Sealcoating a driveway improves its appearance and reduces cracking, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Before you decide whether or not to use driveway sealing chemicals on your own driveway, you should know a few things about the process and the reasons for doing it, as well as the right questions to ask a potential concrete contractor or asphalt paving company.
Factors that Cause Cracks in Concrete or Asphalt
In the United States, concrete and asphalt account for 90 percent of driveways — and both crack and discolor over time. Cracks result primarily from time and weather, especially in unsealed driveways. When water from snow or rain seeps through the asphalt or concrete, it creates pools of water underneath it, which lead to cracking, especially when that moisture freezes and thaws repeatedly.
This seepage occurs because most driveways are made from porous materials. Driveway sealing closes off the pores so that water can’t penetrate the paving material.
Heavy vehicles and tree roots can also damage the concrete or asphalt. To avoid these issues, or at least minimize them, build your driveway base with 5 inches or more of compacted gravel.
Benefits of Driveway Sealcoating
Most sealcoatings protect your driveway color from fading. Sealants also make cleaning off oil or other leaked fluids from your vehicle much easier because the liquid can’t seep into those tiny pores.
If you decide to use sealing chemicals, keep track of how often you reapply them. Generally, every two or three years should be enough to keep your driveway in fine shape.
When to hire a Sealcoating Contractor
Some homeowners take on this DIY project and learn how to apply driveway sealant themselves. But a driveway is a big investment, so you want to make sure it’s done right to prevent further damage to your concrete or asphalt. If you decide to hire a contractor to seal your driveway, be sure to ask the following questions to find the best contractor for the job:
- What kind of sealing chemicals do you use? Different chemicals have different properties and effects. Water-based sealants are safe but generally wear off faster. Acrylic, urethane and others increase the risk of fire because they contain flammable ingredients. The shiniest water-resistant seal coatings may make the pavement dangerously slippery, especially if you live in an area where rain, ice and snow are common.
- Do you thin-out the sealant? Some driveway contractors thin-out their sealer to save money, but the result is less than desirable. Make sure they apply the sealer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- How do you spread the sealer? The hands-on brush approach is the one you’re looking for because it ensures even distribution. Alternatives can cause sealing puddles, which results in a driveway overly protected in some places and not at all in others.
- Will you repair existing cracks before applying sealer? It’s important to fix cracks in your driveway before sealing it, but be sure to get a cost estimate for that concrete or asphalt repair in addition to the driveway sealing job. If the cracks are minor, fix them yourself by clearing them of debris and broken edges and then filling them with a substance such as textured caulk, concrete sealer or pourable grout.
- When can you start the seal coat job? Temperature is key when sealing driveways. Usually, anything over 65 degrees Fahrenheit is good. Check out what Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks has to say about ideal driveway sealing temperatures before clearing your calendar.