By Scott Gibson
Photo: © Shutterstock
An asphalt driveway should last you 25 years or more, but over time, sunlight, freezing temperatures and oil and gasoline leaks take their toll. Sealcoats do just what the name implies: They seal the surface of the asphalt to keep out water and chemicals, plus restore the surface to its original color. Follow these steps to improve the look-and longevity-of your driveway.
When to Do It
According to Don Turner, the executive director of the National Pavement Contractors Association (NPCA), driveways should be sealcoated for the first time after they've cured, between 90 and 120 days after they're initially installed, and again when the original sealcoat begins to wear away, about every three to six years.
Prepare the Surface
Before any sealer can be applied, the NPCA recommends cleaning the surface thoroughly and filling any cracks larger than a hairline. To remove stains, use a biodegradable cleaner, such as Simple Green, or plain dish soap and hot water (avoid cleaners that contain solvents, like petroleum distillates, which will damage the surface). Scrub the stained areas with a brush, rinse and allow the surface to dry. If you have an old or stubborn oil spot that won't come out, coat it with primer (such as Latex-ite Oil Spot Primer) so that the sealer can adhere to it. Cracks must be clean, dry and free of vegetation before they're filled. Crack fillers are typically applied cold and must dry before the driveway can be sealed. Look for a product with a high rubber content that's formulated for your crack size (check the Asphalt Sealcoat Manufacturer's Association website, SealCoatMFG.org, for recommended brands).
What to Buy
Depending on where you live, sealers will be either asphalt emulsions (asphalt suspended in water) or coal tar emulsions. Coal tar emulsions are more common east of the Rockies-they are a little more durable and chemicalresistant than asphalt emulsions, but they have been banned in some areas because they give off polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are toxic to animals. Look for a sealer that contains sand; it will be harder to stir, but will make the surface less slippery and help the sealcoat last longer. The container will give you the approximate area it should cover (between 250 and 350 square feet per 5-gallon bucket), but the NPCA cautions that coverage rates are often overly optimistic. Err on the side of buying more, since stopping mid-project will cause part of the coat to cure too soon, leaving a visible line where the newer sealcoat begins.
How to Apply
Wear old clothes and something to protect your shoes. Wait for a warm, dry day: Typically, the temperature should be at least 50ºF and rising, but not warmer than the 90s, or the sealer may dry too quickly and become difficult to apply easily. Follow the manufacturer's directions for applying the sealer, spreading it in a thin coat with a rubber squeegee or a push broom with semisoft bristles (not a stiff street broom). Two thin coats are better than one thick one-when the sealer is too thick, it can crack. In warm, sunny weather, the sealcoat should dry to the touch and be fine for foot traffic within a couple of hours. Lower temperatures or higher humidity will mean slower drying. Let the surface cure at least until the next day before vehicles drive over it.
Time for a Pro
Doing the job yourself will be a little cheaper, but there are several reasons to consider a specialty contractor. With the right equipment and know-how, a pro is likely to do a more thorough job of cleaning the surface and filling cracks, which means better adhesion between the driveway and the sealer for a more durable job. If you do hire a pro, search out an established local sealcoat or paving company and ask for references. One place to start is the NPCA's website (PavementPro.org), which includes a database of contractors, searchable by zip code. Expect to pay between 20¢ and 25¢s per square foot, which includes both labor and materials; however, contractors may have a minimum charge for very small driveways.
Quick Fixes for Other Surfaces
Ruts and potholes inevitably develop over time. Fill minor indentations by rakng the surface to redistribute the gravel, and consider adding a top layer of reclaimed ground-up asphalt to add durability. Get a professional to fix major erosion or frost heaves.
ConcreteConcrete stains easily, so (as with asphalt) you should seal it every few years. (Learn about your options at concretenetwork.com.) If yours is stained, disguise it with an acid- or water-based stain. Start with a clean surface, and follow the manufacturer's directions carefully.
PaversMaking repairs to concrete or stone pavers can be as simple as popping out a damaged or stained paver and putting in a new one. When a paver is sitting unevenly, just pull it up, make adjustments to the sand or stone dust beneath it and reset the stone.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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