Sealing Asphalt Driveway Pros And Cons

There are a lot of reasons as to why sealing asphalt could be beneficial not only for the homeowner. For one, cracks and dirt lessens the visual appeal of the driveway. At the same time, it also ensures safety for the driver who always drives down the curb or for kids who are training how to scooter or bike. 

As appealing it may seem for the overall look of the home, sealing asphalt driveway could also have its drawbacks. If you are thinking of doing it for your driveway, you should first be wary of its pros and cons. In this post, we will weigh the benefits and pitfalls of sealing asphalt driveway. 

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What is sealcoating?

Sealcoating is basically adding a layer of protection to driveways and pavements. This is done to give longevity to asphalt especially to the effects of constant exposure to water, oil, and UV damage. It also protects the surface from tearing and wearing due to high traffic activities such as driving and more. 

When left unsealed, asphalt driveways and pavements become brittle overtime, causing dents, cracks, and holes in the surface. It is also a way of weatherproofing the driveway, especially during harsh winters, windy seasons, and very hot summers as they could still pose damage to the seemingly impenetrable asphalt driveway. 

Types of sealcoating

There are two common types of products used in sealcoating: asphalt emulsion coating and coal tar sealers. Between the two, coal tar sealers are cheaper but require more labor when applied. As such, it is the one used by professionals in sealcoating wider pavements. If you are wary of oil or chemical spills from car products, coal tar sealer is the one you should choose.

On the other hand, asphalt emulsion coating is easier to apply and more manageable in application as well as more environment friendly because it has less VOCs. However, it is not that resistant to chemical spills so there are reservations about this type of sealing. 

Down the stretch, there is also now a choice between acrylic and fast drying asphalt sealers. Acrylic asphalt sealers are more expensive, more environment friendly but not professional grade. Fast dry sealers, as the name suggests, can dry in just an hour. However, they do not last long and for them to work, they require at least 75F of temp when applied. 

Tips on applying asphalt sealcoating

To get the best out of asphalt sealcoating, you must follow all the general procedures needed for sealcoating and these would be the following: 

  • First, check weather forecasts for the next 72-hours. If it ensures a dry weather, go on with the sealcoating. 
  • Always install barricades around the driveway when applying sealcoating. Before this, power wash your driveway first and allow it to dry completely. 
  • Make sure that all oil spots are primed, and all cracks, dents, and holes are sealed. 
  • Only remove the barricades around the area after 36-48 hours. 
  • If you need to stripe the driveway with parking spaces, you can only paint the surface after 24-hours of applying the sealcoating. 

Pros of sealing asphalt driveway

Asphalt is a preferred material for driveways and pavements because it is cheap and durable. To reinforce these more, sealcoating can be beneficial. Here is a list of the other pros of sealing asphalt driveway. 

  • Sealcoating gives an added layer of protection to various types of driveway damage. 
  • Sealcoating prevents the emergence of potholes. 
  • Sealcoating improves the visual appeal of the asphalt driveway. 
  • Sealcoating has its own eco-friendly benefits because asphalt is the most recycled product in the US and it is not entirely free from VOCs and other harmful chemicals. Sealcoating lessens the demand for asphalt. 
  • Sealcoating is a DIY job, most of the time so it can be a cost-efficient driveway weatherproofing. 
  • Sealcoating works with all types of asphalts (i.e. warm mix, hot mix, glass asphalt and cold mix). 
  • Sealcoating ‘seals’ the driveway from moisture run-off and makes winter shoveling easier.

Cons of sealing asphalt driveway

But as have been mentioned, sealing asphalt driveway is not always a perfect measure. As such, here are some of the drawbacks of sealing asphalt driveway. 

  • Sealcoating is quite expensive especially if you live in New York or California. 
  • Sealcoating is a repetitive chore and requires maintenance. 
  • Sealcoating can only be effective under the specific weather conditions. 
  • Sealcoating requires long waiting periods. In damper regions, the curing time for sealcoating could be at least six months. If temperatures drop to less than 50F, your sealcoating might not work too. 
  • Sealcoating indeed, extends the life of the asphalt driveway but it does not extend the integrity of the structure. 
  • Sealcoating requires frequent cleaning. 
  • Sealcoating does not ensure preventing cracks and all driveway damages down the stretch. 
  • Sealcoating the asphalt driveway makes it hotter during the summer. 

