What is the Best Driveway Sealer?

Sealcoating your driveway is a smart investment. Sealing your driveway every few years will extend the life of your driveway and will improve its appearance. In this article we’ll explain what to look for in a quality driveway sealer. We’ll discuss sealers made from coal tar vs. asphalt, how to determine the quality of a product, cost and how often you should seal your driveway. By the end of this article you’ll have the knowledge you need to find a quality driveway sealer that will add years of life to your driveway.

Coal Tar Sealers

Coal tar sealers are thought by most industry experts to be the most durable. Gasoline and oil can both be used as a solvent for asphalt. Since you’re pretty likely to get gas and oil on your driveway, an asphalt sealer can become compromised. Coal tar is not impacted by either gas or oil so it remains the most popular.

Asphalt Sealers

While asphalt sealers may not be as durable as coal tar, they do have a few benefits. First, they are better for the air because they don’t have the volatile organic compounds that coal tar does. Asphalt sealers also are less likely to cause skin irritation and, while they still require very good ventilation, are not as noxious to breathe as coal tar sealers.

How to Determine Asphalt Sealer Quality

Generally speaking, the more solids in a filler, the better it is. Fillers are usually sand, coal tar, asphalt or polymers that can fill small cracks and holes. The best way to determine how much solids are in a product is generally by looking at the price. As with most things, you get what you pay for. More expensive brands will have the largest quantity of solids remaining when the sealer is finished curing. Another way to determine quality is by researching the warranty. A top notch sealer will have a warranty length of at least five years. Lower quality sealers will have a warranty length of one to three years.

Cost Of Asphalt Driveway Sealers

Although asphalt driveway sealers are less durable, they are also more expensive because they are better for the environment. On the low end of the quality scale you can expect to pay about $5 for a 5-gallon bucket that covers approximately 400 square feet. This type of product will likely not last for more than a year. A top-grade sealer with coal tar will likely run $15 for 5 gallons and you will only get about 250 square feet of coverage depending on the driveway.

Frequency Of Application

If you can use a driveway sealer on your asphalt driveway every three to five years, not only will your driveway have a better appearance but it will last longer too. A quality asphalt driveway sealer can shield the driveway from ultraviolet light which can negatively impact the binder in the driveway and expose the aggregate. Driveway sealers also prevent ice, water and other materials from becoming embedded in the pavement which can cause it to crack and crumble. Sealing your driveway is a wise investment. Decide whether you want to use a durable coal tar sealer or a more environmentally friendly asphalt sealer. Regardless of type, be sure to find a product that has a high volume of solids and a long warranty. If you can seal at least every few years you will add years of life to your driveway as well as improve its appearance.

Acrylic Driveway Sealers
Recently, several municipalities and other government agencies have started to limit the use of coal tar based asphalt sealers. There are really two problems. First, the coal tar driveway sealer emits a lot of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). This has been shown to be a direct result of smog along with several health issues. Also, these VOC’s pose a health risk to any one who is subject to them. Second, runoff issues are becoming more important as cities try to treat their storm drain water and reuse it. There also has been several studies that indicate this runoff water is hazardous to plants and animals and contaminates ground water.
For these reasons, many urban and suburban home owners have had to find an alternative to coal tar based sealers. One product that is becoming more and more popular is Acrylic Driveway Sealers.
There are many pluses to using an acrylic sealer. It is resistant to gas and oil like a coal tar based sealer is. Asphalt emulsion sealers tend to degrade when other petroleum products are spilled or drip on the surface. Also, the new acrylic sealers for driveways will last about twice as long as the other products. And, clean up is with soap and water. Plus, there is a much shorter cure time that with other sealers. If the acrylic is applied within the recommended temperature window, it can be walked on within and hour and driven on within a few hours.
The problems with acrylic driveway sealers include the cost, it is about twice as expensive as a good coal tar product, and it really doesn’t add anything back to the original surface. It just acts as a sealer. Also, there are potential health issues for people who are exposed to the product for an extended length of time. These include dizziness and damage to kidneys, liver, and nervous system. In general, if you follow the safety precautions listed on the product labeling you should not have a problem.
As we become more and more concerned about the effects of the chemicals that we use in our lives, we will see more old faithful products like coal tar driveway sealers replaced with new products such as acrylics.

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7 Comments for “What is the Best Driveway Sealer?”

  1. Instabind is a revolutionary idea, invented by two CFI Certified installers who recognized a problem and sought a solution. Instabind streamlines the normally tedious process of binding carpet edges. This unique invention requires minimal effort to apply a beautiful finished edge to any piece of carpet.

  2. This article does not make sense. Why would you use concrete sealer on asphalt? Stay away from coal tar. Properly applied asphalt emulsion sealer is quite durable.

  3. Thank you for catching that mistake. Of course, a concrete sealer will not work on asphalt I must have accidentally typed concrete sealer instead of just sealer but it has been corrected now. I appreciate you pointing that out. Of course an asphalt emulsion is durable but a lot of people have trouble applying it properly.

  4. I appreciate the information concerning best black topd sealers and the differences. I want to use a good quality coal tar sealer. Could you please recommend a good coal tar sealer brand name and where I can purchase it or order it from? Thank you.

    John V.

  5. Hi John,
    I am not sure where you are located so I will give you a couple of options. First, you can go to your local Home Depot, Lowe’s, or other home store and talk to their coatings people. If they don’t seem to know what they are talking about then find out what they offer and let me know, I will research for you.
    The second option is to buy through a website like Amazon.com. They have been around for quite a while and are very honest. You can try Henry’s it should work well for you. Just click on the highlighted name. Good luck and check back if you have more questions.

  6. I’m seeing acrylic based sealers now, and I’m also be told that coal tar and asphalt based sealers are not available because of VOC regulations. I’m in the Chicago area and are either of these things true?

  7. Hi Frank,
    Many cities are outlawing the use of coal tar based driveway sealers because of the potential harm to people and the environment. One of the reactions to this has been use of acrylic sealers. These are about twice as expensive as the asphalt and coal tar varieties but you get about the twice the life span. Thus, it is really a wash if you are planning to stay in your home for over five years or so.

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