A newly paved asphalt driveway, parking lot, or road has a glow. It is unblemished and, at the risk of getting too carried away, it looks young, vigorous and ready to handle anything that drives over or parks on it.
“When I look at a freshly-paved asphalt surface it is truly beautiful and I see the tremendous investment that has been made,” stated Girish C Dubey, president of STAR, Inc., Columbus, Ohio. “I also think, that the new surface needs to be protected to ensure maximum performance and long life.”
Sealcoating preserves pavement and helps to keep the pavement flexible by sealing in the asphalt oils.
“Sealcoating slows pavement deterioration and improves the life cycle costs of that pavement investment,” Dubey said. “Clearly, it should be the starting point of a complete pavement maintenance program.”
Whether it’s a refined tar sealer, which was first introduced in the 1950s, or a more current asphalt-based sealer or the environmentally and user-friendly new resin surface introduced in 2014, the experts appear to agree that a protective sealcoat layer can slow down the degradation of the hot mix asphalt pavement. And the emphasis is on slowing down the deterioration since nothing will prevent the inevitable.
Asphalt pavement offers poor resistance to ultraviolet radiation and sunlight, which results in oxidation of the pavement, which causes a loss of pavement “plasticity.” Oxidation allows the penetration of water molecules, which accelerates thermal and fatigue cracking and surface raveling.
“Ready-to-apply sealcoat formulations that are factory blended for consistency have improved contractor efficiencies and provided better results,” stated Matt Purdy, marketing manager with ThorWorks Industries/SealMaster. “Contrators can spend time applying sealer rather than mixing sealer.”
Purdy also points to innovations such as agitated tankers delivering ready to use materials to large job-sites and larger better pump systems for applying sealer with sand as industry improvements.
“History has proven the value of sealcoating by extending the serviceable life of pavements,” stated Gordon Rayner, CEO of CPM/Rayner Equipment Systems, Sacramento, Calif. “With 45 years in the business, I have seen the real value in pavement protection verses lots left unsealed and later repaved at a considerably higher expense, while those that have been systematically sealed remain serviceable at the same age point--pennies now or dollars later.”
Looking at the life of an asphalt paved surface... when asphalt is first placed, it is loaded up with oils. Some of that oil will oxidize out, which is good, because it strengthens the pavement. As the oils leave, the asphalt gets harder. But if too much of the oils oxidize out the pavement becomes brittle and more susceptible to cracking. Thus, a sealcoat should be applied before that happens.
The experts agree that sealcoating should be viewed as necessary maintenance for ensuring a paved asphalt surface’s long service life. The earlier asphalt sealer is applied in the life cycle of the paved surface the better--followed up with regular recoating.
To those who say that sealcoating is an unnecessary expense, Dubey stated: “They are ill-informed. The industry has proven with life-cycle cost analysis research that maintaining asphalt pavement through regular sealcoating will extend the total life of the paved surface by three years--based on an average 25-year life of pavement. The cost of sealcoating is seen as a highly beneficial cost for preserving an asphalt paved surface.”
For anyone considering entering the sealcoating business, Purdy said: “The industry can always use more professional sealcoating contractors. Go first class when you do it. Get the right equipment and hire good people.”
Rayner added: “I would suggest educating yourself about what the various sealcoat products and additives are, how they work and what they can do for your customer. Become customer focused, not just bottom line focused, and let professionalism and reputation build your business.”
Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.