What are the Pros and Cons of Sealing Your Asphalt Driveway? See All Details (2022)

Written By Glenn Prescot

In this article we’ll discuss asphalt driveway sealing, the pros and cons of sealcoating your driveway as well as the process to perform such a task, things to consider before sealcoating and much more, so let’s get started.

What are the Pros and Cons of Sealing Your Asphalt Driveway? See All Details (1)

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For anyone who has a driveway that’s been paved with asphalt, sealcoating (also known as pavement sealing) is the process that extends the life of a driveway by applying a protective coating to the surface.

Therefore, no matter how many weather-related fronts hit the area — or how much damage results from oil spills and U.V. damage — sealed driveways rebuff anything Mother Nature (or man) throws its way.

But, what is Asphalt Sealcoating? Let’s discuss this in more details below:

Table of Contents

  • What is Asphalt Sealcoating and How Safe is it?
  • Sealing Materials – Coal Tar vs Asphalt Emulsion
  • Main Pros of Sealing Asphalt Driveways
  • Main Cons of Sealing Asphalt Driveways
  • What are the Differences Between Asphalt and Blacktop?
  • How Often Should a Driveway be Sealed?
  • 10 Steps for Sealcoating your Driveway
  • Additional Information
(Video) Asphalt Seal Your Own Driveway!

What is Asphalt Sealcoating and How Safe is it?

Marketed as a protective coating that has been proven to extend the life and integrity of any asphalt surface, sealcoating may also give protected surfaces anti-friction and anti-skid properties “associated with the exposed aggregates in asphalt,” say experts writing for the website The Balance.

Concerns that sealcoating can pollute the environment once surfaces are abraded have been addressed by states, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but industry groups representing sealcoat manufacturing companies refute those findings, and after performing rigorous reviews and conducting research on these claims, many were found to be erroneous, biased or too generalized to be taken seriously.

That stated, asphalt-based products have proven safer than tar-based ones, which is why some retailers no longer sell tar-based products.

Sealing Materials – Coal Tar vs Asphalt Emulsion

First, it’s important to know that today’s market has given birth to a variety of products that fall under the umbrella of sealcoating formulations.

They consist of refined tar(coal)-based, asphalt-based and petroleum-based options, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. The two main products however include coal tar and asphalt-based.

What are the Pros and Cons of Sealing Your Asphalt Driveway? See All Details (2)

Contractors tend to use coal tar or asphalt emulsion products most often as stated above. Tar is cheaper to apply but it requires more labor to accomplish the job, and if chemical spills are more of a concern than weather, tar may still be a better choice. Moreover, Coal Tar coating has been in the market much longer.

Asphalt-based emulsions take less time to apply because they’re easier to use and you won’t have to deal with the smelly organic compounds that are the signature of tar applications.

Asphalt emulsion coating is a newer material and its main ingredient is asphalt cement which is then mixed with additional minerals, polymers, and emulsifiers to increase product durability.

(Video) HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU SEAL YOUR DRIVEWAY?

Asphalt tends to have higher levels of solids which means the sealant is likely to be of a higher quality, thus delivering more years of protection compared to Tar coating.

Main Pros of Sealing Asphalt Driveways

  1. Sealcoating is the most cost-effective way to resurface pavement and it extends a driveway’s life.
  2. Sealing stops moisture, salt, environmental assaults and chemicals from seeping into the driveway surface and undermining the pavement beneath the coating.
  3. Sealcoating has the power to stop asphalt from hardening but it also has the ability to stop asphalt from crumbling, which is why the sealcoating process can be invaluable to the life of the driveway.
  4. Sealcoating can immediately improve the appearance of a driveway or other asphalt surfaces. It not only looks better but it can even out not-so smooth surfaces by filling in small cracks and holes when it’s applied.
  5. Sealcoating is extremely easy to apply using squeegees or sprayers. For homeowners who like undertaking DIY projects, this process could give you the result you seek while also saving money.

