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Seal Coating

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A Proper Maintenance Program

Pavement maintenance plans can vary in scope, but they never vary in their purpose: to increase pavement life. A proper pavement maintenance program includes crack sealing, pothole repair, seal coating, and many other surface applications, depending on the condition of the pavement. It should also include sweeping and periodic line striping.

Prior to Crack Sealing & Seal Coating
After Crack Sealing & Seal Coating

Why Seal Asphalt?

In spite of its excellent adhesive and waterproofing properties, asphalt has some serious drawbacks that relate to its chemical makeup. Asphalt is a very complex mixture of thousands of chemicals which provide easy access to weather, salts, and chemicals to attack and disintegrate the asphaltic molecules. As the asphaltic molecules disintegrate, the asphalt in the pavement loses much of its original properties, such as binding and waterproofing. The first visual sign of this phenomenon is a progressive change in the color of asphalt pavement from rich black to brown to gray.

Furthermore, other products that also are derived from petroleum – such as oils and fuels, fats, grease, mineral spirits etc – easily dissolve asphalt. Because these individual products come from the same source, they have a natural affinity for one another and when put in contact with each other will try to join together again. So, for example, when automotive oil or gasoline drops onto an asphalt pavement, they will work to easily dissolve the similar chemicals in asphalt.

Without proper maintenance (crack sealing, seal coating, etc.) eventually all the asphalt binder is exhausted and the aggregates begin to unravel. This happens to all pavement, including roads. The rate of pavement deterioration depends upon the traffic volume as well as climate conditions. The next step in deterioration is the development of minor cracks that widen and deepen with time. If these cracks are not repaired at this stage, water seeps into the base courses and damages the pavement’s load bearing capacity. Rutting, shifting, and serious alligatoring are evidence of this. The pavement then must be either overlaid or completely removed and reinstalled, depending on the condition.

Benefits of Seal Coating

If applied properly and at the right time, seal coating benefits the pavement in the following ways:

Beautification

Fresh seal coat brings a dark black color to the pavement, making it look and wear like new. A black parking lot has a clean, rich look that presents a positive image of the company, facility, or residential complex. Striping also enhances the beauty of a newly seal-coated parking lot.

Slows Oxidation and Water Penetration

Exposure to oxygen hardens asphalt binders and results in a brittle pavement surface that soon cracks. These cracks permit water to penetrate into the sub base, weakening it and reducing pavement strength. This in turn leads to more cracks, which can eventually expand and become potholes. Sealer fills surface voids, reducing exposure to oxygen and water and prolonging pavement life.

Resists Gas and Oil Spills

Gasoline or oil leaking from an engine can soften asphalt. Manufacturers of asphalt emulsion sealers generally add polymers to increase the resistance to gas or oil. By filling surface voids, sealing reduces the depth to which oil or gas can penetrate.

Resists Ultraviolet Rays

Ultraviolet rays from the sun break the links between carbon bonds within asphalt. Sealer does not repair any damage that has already occurred to the asphalt, but it does prevent ultraviolet rays from further damaging the asphalt pavement.

Easier to Clean and Maintain

Sealer fills surface voids while coating the pavement surface. The resulting smooth and even texture makes surfaces easier to maintain year-round — In cold climates snow is easier to remove from a smooth surface, and in all climates sweeping is more effective on a smooth surface.

Increased Pavement Flexibility

Sealer keeps a parking lot black. The blacker it is, the more heat it draws from the sun; the more heat it draws, the more pliable it is and the more able it is to withstand traffic volume changes without cracking.

Cost-Effective in the Long Run

The price of asphalt will always be affected by crude oil prices, which fluctuate when supplies vary. It’s less expensive to seal coat a parking lot every 2-3 years than it is to overlay or replace an existing parking lot.

When Should I Seal Coat?

Sealer, like all pavement maintenance repairs, is a temporary means of inhibiting pavement deterioration and needs to be applied on a regular basis – about every 2-3 years.