The Ultimate Guide to Sealcoating - What, Why and How it Works

The Ultimate Guide to Sealcoating - What, Why and How it Works

What Is Sealcoating?

A smoothly paved asphalt driveway or parking lot is everyone's goal. However, prepping the ground and laying the asphalt itself is just the first step. In order for that paved space to remain in good condition, it's necessary to apply a layer of sealcoat. 

Ever wondered what sealcoating actually is? Sealcoating is a multi-step process and must be completed with patience and precision. What's involved in the process? Here's everything you need to know. 

Why Sealcoating Is Necessary

If you look closely at asphalt after it's freshly laid down, you'll notice that it seems to be made up of tiny rocks and bits of gravel. That's because it is. Those small rocks and pieces are held together by a binder called asphalt cement. The binder itself is made up of several different compounds, including crude oil, which not only gives the asphalt it's distinctive black look, but it's very obvious smell as well. 

Since the asphalt consists of small pieces of rock, it's prone to falling apart as the binder is worn away. Nature itself can do a number on asphalt, as the rain, snow, wind, sun, and more all play a part in helping damage the binder and break the asphalt surface into pieces as it becomes brittle and worn. In order to protect it, a sealer is used. This sealcoat goes over the top of freshly laid asphalt, and it protects the binder from degradation. 

Not only does the sealcoat help prevent water from sinking into the asphalt, but it also protects it from sun damage. It also leaves behind that deep, dark color that everyone associates with freshly poured asphalt, and it makes the surface nice and smooth, as well as slip-proof. 

You might think of sealcoat as being kind of like spraying a clear coat of poly after completing a woodworking project. While it protects the surface (as does the poly), it's actually made out of several different things and has a grittier texture than you might imagine. Sealcoat is either made from coal byproducts, or similar acrylics, which have been mixed with very fine bits of silica, some additives and fillers, and water. All of this makes the sealcoat fairly liquid and easy to apply. 

Sealcoat should be applied to asphalt every few years. Between every two to three years is the average recommended length of time, in order to keep asphalt in good condition. Since the product can extend the lifespan of asphalt, it makes the minor labor involved in applying it very worthwhile. 

How to Prepare a Surface for Sealcoating

Your initial layer of sealcoating should be applied right after any new asphalt is laid down, so that it stays in great shape. You probably won't have to do any prep work there, since the asphalt will be new and ready to go. However, when it's time to put on those maintenance layers a few years down the line, you'll have to get the surface ready for the sealcoat. This requires several steps, including:

  • Removing Dirt and Debris – Anything left on the asphalt will prevent the sealcoat from sticking, so it's important to make sure that the surface is perfectly clean. Remove any dirt, debris, grease, and small pebbles from the surface, as well as any paint or coatings that were used to make lanes for driving or delineating parking spots. If there are any raised markers on the surface, no matter the reason they were placed there, they'll need to be ground down, so the asphalt is as level as possible. Our collection of Bensink Rotary Brooms works great for prepping for any sealcoating job. 
  • Protect Any Manhole Covers and Utility Access Points – You don't want any covers or access points to end up getting stuck to the surface by the sealcoat. Take the time to repair any damaged edges on these access points and then cover them with a protective layer of thick plastic.
  • Repair Any Damage to the Asphalt – Since the entire point of sealcoat is to make your asphalt last longer, it makes sense to repair any damage to the surface before applying a new coat. Fill cracks with sand or specialty crack filling compound, and use an asphalt patch kit to take care of any spots where the surface has been gouged or worn away in sections. See The Ultimate Guide to Asphalt Crack Repair for more info or check out our best selling crack filler machines here.
  • Leveling – Finally, the last thing that you need to do before applying your sealcoat is leveling. The surface of the asphalt needs to be as level as possible in order to prevent the sealcoat from pooling in spots. Otherwise, those areas of pooled sealcoat will dry to be quite slippery and hazardous, which is clearly not your end goal. 

Once you've gone through the steps and have prepared your asphalt for the sealcoat, the next step is to actually apply it. This multi-step process must be followed carefully in order to yield the best results. 


How to Apply Sealcoating

In order for your sealcoating to dry properly, you need to pick a few days where the weather will be perfect. You need at least two days of dry, non-rainy weather where the temperature will be above 50 degrees in order to avoid damaging the sealcoat before it has a chance to set. If the weather is too hot, like those often-scorching days of summer tend to be, then the sealcoat will dry too quickly and won't adhere to the asphalt like it should.

Once you've picked the right time to apply your sealcoat, the next steps involve getting it properly laid down.

Start by mixing the sealcoat. Each barrel has a special lid with a hole that can be popped out in order to prevent the sealcoat from splashing everywhere during the preparation process. Remove the piece of plastic covering the hole and insert your mixing mechanism. Once the mixture is smooth, move on to the next barrel.

After your sealcoating is mixed properly, get out a paintbrush and take care of the edges of your driveway or parking lot. Use the brush to lay a coat down and then cut in the edges as you would if you were painting a wall inside of your home.