How to maintain an asphalt driveway

Maintaining your asphalt driveway is not as complicated as you think. If your asphalt driveway has experienced easy cracking or has not lived up to its life of 20 years, chances are, you have been maintaining it the wrong way. Here are the basic maintenance tips for asphalt driveways: 

  • The asphalt driveway should be power washed for 2-3 times a year.
  • Sealcoat the asphalt driveway as needed. This makes it moisture-resistant and adds a layer of protection to prevent cracking. 
  • If cracks and holes become inevitable, they should be repaired immediately using a good quality sealant. 
  • Never let water puddle on the asphalt’s surface. 
  • If you have a trusted contractor, set up annual maintenance drills with them. It is always worth it. 

What is the difference between asphalt and blacktop?

In the US, asphalt and blacktop are often used interchangeably but really, they are two different surfaces. As such, it is important to know which is which because if you do not know their differences, you might use the wrong sealant. 

At the most basic end, asphalt is the material used for driveways, interstates, and highways. Its mix is composed of mineral aggregates and petroleum binders. These components are mixed in a machine and then compressed on the surface using a steamroller. 

In the same vein, blacktop is also a kind of a concrete paving but requires more stone in the mix compared to asphalt. It also requires at least 300F of heat before the components could be integrated in the mix properly. Blacktop is poured and evened. After that, it is left to harden. While this one is less expensive and easier to apply, it is not as strong and reliable as asphalt, especially in high traffic areas. 

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FAQs on Sealing Asphalt Driveway

There is still more to know about sealcoating asphalt. To have more information up your sleeve regarding sealcoating asphalt driveways, here are some of the FAQs about the job that you should be aware of. 

Is it necessary to seal an asphalt driveway?

According to the Chicago Tribune, contractors highly recommend sealcoating as one of the steps in maintaining driveways, pavements and roads. As a matter of fact, it is mentioned that sealcoating should happen every 3-5 years depending on the traffic level of the driveway or pavement.

They say that whatever the criticisms are against sealcoating, it still proves to be beneficial in adding years to the driveway. 

How often should I seal my asphalt driveway?

It is recommended that asphalt driveways be cured with sealers one year after the asphalt driveway has been installed. After that, sealcoating the asphalt driveway should be seal coated every 2-3 years if traffic volume is normal and manageable. But if your asphalt driveway experiences high traffic volume, sealcoating it should be done annually. 

Cost of sealcoating

Of course, budget is a prime concern. For DIY asphalt sealcoating, the average cost is about 40-cents/sq.ft. As far as sealing products are concerned, low end sealants are in between $6-10 per 5-gallons while high-end ones start at $25 per 5-gallons. A 5-gallon sealant can cover more or less than 400 sq.ft. When resorting to professional sealing, your computation should be $1.50 per sq.ft. 

Other factors affecting the cost of sealcoating include the extent of repair required, preparation and treatment of the asphalt surface, added materials and labor costs. 

Related: Tar And Chip Driveway: Cost, Pros and Cons

Does sealing asphalt extend life?

Yes. Aside from giving it a smooth and more delicate finish, sealing asphalt adds at least two years to the overall life of your asphalt. And since it is relatively inexpensive and less laborious to seal asphalt driveways because they are not that wide, it would be a good thing to do for your home. 

When is the best time to sealcoat asphalt driveway?

According to contractors, the best time to seal asphalt driveway must be in between May to October. While this is the rule of thumb, it is still recommended that you check for weather forecast for the next 72 hours to make sure that you have the right weather condition to allow the sealant to cure and dry. 

Is it okay to use a roller in applying sealant for asphalt driveway? 

Rollers are usually used in sealing concrete and masonry surfaces or when you are using an acrylic driveway sealant. But when you are using an asphalt-based sealant, squeegee is still the recommended material to use. 

If you are not comfortable with using squeegees or if you find it more time consuming and work draining, there is another alternative. At present, you can now also use sealant sprayers. They are more manageable, require less time to be applied and are overall more precise compared to rollers and squeegees. 

Do asphalt driveways need two coats of sealant? 

Yes. To avoid missing cracks and small pores in the driveway, two coats of sealant is recommended. In between the two coatings, an eight-hour curing time should be observed. Thus, expect sealing jobs for larger driveways to take at least two days or more considering the curing time in between coatings. The preparation is tedious too, so that is another thing to consider. 

