What Is a Chip Seal Repair, and When Does Your Pavement Need It?

June 12, 2023

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Maintaining asphalt over the years with a chip seal as well as crack repair, repaving, and other such maintenance is the key to ensuring your parking lot or driveway is always in good repair and that the paving material lasts as long as possible. While a property owner can perform some minor asphalt repairs and maintenance on their own, an asphalt contractor needs to install a chip seal paving; however, this process will prolong the life of asphalt while restoring its overall appearance. First and foremost, it's important to understand what is chip seal.

A chip seal is similar to a slurry seal. A chip seal driveway consists of a coating material and a layer of gravel. These layers are spread over asphalt, allowed to dry, and then brushed or swept clean, creating a fresh, new layer of pavement.

A chip seal road or repair is often a bit more expensive than a standard seal coating but not quite as expensive as a full repaving or fog seal. However, chip sealing has many advantages for property owners and is an excellent way to ensure your asphalt is in good repair and protected from the elements. Note a bit more detail about chip seals, how they benefit your property's pavement, and how to properly maintain your driveway or parking lot over the years.

What Is Chip Seal?

what is chip seal

A chip and seal is a thin protective sealant or surface material applied to asphalt. This type of material is referred to as a chip seal because, as said, it contains a certain amount of gravel or aggregate rather than being a simple sealcoating. Chip seal paving settles into hairline cracks, minor chips, small holes, and other such damage along the surface of the asphalt, seeping into those pits and pores.

The gravel or chips added during a chip seal process are pushed into the sealant material or layer. The sealant dries so that the chips are held in place. After a chip sealant application, the pavement is brushed, so any loose gravel and chips are then removed.

A chip sealant is also typically brushed or swept into place rather than merely sprayed over the surface of the asphalt, as is a fog seal or slurry seal. This brushing or sweeping creates an even surface that restores the look of an asphalt driveway or parking lot while also ensuring that the sealant fills pits and pores of damaged pavement.

Chip sealants are also an excellent choice for adding texture and traction to asphalt. Added chips or aggregate make the surface of pavement bumpier so that vehicles have more traction and are less likely to skid or slide around, even during wintertime. Rougher pavement also reduces the risk of ice forming along its surface, adding to the safety of an asphalt driveway or parking lot.

What Is the Process of a Chip and Seal?

chip seal contractors

Along with wondering what is chip seal, it's essential to learn about the process. Chip sealing is not something a homeowner or commercial property owner can perform on their own. Note the process of a chip seal so you know why you need to call an asphalt contractor to complete this work for you:

  • Asphalt needs to be swept and cleared entirely before the application of any chip and seal roads or coating, as loose gravel and other such debris can interfere with its proper adhesion. In many cases, the existing asphalt is typically cleaned with a commercial pavement sweeper.
  • Potholes and ruts are filled before the application of sealant. Chip sealing is not meant to fill deep holes and other such imperfections; repairing and patching the existing asphalt is done as needed before the chip sealing process begins.
  • A layer of sealant is applied, often swept or rolled so that it becomes level and even and allowed to seep into pits and pores of the asphalt.  
  • A layer of chips, gravel, or other aggregate is applied over the layer of sealant. This gravel is also typically rolled or swept into place.
  • The material typically requires a full day to set and cure, and then it is safe for driving and foot traffic.
  • Loose gravel and chips are also swept or otherwise removed from the new layer of pavement.

