When considering having new asphalt installed, one of the most important questions a homeowner would like to know is when they will be able to use the driveway. It can be an inconvenience to not be able to drive or park in the driveway, but refraining from doing so for the appropriate time will ensure that there will be no damage to the new asphalt.
The curing involves the asphalt oil. When asphalt is first placed, it is black in color. As the new asphalt ages, it slowly turns from a black color to more of a gray color. This is because your new asphalt is slowly losing its oils due to the sun, a process called “oxidation.” This oxidation is actually a good thing as new asphalt has too much oil in it when first placed. Due to this excess of oil in the asphalt, a vehicle that stops cold on new asphalt and then turns their power steering from a dead stop can make what is known as a “power steering tear,” actually scraping up portions of your new asphalt surface. After laying asphalt, it’s recommended to wait 30 days before sealing a commercial parking lot and 90 days before sealing a residential driveway. You don’t want to seal your new asphalt until the asphalt is hard enough to withstand power steering. Sealing new asphalt will stop the oxidation process and, if done too early, cause a pavement to retain too much of its asphalt oils. However, once new pavement has oxidized enough to lose the asphalt oils necessary to withstand power steering, it’s time to seal your new asphalt.
You will need to let the asphalt harden before you attempt to seal it. Fresh asphalt is softer and more flexible due to the oils that need to evaporate. It is important to let those chemicals cure and harden—you will want to wait a minimum of 90 days before sealcoating any asphalt driveway or parking lot. The longer you wait, the stronger the pavement will be. If possible, wait nine to twelve months. If you seal too soon, you risk trapping the chemicals that make the asphalt flexible and more susceptible to tire marks, imprints, and cracking.
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