Main Cons of Sealing Asphalt Driveways

  1. According to one industry expert, “not all pavement sealcoat [products] are created equal,” so it is incumbent upon whomever does the job to choose the one that is best suited to the driveway, no easy task for amateurs.
  2. While asphalt-based sealer is likely to retain its look and seal for 1- to 3-years before reapplication is required, tar-based sealers tend to maintain their integrity beyond 3 years, so again, choosing the right product is critical.
  3. Sealants are not inexpensive. Top-grade formulations cost around $25 per pail and only cover 300 square feet of surface. Cheaper products (starting at $6 per pail) can be found but may not perform to your standards.
  4. Things can get complicated if you’re sealing an asphalt driveway that abuts walls and other stationary objects, adding cost and time to the job.
  5. Environmental concerns continue to be raised. Research conducted by both Baylor University and the USGA (https://www.dykespaving.com/blog/the-dangers-of-sealcoating/) have determined that workers who apply sealants (especially tar-based products) could be exposed to cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

What are the Differences Between Asphalt and Blacktop?

These two types of paved surfaces are often mistaken for each other and in fact, in the U.S., the terms are often used synonymously.

But there are differences that can make picking the right sealant more important.

Asphalt is a paving concrete that is found on major highways, interstates and other roads. It’s composed of mineral aggregate, sand and a type of petroleum binder that integrates the mix.

Concrete is machine-mixed, poured and then compressed using a steamroller to create a tight, durable surface that reduces wear and tear on vehicle tires and it even reduces road noise.

Depending upon the weather and other environmental influences, industrial-grade asphalt can last 20 years with regular maintenance.

Blacktop, on the other hand, is another form of paving concrete that requires more stone in the mix, and it must be heated to a higher temperature (around 300-degrees F) in order to integrate raw materials properly.

Once mixed, it is poured onto surfaces and left to cool and harden so stones stick together like glue thanks to the formulation binder.

Blacktop is less expensive than asphalt, but it does not perform as well — nor maintain its integrity for longer periods of time — on surfaces subjected to heavy, constant traffic.

How Often Should a Driveway be Sealed?

This question requires taking into consideration climate conditions that exist from one area of the U.S. to another.

(Video) Asphalt Sealcoating 101 What is Driveway Sealer?

Because both winter temperature drops and searing heat play roles in driveway sealant longevity, on average, writes James Cummings, reporting for the Cox News Service, “concrete driveways should be sealed every four or five years to protect them from water penetration and to prolong their life.”

For mature driveways, Cummings suggests a penetrating concrete sealer because over time, concrete becomes more absorbent.

A penetrating sealer “gets sucked into the surface to create a barrier that keeps water out.” But penetrating sealers are pricey products.

For example, a $90 5-gallon container may only cover 500 square feet, and if the driveway is pocketed with large cracks and/or potholes, adds Cummings, you “might get as little as 200 square feet of coverage.”

If you’ve just installed a new concrete driveway, professionals recommend undertaking the first application of a sealer around one year after the installation of the pavement because it can take that long to property cure the surface.

At that point, you may want to undertake the job every two to three years if wear and tear damage the sealant or unusual weather patterns undermine concrete from beneath the surface.

10 Steps for Sealcoating your Driveway

If you’ve determined that you have the skillset to undertake this job, take these steps to do the job properly:

