers. Predictive maintenance is the process of anticipating problems, mitigating small issues and controlling your garage’s risk factors. It focuses heavily on the first two types of upkeep — interim maintenance and service life replacements — to avoid the need for large restoration projects and eliminate any situations where the “cost of deferral” would come into play.
A predictive maintenance approach identifies potential problems early using inspections and expert observations. Then, those assessments are used to create a prioritized plan for garage owners to follow over the upcoming months and years. This process empowers owners to take control of their budget and improve their understanding of their structure’s long-term maintenance needs.
Although predictive maintenance may increase your monthly maintenance budget, this increase is significantly less than the cost of just one large-scale repair. This process is also appropriate for existing and brand-new structures because it can be used to find design flaws in a recently built garage.
Learn more about how predictive maintenance can help you address issues in a timely manner.
Case Study: Innovative Concrete Restoration Revives Hospital Parking Structure With Zero Downtime to Critical Infrastructure
Complex concrete restorations often require engineered solutions that are carried out by expert teams working in close collaboration. Learn how StructureCare developed and implemented a challenging restoration project to combat hazards that threatened the structural health of a busy hospital’s parking garage.
Problem: Navigating a complex structural concrete repair
After a leaking storm drain caused significant damage to a regional hospital’s parking structure, the facility manager entrusted StructureCare, its longstanding parking structure preventative maintenance provider, to engineer and implement a solution that navigated several significant and unique challenges.
“These are the types of concrete restoration projects where StructureCare shines,” John McCormick, Vice President, Managing Director of StructureCare, states. “We were excited to embrace the complexity of this parking structure project, knowing it would allow us to showcase the depth of our technical engineering capabilities, as well as the inherent benefits of our streamlined approach. The team's innovative solutions and seamless coordination of all parties involved provided the client with exactly what they desired: a repaired structure, zero downtime or interruption to critical infrastructure and no budgetary surprises.”
The hospital encountered a deteriorated cast-in-place concrete column and damaged overhead girder that supported multiple parking garage levels, as well as mechanical equipment for the adjacent hospital building within the garage structure. The project was unique because the column and girder were surrounded by complex, hospital-grade mechanical equipment (boiler, steam pipes, HVAC ductwork, electrical conduit), which restricted access to make the repairs. Because of the mechanical equipment and the engineering solutions needed to repair the integrity of the structure, third-party specialist contractors were needed to perform the full scope of work. Lastly, to add to the project’s complexity, all repairs needed to occur while allowing the parking garage and critical hospital infrastructure to remain in service without any downtime.
Solution: Delivering outside-the-box parking structure solutions
Having historical knowledge of the garage, the StructureCare team was able to swiftly assess the challenges, prioritize needs, align third-party specialist contractors and develop a plan of action. Unlike other engineering firms, StructureCare’s unique turnkey approach enabled the team to work directly and seamlessly with the specialty vendors to design and implement the solution, rather than using the conventional model of working as separate entities.
The first step was to install temporary shoring to carry the loads on the concrete column and girder. Some of the mechanical equipment was temporarily relocated in a process that required very close coordination among the StructureCare team, the client and a mechanical contractor.
The remaining clustered mechanical assets prevented the use of conventional shoring systems, so StructureCare designed and fabricated custom shoring with structural steel (including a 40-foot shoring column) and rigging. Each element was developed to be precisely installed to maximize parking space in the garage’s compact facility. In addition, continuous mechanical operations required the use of a dust containment system due to the critical needs of the adjacent hospital system.
StructureCare also developed an innovative solution that used custom-designed fiberglass crane pads to serve as a temporary shoring foundation, allowing us to spread out shoring loads without damaging the existing concrete floor.
With the project complexities addressed, contractors were able to complete the water damage restoration.
Result: Ensuring long-term safety, operations and profitability
When a conventional solution wasn’t possible, StructureCare’s team developed an approach that was customized and highly engineered. StructureCare’s turnkey approach enabled the team to design and implement a solution that allowed the garage to remain open to hospital patients, visitors and staff during the project.
With the project completed, the lifespan of the hospital’s parking structure and the health of the critical mechanical equipment were significantly increased. The StructureCare team then worked with the hospital’s facility manager to provide training to the in-house maintenance team to increase their ability to recognize parking garage deterioration and root cause issues. With staff education and a proper preventative maintenance plan in order, this parking structure can avoid future costly repairs and remain safe, operational and profitable for many more years.
