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

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

Dexter Alincastre |

How to Sealcoat Asphalt - Why, When and How

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 asphalt 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 Asphalt Sealcoating Is Necessary

If you look closely at asphalt pavement after it's freshly laid down, you'll notice that the asphalt surface 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 surface 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 any asphalt surface, 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 asphalt sealer goes over the top of freshly laid asphalt, and it protects the binder from degradation. (Click here to learn about asphalt binder vs. topcoat)

Not only does the asphalt sealcoat help prevent water from sinking into the asphalt pavement, 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 sealcoating 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), the sealcoating material is 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. 

A layer of sealcoating 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 pavement 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 from Sealcoating Material – You don't want any covers or access points to end up getting stuck to the surface by the sealcoating material. 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 asphalt sealer 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. Congrats, you are now ready to get to sealcoating! 

Once you've gone through the steps and have prepared your asphalt for the sealcoating step, 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 the Right Way

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 sealcoating 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.

asphalt industrial sealcoating

How to Mix the Asphalt Sealer

Start by mixing the asphalt sealer. 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.

Start Sealcoating the Edges First

After your sealcoating is mixed properly, start sealcoating the edges of the driveway or parking lot, we recommend using the wand wizard edger for this part. 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 driveway parking sealcoating

Best Sealcoat Sprayer Machines for Sealcoating Asphalt

To do the job right, you need the right tools. And for that, you're in the right place. 

For beginners on a budget: The portable 55 gallon asphalt sealer is a great pick for people just starting out that want to do a professional job while on a budget. Want to cover a little more ground? Check out the 275 gallon tote sealcoating spray system, it's one of our best sellers. We also urge you to sift through our entire collection of sealcoating spray systems to find the right machine that fits your budget.

 Taking business to the next level: Check out our 130 gallon or 230 gallon sealcoat sprayer systems. Mount this to the bed of your truck and cover more ground than ever before. More square footage per hour = more profit. What are you waiting for? 

Getting started with no budget limitations? Be sure to check out our asphalt sealcoating packages with one package that will kickstart your business to success. Our gold package is one of our customer favorites!

Best Accessories for Asphalt Sealcoating Jobs

Doing a good job requires the use of several essential asphalt sealcoating 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 TipsThe 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 asphalt sealer 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. The sealcoating 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 Sealcoating Layers too Thin – In order for sealcoating to do its job, it needs to be applied in thick, even layers. If the sealcoating 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 asphalt sealer. 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. We recommend our asphalt emulsions sealers that are available in single 55 gallon drums up to bulk tanker loads.

Conclusion - How to Sealcoat Asphalt

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. 

Now you're ready to become a professional and start your very own asphalt sealcoating business and start making the money you want to make! 

We hoped that with this article you learn how to sealcoat asphalt the right way. If you found any value, please share!


Founder / Senior Contributor

Kevin King, founder of Asphalt Industrial, brings years of expertise in asphalt maintenance. Having assisted thousands with selecting the right asphalt maintenance products for business growth and DIYers alike, Kevin shares his wealth of knowledge as a frequent contributor to industry discussions and guides. In his free time, Kevin enjoys camping, fishing, riding motorcycles, and hanging out with his dog, Panzer. Despite his busy schedule, he still finds time to contribute to the Asphalt Industrial blog!

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