  1. Schedule the job at a time of the year when you are most likely to enjoy 48 hours of dry weather.
  2. Prevent cars/people from walking or driving on the area by placing barricades at the driveway mouth.
  3. Sweep and power wash the driveway and use a liquid sealer on deep cracks to seal them.
  4. Remove driveway oil stains using an oil stain primer.
  5. Fill deep holes with a patching compound. Pack the holes firmly and level out the area.
  6. Choose the right sealcoat. If you’re in a rush, advanced latex-acrylic sealers dry so fast, you may be able to drive on the surface 4 hours later, according to Popular Mechanics magazine.
  7. Gear up for the job. Wear safety glasses and “never allow an asphalt driveway sealer to come in contact with your skin,” say professionals at Reliable Contracting. Wear protective gloves and a mask to avoid inhaling hazardous sealer fumes.
  8. Follow the product manufacturer’s application instructions, using a squeegee or sprayer to do the job.
  9. Give the sealant from 36 to 48 hours to dry before putting down a second coat.
  10. After another 36 to 48 hour curing period, remove the barricades but continue to keep tabs on the driveway to make sure leaves or other blowing refuse don’t adhere to the driveway as it dries.

Additional Information

-If your driveway is long and wide, you’ll save time by using a commercial sprayer rather than a squeegee.

-Several thin coats of sealer do a better job of maintaining surface integrity than one thick application.

-For a more professional, finished look, apply each coat in an alternate direction as you would when painting a wall.

(Video) How to apply asphalt sealer on a driveway - Step by step guide.

-If you worry about slips and falls, mix sand into the sealant to add non-slip texture to the surface.

-If you’re mixing multiple buckets of seal-coating product, prepare successive buckets before running out of the previous one so color uniformity is maintained across the entire driveway.

Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealcoat

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/seal-coating-driveways-cost-schedule-benefits-4105289.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2004-08-20-0408200172-story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/where-we-live/wp/2016/08/16/why-sealing-your-blacktop-driveway-is-pointless/

https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a8150/how-to-seal-and-protect-your-driveway-12892848/

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(Video) Driveway Sealing: Benefits of Sealing Your Asphalt Driveway

FAQs

Is asphalt worth sealing? ›

Sealcoating will protect against fading, and can even improve the appearance of your asphalt. It will restore the lustrous appearance of the asphalt, even if some natural fading has occurred. It will also fill all of minor surface flaws, giving the pavement a smooth and even appearance.

How often should you seal your asphalt? ›

Typically, sealcoating is recommended every 3 years to provide adequate pavement protection as well as attractive curb appeal for your commercial property or home. Your SealMaster pavement professional can provide the best possible pavement maintenance plan for your unique situation.

What is the best material to seal a driveway? ›

If you're sealing an asphalt driveway, use a latex-based sealer. Avoid oil-based sealers because they will likely crack over time. Siloxane and acrylic sealants work well with concrete driveways. It's best to avoid high-gloss, which could make the driveway surface slippery.

How long does driveway sealer last? ›

Overusing sealer can cause peeling, flaking or cracking if it builds up. The industry standard is for sealcoating to be replaced every two years, which allows the sealer on your driveway or parking lot to wear away prior to resealing.

How much does it cost to seal an asphalt driveway? ›

Cost to Sealcoat Asphalt Driveways

The average cost for a contractor to sealcoat your asphalt driveway is $0.17 to $0.24 per square foot. Driveways measuring 480 square feet cost $80 to $115 to sealcoat. Larger driveways cost $170 to $240 to sealcoat. Cost ranges may vary by contractor and region.

Should I seal my driveway or not? ›

As a general rule you should seal your driveway every 1 to 3 years. More specifically, if you can see the color of the individual stones that make up your asphalt surface, you know it's time to seal it up. A few rules apply before you seal, however. For starters, never seal a new asphalt driveway.

Which is better oil or water based driveway sealer? ›

Sealcoating your driveway starts with deciding whether to use water or oil-based sealers. Although both types have advantages, water-based sealers' shorter cure time and eco-friendliness make it the better choice in many situations.

Is it OK if it rains after sealing driveway? ›

In the vast majority of cases, driveway sealant will be impervious to rain 12 hours after application. As long as you've applied your sealer in good conditions, your sealer will have cured enough to resist rain after 12 hours.

