Do I Need to Seal My Driveway?
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Sealing a driveway helps it last longer and avoid costly replacement. Read on to see if yours should be sealed, plus when and how to do it.
A clean, smooth driveway enhances curb appeal, but the benefits go beyond what meets the eye. When you consider sealing a driveway costs a fraction of the price of a driveway replacement, there’s a great case to be made for adding this task to your home maintenance to-do list.
Why Seal a Driveway?
Soon after you lay down a driveway, the surface begins to deteriorate, according to Harlequin Driveways owner Dave Jordan. That leads to potholes and cracks. All kinds of weather speeds up the process. Sunlight and heat cause the surface to decompose, freezing winter temps can lead to frost heaves, and rainfall and humidity force moisture absorption.
Daily traffic affects the integrity of the driveway as well. “Surfaces like asphalt can start to break apart because driving continuously will wear out its structure over time,” Jordan says.
Sealing a driveway can mitigate these effects. The benefits include:
- Appearance: It’s satisfying to return to a home that looks tidy and attractive. Curb appeal can raise a home’s value, too — up to 14 percent, according to one recent study.
- Cost: On average, sealing a driveway costs between 10 and 30 cents per square foot. That’s significantly less than the cost of repairing or installing a new driveway, which HomeAdvisor estimates at about $2.25 per square foot.
- Tire protection: Driveway cracks and potholes can add extra wear to vehicle tires.
What Types of Driveways Should Be Sealed?
Concrete and asphalt driveways should be routinely sealed to extend the life of the driveway. Each material requires a different type of sealant.
What Kind of Driveway Sealer Should I Use?
Asphalt driveway sealant: Once-popular coal tar sealers have fallen out of favor. Shawn Denny, owner of Specialty Grading Inc., says they’re even banned in some areas for environmental and health concerns. Denny suggests going with asphalt-based sealers instead, which contain the same ingredients as asphalt driveways and are DIY friendly. No heating required.
Concrete driveway sealant: Penetrating sealers are an excellent choice for concrete driveways, Denny says. They create a chemical barrier against oil and water and protect the surface from discoloration.
When Should I Seal My Driveway?
Again, the answer varies by material.
Denny says asphalt should be sealed once every three years. It’s best to do it during summer or early fall, because asphalt is more flexible and easier to manage in warmer temperatures.
Concrete driveways, on the other hand, should be sealed every four to five years. Denny says spring and summer are the best times to seal concrete, or when the temperature is above 50 F.
Avoid sealing either type of driveway as soon as it’s installed, Jordan says. Instead, wait at least six months to give your driveway time to cure and settle. If you do it too soon, the driveway may soften.
Should I Seal My Driveway or Call a Pro?
Sealing a driveway is typically a good DIY project. It doesn’t require special skills other than caution when pouring and applying the sealant. Plus, it can be done over a weekend.
If you choose to complete the project yourself, Jordan says you need to follow certain safety guidelines. Don’t touch the sealant — contact can be hazardous — and wear well-fitting clothing during application.
DIY cost only involves the material. On average, a gallon of sealant can cover up to 200 square feet. So assuming an average driveway is 600 sq. ft. and you pay around $20 per gallon for asphalt sealant, that’s ten cents per square foot. Concrete sealant will run you almost double that.
However, you may want to call in a pro if your driveway has noticeable cracks, puddles or crumbling edges. Costs vary widely per state depending on the scope of the damage, the material and size of the driveway. Expect to pay around 20 to 30 cents per sq. ft. or more for asphalt, and as much as $1 per sq. ft. for concrete.
How To Seal a Driveway
Ensure the ground is dry before applying the sealant for maximum adhesion. Wait a day after it rains, longer if you live in a humid climate. Then, follow these steps:
- Clean the driveway so it’s clear of dirt, sand, oil stains and gravel. Sweep away debris with a light broom and trim the grass and shrubs along the driveway. As long as the ground is dry, you can start applying it right after cleaning.
- Apply the sealant using a squeegee tool or paint roller.
- For asphalt: Pour the bucket and spread the sealer using a driveway squeegee tool or wide broom evenly. Applying asphalt sealer is time-sensitive. For the best outcome, ensure you have enough sealer to cover your entire driveway so you can do it continuously.
- For concrete: Use a tank sprayer, overlap your strokes, and make sure there isn’t any buildup. Alternatively, you can use a roller and brush, just as if you’re painting a wall. Apply the sealant evenly and let it dry.
- Apply a second coat if your sealant requires it. Most do. Let the first coat dry for eight to 10 hours. Denny recommends applying the second coat at a different angle for better coverage.
- Let the sealer cure for at least 24 hours before using your driveway.