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How Often Should I Sealcoat My Driveway?

The short answer is every two years. I’ve read some articles in the local newspaper by the “know it all” jack of all trades, columnist who gets paid to write about various home improvement projects. He may or may not be qualified to expound on every article he opines but his editor demands pen to paper for his keep.

As soon as new asphalt is installed, the UV rays begin to work its (not so black) magic. Initially, oxidation is a good thing. The light oils need to dissipate in order for the asphalt to properly harden. As oxidation process continues the liquid asphalt, the glue that holds the aggregate together begins to turn the driveway gray and brittle. This leads to raveling, the breaking apart of the sand and tiny stones that comprise your driveway. This process allows water to penetrate and via the freeze / thaw cycle causes cracking. So, you could say that sealcoating is like putting sunscreen on your driveway.

Sealed asphalt will outlast unsealed asphalt by 300% and will save thousands of dollars along the way. The cost of not maintaining your driveway versus replacement costs can be as much as 700%. This doesn’t factor in the curb appeal that a freshly sealed driveway provides. After all, your driveway is the welcome mat to your home.

But, how often should this process be done? Here at Jet-Seal we offer a premium product, Poly Cote manufactured by The Brewer Company and strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended mix design. This means not diluting the product with too much water. The result is a “high solids” film left on the asphalt. “Solids” is the residue left after the product has fully cured and all the water has dissipated. No other manufacturer makes a sealcoat with a higher solids content.

Our recommended maintenance schedule is as follows; wait at least six months before applying a sealcoat. The very first time apply two coats, allowing the first coat time to totally dry before applying the second coat. Then, going forward apply a single coat every two years. This will allow the film to wear and not build up. If the film builds up and becomes too thick it will crack, causing surface or “mud” cracking. Most homeowner’s have been advised to sealcoat every year. That is only good for the contractor’s bottom line. Over sealing is the single most mistake made by homeowner’s when it comes to their driveway and a lot of contractor’s lead them down that road. I have had this discussion with reputable firms who have told me, “if we don’t do it, someone else will.”

Our philosophy hasn’t changed since my dad founded Jet-Seal in 1958. Offer the best quality product at affordable prices and never forget who writes your paycheck. Repay them with the best application methods, offer good honest advice followed by unparalleled customer service and you will retain that customer for life. The cost of marketing for a new customer is three times that of retaining an existing one. So, by doing business the way my dad taught me and passing that wisdom down to my son who is about to take the reins is beneficial to both Jet-Seal and our customers.

We really do mean it when we say, “Jet-Seal – We’ve Got You Covered”.

-Ted Lovell
President
Jet-Seal, LLC

Why Sealcoating Makes “Cents.”

Sealcoating is a true “barrier coat” between asphalt surfaces and the destructive elements. The term “sealcoating” means keeping the redeeming properties of asphalt sealed in to prolong the pavement life and preserve its functional properties. The primary reason to sealcoat an asphalt pavement is to protect the pavement from the deteriorating effects of sun and water. When an asphalt pavement is exposed to sun, wind and water, the asphalt hardens, or oxidizes. This causes the pavement to become more brittle. As a result, the pavement will crack because it is unable to bend and flex when exposed to traffic and temperature changes. A sealcoat combats this situation by providing a waterproof membrane which not only slows down the oxidation process but also helps the pavement to shed water, preventing it from entering the base material.

A secondary benefit of seal coating is an increase in the surface friction it provides. This is accomplished by the additional texture the cover aggregate adds to the pavement. With time, traffic begins to wear the fine material from an asphalt pavement surface. This result in a condition referred to as raveling. When enough of the fine material is worn off the pavement surface, traffic is driving mostly on the course aggregate. As these aggregate particles begin to become smooth and polished, the roadway may become slippery, making it difficult to stop quickly. A sealcoat increases the pavement texture and increases the surface friction properties.

An additional benefit to sealcoating is curb appeal. Your parking lot or driveway is the welcome mat to your business or home. A well-maintained asphalt parking lot or driveway shows that you care about your property and the safety of guests or patrons. Finally, sealcoating saves money by extending the life span of asphalt by as much as three times that of unsealed asphalt. When you compare sealcoating costs, pennies per square foot vs. dollars per square foot for asphalt replacement, you can easily see how sealcoating makes “cents.”

Why Jet-Seal Chooses Brewer Cote® Asphalt Sealer

The quick answer to why Jet-Seal uses Brewer Cote® is because it simply lasts longer. Let’s break down the reasons that make Brewer Cote® pavement sealer “The Best in the Business.” Brewer Cote® is a 100% refined tar emulsion pavement sealer.  Unlike the asphalt it is designed to protect or pavement sealer made from asphalt, refined tar emulsion pavement sealer resists oxidation from the sun and spills from gasoline and oil. At Jet-Seal we use the same product for sealcoating shopping centers and other high traffic commercial parking lots as we do on your residential driveway. The only difference is the number of coats applied and the frequency of the maintenance schedule. We recommend two coats on a residential driveway the very first time it is sealed and then a single coat every other year. For commercial parking lots we advise two coats every three years. You may ask, why the maintenance schedules differ. Commercial parking lots have a lot more traffic and typically have a more rigorous snow removal process compared to your residential driveway. When sealcoat is applied, the film (dried sealer) needs to wear before applying more. Film build up will cause cracking and chipping. 


