It can be easy to ignore parking facilities in favor of maintenance on other buildings. But deferring work on the garage can lead to deposits, deterioration, and unsightly stains that drive away potential parkers.
Luckily, maintenance for most parking structures is fairly limited – concrete, by far the most popular construction material for parking garages, should be cleaned with a high-pressure water blast every one or two years. Follow these tips to protect your parking garage from structural and aesthetic damage.
Back to Basics
Concrete is generally easy to clean if you keep up with annual or biannual cleanings. Concrete panels with brick or tile inlay require even less work because they don’t show dirt as readily as concrete, according to Chris Przywara, a director and professional structural engineer for THP Limited, a consultancy focused on engineering, parking facilities, and restoration.
But despite the relative ease of maintenance, facade cleanings for parking garages are frequently overlooked, Przywara says. Some stains become more difficult to clean the longer you wait, such as those caused by near-constant water runoff. Before calling in a consultant, try a couple of tricks to ease the task, such as increasing the temperature or pressure of your water blast.
“If you elevate the temperature of your water to 120 degrees F., it will help reduce the surface tension of the dirt on the precast concrete. It cleans up much better and easier,” Przywara explains. “Your maintenance crew should also play around with how heavy your water blaster is. Is 2,000 psi enough pressure? That’s barely enough to clean the deck behind your house, so you might want to go to 3,000 psi.”
Weather and Wear
Many parking decks are weatherproofed with an elastomeric or acrylic coating that requires reapplication every three to five years, and the top level needs vehicular and/or pedestrian traffic coatings to seal cracks and protect against wear and tear. You’ll also need to periodically hire someone to replace the caulking and pre-molded expansion joints.
Put off these tasks at your own risk, says Chris Hayno, operations manager for service provider Engineered Restorations, Inc. Water can enter through the joints and freeze on ramp decks and other pedestrian areas, presenting a safety hazard.
“It’s a maintenance issue that needs to be addressed. A lot of building owners fail to realize it and end up having water infiltration problems in their parking structure,” Hayno says. “When water gets inside the areas it shouldn’t, it can cause corrosion to the steel. That’s when you start having concrete problems, and it just escalates from there.”
Salt can badly damage the structure when it’s tracked in with the snow frozen in cars’ wheel wells and bumpers. You can avoid considerable damage by shunning salt-based deicers around and inside the garage. The corrosive salt can lead to extensive, costly repairs, says Tom Isaac, senior project manager and senior associate for Desman Associates, a parking consultancy, engineering, and architectural firm.
“In many cases, we need to move the top concrete out, put in new concrete, and then protect it from spalling and penetration,” Isaac explains. “That’s an expensive repair.”
Spalling can appear on the exterior, as can brown corrosion spots from rebar deterioration. Both result in serious damage to your parking structure’s aesthetic value.
“Corrosion can show up on the inside too, but usually you see it on the outside where it’s exposed to sunlight and weather,” explains Darrell Smith, building envelope and roof consultant for VJ Engineering. “Check out the bad area and patch it with a concrete mixture. You don’t want to leave it unchecked so it gets worse on the exterior.”
Janelle Penny ([email protected]) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.