asphalt sealing services

The Pros and Cons of Sealing an Asphalt Driveway

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As a home or business owner, you want to keep your asphalt driveway in good condition to up your curb appeal and keep the surface safe for drivers and pedestrians. A crack filler might take care of small cracks and a degreaser might be able to remove an oil spot, but what if you could prevent some of these problems from ever happening?

Homeowners with asphalt driveways will, at some point, face the question about whether they should seal coat. Is it necessary, and is it worth the investment?

In this post, we’ll answer both questions.

First, we’ll discuss a few benefits of sealing. Next up, we’ll talk about sealcoating prices. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a better idea of whether a seal coating is worth it to you.

old driveway asphalt

Having a residential or commercial asphalt surface is an investment, and you want to protect your hard-earned dollars as well as your pavement. You don’t want cracks or potholes to mar it, or other environmental conditions to undermine its integrity. This guide will help you understand the pros and cons of asphalt sealing and when it’s best to have it applied.

What Goes Into Paving an Asphalt Driveway?

driveway sealing for asphalt

When you need to pave an entire driveway, you want to use high-quality asphalt or concrete to ensure it’s strong and will last as long as possible. Here’s a look at the steps involved. 

Step 1: Demolition
You need to demolish existing asphalt and remove the rubble, which requires heavy machinery — such as a Bobcat and forklift — as well as expertise and training. If there isn’t existing asphalt, you’ll need to remove the top layer of the ground to make leveling easier.

Step 2: Grading and sloping
After the old blacktop is gone, it’s time to grade and slope the land. This is done to ensure proper roll-off for rain, as standing water can cause potholes, cracks, and heaving. 

Step 3: Preparing the base
Preparing the sub base is an essential part of paving, which involves compacting to ensure it doesn’t cause damage to the asphalt. Cold weather can cause ice to form under the blacktop and result in cracks, for example. 

Step 4: Proof rolling
Using a proof roll, you need to ensure that the sub base is strong enough to hold the asphalt. Any soft spots are repaired before moving to the next step. 

Step 5: Apply a binder layer
It’s time for a binder layer made of large aggregate mixed with oil. This provides strength for your new blacktop driveway or parking lot. 

Step 6: Asphalt gets added
Add the asphalt made up of small aggregate, sand, and oil. The end product has a smooth, shiny finish when done properly. 

Step 7: Joints and transitions
Use butt joints and transitions are applied to connect the new asphalt to the existing driveway, road, or other surfaces. 

Step 8: Roller truck
A roller truck goes over the asphalt surface and smooths out any bumps in the aggregate mixture, leaving you with a perfectly paved surface. 

A lot of work and expense goes into asphalt paving, making it a difficult DIY project. It’s always a good idea to protect your investment from the start by trusting it to a professional, then keeping it protected by adding an asphalt driveway sealer. Sealcoating minimizes the effects of weather, UV rays, time, and more to prevent the following issues from occurring.

How Blacktop Gets Damaged

You want your driveway to look good and your home to have curb appeal, and you also don’t want to lose a tire or roll an ankle due to potholes in its surface. A brand new paving project looks like a million bucks and seems so strong, so what damages this tough material?

Weather

From rainy days to snowy days and all the weather in between, the asphalt driveway takes a beating. Water and ice can each create cracks and potholes, as water seeps into the porous material and forms ice when temperatures drop. That ice expands and then contracts, leaving behind cracks and fissures that worsen over time.

UV Rays

You already know that UV rays are bad for your skin, but they are also bad for your blacktop. They have a lot of the same effects, drying out your asphalt and weakening the bonds in the materials — which will eventually cause small cracks and fissures. 

Time

If you don’t have a brand new asphalt driveway, you’re probably already seeing signs of wear and tear damage. Asphalt driveways can last up to 25 years, but their longevity depends on several factors — including protective barriers, regular maintenance, and the soil underneath. 

Poor drainage

Water is one of the biggest dangers to your asphalt driveway, and poor drainage can leave standing water sitting on top of it. The water seeps into the material and can cause potholes and cracks, the same way you see erosion in a well-watered garden or river bed over time. 

Use

From oil stains to the weight of the vehicles, the usage of a blacktop driveway can cause damage and shorten its lifespan. This is why certain parts of parking lots always seem more worn down than others: The spots and drives closest to the building and entrance get the most use. Chemicals and wear and tear can leave their marks and break apart asphalt surfaces. 

Sealing Asphalt and Winter Weather

If you’ve spent even one winter in this part of the country, you know the weather can get harsh. Winter weather isn’t exactly friendly to asphalt driveways. Snow and melting ice can penetrate asphalt, causing severe damage.

Living in a climate with harsh winters usually means you deal with the problems associated with the freeze/thaw cycle. Freeze/thaw cycles are when temperatures rise above freezing (32F), drop below freezing, and then rise above freezing.

The fluctuation in temperature allows water to seep into cracks where it freezes and causes cracks to expand. When temperatures rise enough for the water to melt, the water then moves deeper into the break of concrete, causing even more expansion.

Another problem you may see happens when water freezes under the surface of your asphalt driveway and is called frost heave.

When you sealcoat an asphalt drive before winter weather hits, you help protect it from developing cracks, and you also help slow the oxidation effects caused by the freeze/thaw process.

