Seal Coating Driveway Cost, Tips, Schedule and Benefits

A double garage with white doors at the end of a driveway
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Every year around September and October many driveways and parking areas are seal coated, but why? Why the need to seal coat driveways and asphalt pavement? Seal coating is the process of applying an emulsion type product over the existing asphalt driveway that will seal and even fill small voids and cracks. This process can be completed to prevent additional damages to the pavement by weather and chemicals in contact with the driveway or parking area.

Seal Coating Process: When and How Soon?

The seal coating process can be applied normally one year after the initial pavement has been placed to allow proper cure and wear of the surface. However, it is recommended to seal coat driveways and pavements every two to three years, occasionally going down to one year, depending on the traffic and pavement conditions. Once applied you will need to protect the area at least 36 hours, 48 hours is the actual recommendation to allow for the chemical to set and cure. Depending on the manufacturers' recommendation, the right time of the year to seal coat is the one on which temperatures will drop to 55 degrees, so the product can cure properly, but watch out that leaves and debris might degrade the emulsion coating one it has been applied and before it has set.

How Much Does It Cost to Seal an Asphalt Driveway?

International publications indicate that the average cost for materials to seal a driveway is about 40 cents per square foot.

It might be higher depending on the area that needs to be covered, so you might want to factor in an additional 40 to 60 cents for the labor cost. A typical work on a driveway can be completed for approximately $1 per square feet but it all depends on the size and conditions of the driveway. Bear in mind that walls and other obstacles that prevent you from applying the seal coating with a squeegee will significantly add costs to your project.

 Low-end sealant range from $6 to $9 for a 5-gallon pail that covers about 400 sq.ft. while top graded products will cost around $25 per 5-gallon pail and can cover up to 300 square feet.

How Many Types of Seal Coatings Are Available?

There are two main products available: coal tar sealers and asphalt emulsion coatings. The first one is cheaper and will require more product management when it is being applied. If you are concerned about fuel and chemical spills, this is the one to use, if not you might want to use the asphalt emulsion type. This type of sealer are easier to apply but won't create a great protection layer against chemical spills and will also emit less volatile organic compounds VOCs than regular coal-tar-based products. It is important to know that the more solids in the product, the better quality the sealant might have. Be sure to verify manufacturers recommendations before buying the product and make sure it is intended for your use.

Seal Coating Benefits 

Now that you are ready to the work, it is important to make a case for it and let your customer know about the many benefits of seal coating the area. Here are some good benefits of the process:

  • Extend the life of the driveway and parking lot
  • It creates a uniform coat over the pavement 
  • Protect the driveway from salts, chemicals, and moisture from entering into the pavement
  • Easily applied using squeegees or spraying
  • It is a cost-effective way of repairing or surfacing the existing pavement extending the life of the pavement and driveway
  • Will help on having a smooth uniform surface with minor cracks and repairs will be part of the process.

Tips When Applying Seal Coats

When applying the product be sure to follow these tips for better performance:

  • When the area is large consider of spraying it instead of seal coating with squeegees
  • Sand can be mixed with the product to create a non-slippery surface and to provide a little more of consistency to the seal coating product
  • Be sure to seal coat when the temperature is over 40-45 degrees, otherwise, the coat will not adhere to the substrate
  • Using a pressure washer prepare the driveway by cleaning all cracks and removing all debris and vegetation in cracks
  • Seal coating products can be used to cover cracks as wide as 1/8 inch, so don't try to use it on cracks wider than 1/8 inch, it won't work and might fail.
  • A couple of days before starting, turn the coating pails upside down so the coating can be mixed better
  • Before running out of seal coat product, be sure to add the next pail to the existing one so you can maintain the same or similar color appearance.
  • Do not apply a thick layer, it won't work properly. The thinner the better, and apply it using a criss-cross pattern, the first one in one direction and once it has dried, apply the second coat in a perpendicular motion related to the first layer.
  • Do not use the seal coat process to fill up potholes, instead, apply some asphalt or pothole fill product that will level the area. This is especially needed in areas where the cars are parked overnight or where the tend to stop.
  • Be careful the product will stain other areas so make sure everything is protected before applying it.
  • Oil stains should be removed using an oil stain primer prior to applying the coating product.
  • Cracks larger than 1/4 inch wide should be patched before proceeding. I recommend using hot rubberized crack sealer to repair these cracks.