Angie's List: How seal coating can help protect your driveway

The condition of your driveway can make or break your home's curb appeal. It takes a beating all year round, but the summer sun can really take a toll.

Whether your driveway is concrete or asphalt, if you want to keep it looking like new, you need to understand the importance of sealing.

Sealant sits on top of your driveway and acts as a barrier against the elements -protecting it from damage caused by oil and gas spills, rain, snow and sun.

Tyler Stephens/driveway contractor: "With the oxidation process the summer starts to break down the sealer with the sun beating on it,” Driveway contractor Tyler Stephens said. “Just imagine if it's a 90 degree July day, that asphalt and also the concrete surfaces gets up to 100 degrees with the sun just beating on it all day so it starts the deterioration process also."

Angie's List says sealcoating can cost between $200 and $300.

Most companies base their estimates on the square footage of your driveway, so beware of a price that sound too good to be true.

"Driveway repair is no different than any other service,” Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks said. “Be cautious of someone is coming door-to-door and offering you a great deal because they have leftover materials from someone else. Do your research and pick your company. A deal today should be a deal tomorrow."

Experts say you should also ask how the contractor plans to spread the sealer.

"There are two ways to seal the asphalt,” Stephens added, “have the brush and apply it or to spray it. All residential driveways should be brushed and not sprayed so if someone is saying they want to spray your driveway they could really water down the sealers."

Temperature is key when sealing driveways. Usually, anything over 65 degrees is good.

"This time of year demand for driveway sealing and repair goes up and we do hear complaints about it at Angie's List,” Hicks said. “The important thing to remember is you want to develop a relationship with the driveway company because you'll likely be using them year after year."

So how often should you seal your driveway?

That depends on where you live and the effects of the extreme weather conditions.

Whether it's a two-ton car driving over it multiple times a day, the hot sun beating down, salt deteriorating the surface in the winter or water seeping into cracks causing the cement to freeze and crack, it's important to fight back and give your driveway some relief from that pain.

Regular maintenance on your driveway every two to three years can prevent staining and cracks, while significantly extending its life. A well-maintained driveway enhances your home's curb appeal and can increase its resale value.

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, asked highly rated driveway contractors about the benefits of sealcoating your drive.

• Why sealcoat? Whether your driveway is concrete or asphalt, sealing it is an important part of keeping it looking like new for a long time. The sealant, which sits on top of the driveway, acts as a barrier that prevents water, ice, car fluids, the sun, salt and other chemicals from staining and eating away at the surface of the driveway.
• How much: Fixing minor problems like stains, as well as sealcoating the pavement can cost between $200 and $300. Most companies base their estimates on the square footage of your driveway. Some charge per square foot for an exact value, while others charge a flat rate per 1000 square feet with a minimum charge for smaller driveways. Replacing a section of the asphalt driveway, for example, can cost several hundred dollars more, but that is still far cheaper than spending thousands on a new driveway.
• How often? How often you seal your driveway will vary based on your location. If you live in a cold climate with harsh winters and numerous freeze-thaw cycles you'll have to seal every one to two years. Those in much milder climates can often go as little as every four years.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a driveway contractor
• What kind of sealing chemical do you use? Different chemicals have different properties and effects. The shiniest water-resistant sealings may make the pavement dangerously slippery, especially if you live in an area where rain, ice and snow are common.
• Do you thin-out the sealer? Some driveway contractors thin-out their sealer to save money, but the result is less than desirable. Make sure they apply the sealer according to the manufacturer's instructions.
• How do you spread the sealer? The hands-on approach is the one you're looking for because it ensures even distribution. Alternatives can produce sealing puddles, which results in a driveway overly protected in some places and not at all in others.
• Will you repair existing cracks before applying the sealer? If the answer is yes, be sure to get a cost estimate for the entire job. It's important to fix cracks in your driveway before sealing it. If the cracks are minor, fix them yourself by clearing them of debris and broken edges and then filling them with a substance such as textured caulk, concrete sealer or pourable grout.
• When can you do the job? Temperature is key when sealing driveways. Usually, anything over 65 degrees Fahrenheit is good.

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