Concrete driveways are expensive, so of course, you want to keep them in good condition for as long as you can. This is the reason that many people choose to seal their concrete driveway. Applying a seal every so often is usually preferable to getting a new driveway because it is easier and more affordable. However, that doesn’t answer the question, “Should I Seal My Concrete Driveway?”
While a concrete driveway will be functional without a seal, the application of sealant can extend the lifespan. A seal will protect the concrete from harsh elements and moisture. It will also keep the driveway looking presentable for longer and can help to prevent cracks.
This article includes all the information you need to make an informed decision including the pros and cons of sealing a concrete driveway, the different types of seals, how often you need to apply a new seal, and the best time of year to seal concrete. It also includes a cost analysis and how to do it yourself so you can decide whether or not to hire someone.
- Should I Seal My Concrete Driveway?
- Pros and Cons of Sealing Concrete Driveway
- How Often Should You Seal Your Concrete Driveway?
- When Should You Seal a Concrete Driveway?
- How Long After Sealing Concrete Can You Walk On It?
- Types of Concrete Sealers
- How to Seal Concrete Driveway Yourself
- How Much Does it Cost to Seal a Concrete Driveway?
- Best Concrete Sealer for Driveway
Should I Seal My Concrete Driveway?
The question of whether you should seal a driveway comes down to a few different things. The cost of sealing the driveway or the amount of time and effort it would take to DIY is obviously an important consideration. This cost then should be weighed against the reasons that it is a good idea.
A driveway seal can make a concrete driveway last much longer, over 50% longer than an unsealed driveway. Not only that, but it can keep your concrete driveway in good condition throughout the increased lifespan. This can give you more time with your current concrete driveway before any substantial repair or even worse, a replacement is needed.
The seal will help to prevent cracks that can be unsightly or grow into larger crevices. Also, when water gets into existing cracks in a driveway, it can freeze and expand causing more significant damage to the concrete. Moisture is also a recipe for mold, mildew, and moss that you surely do not want living in your driveway.
Another thing to consider is the overall appearance of your concrete driveway. A seal will keep your concrete driveway looking presentable and prevent deterioration and fading. Some sealers also have a gloss appearance as well that a lot of homeowners love because it makes their driveway unique and attractive.
A better-looking and well-maintained driveway can even increase the value of your home. Regardless of whether you plan on selling the home in the near future or not, increasing the positive equity in your home is never a bad thing.
A seal is just another layer of protection for your concrete driveway and in most cases, it is a good idea to seal a concrete driveway. It may seem like an expensive or time-consuming project now but can save you a lot of money in the future. It can also offer protection from extreme temperatures. Plus, if you want to save some money on the project, you can DIY for a fraction of the total cost.
While it is most common for homeowners to seal new driveways that are less than a decade old, it can also be a good idea to seal older concrete driveways. This is because it can still extend the lifespan and quality of old concrete even if the driveway has never been sealed before. After you fill the cracks and crevices and seal them, you may find that you rejuvenated a driveway you thought you would have to replace very soon.
Pros and Cons of Sealing Concrete Driveway
There are a lot of benefits to sealing a driveway, but there are also a few downsides to consider. Let’s look at these pros and cons in order to weigh the decision.
- Prevent moisture buildup beneath the surface of the concrete driveway. Concrete is porous and absorbs moisture, which can damage the slab, especially if it freezes inside of cracks and crevices.
- Protect against fading and deterioration by UV rays which can break down polymers and other binding chains in the concrete, and weaken it. A seal on a concrete driveway will keep the appearance presentable by preventing stains and maintaining the colors. It will also protect any design or pattern.
- Lengthens Lifespan because the seal protects against premature deterioration and damage from harsh elements like high temperatures, excessive rain and floods, and freezing water.
- Reduce required maintenance by keeping the concrete driveway intact and presentable. As long as the seal is applied correctly, it can prevent damage from occurring and existing damage from progressing.
- Prevent cracks that any homeowner with a concrete driveway knows can be a pain. The seal will fill in minuscule spaces within the concrete to prevent them from growing into larger and more damaging cracks.
- Require resealing every few years because the seal will eventually wear off and lose its protective qualities. Typically, you will want to reseal every two or three years, depending on the condition of the original seal.
- Can’t be applied to a driveway less than a month old. During this time, the concrete is still curing and vulnerable. It is best to divide your driveway project up and seal it after it is cured.
- May be a safety hazard because sealers can be very slippery, especially when the sealer is still wet. In addition, a lot of sealers use harsh chemicals that require safety precautions.
How Often Should You Seal Your Concrete Driveway?
Generally, you should plan on resealing a concrete driveway every 3 to 5 years depending on its condition. The lifespan of the sealer will depend on the climate and the use of the driveway.
It is a good idea to keep an eye on the condition of the sealer and the concrete underneath. If you notice cracks, even if they are small, then you should start thinking about resealing the concrete. If this is the case, a contractor can also tell you if it is time or if it can last another year or two.
In temperate climates without harsh temperatures, a driveway seal could last longer than 5 years as well. In fact, it is possible for a driveway seal to last up to 10 years under the perfect circumstances.
When Should You Seal a Concrete Driveway?
While it depends on your region and climate, the Fall and Spring months are typically the best times for sealing a concrete driveway. Instead of following the time of year, it is better to look at the temperatures when you are deciding when to seal the driveway.
