Confused about whether to seal your asphalt driveway or parking lot? Many people are and we're here to separate the facts from the fiction. There are numerous articles online stating it’s pointless to apply an asphalt sealer to your driveway. The articles are right about certain things in that it can be a bad idea if you seal your asphalt pavement the wrong way. The articles are wrong on most of the important facts about asphalt and sealers. One article in particular is from a national newspaper that if taken seriously by homeowners and or property owners could lead to huge unexpected and unwelcome financial expense. We will detail why we disagree with this article so that your asphalt driveway or parking lot doesn't wind up looking like the one in the above image. The author is trying to convince you that this is a normal appearance for asphalt paving. Let us assure you it is not. When was the last time you saw a road, runway or parking lot look like that? The asphalt on his driveway is 90% gone. It's technically a stone driveway now with just the barest amount of bitumen holding it together. Complete failure is not far away and in fact he states that his asphalt is cracking, caving and developing potholes in certain areas. But blames it on faulty base. We find it odd that he advises not to seal while stating that his asphalt has fully exposed aggregate and is now cracking and pot holing. Another simple way to look at it is that his and your asphalt did not look like that when it was newly applied, sealing it properly will keep it looking new.
Should You Seal Your Asphalt Driveway or Parking Lot?
Another point in these types of articles for not sealing your asphalt driveway or parking lot is made on a false premise. Contrary to the claims by numerous authors, the asphalt on your driveway or parking lot is NOT the same as the asphalt on highways and runways or even your side streets! In fact, there are many many different grades of asphalt. Too many to get into the specifics of each but suffice it say that your driveway is not made from Turnpike grade asphalt! The asphalt that is on side streets, highways and runways is usually of the highest quality and is specified by engineers and architects. They have the highest quality Bitumen and the highest amount of it not to mention the size and quality of the stones, sand and even if fibers are added into the mix. While your driveway asphalt commonly referred to in the trade as blacktop is always made with a lower grade of bitumen and most certainly less quantity of it, meaning more stones, different size stones and sand. It’s certainly not applied at the same thickness either. Your blacktop is thinner, has more stone and sand content and the base is of a different grade and thickness also. Most driveways and parking lots are made of the lowest grade asphalt unless your architect specified highway or runway grade paving which is rarely the case due to the high costs. We’re not sure what streets and highways the author drives on where he states they never need sealing and last indefinitely but the streets we drive on are always full of cracks and potholes even though they are made from the highest grade of asphalt available precisely because they’re not maintained. Today many municipalities ARE applying asphalt rejuvenators to their newly resurfaced roads to extend the useful life cycle of their asphalt streets and municipal lots.
Another incorrect statement is that the real cause of asphalt failure is incorrect base or incorrectly installed base. While an incorrectly installed base will cause your asphalt pavement to fail it is not the one and only reason. One author states that where his 20-year-old driveway has cracks and potholes is where the base was installed incorrectly. So the reader is led to believe that the picture of his driveway with completely exposed aggregate is fine and the only reason it’s getting potholes and cracks is because the contractor somehow managed to install the base properly in every spot except where it’s failing. The fact is that his base is being damaged precisely for the reason that he is advising you to do which is not to seal your driveway! Not sealing your driveway leads to bitumen loss which leads to water penetrating down to the base causing it to fail which in turn causes potholes and cracks. Once the cracking and pothole cycle begins it's very difficult or impossible to stop. Sealing replenishes the essential oils in your asphalt and prevents it from getting brittle. Once your asphalt becomes too brittle all sorts of bad things happen. This is fact and not subscribing to this fact can be costly.
In the following two images you will see the difference between asphalt surfaces treated with a quality nonwax and non asphalt based rejuvenator. The first image is from a municipality test done in Cleveland OH over a 10 year time span of 1977-1987. The left side had a rejuvenator applied to it while the right side did not. The difference is obvious. The right side now needs extensive repairs and most likely a costly repaving job. In this second image notice how tight the Asphalt is on the left side of the highway and how open/porous it is on the right side. The left side was treated with a rejuvenator while the right side was not. The right side after only 5 years is already experiencing loss of bitumen and cracking that is now allowing water and road salts to penetrate into the asphalt. It's not a matter of if but only when the asphalt will start to fully crack and pothole eventually damaging the base. The above is field tested proof that you need to maintain your blacktop driveways and parking lots. Also note that these were studies done years ago and that product technology has greatly improved since then. So you can rest assured there's no comparing properly sealed asphalt against nonsealed asphalt.
The article correctly states that UV rays and moisture (rain or snow) oxidizes the bitumen holding the stones and sand together. Once oxidation begins the bitumen actually starts to disappear exposing the aggregate. From there you will start to lose stones causing cracks and potholes will form as the base gets damaged, the surface will become very very slippery also. At this point you will be like the boy sticking fingers in the dike trying to stop the leaks. Sooner or later you will run out of fingers as you will be in a never ending cycle of crack filling and pothole patching or in a futile attempt at sealing your problems away after it's too late. Until you give up and have your driveway or parking lot completely replaced at great expense.
