Asphalt Driveways are made to shrink and expand with weather conditions and this is one of the good things but as they do they can start to weaken and deteriorate from sunlight and from water and ice in the winter.
There are a number of products to protect your driveway and the most common is asphalt sealer but for larger cracks there are repair products and fillers.
The basic idea behind sealing your driveway is to protect it from water that will get between the asphalt in the winter and turn to ice. The Ice will then expand and cause cracks. On roads this causes pot holes to form but on your driveway you are more likely to have the water get under the asphalt and cause heaving and cracking.
There are 2 basic types of Sealers either Emulsion Based or Oil Based either is fine but Emulsion will dry faster and it is cleaner since it is a water cleanup product.
You can also select Sand or Non Sand versions where the sand will fill the cracks and openings in the asphalt. This is often good when you see porous areas on the driveway where it wasn’t compacted correctly.
If you have a generally good driveway that you just want to protect then use the Emulsion based non-sand version that will dry in about 8 hours.
To apply the sealer you first need to prepare the area.
Using a hand or electric trimmer edge the border of the driveway then use a power blower to remove all the dirt and grass.
If you have large amounts of oil from your vehicles you should wash that area with laundry detergent until you have removed all of the visible oil. These areas will be a problem and may not dry correctly. Some companies make products to help with oil stains but the best thing to do is get your car fixed.
If you have to wash your driveway then you really should let it sit overnight to dry.
Protect your concrete or brick paths with a drop cloth. You should do the same where the driveway meets up with your garage door. No matter how careful you are sealer will splash about 6 feet so protect what you can but don’t worry about the grass.
Mix the Sealer well with a scrap piece of 2″x2″ or some other heavy wood stick. You want to make sure that you get all of the settled solids mixed evenly and this is even harder with sand mixes. Prepare to take about 10 minutes mixing per bucket.
To apply the sealer you have 2 choices you can use a broom / squeegee type spreader that should be available in the area around the sealer when you buy it or you can use a heavy nap paint roller on a broom stick. I personally like the paint roller applicator because it applies an even coating of the product where a squeegee will tend to fill in the holes and scrape off the coating on the big spots.
Which ever applicator you choose remember to wear old clothes. I actually tape newspaper or plastic bags to my pants that way I can still use them for other dirty jobs. Its probably also a good idea to have access to a roll of paper towels near by. But no matter what you do expect to get splatters of it on you and that is another good reason to pick water based emulsion over the oil products which will require solvents to clean your self up with when you are done.
After you have coated the whole driveway you want to let it sit for at least 8 hours. It may look dry but your tires will leave tracks in it. If you are using oil based product a day or more may be needed for it to dry enough for you to drive on it.
Remember that for the first month you will have small amounts of sealer stick to your shoes so it is a good idea to protect the carpet in your car and also in your home.
Sealing new driveways must happen before the first winter and then again as needed about every other or 3 years.
It is not a hard job but it is a messy job so if you don’t want to do it yourself then hire someone to do it. It will mean the difference between your driveway lasting 20 years or falling apart in 5 especially if you use salt on your driveway.