Why Your Asphalt Driveway Needs Regular Sealcoating

November 17, 2018

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Every asphalt driveway and parking lot needs regular sealcoating. This sealant is applied when asphalt is first poured, but it should also be reapplied regularly throughout the years. There are many advantages to driveway sealcoating, but it's especially important to have a driveway regularly coated if you work on tools and lawn care equipment in the drive, if your home is in an area with persistently inclement weather, and if there are no shade trees over your home's drive.

Regular driveway sealcoating provides a protective barrier between asphalt and harsh sunlight, stormy weather, motor oil and corrosive fluids, and other causes of damage. Having this sealant applied to your home's driveway or any asphalt will reduce the number of repairs and patches needed for the pavement, and also allow for a longer time between needed resurfacing.

Since asphalt sealcoating is so essential for any residential driveway or other paved surfaces, you might note some basic information about asphalt and other paving materials, including what causes potholes and similar damage to form eventually. A few tips on protecting your asphalt driveway can also ensure that it lasts as long as possible in between repaving and always looks its best.

What Is Sealcoating?

In simple terms, asphalt is a combination of gravel and sand mixed with a binder, called asphalt cement. When this binder breaks down, the other materials that make asphalt begin to separate from each other. In turn, the pavement will then develop potholes, chips, cracks, and spalling.

Sealcoating, as the name implies, is the application of a coating that helps to seal asphalt or protect that binder from breaking down. This coating acts as a barrier between asphalt and outside elements that cause corrosion and other damage. The sealant applied during this coating process fills in tiny pits and pores so that water won't seep into those areas and soften asphalt cement, while also deflecting hot sunlight that can cause the asphalt binder to become brittle and break down.

When Should You Sealcoat?

Asphalt sealcoating applied after new asphalt is installed, but not usually on the very same day. You need to wait until the pavement is thoroughly dry or cured before the first application of the sealant is applied. In many cases, this might take a good six months or more!

Most asphalt driveways then need fresh layers of sealant every three or four years. A sealant cannot fix worn asphalt, but it can help keep damaged areas from getting worse. Sealants then allow you to avoid early repairs while also restoring the overall appearance of an asphalt driveway.

Added Indicators of Needed Sealants

While most residential driveways and commercial lots should be sealed every three to four years, it's good to know when your asphalt might need additional sealants and coatings. Consider a few telltale signs that your home's driveway or other such surface is at increased risk of damage:

    • Hot, direct sunlight can dry out asphalt binders and cause the material to become brittle. The asphalt itself may then begin to spall along its surface or suffer chips and cracks. The pavement might also start to fade and lose its rich black color, and begin to look ashen and dull. If there are no shade trees on your property to protect your home's asphalt, consider having it sealed more often than usual.
    • Asphalt is a petroleum-based product, so the binders holding asphalt together can get broken down by petroleum as well. If you work on your car or park the car in the driveway, or maintain lawn care equipment and other such machinery in your driveway, you probably drip motor oil and damaging fluids onto the asphalt. Have your driveway coated more often than usual to protect it from potential damage.
    • Excessive moisture can break down asphalt binders. Homes in exceptionally rainy or humid areas may need to have their driveway sealed quite often, so that water runs off its surface rather than being absorbed by the asphalt. Asphalt can also absorb snow and ice, so homes in areas with long, snowy winters also need to have their bitumen sealed often.
  • Properties with insufficient grading or sloping may see more water pool along the surface of a driveway. Added sealants will protect asphalt from absorbing this water, and keep its binders or cement from then softening.

What is the Best Way to Sealcoat a Driveway?

An asphalt sealant is applied with a brush, roller, or spray. While you might assume you can rent sealcoating equipment and manage the application of this material yourself, note some reasons why it's good to hire a professional to apply this sealant for you:

    • Rain can sometimes interfere with freshly applied sealant. A drizzle may not be bothersome, but a moderate rainfall might cause runoff so that you wind up wasting both time and money. A professional contractor will know when the weather is too inclement to apply asphalt sealant so that the material has time to harden and set before the rains arrive.
    • More than one coat of sealant might be needed to protect your asphalt driveway adequately. On the other hand, too many layers can be a waste of material and money! A professional contractor experienced in the type of sealant you've chosen and the risk to your asphalt can best determine how many coats will protect your home's driveway.
  • Coating a large and long driveway with a brush or roller can be very difficult and physically taxing, whereas using asphalt sealcoating equipment can be cumbersome, and leave you with a mess of coating all over your lawn. Incorrect use of a spray applicator can also result in an uneven application. Professionals experienced with the equipment used to apply this sealant will ensure the job gets done quickly but correctly, without mess or runoff.

How Much Does Asphalt Driveway Sealcoating Cost?

As with any other professional work you have done around your property, each contractor will have their pricing structure and list of services included in their quote. In general, asphalt sealant application is priced by the square foot and may cost anywhere from fourteen to twenty-five cents per square foot. If a contractor charges twenty cents per square foot, asphalt sealing then costs about $100 per five hundred square feet.

Whatever the cost of asphalt sealant, remember that this coating is an investment in the overall lifespan of your driveway. Investing a few hundred dollars in a sealant can mean avoiding the cost of repaving and resurfacing, which typically costs far more than a sealcoat! Asphalt also looks better after the sealant is applied; the color is often richer and more vibrant, making this sealant well worth any cost for its application.

Will Asphalt Driveway Sealcoating Fix a Driveway?

While a good coat of a quality sealant will help to protect an asphalt driveway or parking lot, sealant doesn't fix specific problems with this paving material. Note a few considerations to remember about maintaining asphalt over time, including what a good sealant won't do for your asphalt, so you know your driveway or your parking lot is always in the best condition possible:

    • A sealant will help cover over minor pits, cracks, and other such openings along the surface of asphalt. However, sealants won't repair deep crevices or bind broken materials together. Chipped asphalt needs patching before a sealant is applied.
    • Asphalt sealant will help restore the color of this paving material, but will not repair spalling, or when the top layer of asphalt get dry and brittle and then begins to peel. If asphalt has suffered severe spalling, it might need repaving rather than sealing.
    • A sealant will help to protect asphalt from damage due to harsh sunlight, moisture, corrosive oils, and other such materials, but this coating will not increase the structural integrity of asphalt. If your driveway has skid marks, potholes, and other such damage, it's good to patch over these areas rather than merely applying a coat of sealant. Avoid driving heavy trucks or trailers across the surface of the driveway, and be sure to store heavy vehicles elsewhere rather than keeping them parked in the drive.
  • Driveways need to be correctly graded or sloped, so that water runs off to the street. Sealants will protect asphalt from absorbing excess water and moisture, but these coatings are not a good substitute for properly grading your drive. Note, too, that if your home's driveway collects pools of water, your yard might also be allowing water to gather around a home's foundation, which can lead to future water leaks. Have the property and driveway graded as needed, rather than assuming a sealant can compensate for a poorly sloped drive.

While a sealant is helpful for an asphalt driveway, remember to keep it in good condition by protecting it from oil leaks, salt used to clear snow in wintertime, fertilizers and other chemicals used during summertime, and overly heavy vehicles. A sealcoating contractor can also typically provide specialized or personalized advice for protecting your home's driveway, so you know your paving materials last as long as possible.

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