When I bought my house 23 years ago, I sealed the driveway every year or so.
Then I figured, they don't seal the highway every year do they? I've not
done it in probably 18 years and it does not look any worse than any others.
Seems to be a waste of time, energy, and perspiration.
No need to when it is new. After a few years, depending on local
conditions and the quality of materials used, it may be time to "seal" it.
If you decide to do it, use only the best materials. The cheap stuff is not
worth the time to put it on, at best it will make it look black for a few
Your contractor screwed you or you didn't hear what he
Sealing depends on the type of surface he left you with.
If you had him leave it "raw" or unsmoothed, whatever you
want to call it, then no, sealing isn't necessary unless you
feel like it and want to dress it up a bit and/or fill in
some cracks thatare forming so the weather won't bother.
It also depends on where you live. In the south, not
usually necessary except for looks. In the freezing/snow
places, it's needed in some circumstances, esp to keep water
from opening up small cracks that might show up as it
finishes settling into the bedding that was put under it.
Now, if he put a final (sealing) smoothing coat on it,
usually about a half to an inch of real black, small-stone
asphalt, then yes, you need to seal it to keep it in good
shape. Most contractors will tell you about this, because
they want to come back anddo the resealing for you at a
price, of course. The resealing is needed to keep the
smooth finish in tact, from being worn away to thge
roughness underneath it, and to combat the affects of
In my limited experience, you wait one to two years
before resealing with the liquid stuff you buy at the store.
If you have a lot of traffic or like to turn the steering
wheel in your car while the car's sitting still, then make
it one year. If traffic is low and treated gently by
drivers, then two years is OK. You should wait at least 6
months to do the first seal as it's the most important one
and the one that sets you up for the future. Do a good job
and resealing can become an as needed schedule. Don't do a
good job, and it'll need it a lot more ofen.
REad thge instructions on the sealer carefully, and
follow them. Don't skimp on cost, especially on the first
couple of sealings.
If you don't care, all that'll happen is the surface will
crack and pothole a little easier, but it will be slow.
The asphalt in your driveway is NOT the asphalt used on
the highways, so try not to make too many comparisons that
way; big mistake. And if you have a car that leaks oil, put
down somethning to catch it. Motor oil, transmission fluid,
etc. will loosen the asphalt down inside and it'll make a
pothole. Immediately flush off any oils etc with a hose.
If it manages to get soaked in there are detergents that
will pull the oil out of the asphalt so you can put some
sealer over it and re-establish the protection.
But mostly it dpeends on whether you care or not. Those who
care have surfaces that last for years with minimal upkeep.
Those that don't, well it doesn't look so well and may have
a between-repair cycle of about 5 years after the first
contractor repair. If it starts to break up too much along
the edges, then it needs more care than it's beern getting.
I do mine now about every 3 to 5 years depending on how
much damage the snow plows do to the road entry and the salt
eats at the rest of it.
Not true. Around here the asphalt (petroleum tar) used to make driveway
asphaltic concrete (what is commonly, but not accurately, called
"asphalt") certainly comes from the same tanks in the the same plants
that supply the highway crews. Any variation is in the size and type of
aggregate and the proportion of asphalt to aggregate.
When I had 6000 sq ft of driveway laid, the contractor's first truckload
showed up loaded with highway mix by mistake and they spread most of it
before I saw it. I made them shovel it all back in the truck and do it
over. The larger aggregate would have weakened the thinner driveway
layers. The contractor was furious with me, even though the contract
plainly specified the mix to be used.
Driveway "sealer" (marketing term) is just a water emulsion of asphalt,
which is to say, paint. You are literally painting on a very thin layer
of asphalt on top of the old inches of asphaltic concrete. Given the
cost of materials and labor involved in applying this thin layer, versus
the proportionate cost in inches of new pavement, "sealer" is a
hideously expensive way to purchase and apply asphalt, by about 100 to
1. This layer isn't any different from what's underneath, so it's not
like it adds any economic life to the pavement. If you like the looks
and smell, then fine, but don't think you're getting any extra life out
of the pavement with it. It will look freshly painted, which some
people like. That's all it does.
Asphalt ages because the lighter petroleum fractions slowly migrate out,
shrinking and embrittling what is left behind. Slapping on a little
paint ("sealer") is not going to slow that down.
Highway asphaltic concrete will typically outperform driveways, because
the government has engineers to measure and watch for critical quality
issues like high temperature of the hot mix, lots of rolling, and not
shoveling spills and screeds back onto the new surface. The typical
homeowner doesn't understand any of that, and corners get cut. It's
gotta be hot, and you gotta roll it plenty.
Last year we had our "builder's grade" asphalt driveway completely
removed, the underlayment properly prepared with chrushed stone and four
inches of asphalt (two plus two separately compacted) replaced.
The paving contractor's foreman advised me to let it weather at least
six months before coating it. He said that "the surface oils" needed to
wash away or they'd interfere with the adhering of latex sealers.
I followed that advice and when their offer to coat it for me for $750
(it's 1,200 square feet) came in the mail I did it myself at a cost of
about $250 worth of the best coating Home Depot sells, a six pack of
beer, and a Sunday afternoon.
That was the first of many times that I decided to forgo my usual
parsimony and buy asphalt coating any better than the cheapest stuff
they sell. The ease with which it went down and it's appearance almost a
year later made me realize that sometimes you do "get what you pay for".
Just my .02,
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
"My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying."
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