So, you woke up today and decided you should tackle the maintenance of your faded, pitted, somewhat cracked driveway. Sounds simple enough, huh? You can go buy some sealer from your local home improvement store and get to it. Not so fast, it will take some preparation and proper planning to complete it successfully and be happy with the end result.
First, let’s talk about hiring a contractor to do the work for you. Below are some guidelines for selecting a contractor for sealing your driveway. As you all know, there’s a lot of hack companies out there and unfortunately when it comes to sealing driveways, it’s a very easy business to get into to make a quick dollar, so the hacks are out there in droves.
1. NEVER HIRE A CONTRACTOR THAT KNOCKS ON YOUR DOOR AND OFFERS YOU THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME!! As with paving or sealing, they don’t have leftover asphalt or sealer from a previous job. They plan on it ahead of time to sell it to you. Trust me, if you are getting an awesome deal, you are getting ripped off and the chances are when it’s time to complain, you will never hear from them again. Use the phonebook, internet, or talk to friends and neighbors when looking for a contractor to do the work.
2. Select a contractor that specializes in driveway maintenance, not a paving company who does it on the side or anyone else who does it here and there.
3. Find out how the contractor applies the sealer. A brushed on application is best, squeegee is ok, spray is the worst. If a sealer is sprayed, it’s watered down for sure. It will look great for a few weeks, then it will mysteriously vanish right before your eyes.
4. Ask what type of sealer they use. Oil based sealer soaks into your driveway and disappears. After all, your driveway is made of oil, it’s the main ingredient in asphalt. Latex based sealers sit on the top of your driveway just like paint would on a wall in your home. 9 out of 10 times, it will peel off over time and look terrible. Coal tar emulsion is the best for sealing driveways. It soaks into the surface of the driveway, creates a very tight bond, and is flexible throughout the seasons therefore resisting cracking and peeling. Coal tar emulsions typically contain less than 2% oil, just enough to create an excellent bond with the driveway surface.
5. Ask the contractor if they add sand to their sealer, this will create a non-slip surface and also adds to the flexibility of the sealer.
6. Know the square footage of your driveway, contractors will add the size to up the price. Ask the contractor at the time of the price quote the size of your driveway and the cost pr sq ft. The contractor should come out in person and look at your driveway, if they quote you over the phone…..beware!!
OK, so after all that, you still want to do the driveway yourself. Below I will list how to do so, along with materials needed for the job.
1. The satisfaction of doing it yourself.
2. Knowing the job was done correctly.
3. Possible savings on the overall job.
4. Improves the curb appeal of your home.
2. Time consuming
3. One-time use tools.
4. Learning curve
Tools and supplies necessary for doing the job correctly:
1. Weed Whacker
3. Hand scraper
4. Wire broom
5. 5 inch roofing brush with handle
6. 24 – 36 nylon bristle thin profile brush with handle
7. Small blade with handle for crack filling.
8. Power drill with paint stirring paddle
9. Rubberized crack filler
10. Driveway sealer
11. Gloves and safety glasses
12. Clothes and shoes you will never wear again. You WILL get dirty!!
Choose a day for the job that has no rain in the forecast, is not too hot, and maybe even cloudy. Hot and sunny days make the job a nightmare as the water content in the sealer evaporates very quickly and if you don’t work VERY fast, you will end up with thick spots, brush marks, and it won’t look very nice.
As I mentioned above in the contractor section, find a coal tar based sealer for the project. Measure your driveway, length x width to come up with the square footage. Typically, 5 gallons of sealer will cover 200-400 square feet depending on the texture of the asphalt and if it has been sealed before. Make sure you buy some extra sealer, if unopened you can always return it. You want to have enough sealer to complete the job.
OK, now the you have all of the supplies and sealer, let’s prep the driveway. The most important part of any home improvement job is the prep work.
Wear your safety goggles at all times. Flying debris from cleaning and splashed sealer are hazards.
1. If grass lines the edges of your driveway, edge it with a power edger or weedwhacker. Get the grass away at least an inch away from the edge of the driveway if possible. The edges are a very important spot to properly seal as they are the first spots that water will enter, weaken, etc. Typically paving companies will apply the thinnest layer of asphalt on the edges and bottom of the driveway near the street.