Colloid Mill vs. Batch Manufacturing

All pavement products are not created equally. When deciding which sealer to use on a job, understand the differences in manufacturing before you buy. Brewer Cote uses only tested and certified raw materials in a sophisticated colloid milling process to produce the most consistent pavement products available. Colloid milling is a continuous process which produces a highly stable and homogeneous emulsion. Batch processes cannot achieve this, no matter how skilled the operator.

Why do batch processes fall short?

A batch system is like a cake mixer, where conditions change throughout the process. At the beginning, temperatures can vary, liquid volume is relatively small, and there is no ability to create adequate pressure to enable better shear. At the end, the rising liquid level above the mixing blades reduces the ability of raw materials to blend. This results in inconsistent particles and a potentially unstable and less predictable product.

 What makes the colloid mill superior?

The colloid mill resembles a jet engine in its design, performance, and complexity. Raw materials are squeezed using pressure and sheared through tight tolerances of the mill’s rotor and stator. Controlled pressures, temperatures, and flows deliver a homogeneous pavement sealer with consistently sized particles. This creates a more stable emulsion for better performance in longevity and color consistency.

The results are real!

In nearly 60 years of manufacturing sealers, colloid milled sealers have shown better color uniformity, consistency, and performance from load to load when compared to batch-made sealers. No more guessing about quality when sealer arrives on your jobsite. With Brewer Cote, you can expect the best.

What is refined tar?

Refined tar is derived from crude coke oven tar produced in the manufacturing of steel. The crude coke oven tar is then refined, through distillation, into several products, including various grades of road tar (RT). RT-12 grade refined tar, which conforms to the requirements of ASTM D490, is used to produce refined tar emulsion pavement sealers.

Why use refined tar emulsion pavement sealer?

Asphalt pavements, left unprotected, will be damaged and eventually destroyed by the effects of thermal and UV induced oxidation, erosion caused by moisture, gasoline and oil drippings, salt and chemicals. Refined tar emulsion pavement sealers, due to their unique chemical and molecular structure, are inherently resistant to these elements and provide protection superior to asphalt based pavement sealers. Regular application of refined tar emulsion pavement sealers will extend the life of the pavement and protect the investment it represents.

What is solids content?

Solids content is a measure of the non-volatile components present in a pavement sealer and generally indicates the combined amount of tar (resin) and clay (filler) present in the sealer. Typically, the higher the solids content of the concentrated pavement sealer, the more water that can be added to achieve the recommended solids content on the pavement. For maximum protection, The Brewer Company recommends that the solids content of the diluted pavement sealer, as applied, should be 35-40%. Brewer Cote® is produced at a consistent solids content of 51-52%, which is the highest level in the industry.

 What is ash content?

Ash content is a measure of the non-binding, inorganic components present in a pavement sealer and generally indicates the amount of clay (filler) present in the sealer. Refined tar emulsion pavement sealer produced with a low ash content (less than 35%) usually has a high tar content and is softer and more susceptible to tracking after application. Whereas, refined tar emulsion pavement sealer produced with a high ash content (greater than 38%) usually has a low tar content and is harder and more likely to wear prematurely or flake off the surface. The Brewer Company, as an industry leader, produces Brewer Cote® at a consistent ash content of 36-37% to maximize performance and wear resistance, while diminishing the risk of tracking.

 Does thicker sealer mean better sealer?

A thicker pavement sealer does not necessarily imply a better performing pavement sealer. Concentrated refined tar emulsion pavement sealer produced at 51-52% solids content and 36-37% ash content will appear thick. However, pavement sealer produced with a high ash content (greater than 38%) or produced with high water swelling clays or other thickening agents, will generally appear thicker, even though its solids content may be less. Often, contractors mistakenly determine how much water to add to the concentrated sealer based upon how thick the sealer appears and not based upon solids content. As a result, too much water can be added to an already low solids concentrated pavement sealer, reducing the solids content below the level necessary for acceptable performance on the pavement.

Jet-Seal: Reflecting on the Past 59 Years

When my dad, Gene Lovell founded the company in 1958 (later named Jet-Seal), sealcoating products and application methods were limited. Dad purchased his sealer at a coatings manufacturing plant in northeast Ohio. The company manufactured a product that was formulated with gilsonite and distributed their product under various labels, including Topcoat® to building supply centers. Dad had a contact that allowed him to purchase the product at wholesale prices. He would buy as much in 5 gallon buckets that his truck could hold. As soon as he realized that he could purchase the sealcoating in bulk, eliminating the cost for the coatings company of filling and providing the cans he had a local welder design a tank that held approximately 250 gallons.