Parking Structure Deterioration Guide
A parking garage is subject to stress from the first day concrete is poured and the structure is erected. Without proper maintenance, deterioration can reduce the structure’s service life by up to one-third — and result in unplanned downtime, exposure to increased risk, unexpected maintenance and increased costs.
Understanding common causes of deterioration and how they impact a parking garage is the first step in building a predictive maintenance plan that optimizes your structure’s health and stabilizes your budget. Let’s look at the factors that might be degrading your garage right now.
Download the Infographic: Common Types of Parking Garage Deterioration: Make a Plan to Protect Your Structure with Routine Maintenance.
Common Types of Parking Structure Deterioration
From traffic coatings to expansion joint sealants, waterproofing systems are essential tools for protecting your investment. When they fail and allow water into vulnerable areas, the resulting damage can wreak havoc on critical components and structures. Wide temperature swings and improper installation can lead to system failure. Vehicles and equipment cause damage as well, whether it’s a car colliding with a column or a snowplow scraping a deck coating.
In addition to acute damage, the service life of a waterproofing system is less than that of the parking structure itself — a roof-level sealant exposed to the elements may only last 7 to 10 years. This factor means that, along with regular assessment to pinpoint damage, it’s also critical to replace waterproofing systems as they near the end of their service life.
De-icers, particularly those using popular chloride chemicals, are among the most aggressive concrete deteriorators. Concrete absorbs chlorides like a sponge. Once they penetrate the surface, the de-icing chemicals can rust reinforcing steel. Chloride can also lead to surface cracks, delamination or fractures, or cracking and spalling of the concrete cover.
Other chemical-related deterioration includes sulfate attacks, caused by sulfates in soil, ground water or sea water. Sulfate attacks can result in cracking or strength loss and in some cases can disintegrate the concrete. Although less common in modern parking structures, alkali silica reactivity (ASR) can also be the source of damage. This internal chemical attack results from concrete’s incompatibility with other building materials, leading to cracking.
Learn more in our infographic, “Common Types of Parking Garage Deterioration: Make a Plan to Protect Your Structure with Routine Maintenance.”
Parking garages exposed to regular freeze-thaw cycles are also at risk for damage. For example, water that seeps into pores and capillaries expands as it freezes. The expansion pressure can lead to additional fractures that eventually work outward toward the surface. Common on horizontal surfaces exposed to water, the impact of freeze-thaw cycles frequently damages porous concrete.
In addition, the freeze-thaw cycle can make existing damage worse. Water can freeze in cracks caused by other factors, from de-icing chemicals to vehicle damage. As a result, even small cracks can quickly expand and lead to the need for more expansive repairs.
Discover more deterioration types in “Common Types of Parking Garage Deterioration: Make a Plan to Protect Your Structure with Routine Maintenance.”
The cold, white stuff can cause headaches that go well beyond the work of clearing snow from your parking garage and the surrounding property. A snow pile pushed against a load-bearing wall can dislodge the wall, creating safety issues for staff and customers, as well as requiring an expensive emergency repair.
Weight overload during and after snow events can also impact a parking garage’s structural health. For example, a snow pile might weigh more than the building’s recommended design limits, causing excess structural stress. Vehicles used to haul snow can exceed deck capacity, too. Like any weight overload situation, these scenarios can lead to damage and, in the worst case, cause collapse, endangering people as well as the structure itself.
Read more in our infographic, “Common Types of Parking Garage Deterioration: Make a Plan to Protect Your Structure with Routine Maintenance.”
Do You Have a Plan for Addressing Deterioration in Your Parking Structure?
While emergencies are always a possibility for any parking structure, it’s important to address common types of deterioration on a regular basis. Without attention, deterioration can accelerate quickly and lead to higher costs down the road.
Whether you need to mitigate snow-related damage or talk with restoration consultants to address waterproofing failures, StructureCare’s team is ready to help. Our engineering experts have refined the traditional parking garage management approach to provide you with streamlined maintenance and restoration processes, as well as improved cost control.
Let’s solve your structure’s maintenance or deterioration issue today. Contact us.