2. Scrape weeds and grass out of any and all cracks in the driveway with the hand scraper. After doing so, you can also spray some weed killer in those cracks to prevent future growth. An alternative method is using a blow torch, but don’t do so if you are not comfortable using one.
3. Use the wire broom to brush dirt out of cracks and any dirt on the driveway that is packed in or has collected in low spots.
4. Use your leaf blower to thoroughly blow of all debris. Grass, dirt, rocks, anything loose on the driveway needs to be removed. Otherwise, the sealer will not bond well and may also come out bumpy.
5. Now, you want to fill in the cracks. Use the rubberized crack filler and small blade/trowel to fill the cracks even with the surface. Unfortunately, the products available to homeowners are not the best. The ideal way to fill cracks is with a heated, rubberized tar. But, using the products off the shelf is better than nothing. Only fill cracks that are 1/8 of inch or larger. The smaller cracks will be filled with the sealer. Allow the crack filler to dry before moving on to the next step. Read the label for drying times as they do vary with different products and weather conditions.
6. Now it’s time to work on sealing the driveway. The first thing you want to do is cut-in around the entire length of the driveway using the 5 inch roofing brush. This keeps the sealer off of any valuable decor, concrete, stone, or anything you DO NOT want the sealer on. Open a 5 gallon bucket of sealer, stir it well with the drill and paddle. Dip the brush into the 5 gallon bucket just enough to cover the bristles, not the wood. Apply the sealer around edges using a slow, back and forth motion, being careful not to lift the brush off of the asphalt at the end of each stroke, it will flick onto valuable areas if you lift the brush off the pavement while in motion. Do not put the sealer on thick, just a nice, thin even coat will do the trick. Make sure you cover the edges next the grass very well.
7. Now that you have finished cutting in the driveway, you are somewhat familiar with the consistency of the sealer, how much you will need for proper coverage, and know to be careful with it near valuables. Lay out buckets of sealer evenly spaced to where you think you will need them. Open all the buckets and stir them well with the drill and paddle. You will now use the 24-36 inch brush for applying the sealer. With your back towards the house to avoid splashing valuables, dump the first bucket of sealer onto the driveway.
Depending on the size, you may want to dump two. Spread the puddle of sealer from side to side just over the edge of the cutting in areas already completed. Do not brush the the sealer the lengthwise, brush marks will be visible from the street if done so. Make about 3 passes or so with the sealer, don’t worry about walking in it. After 3 passes are done, go up to where you began, angle the brush towards you slightly, and pull it across the same areas until excess sealer is pulled down and footprints are removed. DO NOT put a thick coat of sealer on the driveway. It’s not necessary and will crack and peel for sure. Proceed to do the same thing all the way down the driveway. Again, do not lift the brush while in the middle of a stroke, it will splatter.
TIP: On a cloudy, very humid day, you can go further down the driveway before going up to remove excess and footprints without worrying about the sealer drying too fast. In the case that the sealer dries quickly, bring a little excess back up with you.
8. When you get to the end of the driveway, stop when you just have 2 feet or so to go and remove your shoes before stepping onto the street or sidewalk. Footprints where they don’t belong will look horrible and are almost impossible to remove.
9. Finish the last part while working from the street or driveway. Any excess can be shoveled up and put back in a bucket. Do not push it to a storm drain or in the grass or gutter.
10. Block the driveway with caution tape, cones, or trashcans so nobody drives or walks on it. Plan on staying off the driveway for 36-48 hours. The longer the better.
11. Time for clean up. Leave brushes in the sun until they become dry and hard, remove brush ends and discard. Paddle for stirring sealer can be placed in a bucket of water and the sealer should wash off. Clothes can be soaked in Lestoil and warm water for a day or so, then washed in a clothes washer with hot water. DO NOT dry the clothes in the clothes dryer as any excess sealer left on them will line the inside of the dryer and damage the next load of clothes that goes in the dryer. Throw your shoes away or save them for next time.
12. Sit back, grab a cool beverage and watch your driveway dry.:-)
-Depending on the size of your driveway, it may not be worth the trouble to tackle the job yourself. Many of my customers said they will NEVER do it again by themselves. You have to factor in the cost, time, and trouble of doing it yourself and weigh that against having a pro do it.
-Typical sealing contractors charge $0.10-$0.25 pr sq foot. $0.50-$1.50 pr linear ft for crack filling.
-Never seal concrete with asphalt sealer, it WONT WORK. It will peel off within a few months.