Blacktop driveways and parking lots can degrade over time, both in terms of looks and quality. The topic of blacktop sealers is one that is hotly debated even among professionals. Whether it is worth it, if blacktop needs to be sealed, and what side effects it causes are all important questions.
While there are many disagreements, most experts recommend sealing blacktop every one to three years. If your blacktop has not been sealed before, you probably do not have to seal it. Because the jury is still out on the whole process, here are some more details about what blacktop sealing is and whether it is the best for you.
What does Blacktop Sealer do?
Blacktop sealer applies a new, thin coat of asphalt over the existing driveway or parking lot. This returns the black color and comes with a host of other benefits.
Blacktop is made up of asphalt that seeps into cracks between gravel and other stones. When these stones become visible, it means that the top layer of asphalt that was first applied has worn off. Blacktop sealer replaces this top level of asphalt.
Whether or not the top level of asphalt actually has to be replaced is what tends to be debated among experts. The top asphalt layer achieves a few things, chief among them protection from the elements such as weather, and a nice black look over the blacktop.
Does Blacktop Sealer Affect the Durability of Asphalt?
Blacktop sealer could have a minor effect on the durability of asphalt, especially in places with notoriously rough weather conditions like the northeast. However, this effect is not the most important factor in determining your blacktop’s durability.
The manner in which the asphalt was initially laid is the most important aspect of determining quality. A new blacktop sealer will not fix a rapidly degrading driveway, as that means the initial base was most likely not laid correctly.
However, a blacktop sealer can help prevent that base from being damaged. Resealing asphalt can help keep water out from the gravel underneath. In addition, the sealing could help protect the blacktop from:
- Car fluids
- UV rays
- Rain, Snow, and Ice
Should You Seal Your Blacktop?
As stated, experts and home-improvement hobbyists all seem to have different opinions on whether blacktop needs to be sealed. The answer to this main question of whether or not blacktop should be sealed can often be answered by looking at the history of the asphalt in question.
Once blacktop has been sealed once, it should almost certainly be sealed again later down the line. This is due to the cracks and divots that will inevitably show up in the resealing that occurred, ruining the look of the fresh asphalt and possibly causing damage to the blacktop base underneath.
If your blacktop has not been resealed previously and seems to be in good condition, you most likely do not have to reseal it. To see if your blacktop is in good condition, look for:
- Large, exposed stones
- Water pooling
If any of these signs show up, it is likely that your blacktop needs to be repaired and then possibly resealed. However, purely aesthetic reasons, such as the dark color fading or the gravel showing underneath, are not signs that the blacktop needs to be resealed. It can be resealed if you do not like the look, however.
How Frequently Should You Reseal Your Driveway?
If you decide that sealing blacktop is the best way to go, it is important to decide on a fairly consistent timetable. Most experts in favor of sealing recommend doing it no more than once every two or three years.
Whenever blacktop is sealed, it adds a layer of asphalt to the existing construction below. This creates build-up that can lead to further cracking, so it is important that the previous layer of sealant is mostly deteriorated before more is added.
If blacktop is sealed too frequently, the whole asphalt construction could be ruined and in need of replacement much quicker than otherwise.
Be aware that once a driveway has been resealed, it starts a process where it will almost inevitably need to be resealed consistently in the future. This, in addition to the build-up of previous layers possibly degrading the asphalt quicker, are two of the main reasons given to not seal blacktop.
Getting Blacktop Ready to be Sealed
Regular upkeep on any blacktop, sealed or not, is important for keeping its quality and durability as high as possible. Regular upkeep includes simple activities like keeping the blacktop clear of debris and snow when possible, as well as more complicated undertakings like repairing cracks.
Repairing cracks in blacktop is essential before any sealer is applied. Otherwise, the sealer is essentially useless, covering an already damaged good. Cracks in most asphalt can be filled with caulk. Special asphalt caulks are available for this express purpose, although many experts say that any caulking should do if the cracks are small.
If cracks are especially large, it may be worth consulting a professional. Occasionally it could be more cost-effective to replace the blacktop as a whole rather than fill in the large gaps.
Is Blacktop Sealer Good or Bad?
Overall, blacktop sealer can help protect and preserve asphalt. This may, however, come at the cost of increasing build-up and potential for cracks. Once blacktop sealer has been applied, upkeep of the sealant becomes important to stop further problems from developing.
It is important to consider a few things when deciding whether blacktop sealer is good or bad for you, including:
- Personal Preference – do you care if your driveway shows the stones underneath the blacktop?
- Upkeep and Care – are you willing to have the blacktop resealed as needed in the future?
- Wear and Tear – does the asphalt in question see lots of use? If so, the sealant becomes a better option
Answers to these questions will vary from person to person, and there is no right answer. To help you decide what may be best for you, here are some of the pros and cons of blacktop sealer.
Advantages of Sealer
There are a variety of advantages to utilizing a blacktop sealer, ranging from aesthetic choices to providing important protection against the elements. These pros are:
- Fending off of water, sunlight, and oxygen – all of which cause corrosion in asphalt
- A clean, black look to the blacktop
- Improved perception by neighbors and passerbys
- Encourages regular maintenance
The high increase in looks and outside protection provided by blacktop sealer is often enough to convince people it is necessary. However, it is important to consider the whole picture before making a decision.
Disadvantages of Sealer
While the number of pros to blacktop sealer are numerous, it is important to consider some of the possible disadvantages as well. Many of these relate to the whirlwind of upkeep that sealing a driveway causes in the future, including:
- Increase in layers of cracks and erosion to the asphalt
- Cost – resealing a driveway can be very expensive, especially if it is a large patch of blacktop
- Requires more upkeep – Once blacktop has been resealed, it will need to happen in the future as well
Many people consider resealing blacktop to be not worth the trouble with the cons considered, especially the price. Still, it is worth looking into if you feel your driveway needs sprucing up. Consider talking to a professional and getting their opinion for your specific needs before deciding one way or another.
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