The sun beats down relentlessly on it all summer long. Salt from the sea air settles on it. It doesn't snow much here in Virginia Beach, but when it does, we throw salt and other chemicals on it to melt the ice. We drive on it and our cars drip oil, gas, antifreeze, and other engine fluids on it.
All this can damage the surface of an asphalt parking lot.
Asphalt sealcoating is an excellent way to protect asphalt from the rigors of its environment. Sealing the surface helps keep salt and chemicals from degrading the surface and staves off a big enemy — water. Water seeping down into asphalt will expand as it freezes, easily causing the asphalt to crack and break, among other problems.
Thus, business owners and homeowners alike turn to asphalt sealcoating to protect their parking lots and driveways. Let's learn all about it here.
The Cost of Sealcoating
Sealcoating is an inexpensive way to protect an expensive investment. The cost of sealcoating varies with the type of product you choose to buy and whether you apply it yourself or hire a company.
DIY sealcoating generally costs about 40 cents per square foot. Of course, this can vary widely depending on the product you choose. Something on the low end can cost less than $10 for a 5-gallon bucket. Higher-quality products can run around $25 for the same 5-gallon bucket.
On average, if you hire a company, the cost jumps to just over $1 a square foot. However, the overall cost is still quite affordable. Though simple, sealcoating can be a nasty job, so many people find it worth it to hire a team of professionals.
Types of Asphalt Sealcoating
There are four main types of asphalt sealcoating. While each is useful in the right circumstances, each also has its own drawbacks.
The most effective product is coal-tar sealant. As such, this is often the one chosen by professional crews. But this option may have some carcinogenic ingredients.
Though OSHA has not yet declared coal-tar a carcinogenic material, some organizations claim that people who work with it regularly are at risk. Some cities have even outlawed its use in asphalt sealcoating.
Asphalt emulsion sealant doesn't have the same health risks and is easier to apply. Unfortunately, it doesn't stand up as well to chemicals and fuel being spilled on it.
Acrylic sealers are also more healthy and environmentally friendly. However, it is a much more expensive product as well as it doesn't hold up as well.
Fast-dry sealant is great for when you need to get back in business quickly. After all, you need your parking lot so your customers can shop at your store! Unfortunately, the seal doesn't last as long and you'll have to reapply more frequently to fully protect your asphalt.
Asphalt sealcoating can be a little finicky. Be sure to pick a time when you think it won't rain for a couple of days and the temperature will remain above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
You'll also need to be able to keep traffic off the surface for at least 48 hours, although 36 is better for most products. Check your manufacturer's instructions for more information.
Applying the Sealcoat
While laying asphalt generally requires professional crews and special machinery, asphalt sealcoating is a little simpler. If you can paint a wall or wash a window, you can probably sealcoat asphalt. Of course, there are a few things you need to be aware of as you work.
First, prepare the surface before you being applying the seal coat. Use a pressure washer to thoroughly clean the surface. Make sure to remove any dirt or plants growing in the cracks. Clean off any oil stains with an oil stain primer — unless you want to be stuck looking at that oil stain forever.
You can use sealcoat to cover small cracks up to 1/8 of an inch. Anything larger than that requires filling in with a different product first. A rubberized crack sealer is ideal for this use. Larger potholes may require a bit of new asphalt or a fill product to adequately repair the damage.
For small areas, you can apply the sealcoat with a squeegee. Use a sprayer on larger areas to make the job go faster.
Take care not to apply too much. You might think you'll save time, but two thin coats are better than one thick one. Apply each subsequent coat in a direction perpendicular to the last one.
Plus, amateurs applying a thick coat usually leads to excess. This excess can run off into the groundwater supply, contaminating it as coal-tar sealers contain potentially carcinogenic ingredients.
If you have to use more than one bucket, mix them together as you work. The color can vary slightly from one to the next. Mixing them together will make it a gradual, less noticeable transition.
How often you should apply your sealcoat varies with the amount of traffic that your surface sees.
For example, sealant on residential driveways can easily last 4 or 5 years. However, asphalt in a busy parking lot or surfaces that see a lot of heavy trucks may need resealing once a year. It also depends on the quality of the sealer that you chose.
Reach Out to the Professionals
Asphalt sealcoating can be a dirty job. While the process is simple, experienced crews can help lower the environmental impact. Plus they will put down the sealant evenly and at the perfect thickness. This means your sealant will last longer, helping you to avoid this hassle in the future.
On top of that, many home or business owners have no idea what they're picking out when looking at sealants at the store. A professional company can choose the perfect product for your specific situation.
Ready to get started? Have more questions about the process? Feel free to contact us today. We're happy to help!