A parking lot drainage system isn’t an afterthought. It is a necessity, especially if there are any low-lying spots where stormwater can collect. Installing the right one depends on several criteria, including federal, state, and municipal regulations governing parking lot paving.

The reasons for these rules typically involve stormwater runoff and erosion control, which can negatively impact drinking water and surface water bodies. It can impact wildlife and lower property values.

Several types of parking lot draining systems exist. You can think of them as a kind of insurance policy. They can extend the life of your space and prevent indirect costs caused by unsafe conditions. However, determining which is right for you depending on several factors, including:

The primary purpose of the drainage systems is to remove or convey stormwater quickly from a parking lot, with minimal environmental impact or inconvenience for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Each project presents its challenges. Fortunately, there are many options for you to consider.

Types of Parking Lot Drainage Systems

There is a lot of overlap between residential solutions and commercial parking lot drainage systems. The challenges are the same. The freeze-thaw cycle is particularly detrimental in cold-weather climates. It causes cracks that can accelerate the damage. The precipitation itself presents issues because of its acidity, especially in the eastern half of the country, along with erosion, above and below ground.

The system typically consists of inlets, channels or ditches, and detention areas before the water flow enters the main sewer channel. Ideally, it is part of the parking lot construction. However, you can put in drainage afterward, albeit at a higher cost.

Standard Catch Basins

A catch basin drainage system acts as a temporary detention area for stormwater that has passed through a surface grate to capture debris. The design is sound. It removes foreign material that can clog inlets and pipes that could cause additional damage. With a chance to settle, the water then enters the drainage system. It is the most affordable solution for smaller areas.

Concrete-Encased Drainage Basins

A concrete-encased drainage basin takes parking lot drainage to the next level with additional reinforcements. That makes them suitable for high-traffic areas. They are the typical system you’ll see on commercial properties. They are a higher initial investment, but they offer a fortified system with a longer lifespan.

Trench Drainage Basins

These systems work best in larger commercial sites, such as shopping malls and sports arenas. As the name implies, stormwater is redirected via trenches. They include either grate or curb-opening inlets that filter out debris like the other types we discussed. It is an expensive system but practical when there is a large area to drain.

French Drains

French drains are probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the parking lot drainage systems. It includes a gravel-filled trench that may or may not contain perforated pipes placed on a slope to facilitate water flow. It’s inconspicuous since you can landscape the surface. It’s an excellent option for places with low spots where surface water is a constant concern.

Alternative Solutions

If you’re in the process of paving a parking lot, strategically placed permeable pavers can replicate French drains. You can use them with an existing drainage system. You can also put them on the ground where water will percolate directly into the soil.

Channeling the Water

Concrete drainage pipes are probably the most familiar type. They are durable and long-lasting, making them a sound investment for a parking lot drainage system.

Asbestos cement pipes are also used for parking lot drainage systems. They offer an excellent balance between durability and weight with asbestos fibers instead of steel. Several types are available, depending on the application and material collected.

You’ll also find corrugated plastic pipes for closed systems. They are easy to maintain and are more affordably priced. They are also more flexible than steel-reinforced concrete pipes.

Getting the Most Out of Your Drainage System

A parking lot drainage system is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution. Inlets require periodic cleaning to remove debris to ensure proper water flow. You should also have it inspected annually for signs of damage or cracks. Erosion caused by debris, soil, rocks, and water can take a toll over time.

Any breach of the system will likely get worse if it’s not repaired promptly. Remember that the best solution to problems with your parking lot drainage system is prevention. Isn’t it time that your ground gets the respect it deserves? Contact Maul Asphalt today for a quote.


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