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A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Driveway Sealing

So, you’re thinking about sealcoating your asphalt driveway? I could start by recommending you have the work done by a trusted contractor but that’s not why you came here. You want the inside scoop on how to do it yourself. An asphalt driveway is an investment that is well worth protecting. Proper maintenance can triple the life of a driveway, saving you thousands of dollars while giving your property curb appeal at the same time.

So, let’s get started:


Start by looking for trouble spots such as pot holes, crumbling areas, cracks or fluid stains. Thoroughly clean any fluid stain with a degreaser or perhaps Dawn and scrub with a stiff bristle brush. If you’re not confident that the stains have been completely removed apply a primer that can be found at the hardware store with the other driveway repair materials. If your driveway’s cracks have widened into potholes, you need to repair those areas. Blacktop patch, also called cold patch should be used to repair potholes, deep depressions, and crumbled areas. Blacktop patch is essentially ready-to-use asphalt that comes in a bag.

Driveway repairs in Columbus Ohio


Brush or vacuum the area clean, making sure to remove any pieces of loose asphalt. Cut open the bag and use a shovel to spread blacktop patch about 2 inches deep across the hole. Compact the area with a hand tamper, or a spare length of a 2 x 4. Add more blacktop patch, if necessary, and compact the area again. Repeat this process until the hole is slightly overfilled. Then drive your car back and forth over the patch until it’s flush with the driveway. If the patch sinks below the surrounding surface, add more blacktop patch and repeat. Allow at least 24 hours for the blacktop patch to cure before applying the sealer.


Fill in cracks. There are a lot of different products for crack filling. Some products are designed for filling smaller cracks such as caulking gun products and squeeze bottle material and others such as trowel grade crack fillers are better for larger cracks. Some larger cracks may require foam backer rod to give the crack filler something to bond to. Crack filling is labor intensive and time consuming but it’s very important to keep water from penetrating to the base of the driveway. Before you add crack filler make sure the cracks are clean and dry. Use a screwdriver to scrape out dirt and vegetation and a blower or wet/dry vacuum to remove any debris from the crack. Fill the crack so that it is level to the surface. You may need to make a second pass to bring the crack filler as close to surface level as possible. Make sure to allow the crack sealant to thoroughly cure before you begin the sealcoating process.


After you have completed these tasks it is time to clean and prep the driveway. Start by trimming the grass back from the edges taking care not to make a trench for water to run down and possibly under the driveway. It is important to properly seal the edges because structurally, this is the weakest point. Use a push broom or blower to remove any loose debris. Using a water hose or a pressure washer (taking great care not to damage the asphalt) can also be helpful. A clean driveway will promote proper adhesion of the sealer.
Thoroughly mix the sealer using a paddle attachment on a drill. Turning the pails upside down overnight will help with the mixing process. Make sure to have all the material thoroughly mixed before you begin. If you stop and allow the sealer to dry before starting again there will be a noticeable difference in color and perhaps texture in those areas.
Check the forecast. Depending on the product you will need anywhere from several hours to several days of drying time. Most driveway sealer manufacturers recommend that temperatures be at least 50 degrees and rising and not falling below 50 degrees at night. Again, depending on the product you will need anywhere from several hours to several days of dry sunny weather for the product to properly cure.
For the most part there are two types of asphalt sealers used here in the Midwest; refined purified coal tar sealers (a byproduct of coal to coke conversion process) and asphalt emulsions (a byproduct of the petroleum industry). The ecological effects of refined coal tar is a topic of great debate in the industry. For more information visit: thetruthaboutcoaltar.com. The difference in durability is that refined coal tar products will protect against gasoline and oil spills and asphalt emulsion products will not. Refined coal tar products will also last longer. Refined coal tar is typically used by professional contractors and usually not available in home improvement stores. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $20 for a 5 gallon pail of a decent asphalt emulsion sealer that will cover 300 – 400 square feet, depending on the condition of the driveway.

Different products call for specific application instructions. For most products a squeegee/brush can be used to apply the product. A typical homeowner grade applicator sold in your local hardware or home improvement center will cost about $20.
Again, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations but for the typical driveway sealer, here’s how it’s applied. Starting at the top of the driveway pour a liberal amount of sealer out and coat 3’- 4’ down the edges. Then, using the brush side of the applicator work the sealer into any porous areas. Now, using the squeegee side go from edge to edge spreading the sealer thin but covering all areas. Take caution not to leave any excess material in low areas. Try to keep your squeegee marks as even as possible while repeating this method to work down the driveway.

Wait 6 – 12 hours before applying a second coat if necessary. Two thin coats are better than a single thicker coat. Once you’re done place an empty bucket at each side of the driveway and run a piece of flagging tape across to keep unwanted traffic off. Allow 48 hours before driving on it.

The biggest mistake homeowners make is over-sealing. Allow the sealer to wear off to the point where a small amount of the aggregate is bare. I would suggest two coats the first time the driveway is sealed and then a single coat every two to four years.
Most people will find that by the time they add up the cost of the material, the applicator, the ruined clothing, their time and compare it to the cost of having a reputable contractor do the work the difference in cost usually doesn’t justify the effort. Many times it is less expensive to have a professional do the work. Asphalt maintenance companies buy several thousand gallons at a time of sealer for a fraction of what the homeowner pays. A trusted contractor will provide a superior product to the ones found in home improvement centers, have commercial grade application tools to provide a faster, more even finish and be more skilled at keeping the sealer off the surrounding structures. If you do decide to hire a contractor, do your homework first. We’ll cover that topic on another day.