The outside temperature has to be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer and you never want to seal a driveway if there is a chance of below-freezing temperature in the next few days or a week. It is also a good idea to seal the concrete when the high temperatures for the week are below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
One other thing to keep in mind is the chance of rain. You will want to allow the sealer to drive for 8 to 12 hours before any rainfall.
How Long After Sealing Concrete Can You Walk On It?
The sealer will take at least ten to 15 hours to dry enough to walk on the driveway surface. The sealer will continue to dry and cure for 24 to 48 hours after application. After this time period, it can be used without worry of harm.
Types of Concrete Sealers
There are three main types of concrete sealers, and you will want to consider the gloss as well. Let’s look at what each type has to offer.
Acrylic Resin-Based Sealer
This is a sealer that uses acrylic resin to act as a protective layer on the driveway surface. Some acrylic resin-based sealers should be blended with other compounds like epoxy, polyurethane, or silicone because this can improve the durability and lifespan of the seal.
There are some different types of acrylic resin-based sealers as well. Styrene acrylic is quite affordable, but it can turn yellow if it is in direct sunlight for any prolonged period during the day. This is especially true during the Summer months.
Virgin or pure acrylic resin is much longer-lasting than styrene acrylic. It is durable and protective and will never turn yellow from the sun beating down on the sealer.
While polyurethane, as well as epoxy, sealers cost much more than acrylic options, they are also better in several ways. The layer of polyurethane is thick and more protective than acrylic sealers. They are more likely to last 5 years or more as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that polyurethane and epoxy sealers make it difficult for the concrete to release moisture. When this happens, it can cause a hazy white color to form underneath the seal on top of the concrete.
Penetrating sealers are made out of resins like silicone or silane. This allows the sealer to penetrate the concrete and prevent intrusion by contaminants including water and oil. These are commonly used in garages, but can also prevent stains on a driveway.
Penetrating sealers will also give the driveway a stain-free and clean look that many homeowners desire. While it does not change the color of the driveway, it can add a shine to the appearance.
There are different gloss levels for concrete sealers that you may want to choose from for your concrete driveway. There are no-gloss options as well as satin, matte, semi-gloss, gloss, and high gloss. The gloss level will be rated on a scale with 1 being no gloss and 100 being the highest gloss available.
Solvent-based sealers have a higher gloss level. These will typically be rated somewhere between 80 and 100. Water-based sealers have a semi-gloss or matte finish somewhere over 50 but under 80 on the gloss scale. Finally, penetrating sealers offer no gloss.
Solvent-based sealers also have a tendency to darken the concrete after application, much more than water-based products. There are also some sealers that include coloring agents that you may want to consider.
How to Seal Concrete Driveway Yourself
A lot of homeowners like to seal their own driveways, and it is not very hard to do so. The first thing you will have to do is thoroughly clean the driveway surface. If you do not do a good job on this step, you will have debris sealed into the concrete, which can cause a host of problems in the future like cracks or discoloration.
To clean properly, you will want to start by sweeping off all visible debris like dirt, dust, and leaves. After that, you can spray the driveway down with a power washer or a good hose attachment. If you use a power washer, you may be able to remove some stains, but you also want to make sure not to hold it too close to the concrete because it could potentially damage the driveway.
After the water on the surface is completely dry, you can apply the sealer. There are a couple of ways to do this. It is possible to paint the sealer on with a brush, but that can take a lot of time that you could spend doing something else.
Some homeowners like to roll the sealer on, which can work well and will not take nearly as long as using a brush. However, the quickest way to seal a concrete driveway is to spray the sealer on. When done correctly, this can give you an even layer over the entire concrete surface.
After the sealer is completely dry, usually at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours after application, you will be able to see any spots you may have missed. After filling these in, you will want to properly care for the newly sealed driveway by keeping it cleaned. You should also avoid using a power washer to clean the seal and plan on resealing the driveway every few years.
How Much Does it Cost to Seal a Concrete Driveway?
Whether you want to hire a contractor or seal your driveway yourself, it is going to cost you money. There are a lot of materials that can make the driveway sealing job easier including a power washer (rental or purchase), a sprayer or roller, crack filler, and mixing paddle.
A cheap bucket of sealer that can cover 250-300 square feet will only cost you around $15, but other sealers are more expensive. A high-quality sealer will cost you $75 to $150 for the same amount of coverage.
According to Costimates.com, you can expect to pay $1 to $1.40 more per square foot if you hire a professional contractor than if you do the job yourself. This comes to a total of $1.22 to $1.65 per square foot and some contractors will cost even more than that. For a typical 640 square foot driveway, that means you will pay a minimum of $780 and could pay well over a thousand.
However, even at the higher end of a professional job for sealing the concrete driveway, it is worth it because it can prevent more expensive maintenance, repairs, or replacement in the future. Furthermore, it can increase curb appeal and the value of your home.
Best Concrete Sealer for Driveway
The benefits of sealing a concrete driveway will only be evident with a quality concrete sealer. Let’s look at two of the best concrete sealers on the market.
Sealers can help to prevent cracks and fading and could substantially increase the lifespan of your concrete driveway. You will only have to reseal every few years but could save a significant amount on maintenance and repair costs. While it may seem like a lot of work or money to seal a concrete driveway, you will be glad you did in the long run.