Your home is an extension of you, so you want the house and landscaping to fit the neighborhood. It should welcome visitors and attract potential buyers when it's time to sell your house. Driveway sealcoating is an important, sometimes forgotten, home maintenance project that adds to your home's curb appeal. It also extends the life of your driveway to save you money.
… I contacted Jack Child, founder of BlackDawgSealcoat in Amherst, New Hampshire. I asked him to give me the facts and right away he agreed that fall is not the best time to seal your driveway! Here's what I learned talking to Jack …
Why Bother Sealcoating Your Driveway?
Driveway sealcoating is as boring as buying new tires. But like the red queen told Alice in Wonderland, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” So when it comes to home ownership:
- Home maintenance like driveway sealcoating, is running fast to keep your home as good as the day you bought it.
- Home improvements is running twice as fast, for things we can see and enjoy, like adding a new deck or patio.
- … and my goal is helping you do the right home maintenance, so there's more money to invest in making improvements to your home!
Sealing one’s driveway is critical to prolonging your driveway’s life. It's a lot cheaper to seal your driveway every few years and extend the life of your driveway by ten or more years. How long a driveway will last depends on the quality of the original installation. How many inches of crushed gravel was used for the base underneath the asphalt? How well was the gravel compacted, and was the soil underneath solid? Does the foundation extend a foot past the asphalt surface so when cars drive over the edge, they're not breaking off chunks of blacktop?
There's more to driveway sealcoating than rolling a layer of sealer. It's the prep work you do before this step, when you clean the driveway and fix problems like:
- Fading from black to gray, as UV rays weaken the asphalt, making it brittle and dry. The asphalt is black and it holds the stone chips (gray) and sand together.
- Cracks that need to be filled, or water will penetrate (freezing in winter) and erode the driveway away.
- Oil spots and other vehicle fluids, that are both an eyesore and can cause damage if they're not treated.
- Grass that grows over the edges of a driveway, breaking through the asphalt, causing cracks along the edge.
- Damage from heavy vehicles, most often when the base isn't solid enough to support their weight.
- Tree roots coming up through the asphalt.
While I'd like to tell you how long your driveway should last, the only honest answer is “it depends”. The quality of the driveway installation from the base foundation to the sealer used will play a big role in how long your driveway lasts, along with your commitment to driveway sealcoating to repair problems quickly and maintain a protective sealer on top of your driveway.
Driveway Sealcoating: DIY Mistakes to Avoid
OK, I'm not an expert when it comes to driveway sealcoating but I know enough to search until I find credible information online, and in most cases my articles stitch together what I've learned from reading three to five articles, and watching a few YouTube videos. So credit for the steps you want to follow when doing your own driveway sealcoating, were taken from SealKing.com, and you'll want to study the photos they've shared for each step of the process.
- Power edging to create a clean edge along the driveway.
- Power sweeping (like pressure washing) to clean out the surface and cracks.
- Cleaning oil spots so the sealer can penetrate the asphalt.
- Filling cracks to create a smooth surface, that won't allow water to puddle or penetrate. The pros use a rubberized crack sealer heated to a liquid, at 400 degrees, and that's not something for DIYers to tackle.
- Joint filling (new for me) where the driveway meets the garage and sidewalk, using same approach as crack filling.
- Brush the edges before laying down the sealer.
- Pouring and brushing the sealer.
- Barricading the driveway.
The most common mistake made by DIYers is underestimating the difficulty, time and tools needed to make repairs before laying down the sealer. Other mistakes include the following, and I hope this gives you reason to compare your cost versus the professionals.
- Not planning ahead, and starting the project late in the year. Summer is ideal for sealcoating, when temperatures are 50°F or higher. The sealer needs long days and lots of sunshine for the proper chemical reaction.
- Sealing a new driveway too soon. You need to wait a minimum of 90 days to fully cure and harden, and it's best to wait 6 to 9 months before sealing.
- Not making the right repairs for each problem. For example, potholes and larger problem areas need a blacktop patch, which you overfill and then compress by driving your car over it.
- Using a low quality sealer with synthetic ingredients causing problems like the oil drying too quickly, leaving cracks on the surface. The best way for homeowners to determine quality is to compare the length of the warranty, which can range from one to six/more years.
- Not following the manufacturer's recommendations on how to apply their sealer. Most sealers are applied with a driveway sealer brush that has a rubber squeegee on one edge to spread the sealer around, and a bristle brush on the other side to even it out.
- Applying too thick a coat of sealer rather than multiple, thin layers or not waiting long enough (minimum of 6 to 12 hours) for the first coat to dry, before applying a second coat.
Insider Secrets to Driveway Sealcoating
Here’s a little insider secret, too. Jack shared with me that you can get better pricing (and sealcoat results) in the summer despite this being the best time of year to seal your driveway. Why? Because people are busy traveling and enjoying the summer weather so the sealcoat business is, ironically, slower than the fall. Once fall arrives, it’s a matter of supply and demand and discounts are harder to come by.
One option to consider if you’ve waited too long to place your order for sealing this years. Seal the cracks now, as crack sealing can be done all the way down to freezing temps. Then next year when it gets warm again, sealcoat the driveway in the spring or summer.