I fondly remember making several trips with dad to buy the sealcoating product. He would often have customers that we would service on the trip home and often times he would cold call on a business and empty the tank before we returned home prompting a return trip to the sealcoating plant.

In those days (the late 60’s) there wasn’t a great deal of competition or much of a choice of products. The gold standard company of the time was Blacktop Maintenance. As the clock turned to the early 70’s I started to notice different products on some of the driveways in the neighborhoods where we did work. This product looked much different than what I was used to seeing. It lacked the high gloss finish that I was used to, but I couldn’t help but observe that the product seemed to outlast the gilsonite fortified product we were using. Yes, I said we! By the time I was sixteen I was coming home from school and knocking on doors to drum up business. That year, dad bought me a new pickup truck. Let me clarify that along with the new truck came a payment book. I was responsible for making the payments if I was going to be considered the owner of the truck. I’ll say this much for the old man, he knew how to motivate!

By the mid 70’s I had finished school and working with dad full time. I was increasing sales and focusing on expansion. By then I had seen new sealcoating products popping up around town and was impressed with the results I was seeing. These new products were coal tar based; the same type of product (Brewer Cote) we use at Jet-Seal today, for both commercial parking lots and driveways.

When I proposed a change of products to dad I didn’t realize it would require a complete re-tooling of our equipment. The small gear reduction pumps we used would need to be replaced with air diaphragm pumps, the tanks would need to have a method of agitation, since the new products were emulsions. In order to incorporate an agitation system, the tank had to be round. Ours were square, so there was that obstacle. Dad wasn’t much for change but he was approaching fifty and was softening a bit. He agreed to help me finance a new rig complete with a hydraulic agitated tank, an air diaphragm pump and most importantly he agreed to the use of the recently introduced coal tar product, for use in the new unit only.

The new product wasn’t immediately embraced. The new product wasn’t high gloss like what we had used for several years and our customers were skeptical. I continued to enforce the philosophy that the coal tar product would outperform the old product and over time would save them a significant amount of money. They were used to having a coat applied every year. The coal tar emulsion product would only require a coat every other year and in some cases every three years. A few years later dad began to experience some health issues and was stepping back a bit more each year. We decided to phase the old equipment and product out and continue with the newer, more durable product.

It wasn’t long before our customers were embracing the change and realizing the benefits. Some of these residential customers were business owners and provided our initial entry into commercial parking lots. We currently do about 60% commercial work with the remaining 40% reserved for the segment where we got our start; driveways.

Over the years I have experimented with several brands of coal tar based asphalt sealcoatings as well as some of the asphalt (petroleum) based sealcoatings. I used Brewer Cote for years and was convinced to try other brands including products manufactured by SealMaster®, Star Seal®and Neyra®. I believe I owe it to my customers to provide them with the highest grade, most consistent product on the market. That search led me back to The Brewer Company, (Brewer Cote) a few years ago. We currently use Poly Cote, The Brewer Company’s premium product, a polymer fortified coal tar emulsion formulated to last longer and dry faster, harder and blacker.

Dad passed away several years ago. It’s funny how the circle of life works. I now have a son who after graduating from the Ohio State Fisher School of Business is chomping at the bit to implement his ideas and I’m now the one who is skeptical of change.

The Advantages PolyCote® Premium Grade Pavement Sealer

Premium Pavement Sealer System Defined

You may ask; What is a premium grade pavement sealer system, isn’t sealcoating just sealcoating? What Is Traditional Pavement Sealer Compared To A Premium Grade Pavement Sealer: When coal tar emulsion is purchased from a pavement sealer manufacturer or authorized distributor, it comes in a concentrated form resembling pudding. The manufacturer then suggests certain mix designs each contractor should follow.

The Brewer company logog

Most manufacturers suggest a dilution ratio of 25-35 gallons of water per 100 gallons of concentrate. In addition, a latex modifier (Also called an additive) is recommended at a rate of 1-5 gallons per 100 gallons of concentrate. Silica Sand or Black Beauty Slag is also recommended to be added at a rate of 100 lbs. to 500 lbs. per 100 gallons.

In theory, when the sealcoating contractor is finished blending all the ingredients together; you will have a mix design which meets the manufacturers specification, this, coupled with the proper application method, should give you a pavement sealer application that lasts 2-3 years, depending on your geographical location.

However, very few contractors mix and apply the coal tar emulsion pavement sealer to meet or exceed the manufacturer’s specifications. In a recent study by The Asphalt Institute, the nation’s leading authority on asphalt pavements, 7 times out of 10, the contractor is mixing the concentrate sealer with only water. To add insult to injury, water dilution ratios far exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations!

Why use PolyCote®?

By using a premium grade pavement sealer, such as PolyCote®, you are guaranteed to receive a long lasting application; in fact, PolyCote® has been “PROVEN” to be the longest lasting coal tar emulsion pavement sealer available on the market!

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:

1.

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

2.

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.

3.

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.

4.

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
President