– Ted Lovell

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Dan Suitor a resident of Lewis Center, Ohio said, “I just wanted to express my appreciation for a spectacular job by your company. The attention to detail that Ted showed in his application makes me feel lucky that I found your company and I will DEFINITELY suggest you to my neighbors! Thanks so much for a job extremely well done.”

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The High Cost of Choosing the Lowest Bid

Often homeowners, commercial property owners, municipalities and sometimes even professional property management companies choose the lowest bid. This practice can end up costing more, before the job is complete as well as long term. Most professional property management companies follow the basic guidelines of obtaining the proper documentation before accepting a bid from a contractor. The usual documentation consists of; proof of sufficient liability insurance, proof of workmen’s compensation insurance and a W-9. Many of the other groups mentioned above may neglect to use resources such as the Better Business Bureau, personal references and online reviews. I’ll explain why failure to do your due diligence can cost you more than you think.

Homeowner’s violate these safe practices more than any other group. Many look at the bottom line and are seduced into thinking they are getting a bargain. These are some of the perils of taking the bait and some additional things to look for and questions to ask. All commercial grade asphalt sealer comes in a concentrated form from the manufacturer. The manufacturer provides strict guidelines for the mixture that is eventually applied to your pavement. The components of the mixture consist of water, performance additives such as latex and silica sand. A typical recommended amount of water to be added is between 25 to 30 percent depending on factors such as the solids content of the product, the additives used and humidity. There is no way to know if the contractor added 25 percent water or 100 percent water. There are chemicals that can very inexpensively manipulate viscosity. Over diluting the product will result in less solids being left on your pavement after the water dissipates and the product cures resulting in premature wear. Under diluting the product can result in the product not curing properly and tracking tar into your home or business. Additives are expensive and many contractors forego them completely. The benefits of latex additives are; accelerated drying time, a harder, blacker finish and aiding in suspending the silica sand in the sealer. If the sand is not distributed evenly throughout the final film left on your pavement it will cause premature failure. The benefits of silica sand when properly mixed are a harder, longer lasting film as well as providing a less slippery surface. If someone slips and falls on your pavement you as well as the contractor can be held liable. This brings us to the next problem with choosing the lowest bid: Insurance.

Fly by night contractors have been around forever. Some things to look for are out of state license plates, toll free telephone numbers with no local area code. Magnetic signs that can easily be changed to the “area” they are working or more precisely “hustling”. The old “we have some additional material left over and can offer you a great deal”. No reputable asphalt contractor ever has left over material. The cost of asphalt has soared with the cost of petroleum. Reputable paving companies rarely miscalculate the amount of material needed to complete a project. If they do it certainly isn’t enough to do even a tiny driveway. Reputable sealcoater’s have round tanks with a hydraulic agitation system. Avoid any sealcoat company or individual with a square tank because proper agitation which is essential is impossible with a square tank. Properly agitated sealer will last virtually forever unless it freezes. So no reputable sealcoating contractor has “left over material” with the exception of late fall when a freeze can ruin the product. These scam artists do not carry liability insurance or workmen’s compensation insurance. If a hose breaks and sealer covers your home, your automobile or your concrete, you are left holding the bag so to speak. If a worker is injured or a freak accident causes death on your property and the contractor does not carry workmen’s compensation insurance you could lose everything. That small amount of money you thought you were saving just caused you to enter “The Twilight Zone”. Do you really believe these guys have insurance or are concerned about the quality of the product being sold?

When the economy took a free fall there were and still are people who got into the asphalt maintenance business as a way to feed their family. Their theory was a cheap pickup truck or van, a plastic tank and a couple of brushes and bingo…I’m in the asphalt maintenance business! Without the cost of the proper knowledge of application procedures, proper equipment, liability insurance and workmen’s compensation insurance even the well meaning guy trying to feed his family can cause you the same grief as a con artist. Well meaning or not if / when something goes wrong again you are the one holding the proverbial bag. This brings us to the next topic: Experience. How long has the company been in business? Verify this with as many sources as possible. The internet hold a wealth of information and a little time spent doing research can pay off tremendously. These guys typically can provide you with local references; usually people who may not know a good job from a bad one but they know they saved a couple of bucks. The whole concept of insurance is sooner or later something is going to go wrong. That’s why it’s against the law to drive a car without it.

In conclusion, I remember my dad, the founder of Jet-Seal back in 1958, often reciting a quote. I’m not sure if this was his insight or if he borrowed it from some other wise person. The quote was, “Services are like oats, you can buy them a lot cheaper if they’ve been through the horse first”. Many people see the value in paying more for a better meal, a quality home or vehicle, clothing and many other products. They know from experience that usually paying a little more for a quality product costs less over time. Asphalt maintenance is no different. If you have any questions or concerns about a project you are considering please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have over 40 years of experience in this industry and I enjoy sharing the knowledge that I have acquired over the years. Warm regards,

~Ted Lovell

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. It’s unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you may lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.”

~ John Ruskin