Asphalt is a durable pavement surface, but it requires periodic maintenance to retain its function and appearance. The best way to preserve your asphalt surface is with a sealcoat.
Asphalt sealcoat is a protective layer that sits on top of the pavement, similar to a coating of wax on a vehicle. It can be used on any asphalt, including a driveway, a parking lot or a road. Adding a seal to your asphalt surface will improve the return on your asphalt investment.
What is Asphalt Sealcoat?
The most popular asphalt sealers are coal tar sealers and asphalt emulsions. In all likelihood, one of those two will be your sealer of choice, so here’s a closer look at each:
- Coal tar sealer – Coal tar sealer has been around for decades and remains a primary sealer option among many professionals. It’s produced using coal, water and steelmaking byproducts and forms a hard outer layer once it dries. This provides excellent protection against chemical and fuel spills.
However, there are several concerns with coal tar sealer. Enough concerns, in fact, that a lot of professional crews are switching to alternatives. For one, it has a tendency to crack due to the hard layer it forms after drying. It doesn’t quite have the color of asphalt, either, and it produces a strong odor once applied.
That strong odor is created by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are abundant in coal tar sealer, and they are toxic. Occupational exposure has shown to greatly increase the risk of cancer, so professional crews must wear protective clothing during application. PAHs are also an environmental hazard, particularly to aquatic life.
- Asphalt emulsion – Asphalt emulsions are the primary alternative to coal tar sealers, and are a mix of polymers, minerals, and asphalt cement. Because the emulsion itself contains asphalt, it blends in with asphalt and performs better.
Coal tar sealer dries on top of the asphalt, while an asphalt emulsion works its way in a bit deeper. Emulsions are also made with a higher solid content, so they last longer and resist weather better. When the temperature climbs, asphalt flexes and bends, and so do asphalt emulsions. That means they’re less prone to developing cracks.
While coal tar was once the top sealant for protecting against chemicals, emulsions have caught up. Some even surpass coal tar in this area. Asphalt emulsions also contain a lower number of toxic compounds and are safer for people and the environment.
The one challenge with asphalt emulsion sealant is that the pavement must be in good repair for it to be effective. Any potholes or large cracks will need to be restored first before applying the seal.
Three Ways Asphalt Sealcoating Can Improve Your Pavement
Asphalt sealcoating is an effective method of preserving your asphalt pavement. It provides several benefits to property owners, including:
- Extra defense against the elements – The primary job of asphalt sealcoat is to protect the pavement against a variety of hazards. This includes weather-related hazards like rain, ice, snow, UV rays and extreme temperatures. In this way, asphalt sealcoat products are like a coat of wax, absorbing the stress applied by nature.
Sealcoat also represents a moisture barrier, preventing water from intruding through the top layer and reaching the rock base and soil subbase. Once water seeps down into the pavement’s foundation, that’s when the hard-to-repair damage starts occurring. Sealcoat reduces the chances of that happening.
- Added protection from damage – Sealcoat also enhances the asphalt’s resistance to damage, helping preserve its condition. While asphalt emulsion won’t defend against every crack and hole, it will help “hold” the pavement together and slow the development of weathering and stress over time.
That’s because asphalt sealcoat contains suspended sands that fill small cracks in the pavement. This sand further obstructs water by increasing frictional forces between it and the asphalt.
- Better look and texture – Asphalt’s appearance deteriorates over time without protection. Specifically, asphalt will lose its color and fade. The top layer of the asphalt will also lose its smooth texture, disintegrating until the aggregate is visible underneath (this term is called “rock shine.”)
The result is an asphalt surface that just looks and feels old. Asphalt sealer restores the surface’s look and feel, and helps properties retain their value.
How Is Sealcoating Applied to Asphalt Pavement?
Since sealcoat can be used with any asphalt surface, including driveways, parking lots and asphalt roads, all are viable areas for sealcoat use.
Assuming the asphalt does not require repairs, the only thing needed before application is cleaning the pavement. The work crew will remove any debris and may power wash the surface before continuing. Sealcoat will not bond properly if the asphalt is not thoroughly cleaned of dirt and debris. It’s also a good idea to edge and trim around the asphalt.
For larger asphalt surfaces, professionals may use a vehicle-mounted sprayer to evenly and quickly lay down layers of sealant. For smaller areas, professionals may use a combination of handheld spray applicators and squeegees to evenly coat each square inch of the surface.
Once applied, asphalt emulsion will cure within hours, but vehicles should be kept off of it for 24 to 48 hours. In Texas summers, curing can often happen within several hours.
Who Can Provide Sealcoating Services?
Coal tar sealers should only be applied by trained professionals. Asphalt emulsions are safer to work with, however, they should also be applied by knowledgeable asphalt professionals because there’s a lot of labor and technique involved. If you’re sealing a large asphalt driveway, parking lot, or road, you’ll need an experienced asphalt contractor to handle the job. An experienced professional will get the job done quickly and safely. By hiring a reputable company for the job, you’ll get maximum protection for your asphalt at minimal cost. Contact American Parking Control today for your free estimate! 281-328-8296
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