Mar 23 Reseal or Resurface? What You Need to Know About Asphalt Maintenance and Repair
You probably don’t think about asphalt every day. But you probably use it that often.
Asphalt is everywhere: on our roads, our roofs, and our driveways. It’s slick black look and value make asphalt a popular choice for anywhere we can stick it. But there’s one thing that puts asphalt high above concrete in the value scale: you can repair it.
Unlike concrete, which is laid in blocks because each block must be dug up and replaced when defects occur, asphalt can be repaired cheaply and easily.
Two methods of asphalt repair, resurfacing and sealcoating, are often misunderstood. One is a few steps shy of an outright repair, the other is just routine maintenance. We’re writing this blog to clear that up.
The Difference Between Resurfacing and Sealcoating
Sealcoating (also called resealing) a driveway is the process of applying one or two thin layers of asphalt, also called sealant, to an asphalt driveway. This has the effect of sealing up any cracks in the driveway—plus, it makes the driveway look brand new.
You should get your driveway resealed every 3-5 years.
Resurfacing (also called overlaying) your driveway is the process of ripping up the driveway a few inches down. Then, you apply brand new asphalt to the top, essentially creating a new driveway without having to dig up the yard. It’s extremely cost effective, but requires that the driveway was installed correctly to begin with.
You should only need to resurface your driveway once every 15-20 years or so.
Why Are They Necessary?
Asphalt, the kind we use for roads and driveways, is a mix of petroleum binding agent and aggregate, which is just a fancy name for rocks, sand, and gravel. The black binding agent is the asphalt itself, and it’s what holds the aggregate together.
Asphalt is incredibly flexible, which means it does a great job of supporting the weight of cars and people. However, this flexibility requires that asphalt sits atop a sturdy surface, so all asphalt sits over a bed of gravel. If it didn’t, asphalt would sink into the ground under the weight of a vehicle.
The sun’s UV rays slowly break down the asphalt, which is why asphalt gets gray and bumpy over time. As asphalt deteriorates, it opens up to cracks. That’s bad for asphalt because cracks let water seep inside the surface. Once cold weather hits, any water inside asphalt will expand and crack the driveway. If this continues for a few years, your driveway will become ugly and filled with holes. Sealcoating and resurfacing are ways to combat this deterioration.
When You Should Reseal
The short answer is that you should reseal your driveway every 3-5 years. After that many years, your driveway starts to show significant cracks that will fill with water and destroy the driveway over time. Resealing the driveway adds a thin layer of asphalt onto the topmost layer, sealing any cracks beneath it.
Luckily for you, driveway resealing isn’t very expensive. HomeAdvisor placed the cost at between 10 and 16 cents per square foot in our area. Regular resealing commonly adds 10 years to a driveway’s life.
While you can reseal a driveway on your own, we recommend you contact a professional to do it. The resealers sold at home improvement stores are lower quality than the commercial ones used by professionals.
When You Should Resurface
Asphalt resurfacing is the number one reason why you should care about how well your driveway is installed in the first place. If your driveway’s gravel base was installed properly, you will never need to rebuild your driveway. Instead, you can just get it resurfaced every 15 years or so.
Resurfacing involves tearing up a few inches of asphalt and applying fresh asphalt on top of it. You’ve probably seen it done on roads before.
Instead of applying an inch of new asphalt, resurfacing makes your driveway like new without the expense and hassle of getting a new one installed.
Cracks in your asphalt driveway are inevitable, so you shouldn’t worry about most of them. Some, however, indicate a defect in the gravel layer of your driveway. if your driveway experiences these defects, it means no amount of resurfacing will make them go away:
- Alligator cracks—Cracks in a pattern that resemble the scales of an alligator
- Edge cracks—Cracks along the edge of the driveway
If your driveway is free of these defects after 15 years, it means that you’re free to pursue the comparatively inexpensive option of resurfacing. If your driveway does show signs of alligator or edge cracks, it means you’ll likely have to pay for a full-on rebuild of your driveway. If you resurface a driveway with alligator cracks, they’ll show up again in just a few years.
Still Not Sure? Give us a Call
Your driveway is an essential part of the look and function of your home. If you want to know more about whether resealing or resurfacing is right for your driveway, give us a call today at (513)-831-7500. We’ve got experts on call who can walk you through the best solutions for your home.