Cast-in-Place vs. Precast Concrete: Parking Structure Maintenance Considerations
Every garage, no matter how it’s built, is susceptible to deterioration. But the type, location and extent of this deterioration can vary greatly, depending on how the garage was constructed. It’s important to understand the design differences between precast concrete and cast-in-place garages — as well as how these differences affect the potential for damage — so you can develop a maintenance approach that best serves your structure.
Cast-in-place vs. precast concrete parking garages
A precast parking garage is essentially built like a Lego® set. Individual components, like beams, walls and columns, are built off-site, typically in a climate-controlled manufacturing facility, and then shipped and assembled on-site. Once constructed, the connections are then welded, bolted and sealed.
Because precast parking structures are built in a controlled plant environment, it’s easier for the precast producer to monitor the concrete quality and other design criteria, such as accuracy of reinforcing placement. This type of construction can also reduce the costs associated with building a new parking garage because the job is often completed more quickly.
A cast-in-place parking garage is constructed on-site by pouring concrete into forms that will later be removed. This type of garage is traditionally reinforced with mild steel or post-tensioning, which increases its strength.
Cast-in-place structures are highly durable, with fewer joints and mechanical connections than a precast garage. Fewer joints means a smoother ride for visitors and less opportunity for deterioration caused by leakage. With this type of garage, owners also get more design flexibility, customization options and reduced building movement.
Maintenance considerations by parking structure type
Now that we understand the difference between cast-in-place and precast parking structures, it’s time to talk about how these differences affect maintenance and repair needs. From an engineering perspective, the way a concrete garage was built will influence how it performs and how it needs to be inspected. Likewise, the main problems that occur — structural or otherwise — often stem from how the garage was originally constructed.
Areas of concern in precast parking garages
- Waterproofing methods at the joints
- Failure points at mechanical connections
- Exposure of load-bearing structural elements
The areas that need the most attention in a precast parking structure are often the joints. Usually the joints, the most vulnerable parts of the structure, pose the most deterioration risk. Joint sealants can be used to waterproof these areas, but without continued upkeep, it’s easy for water to seep in at these connection points, especially as the joint sealants break down over time due to exposure to the elements. Thus, regularly inspecting and replacing waterproofing methods should be on everyone’s preventive maintenance list for precast parking structures.
When considering structural issues, the joints are a common culprit again. The interfaces and connections between the segments can be subject to wear and deterioration. Thermal expansion and contraction, dynamic loading from excessive vehicle speed and exposure from failed sealants can cause significant damage to embedded connections. These problems can be identified during a routine inspection. For structural repairs, engineers and contractors must work closely together to identify the root problem and then design and implement an engineering solution.
Areas of concern in cast-in-place parking garages
- Corrosion of the steel framework
- Shallow concrete cover
- Internal concrete failure
Cast-in-place structures have fewer joints, so the areas of concern for these garages tend to be the internal steel reinforcement and the concrete itself. Here, water plays a different role in deterioration than it does in precast structures. Because the internal reinforcing is susceptible to rust and corrosion, waterproofing is necessary to ensure the reinforcing remains protected. Although you can’t always observe this damage externally, there can be a lot going on beneath the surface that routine inspections and testing will catch. Engineers can use technology like ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and acoustic sounding that can help them identify damage under the surface. In any case, waterproofing systems, like sealants and coatings, should always be replaced once they’ve reached their recommended service life.
The concrete used for a cast-in-place structure must also be monitored regularly because it tends to crack easier, allowing water to penetrate its surface and cause corrosion. Lack of needed repairs, overloading and chemical damage can all exacerbate this issue. Another design flaw that may be present in cast-in-place garages is shallow concrete cover — the result of reinforcing steel being placed too close to the concrete surface. This allows water to penetrate through the shallow concrete cover and reach the steel reinforcing, where it can lead to corrosion.
It can be difficult to recognize the signs of deterioration in your garage, especially when many issues begin below the surface. But routine inspections and assessments by an experienced parking structure engineering team often catch these problems before major repairs are necessary. Whether you have a cast-in-place or precast concrete parking structure, you’ll want to continue preventive maintenance activities by monitoring for cracks, leaks, rust and other structural issues throughout your garage’s service life.
The Value and Benefit of Predictive Maintenance
Generally speaking, parking structure repair becomes top-of-mind for parking structure owners and parking management companies when there’s a problem — or worse, when they’re informed of a problem by someone else. With predictive maintenance, the surprises are eliminated, including damages, associated costs and unexpected downtime.