The Pros and Cons of an Asphalt Driveway Sealer

An asphalt driveway sealer is a layer of coal tar that covers the surface and provides protection from chemicals, freezing and thawing ice, and harsh UV rays. This:

sealing asphalt driveways
  • Extends the lifespan of a blacktop or concrete driveway or parking lot.
  • Is the least expensive way of repairing and resurfacing asphalt. 
  • Protects against water, chemicals, and oil stains.
  • Applies easily to a driveway or parking lot.

The downsides of sealants include that:

  • They need to be reapplied every few years.
  • The process requires specific weather and temperature conditions. 

Asphalt sealcoating is the right step for any asphalt driveway or surface you would like to protect. Here are a few signs that it’s time for sealcoating:

  • Cracking
  • Discoloration from UV rays
  • Pools of water after the rain
  • Warping to the surface, such as buckles
  • Potholes
asphalt driveway sealing

You want to ensure your asphalt driveway lasts as long as it can to avoid the expense or hassle of replacing it. Even patching cracks and adding a filler to potholes can be time-consuming. 

Are you thinking about sealing your asphalt driveway or parking surface? Unsure if yours needs to be sealed or resealed? The team at MD Paving Pros is here to help!

Sealcoating Protects Against Oxidation

The minute you apply new asphalt, the oxidation process begins. Without going into a chemistry lesson, it’s critical to know the effect of oxidation on your asphalt driveway. Over time, oxidation causes a brittle and stiff texture.

When asphalt stiffens, it loses its elasticity. Crack, and eventually, potholes develop.

You’ll know your driveway is a victim of oxidation by observing it’s color. When new, asphalt is dark black. Once oxidation progresses, you’ll notice the color changes to a lighter black. If you ignore it long enough, the asphalt turns gray.

Seal coating protects your driveway from the effects of oxidation. Since allowing oxidation to progress results in the asphalt breaking down, it’s worth the cost to avoid starting from scratch with a new driveway.

Those Ugly Oil Stains

Did you know asphalt is a petroleum product? Your car uses petroleum distillates, namely oil and gasoline. When petroleum distillates drip on an asphalt surface, they dissolve chemicals in the asphalt.

Even the best-maintained vehicles can deposit oil and other chemicals on your driveway. Oil and gasoline cause erosion and weakening of asphalt surfaces.

Sealcoating fills in any existing holes in your asphalt driveway. This prevents oil, gas, and other chemicals from seeping into the asphalt. Sealcoating materials contain coal tars, which aren’t affected by petroleum distillates.

Sealcoating adds another layer of security for your driveway and helps extend its useful life.

Extending the Life of Your Asphalt Driveway

In a perfect world, an asphalt drive should last between 12 and 20 years.

Like anything else, useful life depends on several factors. Factors that determine how many years of service you get from an asphalt drive include:

  • Quality of Installation
  • Climate
  • Usage
  • Maintenance

The first two you can’t control. Usage is somewhat beyond your control as well since you can’t expect to park in the street so that you can avoid wear and tear on your driveway. Now, maintenance is the one thing you have complete control over.

The better care you give your driveway, the longer it can take care of you and your parking needs. Seal coat the driveway, and you ensure a water-resistant surface. Repair any cracks or holes as soon as possible, and you do your part to extend the driveway’s life.

The Cost of a New Asphalt Driveway

Maybe you feel like a new driveway isn’t such a negative thing. After all, you’ll get a brand new surface to park on. And your neighbors will stop nagging you about all those potholes.

Let’s look at the average cost for a new asphalt driveway before we agree with your line of thinking.

The asphalt contractor you select will come out and give you an estimate. They’ll determine the size of the driveway and look for any drainage and subgrade issues. Those issues, if noted, get addressed before they lay the new asphalt.

Once you have an estimate and agree to get the project started, the asphalt contractor must rip out (and haul away) the old driveway.

Contractors usually charge by the square foot, and the average cost is per square foot is between $3.50 and $4.50.Barring any drainage problems or issue with grading, the average cost of a new asphalt driveway ranges from $4,000-$6,000.

Before you jump into a complete driveway overhaul, make a comparison between laying new asphalt and seal coating what you already have.

How Much Does Sealcoating Cost?

When you start shopping for seal coating services, you’ll likely find seal coating contractors also price jobs by the square foot. Including materials and labor, the cost is around $0.17 to $0.24 per square foot.

Your price also depends on how many coats you get on your driveway. You can choose either one or two.

Most contractors have a minimum charge, so expect to pay at least $100-$200.

It’s not difficult to do the math on this one—seal coating vs. laying a new driveway is more cost-effective. Along with the other benefits, it’s clearly worth it to go ahead and make the smaller investment, no?

Have Questions About Our Sealcoating Prices?

From the perspective of extending the life of your driveway, it’s easy to see the value in taking preventative measures to prevent things like cracks, potholes, adverse effects of oxidation, and total asphalt failure.

When comparing the cost between a new driveway and a sealcoating, the message is further driven home. Seal coating prices are clearly the more cost-effective of the two, and we think sealcoating is worth it!

If you’re ready to maintain for your asphalt driveway or if you have questions on our prices, we’re happy to help. Contact us today, and we’ll work with you to get your project started.

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Dan Kirksey
Dan Kirksey

Dan is an asphalt paving contractor and has been helping business owners and homeowners with their asphalt and concrete projects throughout Maryland for over a decade.

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