In the past decade as our workforce loses out to foreign competition, many people have decided to go into business for themselves. A very easy and lucrative business is asphalt sealing. A person can get started with as little investment as a couple hundred dollars and no experience. This has led to even more problems in an industry that is already marked with scars from bad ethics and scrupulous scams. Until wide spread use of the Internet, consumers have been limited to educating themselves regarding pavement maintenance through the actual installers.
The problem is, most of the installers have little knowledge themselves.
Let's explore and offer some answers to the most common questions:
1.) Q. Should seal coating be performed on an annual basis?
A. No. Sealing your surface too much can lead to many problems. Many seal coating installers will lead you to believe otherwise. However, the first two coats of sealer applied to your asphalt are what really protect it. Anything after this is usually for cosmetic purposes. Sealer applied annually tends to crack and flake after about 10 years of annual applications. This may influence the owner to resurface prematurely. To sum up, too much maintenance is not a good return on investment. Other problems caused by over sealing are tracking, creating slippery surfaces, and a smaller balance in your checkbook.
2.) Q. Is it better to apply sealer in hot weather?
A. No. While this is true for paving, it's not appropriate for sealing. Remember, asphalt can get so hot under the hot summer sun; it can nearly burn your skin. This also causes the sealer to dry too quickly. When sealer dries too quickly it can peel, flake, or get a streaky finish. If you must apply sealer in temperatures above 90 degrees, it's a good idea to spray the surface with a light mist of water first. This will cool the surface considerably. Ideal air temperatures are between 50 and 80 degrees.
3.) Q. Sealer is all the same, why shouldn't I choose a less expensive bid?
A. There are far more variables to the seal coating industry than consumers realize. Most directly influence the differences in quoted prices. First off, sealer is water based. Therefore it can be diluted to save money, or not diluted to provide a more superior product. Unfortunately, there is hardly any way to tell what the water content is in sealer. Most applications will have an average of 10%-25% water dilution rate. This is acceptable. Consumers should choose a reputable contractor. Usually a good installer will be more expensive because he doesn't over dilute his material, he may use additives which greatly improve the sealer, he has all the required insurances and licensing to be in business, pays his trained employees a fair wage to do a good job, and will stand behind the work. Shoddy contractors almost never have any insurance, offer a low price to get a large volume of work, hire cheap inexperienced labor, dilute the material heavily, and will never offer any guarantees once paid.
4.) Q. Surface cracks always come back, so why bother filling them?
A. Inexperienced or unethical contractors will shy away from filling cracks. It is important to fill cracks especially in climates that are subjected to freezing temperatures. Water can cause damage to pavement if permitted to get down into the pores of blacktop. Qualified installers will know exactly the best solution to treat cracks.
5.) Q. Why do I need to seal my surface? After all, the interstates don't get sealed.
A. Although your surface may be comprised of similar materials as the highway, it is subjected to much different uses than a highway. Highways don't get sealed because they carry a large volume of high-speed single direction traffic. This has a polishing effect on the surface, which will naturally repel water from being soaked into the pavement. Your surface is subjected to slow moving, heavy loads, or constant maneuvering of vehicles. Asphalt can realize a longer lifespan by sealing because it keeps water or damaging chemicals from penetrating into its pores.
6.) Q. Can I save some money by doing it myself?
A. At one point, some courageous homeowners (and very few commercial property owners) will try to personally seal coat their pavement. Stop for a second and add up the total costs you will incur by undertaking this project. Sealer by the pale costs 4-5 times more at improvement stores (and usually is not of the same quality). Tools available to homeowners are often expensive and not up to the task. Figure on ruining a whole outfit from your shoes all the way to gloves. You may have to persuade somebody to help you, which could cost additional money. On average this will take you four to five times longer than a professional. On a 1,200 square foot driveway you can expect to fork out around $300.00 for the supplies listed above. That doesn't include what you would make hourly at your job. Plus it is highly doubtful that you would do half as good a job as a professional. By today's rates, most professional jobs will range between $180.00 and $320.00.
7.) Q. Should the sealer be applied by spray or squeegee?
A. Here is another reason you should rely on a real professional to come up with a solution for your specific needs. Both application types are suitable under the right circumstances. There is no "one size fits all" method of seal coating. A true professional will determine the process based off of age, degree of deterioration, climate, expected use, budget, term of ownership, obstacles, and how many coats already exist on the pavement.
The main point of this article is to influence the consumer to research and make an educated decision when maintaining asphalt surfaces. Do not make an impulsive decision based solely on price. The first thing you should do is be sure your contractor has an upstanding report with the BBB. Make sure they are well established by investigating whether they have a local advertisement in the yellow pages or a website. It also wouldn't hurt to get several bids, and check references on all of them. Keep in mind you usually get what you pay for.
A well-paved blacktop surface can last 20 years if maintained on proper intervals. Save money by hiring a reputable, paving or sealing contractor. They can develop a strategy to maintain your pavement. Spending a little more now, can save you a lot down the road.