Predictive vs. preventative
Preventative maintenance is probably already a familiar term. It’s simply using past knowledge to stop larger repairs from being needed via routine, expected maintenance. As part of our business model, it helps parking structure owners with keeping repair costs down.
Predictive maintenance takes it a step further. Predictive maintenance assesses everything about a structure and uses that information (alongside our existing knowledge) to make informed predictions about what’s needed over the next three to five years. Predictive maintenance, unlike preventative maintenance, is based on figuring out what could happen to a structure due to how it was built, where it is and what it might experience.
A note to keep in mind, here: Most parking structure owners think that predictive maintenance isn’t really needed for a newly constructed garage. That’s not the case. In fact, the best time to start a predictive maintenance program is just after construction is finished.
The biggest benefit of performing a predictive audit on your newly constructed garage is that we may find issues that are still covered under warranty. Most parking structures come with a one-year warranty from the general contractor, so if we find a construction issue, like poor concrete cover, fixing it may be covered at no cost to you. Construction issues like these can accelerate deterioration, and that means a much shorter life for your garage and more potential repairs. By catching issues early, predictive maintenance can cut down on those problems and extend your parking structure’s service life.
The true cost of deferred maintenance
“Cost of deferral” is a term we use a lot at StructureCare. Simply put, it’s what can happen when small repairs aren’t made, leading to larger, costlier repairs. There are three types of service that a parking structure needs:
Interim maintenance: These are routine, small-ticket things that need to be done for a garage to be kept in good condition — your basic parking garage maintenance.
Service life replacements: This is the process of keeping up with items that have a limited service life, like waterproofing systems. These items wear down over time, so replacing them regularly is important.
Repairs and restoration: These range from relatively small to time-consuming, expensive repairs. Small or large, these types of projects are almost always avoidable when routine maintenance and service life replacements schedules are kept.
The good news is that we’ve found keeping up with the first two items on the list above makes the third item almost nonexistent for parking structure owners. And that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to “cost of deferral.” If interim maintenance and service life replacement is not done regularly, a parking garage will need repair and restoration. And that comes with a lot more cost and time. But keeping up with interim maintenance and service life replacements lets your approach to maintenance be routine and predictable, not reactionary.
Predictive maintenance in action
Predictive maintenance is an ongoing process that investigates not only how a parking structure was built but what is affecting it today and can potentially affect it in the future. It helps uncover the underlying cause of a problem instead of just the symptom, allowing for a long-term fix. Predictive maintenance strategies also evaluate the effectiveness of previous repairs while proactively monitoring and addressing service life replacement needs.
On top of that, a predictive approach assesses structural maintenance and repair strategies for value. By making sure to maximize repair and maintenance dollars, predictive maintenance can reveal the cost of addressing repair needs now compared to the cost of deferral.
In short, predictive maintenance is a program that looks at likely areas of accelerated deterioration, investigates likely areas where deterioration can occur and plans maintenance and upkeep to maximize the value of repair costs.
The entirety of predictive maintenance hinges on proactive solutions, reducing risks and managing life cycle costs. At StructureCare, we condense these ideas into anticipate, mitigate and control.
Anticipate — For our service contract clients, we perform a combination of full-scale assessments, field investigations and reviews. We use our findings to develop strategies to mitigate the root cause of any problems and help our clients prioritize the work that needs to be done.
Mitigate — When StructureCare finds a problem, we move into the mitigate phase. This is where we complete preventative repairs and maintenance.
Control — With both the anticipate and mitigate steps in place, you gain control over the future of your parking structure. Control, in this case, means you can plan for repairs with less disruption to operation, stretch your budget further and not wake up to a big, costly problem.
Predictive maintenance, at its core, is about making decisions rather than responding to issues. Slowing down the rate of deterioration, managing life cycle costs and maximizing service life all lead to the best return on maintenance investment.
Why predictive maintenance is so valuable
Predictive maintenance is all about time. Without it, you’re stuck reacting to problems — and typically not at a time that is convenient. When you’re focused on interim repair and service life replacement instead (discovered in the “anticipate” phase and handled in the “mitigate” phase explained above), you aren’t just responding to problems. You have time to plan out when repairs are going to happen.
For example, with predictive maintenance, you can plan to install a new waterproofing treatment on your schedule. Instead of an emergency repair that shuts down your garage during your busiest month, you can look ahead and select a slower period when this service life replacement will happen. That way, you avoid an emergency leak situation, minimize disruption and can budget for the repair.
