Preparing Your Asphalt Driveway To Ensure A Smooth Sealing Surface

If you have recently had an asphalt driveway installed on your property, then you probably want to do everything you can to protect your investment. After all, it can cost over $10,000 to have a basic driveway installed. Sealing your new driveway is a great way to protect it. You can and should seal your driveway for the first time within 6 to 12 months after the initial installation is completed. You can seal on your own if you want, but you will need to get the sealer as smooth as possible if you want to retain the appearance of your driveway. Smooth sealing means good application processes and it also means proper preparation. Keep reading to learn about some preparation tips that will encourage a smooth surface once the sealer is applied.

Clean Thoroughly

There are a wide variety of asphalt sealers you can add to your driveway, and the sealers will contain materials like asphalt, acrylic, polymers, epoxy, and petroleum. While all of these materials work differently to protect the asphalt surface, they all must stick to the asphalt to offer protection. Sealers will not stick to a dirty surface, and this means you will need to spend some time cleaning the asphalt as you prepare it. Cleaning will not only help to remove dirt, but it will release the oily exhaust residue that sticks to the surface of the driveway when your car runs. This residue contains byproducts from the combustion process. 

Other types of residue or debris that need to be removed include tree sap, motor oil, and fluids that have leaked from your vehicle. To start the cleaning process, gather a bucket filled with hot water and add about three tablespoons of dish soap to the water. Purchase a large scrub brush with a long handle. Deck brushes with medium to hard bristles made from nylon, polypropylene, or palmyra will work well. Dip the brush in your bucket of soapy water and move the brush across the surface of the driveway. Use your hose to rinse the surface when you are done.

Allow the driveway to dry and look for dark spots across the asphalt surface. If you see multiple spots, then a deep cleaning may be necessary. Rent a pressure washer for the job. Use a wide nozzle to spray the surface and make sure to use between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. Hold the tip one to two feet from the surface of the driveway. If you want, you can use a low pressure machine as well. If you rent a low pressure device, then pick up a flat surface cleaner head. This head can be held against the surface of the asphalt to clean it.

After the pressure cleaning, inspect the surface again. If you still see dark spots, then these areas will be where oil has seeped into the asphalt. The oil will work its way into the sealer as well. Use some trisodium phosphate mixed with water to release some of the oil. If the oily spots remain, then purchase an asphalt primer. Use a paintbrush to add the primer over the oil spot. This will seal the oil in the asphalt so it cannot escape into the sealer.

Fill In Cracks

Most people think that sealers will fill in cracks and chips in the surface of a driveway. Sealers will fill in shallow and narrow cracks, but they will not fill in larger ones. Sealers are meant to be applied in a single thin layer and there is typically not enough sealer to fill in the bigger openings. If sealer is used for crack filling, then the material will pull up and away from the crack as it cures. This will create an uneven appearance across the surface of the driveway. To prevent this, fill in all cracks before you add the sealer. 

Some cracks may be filled with a bit of debris from the washing process, so you want to clean all cracks before filling them. Using an air compressor with an air spray nozzle is the easiest way to clear the debris. Hold the nozzle or tip about an inch away from the crack and squeeze the handle to release the air into the crack. Use a broom to sweep away released debris. Purchase some rubberized cold emulsion asphalt filler material from your local home store. Place the filler in a caulk gun and squeeze the material into each crack. Fill cracks to the top and smooth with a putty knife. Crack filler is typically darker than your asphalt and it will stain if it is accidentally squeezed onto other areas of the driveway. However, the sealer will cover crack filling mistakes so you do not have to worry too much about being careful.