When you install a driveway, there are a number of choices you have as far as materials. One of the most popular choices is asphalt, which is also commonly called blacktop or hot top for it's color and installation method. The downfall of asphalt, which is a very durable, long-lasting, and affordable product, is that it requires constant maintenance. Every year or two, you need to seal your driveway, which will prevent water from causing cracks and other problems. Otherwise, you'll need to replace your driveway often, which can be extremely expensive over time.
The process for sealing your asphalt driveway is actually fairly easy. While you can hire a company to do this for you, in actuality, this is a great project for DIY homeowners who want a relatively easy project to complete. You can save about half of the cost over hiring contractors to seal the driveway for you.
First, you need to time this project well. Sealing your driveway is best in the spring or fall, though can also be done in the summer as long as it isn't too hot outside (or you have extra time to allow for driving. When you seal your driveway, it is important to wait for a stretch of at least three days where you're not expecting any rain, and make sure that you can rope off the area, not allowing cars to drive on the asphalt for at least 24 hours--longer if the manufacturer calls for it. For the best results, you also need to eliminate foot traffic and traffic from bikes for at least 24 hours. In addition, if you live in a colder climate, it is important to wait until the weather is above 45 degrees before you try to seal your driveway.
Start by preparing the surface for the new sealant. This is the most important part of the process, since a surface that is dirty, wet, or covered with debris won't take the product as well. Sealant won't break your bank, but it isn't exactly cheap either, so if you're going to spend the time and money on the process, it makes sense to do it properly.
To prep the surface, first remove any grass or brush that overhangs and could get in your way. Sweep the entire surface, using a stiff-bristle broom. Look over the surface. If there are any oil or grass stains, purchase a stain remover that's made specifically for driveways. If you have trouble finding this product, check at an auto supply store. After you're done removing stains, sweep the driveway again if necessary, and patch an large cracks or potholes using the appropriate products. You may have to plan for additional drying time with these repair products.
Next, use a hose to spray down your driveway, which will remove and dirt and debris that you couldn't get by sweeping. If you have a high-pressure option available, this will make your job easier, but a typical garden hose works fine too. Make sure the surface is completely dry before you start the sealant process.
Before you open the tub of sealer, make sure you read the directions carefully. This product will ruin clothing and shoes, and it can damage your skin if you don't wash exposed areas quickly. You might want to wear gloves, protective goggles, and a mask, depending on the material you're using. Most products need to be mixed well, so before opening the lid for the first time, turn it upside down for a few minutes to allow the product to mix. You should also stir the product when you open the tub, and as you're working on your driveway, stir occasionally to keep the product from separating.
You'll need an application broom to sweep the product onto the driveway. Start by working in one corner, pouring on only a small amount of sealer so that you can work in ten-foot sections at a time. Use long, even, sweeping strokes to cover the surface, but avoid applying the product too thickly. This won't actually provide better protection; it will just use more product (which costs more money), take longer to apply, and take longer to dry. As long as you've completely covered the surface, your layer is thick enough.
Once the entire surface is covered, block off the driveway so that no one accidentally pulls into it. Remember, even if you know not to drive on the surface, friends who unexpectedly stop by might not know, and neighbors could pull into your driveway a bit to turn around. It's better to be safe than sorry! Allow the surface to dry for at least a full 24 hours, before testing it--if it still feels a bit sticky, give it another 12 to 24 hours before you allow any traffic on the surface.
Sealing a typical driveway can easily save you from having to do a total replacement of your driveway or major repairs every year. In just an afternoon, you can save thousands of dollars in home repair costs!