Are you hoping to leverage the cost-savings and convenience of asphalt paving, but don’t want to face cracked pavement and ugly repairs over time? Then sealcoating is the secret weapon you’ve been looking for all along.
The Airtight Construction team always recommends clients to consider sealcoating their asphalt pavement for a better look and longer life. Today we look at the many benefits of sealcoating for asphalt paving, and why you need it.
What is Sealcoating?
Sealcoating is a thin layer of liquid that is added to the asphalt paving surface to minimize the impact of UV rays, atmospheric damage, and other harmful elements on asphalt paving.
Regular sealcoating is a key part of pavement maintenance for asphalt surfaces. Sealcoating also helps to protect pavement from vehicle damage, chemicals, and fluids like oil or petrol leaked from vehicles.
Think of it as a protective ‘membrane’ over your asphalt paving, leading to less maintenance and wear and tear over time on the new pavement surface.
Technically speaking, there is asphalt in the sealcoating mix, but in micro-fine form. Mineral fillers, polymer additives, silica sand, and water help the sealcoating to stick better to the pavement surface.
This means it’s chemically very similar to asphalt pavement, making it bond perfectly and without risk of separation. This is also why sealcoating can enhance the looks of older asphalt pavement or perk up the curb appeal of an asphalt driveway/parking lot.
Sealcoating is a protective treatment, not a reactive solution, so it’s important to apply asphalt sealcoating to your asphalt pavement before the issues start. Correctly applied, sealcoating will significantly extend the life of your asphalt surface as well as lead to cost savings over time.
Why Do We Use Sealcoating on Asphalt Pavement?
Asphalt pavements are useful and versatile. They’re excellent for a parking lot, or as an asphalt driveway. This goes double for commercial applications, where vehicle traffic and the need for practical and large parking lots that are cost effective has to be balanced with curb appeal.
However, they are made up of 95% aggregate- the small rock particles you see. This is bonded by a bitumen and coal tar mixture, which is the actual ‘asphalt’ in the name! Part of what makes asphalt work as a bonding material is its oil-based nature, which brings grip and flexibility to the table.
As these oils evaporate or degrade within the asphalt surface from climate factors, the binder reduces in volume, loses flexibility, and can become easier to damage. Small stones can work loose of the shrinking top asphalt layer.
Sealcoating reduces this exposure, reintroduces and reinvigorates those oils, and prevents raveling or water penetration. With proper sealcoating, you can extend asphalt’s lifespan to 30 years or so, so asphalt sealing always pays off.
How Often is Sealcoating Reapplied as Pavement Maintenance?
Asphalt maintenance is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done. Especially in parking lots, minor damage caused can fast become a big issue.
How often you will need to redo pavement sealing depends on the climate, damaging elements, and traffic factors. In a milder climate like San Francisco, we need it less than in places with 4 defined and aggressive seasons.
However, the typical advice is to reapply asphalt sealer once every three years. Once applied, sealcoating will need about 48 hours to cure before normal use resumes. Use your discretion. If your driveway or parking lot is looking gray and dull, you’ve recently done crack filling, or you’re noticing small cracks, it’s time to recoat.
Benefits of Sealcoating for Asphalt Paving
So, we know that regular sealcoating helps reduce damage from UV rays, elemental damage, and reduces the effects of traffic. Let’s look at some specifics.
1) Top Coating
The most obvious benefit, of course, is that it ‘fills in’ surface damage and inconsistencies, instead providing a protective layer to keep out those harmful factors. It also encourages faster water runoff and snow melting, which also cuts down on damage over time.
Many people are put off of asphalt because of the ongoing costs of paving maintenance. Asphalt cracks and other items can be annoying to fix and unsightly to customers.
Sealcoating is relatively low-cost, yet postpones asphalt maintenance and extends its lifetime greatly. Plus, it reduces long-term repair costs, too. All this at a cost that’s around 5-10% of the cost of a new asphalt installation!
