Asphalt Paving Blog

When Should You Sealcoat or Repave Your Asphalt Driveway?

seal coat or repave asphalt drivewayThis post originally published in 2013 and has been recently updated.

As a homeowner, you understand the importance of maintaining your property, including your driveway. Taking care of your driveway isn’t always the easiest thing. You have to know when to seal coat it or when to have it repaved.

But when is the right time? And how do you go about maintaining and repairing a driveway?

Thankfully, Wolf Paving is here to help you. One of our top Project Managers took the time to answer some important questions homeowners often ask. Here’s what he had to say about maintaining asphalt driveways.

How does a home or business owner know if they can just sealcoat a driveway or when it is time for a new asphalt driveway?

  • If the driveway has areas where the pavement is rutted or severely broken, where the pavement sort of looks like the hide of an alligator – we call this “alligatoring” or alligator cracks – this is when you need to start thinking about new asphalt. When a pavement gets to that point you really can’t crack fill it any more.
  • To crack fill over a patch of alligator cracks would basically turn the area into a continuous sheet of crack filling rubber. If you would do that, in warmer weather, vehicle tires can adhere to this large area of crack filler and literally pull the pavement out of the driveway. 
  • Also, a driveway that has been sealed/oversealed over the years can cause this alligatoring effect. The key is to look very closely at the pavement. Alligatoring from oversealing has more of a look of cracked glazing on pottery and doesn’t actually crack the pavement underneath, while alligatoring of the pavement will show actual cracks down into the pavement where an object like a butter knife could be inserted. Merely sealing really can’t cure either condition.

What do you base your paving recommendation on? 

  • I take a good look at the cracking on the driveway and whether or not the driveway drainage mechanics are working properly. Significant cracking of the pavement underneath allows water into the base, which in turn accelerates cracking during freeze-thaw times of the year. On the drainage mechanics, I look to see if the driveway is draining properly and not allowing drainage towards foundations, doors, or other undesirable places. If I see either of these things, I recommend a new driveway to cure the issues.
  • If the driveway has the alligatoring effect where just the sealcoat has that cracked glazed pottery look, a sealcoat will merely make everything nice and black again, but the effect will still be there once the sealcoat has been completed. This type of cracked-pottery alligatoring effect has no effect on the structural integrity of the driveway and is merely cosmetic in nature. If cosmetics of the drive are of significant importance to the home or business owner, I recommend a new driveway.

If I tried a "do-it-yourself" sealcoat and it went horrible wrong, can Wolf Paving help fix it?

  • Many off-the-shelf sealcoating products have been formulated to withstand sitting on a store shelf for an extended period of time. As a result, these products cannot match the quality and durability of the products and types of sealer that Wolf Paving uses. We custom mix our sealers with the appropriate additives, and our material is kept in a suspended state of frequent mixing; something store brands are not able to offer. I have seen driveways where an attempt by a homeowner went badly and we were asked to see what we can do - with mixed results. As we have no control over the chemical makeup of the material the homeowner used, we can’t guarantee against a reaction between their sealer and ours, and any adhesion issues that may result.
  • I have also seen homeowner attempts where their sealer never fully cures and remains a little tacky, which can be an major issue. To these homeowners, I often recommend having the Wolf Paving team come in and sealing over the top in hopes that there are no issues (most of the time there is not an issue), but there needs to be an understanding that we can’t guarantee against a reaction, but will do our best.

Why would someone just sealcoat the end of their driveway?

  • There are quite a few municipalities that will not allow a concrete driveway to extend all the way to the road edge - thus requiring a short asphalt approach. All driveways weather and given enough time, concrete driveways can become grey, while asphalt driveways can fade to grey as well- giving the appearance of a similar type of driveway. There is no sealcoat that will bring a concrete driveway back to white, so once the homeowner sealcoats the asphalt portion, the difference in driveway types becomes very noticeable.

Any advice or quick tips for a homeowner with a weathered asphalt driveway?

  • Definitely. Call for an estimate to a reputable contractor stating that you have a weathered driveway and would appreciate suggestions on what the best, cost-effective course of action would be. So much depends on the visual inspection of the driveway by the estimator. A weathered asphalt driveway (depending on the needs and wants of the customer) could basically be left alone until budget allows for a new driveway. It could only require crack filling to protect it from the harmful effects of freeze/thaw (if cosmetics are not a high priority but function is), or the driveway could be crack filled and sealcoated to bring it as close to the appearance of a new driveway as possible- again. So much is up to the inspection by the estimator and conversation with the home or business owner.
  • The single biggest tip is to never ever have a person/company travelling through the neighborhood offering to service your driveway work on your driveway because they “have extra material and will give you a great price”- whether it be sealcoating or actual paving or patching. Do your homework and check out the contractor ahead of time. Diluted sealcoat or substandard paving materials are the norm with these types of offers, and if and when you have a problem the chance of receiving any support or solutions is a long shot.
  • Check your prospective contractor out and see how receptive they are to customer concerns down the line. Concerns and problems happen with any contractor in any line of work, the key is how they are treated once they arise. It’s time well spent.

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Topics: Asphalt Driveway, Repaving, Sealcoating