Next, it's time to stage the barrels of sealcoating. Each one is designed to cover a specific amount of square footage, so it's important to place them at the correct intervals to ensure that you get a solid amount of equal coverage over the entire space. Simply place the barrels on the surface where you think you'll need them.

Now it's time to apply the sealcoating. Start at the upper corner of your driveway, closest to the garage, and work your way outwards. If you're applying the sealcoating to a parking lot, simply start at the corner furthest away from the entrance. Pour out the first barrel of sealcoating in a shape that looks a little like the letter U. Then, spread out the sealcoating using a squeegee or a broom.

Keep repeating the steps above with each can or tub of sealcoating until the job is complete. Make sure to place the empty barrels on the curb or grass to avoid damaging the sealcoating until it's fully dry. 

asphalt industrial sealcoating


asphalt industrial driveway parking sealcoating

Which Accessories to Use

Applying sealcoating requires the use of several accessories. From mixing tools to spreading tips (unless you've chosen the manual broom or squeegee method), you'll need the following:

  • A Mixer – There are several different types of mixers to choose from, including tote ribbon mixers and mud mixers. Both are designed to attach to your drill and fit inside of the plastic container of sealcoating so that it can be properly mixed before application. (Check out this drum mixer, it's one of our favorites.)
  • Filter Pots – Although you can apply the sealcoating directly from the mixed bucket using the pouring method described above, you can also use a filter pot. The mixed sealcoating goes directly into the filter pot, keeping it warm, well-mixed, and ready to use.
  • Hoses – If you choose the filter pot method of application, you'll need a hose designed for the purpose. Look for one that can support around 300 psi, and it needs to be made of a material that can handle the sealcoating.
  • Valves – A valve goes between the filter pot and the hose, allowing you to control the flow of the sealcoating. There are valves designed for this specific use that will hold up to the pressure produced by the filter pots. 
  • Spray Tips – The spray tip, as you can imagine, goes at the end of the hose. Throughout the process, you hold onto the spray tip and use it to control where the sealcoating is applied to the surface. 

These are just a few of the many accessories that you may need in order to apply your sealcoating. 


Best Spray Tips to Use

When choosing a spray tip, you need to pay attention to the GPM, or Gallons per Minute flow rate. There are three options to choose from, ranging from two GPM to four GPM. The GPM rating is related to the overall size of your asphalt driveway or parking lot. For example, if you need to apply sealcoating to a small driveway, then a two GPM spray tip will work just fine. Larger areas, such as parking lots, require a four GPM spray tip, while you can use a three GPM tip for spaces sized in between the two. 

How Long Does Sealcoating Take to Dry

In general, it will take sealcoating between 24 and 48 hours to fully dry. This is under ideal weather conditions, of course, with temperatures above 50 degrees and below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that asphalt sealcoating should be done only when you have several days of dry weather predicted because the rain can damage the coating before it dries and even wash it down into your sewers if it rains too soon after application. 

asphalt industrial sealcoating equipment

 

Common Sealcoating Mistakes 

There are a few fairly common mistakes that people tend to make when applying sealcoating. Here are a couple of them:

  • Not Properly Prepping the Surface – Sealcoating needs to be applied to a dry surface that is free of grease stains, raised spots, and even cracks and other damage. If the surface isn't properly prepped, the sealcoating won't adhere properly. It will fail to cover those grease stains, will fall into the cracks and damaged sections, and even pool around the raised spots. If it doesn't adhere properly, not only will the sealcoating not protect the asphalt properly, but it could create slippery spots that make driving and walking on the surface hazardous. 
  • Applying the Layers too Thin – In order for sealcoating to do its job, it needs to be applied in thick, even layers. If those layers are too thin, then it will begin to allow UV rays and rain through into the asphalt, destroying the bonding material. To prevent this, pay close attention to the square footage that a container of sealcoating is designed to cover and plan accordingly. 
  • Putting on the First Layer Too Soon – Your asphalt needs to properly cure before you can apply the first layer of sealcoat. If you have a new driveway or parking lot, it makes sense that you'd want to protect it immediately. However, you should wait 90 days after your new asphalt is first poured before applying your first layer of sealcoating.
  • Not Focusing on Quality – There are many types of sealcoating out there, and some are better than others. Choose a quality brand that you know will last and has great ratings instead of picking the least expensive option. 

Conclusion

Sealcoating is designed to protect your asphalt and make it last longer by preventing the binder within the asphalt from deterioration. You should apply a new layer of sealcoating every to two to three years in order to keep your asphalt in the best condition possible.

Before doing so, make sure that the surface is clean and dry, and make any necessary repairs. Then, once you have your sealcoating mixed and ready to go, apply away.

The process is fairly easy, as long as you follow all of the steps. Once your sealcoating dries, you'll have a lovely, smooth, slip-proof surface once again. 


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