3) Reduce Fading
Pavement sealing also enhances the look of any asphalt pavement, restoring the original black luster and offering extended protection. A key part of this is in the reduction of UV damage, or ‘oxidation’, as it is known in the industry.
Not only does UV fading look bad, but it’s a sign of sun damage that will soon lead to cracks and damage. With sealcoating, however, driveways look better and have greater protection, too.
4) Easy to Do
The sealcoating process only needs only a few hours of downtime and it’s done. Application methods vary, but it’s usually applied in two coats with either with a squeegee or spray.
You will need good weather conditions, of course, or there may be delays in your project. Try to schedule for a day where 55 degrees Fahrenheit for the whole day of application can be reasonably expected.
Cracks and potholes should be filled, and vehicle leaks removed. Dirt and debris should be hosed down and the surface dry. All the same, you won’t find another asphalt maintenance method that’s quicker or simpler.
5) Less Water Damage
The one downside of asphalt as a paving type is that it consists of a large aggregate in a bitumen layer that binds it together. This means it can be susceptible to water damage, as it doesn’t have the smooth and cohesive outer surface that concrete, say, does.
Sealcoating gives it this, making for better water runoff and less damage. This also applies to leaked fuel or oil from vehicles.
6) Retains Flexibility
One of the great things about asphalt for commercial purposes is that it has a tiny bit of flexibility. If heavy vehicles drive over your asphalt driveway, or you have a busy parking lot, it can microscopically flex and return to shape, preventing the sort of wear you can see on more rigid paving under the same use.
If it’s allowed to fade and get brittle, however, this property is reduced, and instead asphalt pavement can crack and flake. Sealcoating helps bond the top layer as well as reduce damage.
7) Smoother Asphalt Surfaces
While this isn’t relevant for all commercial asphalt pavement, a top coat of sealcoating also reduces friction with the wheels of the vehicle without risking safety. This can make for a smoother driving surface and a ‘better feel’ in your parking lot.
Do I Need to Repave or Can I use Sealcoating?
This is a question where the specifics of your job need to be taken into account, so there’s no easy answer. If the surface has seen a lot of wear and tear, or you’re getting mazed cracks that look a little like crocodile skin (alligator cracks), you’re likely going to have to repave your asphalt.
Why? Unlike minor cracks, mazed cracks are known for pulling loose under heat through traction with vehicle tires.
If, on the other hand, this is purely asphalt maintenance, or you have very little cracking that is properly repaired, you can sealcoating to freshen and extend the life.
How Much Will Sealcoating Cost?
It’s difficult to say exactly how much any sealcoating job will cost without a site evaluation by the contractor. The amount of pavement, local labor costs, coats required, and other maintenance issues can all affect a quote.
However, sealcoating cost averages are $0.15 per square foot, compared to costs of $2.25 or more per square foot for new pavement, so you inevitably save money with sealcoating.
Should I Hire A Sealcoating Contractor?
While it might be simple enough to maintain your own sealcoating or driveway sealer on a residential driveway, as a business owner or property managers it’s usually better to bring in outside help. In fact, you will often find you save money with a sealcoating contractor!
After all, your asphalt pavement is helping to earn your bread-and-butter, curb appeal is essential, and stuttering your way through DIY installation can take far longer, cost more, add extra labor costs, and end up being a low-quality job.
You don’t want to overdo asphalt sealcoating, or it can become slick, creating liability issues, and look ‘gummy’ or crack like a porcelain glaze. Plus, there’s a lot of preparation to do on the asphalt surface as part of a sealcoating project then you may realize.
A skilled sealcoating contractor can sweep in, get the site cleaned and the job done, and get out quickly, leaving the lot out of commission only for the time it takes the sealcoating to dry and cure. They also have the experience to offer a holistic solution for any trouble areas, and to use the right product in the right quantities for the best possible results.
Are you ready for asphalt paving that’s attractive, functional, and durable? The Airtight Construction team has been doing regular maintenance on the San Francisco Bay Area’s asphalt for decades now, so don’t hesitate to give us a call for your free estimate on asphalt sealcoat.