How do I maintain my asphalt driveway? ›

An asphalt driveway requires regular maintenance, and sealing is recommended every three to five years. To get the most life and best appearance from an asphalt driveway, clean the driveway at least twice a year. Use a stiff broom and strong hose spray to remove all dirt and debris.

Can I seal my own driveway? ›

DIY DRIVEWAY SEALING - YouTube

What time of year is best to seal driveway? ›

It's best to seal your driveway in the fall or the spring because the temperatures tend to be more moderate. In order to put seal coating on, the outside temperatures need to be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the weather needs to be free of heavy rain for 24 hours.

Do I need to pressure wash driveway before sealing? ›

You do not want to pressure wash the concrete and then immediately seal it. Instead, wait a day so that it is complete dry. Then get rid of any loose contaminants that are on the surface of the concrete. The best way to do this is via a leaf blower but if you do not have one then you can simply sweep off the driveway.

What is the longest lasting driveway sealer? ›

Coal Tar Sealer

Coal tar asphalt driveway sealer is considered the standard for asphalt — in some places, that is. The preferred choice for both asphalt driveways and streets for many years, coal tar sealer is made from sticky coal tar. It can last for up to five years on a driveway.

How long should you wait to drive on your driveway after sealcoating? ›

But if you want to drive on it, then you have to wait a minimum of 12 hours for it to dry and cure. If it's overcast or if rain is in the forecast, then the drying and curing process will definitely take much longer. For optimum results, we recommend that you use 48 to 72 hours after sealcoat was applied.

Do driveway sealers need two coats? ›

Most driveway sealer manufacturers recommend two coats with a minimum drying time of eight hours between coats, so this driveway sealing project will fill an entire weekend.

When can you walk on driveway after sealing? ›

Dry times for sealcoat depend greatly on the exposure to the sun and temperatures. In most cases, you can walk and drive on the driveway within 24 hours after sealcoating.

Does sealcoating fill cracks? ›

Does sealcoat hide cracks and crack filler, making pavement look like new? No, it does not. You will see crack filler through sealcoat, as the crack filler is designed to expand and contract with temperature changes.

How much does a 5 gallon bucket of driveway sealer cover? ›

Note: The typical 5-gallon sealcoat container can cover between 250-500 square feet depending on the material's condition and texture. For simplicity's sake, these examples use five gallons that cover the maximum 500 square feet.

Is it worth it to seal your driveway? ›

Extends the Life of Your Driveway

A seal coating will prevent damage to your driveway from UV rays, vehicle fluids, water, and more, which means it will last longer. Replacing a driveway can be expensive, so the longer you can keep your driveway looking great, the better.

How often should you seal your driveway? ›

Sealing the driveway yearly can lead to unsightly hairline cracks and peeling. And concrete driveways should be sealed every four or five years to protect them from water penetration and to prolong their life.

Is it a good idea to seal a concrete driveway? ›

Even for those who live in areas where it never gets below freezing, sealing and coating your concrete driveway will help better protect it from discoloration, staining, and damage from oil, salt, and other household chemicals.

Is it necessary to seal a driveway? ›

As a general rule you should seal your driveway every 1 to 3 years. More specifically, if you can see the color of the individual stones that make up your asphalt surface, you know it's time to seal it up. A few rules apply before you seal, however. For starters, never seal a new asphalt driveway.

Videos

1. Asphalt Driveway - 1 Year Later Review! - Pros Cons!
(Garageaholic)
2. How To Sealcoat Your Driveway TIPS AND TRICKS
(ADD is multitasking)
3. Professional Driveway Sealcoating #12 "The Overpour"
(SEALCOATING IS LIFE)
4. Sealing our driveway with Latex-ite Airport Grade Sealer!! Does it hide oil stains??
(Terence The DIY'er)
5. When to sealcoat a new driveway. How long before sealcoating new pavement.
(Premier Sealcoating & Line Striping Inc.)
6. What is Sealcoat and Crack Filling & Why is it Necessary?
(Blackjack Paving, Sealcoating, & Striping)

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