How long does an asphalt driveway last?

Depending on how it was applied, the climate in your area, the traffic volume, and how strictly you followed maintenance tips, asphalt driveways could last up to 20 years. However, asphalt as a material itself, is very prone to cracking. As such, experts would say that it is not really a question of how long an asphalt driveway lasts but a question of how long the materials in the asphalt hold. 

Is driveway sealing worth it?

The answer to this depends on many things and is more than just a yes or no question. For one, if you are living in damper, colder locations, it would be a challenge not to have a sealcoating that easily cracks or breaks. If your driveway suffers from oil spills and water puddling when it rains, sealing it would be worth the shot. 

Can I seal my asphalt driveway too much?

Apparently, yes. When asphalt driveway sealants are used unsparingly causes problems for the driveway in the long run. Some of the problems caused by over-sealing would be crack buildups, flaking and even peeling in less than a year. 

What happens when you seal your asphalt driveway and it rains? 

There is a reason why one of the basic things to do in preparing your driveway for sealing would be checking for weather forecasts. Rain is unwanted in this job because it will wash away the sealant. As such, it can result in an uneven application or totally being washed away from the driveway. At best, the sealant must have at least had 4-10 hours of curing before it becomes rain-resistant. 

What should be done to the leftover sealants? 

Sealants are considered as hazardous wastes. If you do not know how to dispose of them properly, you should take all leftover sealants to an Eco-Depot or any household hazardous waste collection outlets near you. If the bucket, however, is completely emptied, cover it with an extra polysheet before trashing it off in the bin. This is just to make it safer for everybody especially that sealants still contain VOCs. 

Most recommended asphalt sealing brands

To complete the guide in sealcoating asphalt driveways, here are some of the most recommended asphalt sealants that are used in both DIY and professional sealing jobs. 

  • Armor Silane
  • Masonry Defender
  • Latex-ite
  • Gardner Drive
  • Quikrete Acrylic
  • AQUA-X
  • Foundation Armor
  • E-Z Sealer
  • Sakrete
  • ToughCrete
  • Paving Sealer

Steps in sealing asphalt driveway

When everything is said and done, we come down to the steps in sealing your asphalt driveway. If you are planning to do it DIY, here are the steps that you should master in sealing that asphalt driveway. 

  1. The first step is to prepare the driveway. This alone already takes one full day. In here, you must clean and prime the asphalt driveway. Brush the entire area with a stiff-brush push broom.
  2. Next, rinse the area with a powerful water hose with at least 40-degree nozzle. Have it completely dry before having one final sweep using the push broom. 
  3. After this, apply primer on oil spots. Give larger oil spots and cracks with a second coating of primer. Make sure that it is completely dry before going to the next step. 
  4. Prepare sealing mix. Get the mixing paddle and drill it on to the pail of sealing mix. Keep the lid on to avoid splashing. 
  5. Set the adhesives to outline the area that needs to be sealed. This also helps in avoiding smearing on the part of the pavement that is not intended to be sealed. 
  6. Using a large dash brush, apply asphalt sealcoating generously on the edges of the entire area. Make sure that all cracks and oil spots are covered. 
  7. With gloves and boots to protect your skin, pour the rest of the sealant in a U-shape pattern so as not to create a puddle in the driveway. Using a squeegee, spread the sealant evenly across the driveway. 

*Notes: 

  • Set up poly sheets in garage doors and across all areas that are not supposed to be sealed. 
  • You need to stage the pails of sealants. You can estimate the area that can be covered by each pail. Estimate and properly scatter the pails of sealants on their supposed area to save time in getting more from where they are all placed. 
  • For visuals on DIY asphalt driveway sealing, click here

Other driveway types:

Conclusion

Overall, sealcoating and asphalt driveway speaks beyond just aesthetic value. Some of its perks would be preventing cracks, water and oil seepage, and longer service years for the driveway. But it is not perfect like all else in nature, as it also has its own drawbacks.

Thus, in order to get the most out of sealcoating your asphalt driveway, you have to assess the traffic volume of your driveway, its area, the costs of sealing it and maintaining it and if the weather in your area is appropriate for such a process. If it is an affirmative nod to most of these considerations, then we say go for it. 

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