A man’s home is his castle. A classic movie line from a classic Aussie movie. And this couldn’t be more valid than today. We pour so much time, money and effort into the upkeep of our homes. Landscaped lawns, pristine pools, immaculate interiors. But one area often overlooked is the driveway.
With frequent vehicle movements, now that most households own two cars, driveways need to be in impeccable condition. Not only clean, but also free of cracks. Battered by the Aussie sun, high levels of humidity and torrential downpours, they need to be built to a standard and from materials that last. A well-maintained driveway not only provides function but needs to complement the overall look of your home.
Common Driveway Surfaces
Driveway surfaces can be constructed of different materials. Concrete is an Aussie favourite, as it is well-suited to Aussie conditions. Other materials include exposed aggregate, gravel, different kinds of pavers, stone, brick and asphalt. All will have different visual appeal and should last if well maintained.
Concrete is one of the more affordable options, and benefits from durability and that it can be tailored to the look you want. It can be dyed or stamped, patterned in the designs you like, and fitted to accentuate the lines of your home. Variants like exposed aggregate are becoming very popular, adding playfulness to modern home designs.
Though one of the toughest surfaces, cracks and fissures in concrete can appear, especially if care is not taken in installation. This will put a blemish on an otherwise perfect home. Here concrete sealers are used. Other driveway sealers are added to different surfaces, both to repair any damage over time and to provide better weather protection and looks.
Types of Concrete Sealers
Choosing concrete sealers depends on the finish you’re after and the protective benefits they add to concrete layers. Concrete driveway sealers come in several types:
Penetrating Concrete Sealers
Penetrating sealers penetrate the porous concrete structure and chemically bond with it. This creates a new chemical solid that is breathable allowing moisture to escape upwards. Penetrating sealers provide for a natural look and don’t change the appearance of the surface. This is also the most durable sealer and will last for years. There are several types of penetrating sealers used in concrete. Most are water-based, but there are also solvent-based penetrating concrete sealers.
Different types of penetrating sealers provide varying degrees of density and hardening and resistance to different substances, including water, chemicals, abrasives, oils and dirt. This makes the concrete extremely durable in different weather and temperatures. The most common penetrating driveway sealer is a silicone penetrating sealer. Silicones are water-based, are quickly and easily applied to the concrete, have little to non-toxic materials and are environmentally friendly. Other penetrating concrete driveway sealers are Silicates, Silanes, Siloxanes and Fluorinated sealers.
Topic sealers add a surface layer or film to the concrete. There are several variants, each with its own advantages.
Acrylic concrete sealers used for driveways are mostly solvent-based, meaning they have a higher level of organic compounds, making them easier to apply. They also dry faster than water-based sealers. The benefits of using acrylic sealers are that they provide different sheen levels, from matte to high gloss, depending on the look you want. Acrylic is often used in sealing stamped or coloured concrete, and exposed aggregate. The downsides are that it needs to be re-applied after 3 to 5 years.
Epoxy sealers are thicker than acrylic. It provides a gloss finish to the concrete and in opaque tints or different colours. High abrasion resistance means it doesn’t wear away easily. The downsides are that it is slippery and must be mixed with additives when used in driveway concrete. It is more durable than acrylic but can stain in the hot Aussie sun.
Polyurethane is the middle ground of topic sealers in terms of thickness. Polyurethane provides for a durable finish, is resistant to chemicals and abrasions and can be optioned in different sheen levels. To get a polished look to the driveway use a clear concrete sealer. This type removes stains and discolouring and has good water and UV resistance.
Asphalt and Asphalt Sealers
Asphalt driveways are not as common as concrete due to high heat retention, lower durability and higher maintenance needs. Asphalt is more prone to crack, collects more dust and impurities and doesn’t resist water or chemicals as concrete does. It requires more frequent sealing, but is cheaper to install than concrete. There are a number of asphalt sealers.
The most suitable for driveways is asphalt-based which is durable, doesn’t expand or contract as much as other asphalt sealers and fits well with the base material. It also has the longest life cycle. Surfaces are smooth and hard, ideal for high traffic frequency. It can be applied by a knowledgeable DIY-er or by a professional. Other asphalt sealers include tar sealers which are being phased out due to health and environment issues and plain asphalt sealers which is used on driveways with less damage as it doesn’t fill cracks or holes.
Driveway Sealers for Other Surfaces
Sealers for paved driveways are either topic or penetrating. The latter has better protection, are slip-resistant and last longer. If you’re after a matte finish to pavers then this is the sealer to get. Film-forming paver sealers are gloss or high gloss, providing for a wet look to pavers, but don’t provide traction so are not well-suited to driveways. For natural stone driveways, like marble or granite, there are sealers that retain the natural look of the stone, or add a wet look. Like concrete and paver sealers there are penetrating and topic sealers for stone driveways.
Buying and Applying
Driveway sealers are sold in construction, gardening and hardware stores, along with additives and the appropriate equipment for applying. Concrete sealers are usually more expensive than asphalt sealers. Applying is different for different surfaces, but generally, all surface types need to be thoroughly cleaned of dust, debris and overgrowth, pressure washed and larger cracks and holes filled with special fillers. Sealers are then applied using the appropriate tools for the surface and sealer type ideally in dry, warm weather. It is left to cure for at least 24 hours.