Tim Carter, former contractor based in Meredith, New Hampshire, who has written the syndicated “Ask the Builder” newspaper column for more than 25 years. He offers a free weekly newsletter through his website. AskTheBuilder.com
Asphalt resealing services often warn homeowners that driveways quickly degenerate if sealer isn’t applied every few years. The resealing process applies a new coating to the driveway’s surface, replacing asphalt that has become brittle and worn. However, resealing usually is not necessary, and for most homeowners it is not worth the price, which averages around $500 but varies greatly depending on the size of the driveway and other factors. Also, once you have resealed a driveway, you must reseal it every few years or it will look even worse than if you had never sealed it in the first place.
Resealing is not completely without benefits—it makes driveways that have begun to fade to gray look darker and newer…and it fills hairline cracks, preventing water from seeping in. Contractors are correct when they say that water seeping into hairline cracks could over time lead to larger cracks or potholes. What they’re failing to mention is that there’s a way to cope with cracks that won’t cost you hundreds of dollars.
What to do: Scan your driveway each year for cracks that have grown to one-eighth inch in width or larger, and fill these cracks with a blacktop caulk or epoxy, which should prevent them from growing any further. These products cost around $8 to $20 in home centers or hardware stores, and this job typically can be done in just a few minutes per crack.
If cracks and gaps continue to expand after you’ve used caulk or epoxy, the problem almost certainly is with the gravel base beneath the driveway, not with the asphalt itself. If so, the only way to fix the problem is to have that section of driveway dug up and reconstructed—resealing would not solve the problem. Helpful: If you ever have your driveway completely redone or a new driveway constructed, confirm that the contractor is creating a gravel base that is at least eight inches deep and that extends at least one foot beyond each edge of the paved surface. That will significantly reduce the odds of future problems.
Exception: It’s worth having your driveway resealed only if you expect to sell the home in the next few years and want an aging driveway to look its very best for potential buyers…or you like the look of a fresh-looking driveway despite the cost or time required.