Another big benefit of predictive maintenance is how much it can extend the life of your parking structure. Typically, a garage’s service life is 70 to 75 years, and neglect can drastically reduce it. But with a predictive maintenance program in place, parking garage owners can see double or triple the service life of a neglected garage.
Predictive maintenance also helps you maximize the use of your garage. If even a part of your garage is in bad shape, it may take hundreds of parking spaces out of use, which costs you revenue. By keeping up with maintenance and addressing issues proactively, you ensure the whole structure is usable for the long term. And although you’re going to spend more consistently on maintenance over the life of your parking structure, it’s still far less than you’d spend tearing down and rebuilding a brand-new garage.
How to get started
Getting started with predictive maintenance can seem huge, but the truth is the right partner can help. Instead of depending on an assortment of groups (structural contractors, engineering firms, project managers, consultants, etc.), it’s best to find a single partner who can own everything. And that’s what we do — from assessing a parking structure to inspection and repair. With one partner who owns the program, predictive maintenance becomes the key to unlocking the longevity of a parking structure. Partner with us for a predictive audit of your parking structure. From there, we’ll work with you to determine maintenance and repair strategies and discuss what practices and structural preservation systems can be put in place to avoid more costly repair work in the future. Plus, we’ll educate your training and maintenance staff so they can spot issues and get them resolved faster and more accurately.
A New Approach to Parking Garage Repair Contractors
You notice a problem in your garage. Maybe a crack has formed in a concrete pillar. Maybe a patron complained about staining on their car. Or maybe you’ve noticed that your parking structure leaks after a heavy rain. Now that you’ve identified a potential problem, the next question is — who do you call?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always obvious. What you see on the surface might not be the root cause of the problem. And completing superficial fixes in lieu of what’s actually needed can lead to more expensive repairs down the line. So, how do you get started when you need a repair?
The traditional approach to finding a contractor
- There are many different types of contractors who may need to get involved in maintenance and repairs, depending on the scope of work. And at times, hiring parking garage repair contractors won’t be enough. You may also need to get an engineering firm, project manager and even a consultant involved.
- But working with multiple vendors can get tricky fast. First, it can be hard to make sure they’re all communicating with each other — and with you. Each vendor may have a different communication process, and unless you’re heavily involved in the work that’s being done, you may not always be aware of who’s talking to whom. For instance, have the structural contractors verified that they can execute the plans from the engineer? And if they haven’t, who’s following up on it?
- That also brings us to the issue of accountability. If something doesn’t go as planned, someone has to sort out who’s responsible for fixing the issue. In traditional parking garage maintenance and repair processes, that task typically falls on the facility manager and can require hours of back-and-forth, which may lead to change orders that eat into your annual budget.
- Additionally, the construction of your parking garage may play a role in what contractors you need. A precast parking garage will have different considerations versus a cast-in-place garage, so it’s important to find experts who specialize in the services you need. For example, certain waterproofing contractors may be highly experienced in applying elastic joint sealants in a precast structure, but they may not be as experienced in applying topical sealers.
The streamlined approach to choosing a contractor
So, with all those considerations in mind, how do you find parking garage repair contractors (and other necessary service providers) with the right mix of expertise, responsiveness and ownership? You could put together your own team, making phone calls, coordinating separate organizations and managing the work yourself. But there’s an alternative approach: Find a partner who manages it all for you.
When you partner with StructureCare, we serve as a single point of contact for parking garage maintenance and repairs. In fact, you don’t even need to determine what the problem is. If you see something that concerns you, simply contact us and we’ll come out to diagnose the problem right away.
After we’ve identified the root cause of the issue, we’ll make a customized, engineering-led recommendation on how to fix it. We’ll even provide a timeline and a price quote, guaranteeing that the price we’ve quoted for the scope of work won’t change even if we run into unexpected challenges after we get started.
Once you’ve signed off on the plan, our team owns the whole process. We’ve established relationships with the best firms in the industry — from parking garage restoration contractors to concrete repair contractors — and we’ll coordinate any onsite work that needs to happen. We’re also fully accountable for delivering the project on time and within budget. That means if something doesn’t go as planned, we’re committed to making it right with no extra effort on your part.