Another point we agree with the author on is that applying a thin coat of the same asphalt based emulsion material over your asphalt driveway or parking lot is senseless but not for the reasons he states. It’s senseless cause the most common sealers are residential grade commonly found at Home Improvement stores. They are either tar based or latex based. In either case they’re easily destroyed in the same way your blacktop is. UV rays, freeze thaw cycles, water, vehicle fluids and road salts make short work of these types of products. Contractor hyped sealers are no better, they are either emulsion or coal tar type sealers. They’re very toxic messy products made of the same materials as your asphalt pavement is. They also tend to soften in high temperatures because they are tar based causing tire tracking all over the place. They fail because of the same reasons your asphalt fails when not maintained.
We strongly recommend that you DON'T seal your driveway every year especially with one of the above type products. Sealing your driveway every year is a waste of money. It either means the sealer you're using is wearing out in less than a year or you are building up too many layers of the coating which will crack and peel off eventually. The director of Engineering at the National Asphalt Pavement Association recommends sealing on average of about every 5 years. We recommend using an industrial grade product and seal only when needed which can be 5 to10 years. How long between sealing depends on many factors such as what condition was your asphalt in when you finally decided to seal it, weather conditions, what sealer did you use and how much and what type of traffic is on it. These are just a few factors that will determine the frequency of which you need to reapply your sealer. But in no case is not sealing recommended nor is sealing every year.
The difference in our asphalt sealer is that it is an engineered acrylic polymer that is nontoxic and much thicker than your standard latex or emulsion tar type sealers. It is impervious to moisture, road salts, vehicle fluids and UV rays. It's specifically made to resist the things that destroy your asphalt surfaces and average sealers. We even offer solar reflective colors for surfaces in extremely high temperatures. These solar reflective coatings keep the surface temperatures much lower preventing the bitumen in your asphalt from reliquifying causing tar tracking and structural damage.
Another common mistake most home and property owners make is falling for great sounding warranties.
Read this article About Asphalt Sealer Warranties before falling for one of them.
ArmorGarage provides you with a warranty with the goal of never having to use it rather than an outlandish warranty that is not worth the paper it’s written on as they say. The final point we’d like to make is that we make all our products to have the lowest cost of ownership. That means you take the number of years in service and divide it into the cost. When you do that ArmorGarage always comes up as the least expensive. Going by initial costs is always a costly mistake. Yes you save money upfront but pay dearly in repeated applications due to failures. Plus all the stress, downtime and extra labor. Always better to use the best the first time.
So to sum things up if you're not going to use the proper product you're better off not sealing and hoping to get the most out of your driveways and parking lots until you need to repave them.
UV rays and moisture breakdown the asphalt emulsion that hold the stones and sand together in your asphalt driveway or parking lot. This is an indisputable fact.
Your driveway or parking lot is not Runway Grade asphalt. So it makes no sense to compare it to the paving on your turnpike or at your local airport.
Your asphalt if left unconditioned will get brittle. If you live in an area where there is a freeze-thaw cycle your asphalt will crack during the freeze cycle. Once it cracks moisture gets in and future freeze cycles destroys your base and the asphalt begins to develop potholes. This is also an indisputable fact. Pot holes and cracks are not from improperly installed base.Applying residential grade latex sealers or toxic industrial tar emulsion coatings does not solve the problem. Latex is a low grade material for outdoor asphalt found mostly at Home Improvement stores and usually fails within 1-2 years at best. The commercial grade emulsion coatings are made of the same material as your asphalt is. So you're no better off with those, they just delay the inevitable and then you have a toxic mess on your hands.
Latex and emulsion products are thin and get brittle just like your asphalt does.
Latex and emulsion sealcoats are susceptible to damage from vehicle fluids and corrosive road salts.
Reapplying the same sealer or coating every year or two is the worst thing you can do. When you use an inferior product you get trapped in the yearly resealing ritual until you have built up so many layers of product that it just cracks of in wafers. Best not to fall into that trap.
The solution is to apply a product that is not a latex based or emulsion based product. You need an industrial grade product that will rejuvenate the flexibility of your asphalt and stay flexible. You need a coating that is thick enough to fill in small cracks and pits. You need a coating that penetrates, fills and leaves a durable surface film ansd is impervious to vehicle fluids and road salt.
ArmorGarage Asphalt Rejuvenator is an acrylic polymer designed to do what latex and emulsion coatings can't. Plus be environmentally friendly and DIY easy to apply.
Give us a call and let one of our asphalt experts help you to maintain and save your asphalt surface from needing to be replaced.