Sealing Asphalt Driveways, Cost Effective

We put in 5000 square feet of asphalt driveway/parking lot three years ago. It's starting to fade but still looks good, is in good shape, and there aren't many cracks or spalling....I gave the driveway and parking lot a year to stabilize after we built the house before we paved it. Should I seal it? My wife has been poking me about it since the spring and a local contractor who seals other driveways in the neighborhood stopped by last week and told her it would take 90 gallons to seal the whole thing and he would do it for $750. The Forman of the asphalt crew that initially paved it recommended that instead of sealing it every year or two just wait 8-10 years and put another 1" – 11/2" top coat of asphalt on it, saying that was more cost effective. I live in Southern Maryland so it gets cold but not like up north. Is sealing it going to prolong the life other than the cosmetics? Or should I take the asphalt Forman's advice? If I seal it myself do I have to pressure wash it first or just slap it on after sweeping? Is the price quoted by the contractor a fair one, he says when he works alone he usually charges $10 a gallon, materials and labor included?
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jeffthorpe writes:

Cost effective?
$750 for 0.025" of dried asphalt emulsion (what sealer is, basically a paint job with very cheap paint) over 5000 sq ft.
I'm guessing $3000 for 1" of asphalt/gravel concrete over 5000 sq ft.
Hmmm, $750 for 1/40 inch, or $3000 for 40 times that. Which sounds cost effective to you?
<http://groups.google.com/groups?q=asphalt+ages+author:kinch
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So then asphalt driveway "sealing" has no purpose other than cosmetics? Doesn't it protect aginst any damage from oil, gas, or ice damage or UV damage?

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jeffthorpe writes:

That is the only significant effect.

Very slightly, and not at all cost effectively. It is a very costly (per unit volume) and thin new coat of the same asphalt as the driveway itself.
For any coating to be useful, it has to have some *complementary property* with the substrate, like polymer paints (weather resistant but structurally weak) vs wood (structurally strong but susceptible to weather damage).
Painting a tiny bit of new asphalt on a thick layer of old asphalt is necessarily of very little benefit other than looks. It is much better to put that money toward a bulk surface new hot asphalt paving material (at $40/ton) rather than water emulsion of the same stuff (at $1600/ton).
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Personally, I'd seal it every few years. It gives the driveway a nice finished look, which you won't have if you wait to resurface it, plus it will help protect the asphalt to some extent.
You don't need to power wash the whole thing, only any areas with oil spots need to be cleaned. There are cleaners made just for that purpose. Blow it off with a leaf blower, fix any spots that need repair with patch. You can figure out how much you can do it for by pricing the material at the home center.
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