With constant vehicle traffic, driveways are some of the most frequently used sections of concrete around a home. Because of all the use your driveway gets, it’s important to protect and preserve it.
Sealing your concrete driveway with a high-quality sealer is crucial not only for protection against the damage done by freeze-thaw cycles, but also against premature deterioration from salt, oil, and more. But what about the downsides?
A-1 Concrete Leveling has been preserving and protecting concrete for over thirty years, and we’ve seen both the good and bad associated with sealing concrete driveways.
To help you decide whether or not to choose this service for your home, we’ve compiled this list of the pros and cons of applying concrete driveway sealer.
Protects from Damage
Driveways are heavily-trafficked areas with vehicles coming and going multiple times per day. Materials from the road, especially salt, can be brought onto your driveway through the car’s underbelly or tires. Salt is especially dangerous as it can penetrate into the concrete when melted and cause surface damage, like spalling.
How does salt damage concrete?
Deicing salts react chemically with your concrete, causing the bonds within the concrete to break down. As the salt mixes with the melting snow and ice, it gets absorbed by the concrete’s pores and continues causing damage from the inside.
This corrosion compounds over time. As more and more of the concrete’s pores are exposed and able to absorb the salty water, more and more deterioration can take place.
Leaving cars parked on the driveway’s surface also creates an opportunity for hard-to-remove oil stains to seep into the concrete’s pores, which can resurface even after being cleaned.
Sealing your concrete driveway can also help protect against freeze-thaw cycles. When water is able to absorb into the pores of the concrete and freeze, the water expands and pops the pores, resulting in surface damage and cracking, and this cycle repeats as the water thaws and refreezes inside the concrete.
Read more about the protective benefits of sealing concrete.
Restores and Preserves Aesthetics
In order to seal the concrete properly, it first needs to be pressure or power-washed to remove any built-up dirt and grime. This will help restore the original look of the concrete, which can improve curb appeal.
Everyone has their own opinion about what looks good, and luckily there are many sealer options to match different aesthetic goals, like wet-look, tinted, and penetrating, to name a few.
Concrete caulking is a way to fill gaps and cracks in your driveway, and can also be done to improve the look of the concrete and protect it from damage.
Extends Driveway’s Lifetime
By protecting the surface of your driveway with a high-quality sealer, you can help prolong the life of the concrete.
The three main factors that generally dictate whether concrete replacement will be needed in the future are:
- Unstable substrate that causes settling and stress cracks
- Crumbling due to a bad concrete batch, being crushed by heavy vehicles, etc.
- Internal and surface damage due to freeze-thaw cycles
The damage done by freeze-thaw cycles, which causes cracking and surface damage, can be reduced by sealing your driveway. This is crucial for those who live in areas with lots of variation in temperatures throughout the winter season.
Sealing your driveway does not prevent settling or stress cracks due to substrate moving, and it won’t protect it against crumbling due to a bad mixture of concrete or being crushed by heavy machinery, but it will help combat its deterioration due to freeze-thaw cycles, which is one of the main reasons concrete has to be replaced.
Low Maintenance and Can Last Many Years
Depending on the sealer you’re going to use, you can go many years without even thinking about it, let alone maintaining it.
Penetrating sealers are what we recommend the most here at A-1, as they can last 5-25 years without any regular maintenance or upkeep.
Topical or “wet-look” sealers fade with time and, depending on the climate where you live, may need to be redone every 2 years. However, even though this type of sealer needs regular reapplication, the maintenance in between is minimal to none.
Which type of sealer is best for your concrete driveway?
Standard Brush-finished Concrete: Penetrating sealers are best for regular brush-finished concrete as they’re a low-maintenance way to provide freeze-thaw protection and don’t cause the concrete to become slippery.
Aggregate Finished Concrete: At A-1, we believe penetrating sealers are the best for aggregate as it requires less maintenance and offers freeze-thaw protection, but topical sealers are more commonly used and associated with sealing aggregate.
Stamped Concrete: Topical sealers are most commonly used for stamped concrete because when the concrete is finished, a topical sealer can give it a shine. Once a topical sealer is used, you will most likely have to continue to use a topical sealer.
Experience and Skill Required
Not all concrete is the same, so choosing the right sealer for your driveway, observing absorption rates, planning when to seal based on the weather, and many other factors that require experience with concrete to do correctly.
If you decide to use a topical sealer, you most likely won’t be able to use a penetrating sealer for the rest of the concrete’s lifetime, as it can leave splotches in the concrete. So, the choice of sealers can be a permanent one.
When done incorrectly, sealing a driveway can actually damage concrete, which is the exact opposite goal. Or, if a cleaning agent is inside your concrete, like from repeatedly cleaning a car in the same spot, the sealer can have a bad chemical reaction.
Process is Weather-sensitive
Sealing concrete driveways, or any other exterior concrete, is extremely sensitive to the weather. Applying the product when it is too cold, windy, or rainy could greatly affect the end result and leave you with a sealer that doesn’t fully protect your concrete.
If you mistakenly seal your driveway when rain is in the forecast, it could cost you a lot more time and money in the long run. Also, sealers can blow in the wind and get stuck on everything from cars to door frames, which is next to impossible to remove.
Concrete Must Be Properly Prepared
In order for sealer to be effective, the concrete has to be properly prepared before it’s applied. This can be a lot of work prior to even beginning the sealing process.
To prep for sealer, you must make sure that:
- The concrete is adequately cleaned
- Breaks or cracks are repaired
- Expansion joints and other gaps are caulked
Cost May Be High
Sealing your concrete driveway yourself will require expensive equipment to get the job done right. A pressure washer with the right PSI range can cost thousands of dollars, in addition to the sealer itself and other materials needed.
Hiring professionals who already have the equipment and experience necessary to seal your driveway properly can also be expensive, depending on your needs.
However, it’s important to remember that while sealing your driveway may seem like a lot of money now, it’s an investment into protecting and preserving your concrete, which can actually save you money in the long run.
Now that you’ve gotten to know both the good and bad associated with applying concrete driveway sealers, you’re ready to decide if it’s a solution that’s right for your home.
A-1 Concrete Leveling has been helping homeowners find the right solution for their concrete repair and preservation needs for over thirty years. In addition to concrete sealing, we also provide concrete cleaning, concrete caulking, and concrete leveling services.
If you’re interested in seeing what our services can do for your concrete driveway or any other concrete area in or around your home, don’t hesitate to request a free onsite cost estimate with one of the A-1 Concrete experts by clicking the link below!
Want to learn more? Check out these related topics from our extensive library of concrete repair and maintenance resources, called Concrete Academy:
- Reasons Why Concrete Cleaning & Sealing Is Right For You (And Why Maybe It’s Not)
- Concrete Sealing Types & Methods
- Does Salt Damage Concrete?
- All About Concrete Spalling