Our streamlined approach gives you a single point of contact for concerns, questions and problems related to your parking garage. We’ll also communicate the status of ongoing projects as often (or as little) as you’d like. And without the need to coordinate structural contractors, engineers and other outside vendors, you’ll have more time to focus on the day-to-day operations at your facility and the needs of your customers.
How to Handle Parking Structure Weather Challenges Year-Round
Weather resiliency, or the ability of a structure to withstand weather events, has become increasingly important as weather patterns change and become more severe. But even without severe weather, parking structures will face plenty of challenges thanks to rain, snow, extreme heat and wind.
There are two ways to look at responding to the environment. The first, and more costly, is to only address weather-related damage when it happens. The other is to proactively plan and prepare for it, saving money and time and increasing the service life of your garage.
Common weather challenges
Water is perhaps one of the most frequent environmental challenges to a parking garage. Water can degrade concrete and seep into supporting metal structures, causing rust and delamination, while salt from marine environments can cause accelerated corrosion. A little bit of water might not seem like a big problem, but it’s important to keep in mind that years of water penetration, without treatment, creates cumulative damage to your parking structure. Ultimately, this leads to much bigger, much more expensive fixes. That’s why keeping up garage waterproofing efforts is so important.
Damage from snow can happen in a few different ways. Overloading due to piled snow can put more weight on your structure than the design allows. And plow damage can happen when a plow piles snow against a load-bearing wall, pushing it away from the structure and dislodging it, which could cause structural damage and the need for emergency repair. Likewise, chemical damage is possible if a garage is improperly treated for snow and ice.
Extreme heat can cause a structure to expand and contract in ways that, if not considered during building, may result in cracking and oxidation. Likewise, waterproofing sealants and coatings may crack apart in the heat, which means the next time it rains, your parking structure isn’t protected.
Your every-season checklist
Being proactive when facing weather challenges throughout the year can mean the difference between expensive, unplanned repairs and routine, expected maintenance as part of your weather resiliency plan. An important part of weather resiliency, and one that’s often overlooked, is maintenance staff training. If your maintenance staff doesn’t know how to identify, address or avoid common weather-related challenges, your parking garage will continue to deteriorate or experience unexpected damage from weather-related incidents.
Outside of training, however, there are specific ways to address weather-related issues throughout the year.
The biggest challenge with spring is rain. So, take steps to make sure your garage is ready.
- Check for water damage and pooling near drains and other low-lying areas.
- Watch for leaks during heavy rainstorms and schedule repairs, if needed.
- Perform an inspection to uncover and address any new winter damage.
- Look for cracks in the concrete, chipping in topical waterproofing coatings and any damage to joints.
Summer certainly comes with the challenge of rain, but it can also mean heat waves and severe storms.
- On very hot days, check on joints and waterproofing coatings for cracking and flaking.
- Check for water pooling and leaks after heavy rains.
- Perform an inspection for structural damage after severe storms.
Fall can bring any number of challenges, including rain, snow, cold and heat. But this is also the time to prepare for winter maintenance.
- Check drains for debris buildup and clear any clogs.
- Inspect waterproofing surfaces after large temperature fluctuations.
- Prepare your team for the colder months with winter maintenance training.
The biggest concerns for a parking garage during winter are snow and ice. But with training and preparation, you can overcome these challenges.
- Inspect joints and surfaces after snow cleanup or ice removal for accidental damage to joints or parking garage deck waterproofing.
- Lessen the chance of damage by clearly marking joints for easy identification during snow removal.
- Check for ice buildup in unexpected places, like wall joints or drains.
- Ensure snow piles are not heavier than your parking structure can handle.
- Use de-icers to prevent slip-and-fall injuries.
- Make sure your maintenance crew applies de-icers correctly to lessen the risk of corrosion.
- Communicate with third-party contractors about joint locations and where to pile snow.
A partner that’s ready year-round
Being ready for what the weather has to dish out can be challenging, but that’s what StructureCare is here for. With our extensive knowledge and experience, we can help you develop a proactive maintenance plan that accounts for extreme weather and typical wear-and-tear. Plus, we can help train your staff to look for the signs of weather-related deterioration long before they become much bigger problems.
After a severe weather event, we can also come to your parking garage and determine what damage occurred and how to handle it quickly. We’ll even coordinate all third-party contractor repair communication. Our job is to make sure your parking garage is ready every season of the year so you don’t need to worry about every dark cloud on the horizon.