Benefits of Chip Sealing versus Other Repair Options

Never put off repairing or repaving your property's asphalt as needed, as even minor hairline cracks tend to get worse over time, so you eventually need to replace your pavement outright. Cracks, chips, and other such damage also allow moisture, snow-clearing salt, and other debris to settle into the nooks and crannies of asphalt, causing even more damage. Note some benefits of a chip sealant versus other repair options for your property's asphalt:

  • Additional aggregate added during this sealant process gives asphalt more texture and traction. More traction makes for safer driving conditions, especially when the pavement is wet.
  • Added aggregate doesn't allow water to freeze along its surface, so covering your asphalt with a fresh layer of gravel or chips can result in less ice forming on your home's driveway or a commercial parking lot. Less ice means less risk of traffic accidents and less need for snow-clearing salt.
  • A chip sealant covers a large area of asphalt and is often used for repairing the entire surface of your home's driveway or a commercial parking lot. In turn, this process fills in a large number of cracks and other such imperfections quickly and easily, as opposed to filling cracks, potholes, and other such damage individually and leaving behind visible, unsightly areas of repair.
  • The sealant material applied before the added chips or gravel provides a protective barrier between the asphalt and hot sunlight, inclement weather, excess moisture, and the like. This sealant can, therefore, extend the life of your asphalt pavement by several years.
  • Sealing your driveway or parking lot restores its color and appearance. Your pavement will be much more attractive, and its new color provides a stronger background for stripes and other markings.

How to Maintain Asphalt and Make Minor Repairs

Maintaining your property's asphalt properly over the years can mean less need for repaving and can also extend the life of the asphalt so that you need to have it removed and replaced entirely far less often. Note a few tips on how to maintain asphalt and make minor repairs so your property's pavement is always in its best condition.

  • Inspect the pavement regularly for stains left behind by motor oil and other such automotive fluids, and have those stains washed as quickly as possible. Asphalt is a petroleum-based product, and automotive lubricants and fluids break down the binders in that petroleum, allowing potholes and chips to form in the pavement. Power washing with detergents meant for pavement, in particular, will remove those corrosive materials.
  • Avoid piling snow on the asphalt during wintertime, as excess moisture and the chemicals in snow-clearing salt can break down the pavement and allow chips, cracks, and potholes to form.
  • Avoid parking heavy vehicles in one spot on asphalt, as their weight can cause indentions to form in the pavement.
  • When repairing minor cracks in the asphalt, be sure to clean out the damaged area of all loose aggregate, gravel, dirt, and vegetation. Loose debris will not allow your patching material to set and bind properly, so ensure you take the time to clean out those damaged areas thoroughly before making repairs.
  • Use the proper patching compound for the repairs needed, as a crack filler is not strong enough to fill potholes.
  • Follow the instructions on any patching compound for curing times. Never assume you can drive over a patched area before it has had time to set correctly, as the weight of a vehicle can damage that filler and allow moisture and other debris to settle into layers of asphalt.

When Should Asphalt Be Replaced?

While chip sealing and other such repair work can fill in chips, cracks, and potholes along the surface of the asphalt, any pavement that is severely cracked or that is outright missing, certain sections might need replacing. Very old asphalt will also continue to chip and crack over time and may not provide a solid basis for new sealant or a new layer of pavement.

paving and sealcoating Fort Worth

Note, too, that an asphalt base can only provide a solid foundation for a certain thickness of pavement; continuously adding additional layers of any material can allow the pavement to crack and chip or become unstable. Once your asphalt has reached a certain depth, it may then need outright replacing rather than repaving. TM Asphalt Paving Midland is always available to help you determine what the proper course of action should be.

Related Questions

What is the difference between a chip seal road or driveway and repaving?

Repaving typically refers to applying a fresh layer of asphalt over the existing pavement. A chip sealant is a layer of sealant and new aggregate. Chip sealing will protect asphalt and repair minor damage, whereas repaving fills in deep potholes and adds strength to the asphalt.

How often can asphalt be repaved or sealed?

Only an asphalt contractor can note if the pavement on your property is suitable for chip sealing or repaving or if it needs to be torn out and replaced. Local weather conditions and the age of the asphalt also need to be considered when deciding how to repair existing pavement best.

Does chip sealing result in loose gravel?

The gravel or chips added during a chip seal process are pushed into the sealant material or layer. The sealant dries so that the chips are held in place. After a chip sealant application, the pavement is brushed, so any loose gravel and chips are then removed.

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