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A Property Manager's Guide to Crack-Sealing and Sealcoating

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

As a property manager, maintaining the quality and safety of your property's infrastructure is key to increasing its longevity and value. This guide will walk you through two essential pavement maintenance techniques: crack-sealing and sealcoating. These practices can effectively prolong the lifespan of your pavement, enhance its appearance, and potentially save you money on costly future repairs.

1. Understanding Pavement Distress

Before we dive into the specifics of crack-sealing and sealcoating, it's important to understand what causes pavement distress.

Pavement distress can occur due to a variety of factors. These include:

  1. Traffic Loads: Constant vehicular pressure can cause structural damage.

  2. Weather Conditions: Temperature fluctuations can lead to expansion and contraction, causing cracks. Moisture can also penetrate the pavement and damage its base.

  3. Poor Construction or Maintenance: Incorrect installation or inadequate maintenance can accelerate pavement distress.

Understanding these causes is the first step towards effective pavement maintenance.

2. The Importance of Crack-Sealing and Sealcoating

Crack-sealing and sealcoating are essential aspects of pavement maintenance and play a critical role in preserving the integrity, safety, and aesthetics of asphalt surfaces. Their importance cannot be overstated for several reasons:

  1. Water Infiltration Prevention: Cracks in pavement allow water to seep down into the base material. This can lead to a process called "subgrade softening," which can significantly weaken the base structure of the pavement, eventually leading to more cracks, potholes, and even total pavement failure. Crack-sealing fills and seals these cracks, preventing water from infiltrating and causing damage.

  2. Prolong Pavement Lifespan: Regularly sealing the cracks and applying sealcoat extends the life of pavement. The sealant provides a protective layer that slows down the wear and tear process, allowing the pavement to withstand heavy usage and harsh weather conditions longer.

  3. UV and Chemical Protection: Asphalt pavements are continually exposed to various elements, including harmful UV rays and chemicals (like oil and gasoline leaks from vehicles). These elements can oxidize the asphalt, causing it to become brittle and more prone to cracking. A sealcoat provides a protective barrier, preventing these harmful elements from directly impacting the asphalt.

  4. Aesthetics: A fresh sealcoat application can make the pavement look brand new, enhancing the curb appeal of the property. It gives the asphalt a smooth, dark finish that is not only visually pleasing but also makes line striping more visible.

  5. Cost-Effective: By keeping up with regular crack-sealing and sealcoating, you can prevent more costly damage in the long run. These preventative measures cost significantly less than large-scale repairs or total pavement replacement.

  6. Safety: Crack-sealing and sealcoating smooth the surface of the pavement, reducing the chance of slips, trips, or falls for pedestrians. It also prevents vehicle damage that could occur due to hitting potholes or large cracks.

3. Crack-Sealing

Crack-sealing is a preventative maintenance method that involves filling cracks in the pavement to prevent water infiltration. It's usually done before sealcoating and is recommended when cracks are 1/4 inch wide or larger.

3.1 The Crack-Sealing Process

Here's a basic breakdown of the crack-sealing process:

  1. Cleaning: All cracks must be thoroughly cleaned to ensure the sealant can properly adhere. This can be done using high-pressure air and heat lances.

  2. Applying the Sealant: The sealant, typically a hot pour rubberized sealant, is then poured into the crack.

  3. Cooling and Setting: Allow the sealant to cool and set. During this time, the area should be closed off to traffic.

Chapter 4: Sealcoating

Sealcoating is a preventive maintenance process that involves applying a protective layer to asphalt-based pavements. This process is intended to protect the asphalt from various damaging elements such as water, oils, UV rays, and vehicular traffic. Here's a detailed explanation of the sealcoating process:

  1. Cleaning: The first step in the sealcoating process is to thoroughly clean the pavement surface. This involves sweeping and power washing to remove dirt, debris, and any loose asphalt particles. Any oil or gas stains may need to be pre-treated with a primer so that the sealcoat can adhere properly.

  2. Crack Repair: Before sealcoating, any cracks or potholes in the asphalt should be filled and sealed. If these are not repaired before the sealcoat application, they can worsen over time and compromise the integrity of the entire pavement.

  3. Mixing the Sealcoat: Sealcoat is a mixture of water, emulsified asphalt or coal tar, and various additives that can enhance the performance and durability of the sealer. It is mixed according to the manufacturer's specifications, ensuring a consistent and effective product.

  4. Application: Once the surface is clean and the sealcoat is properly mixed, the sealcoat is applied to the pavement using a sprayer, brush, or squeegee. Typically, two thin coats are applied to ensure even coverage and adequate protection.

  5. Curing: The sealcoat must dry and cure before the pavement can be used again. The curing process can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, depending on weather conditions and the thickness of the sealcoat application. During this time, the area should be cordoned off to prevent vehicle or foot traffic, which could damage the sealcoat before it is fully cured.

Sealcoating not only protects and extends the lifespan of your asphalt pavement, but it also improves its appearance, giving it a fresh, dark black surface that can improve the overall look of your property. Regular sealcoating (every 2-3 years depending on usage and climate) can greatly extend the life of your asphalt, making it a cost-effective maintenance strategy.

5. Choosing the Right Contractor

Choosing a qualified contractor to perform crack-sealing and sealcoating work is crucial to ensure the longevity and appearance of your pavement. Here are some factors to consider when making your choice:

  1. Experience and Expertise: A contractor with a solid track record in pavement maintenance is more likely to deliver quality results. They will be familiar with the best materials and techniques to use for your specific situation. Ask about their experience with projects similar to yours.

  2. Reputation: Check online reviews, testimonials, and ratings. Ask the contractor for references from previous clients and take the time to follow up with them. This can give you a good idea of the contractor’s reliability, professionalism, and quality of work.

  3. Insurance and Licensing: A legitimate contractor should have appropriate licenses and insurance coverage. This protects you from any liability in case of accidents during the project.

  4. Detailed Proposal: A good contractor should provide you with a detailed proposal that outlines the scope of the work, including the materials to be used, the specific processes they will employ, the project timeline, and the total cost.

  5. Quality of Materials: Inquire about the quality and types of materials they intend to use. Not all sealants are created equal, and using high-quality materials can significantly affect the lifespan and appearance of your pavement.

  6. Equipment: The contractor should have the necessary equipment to perform the job efficiently and effectively. Ask about how they maintain their equipment as this can impact the quality of the job.

  7. Customer Service: A good contractor should communicate effectively, answer your questions promptly, and keep you informed throughout the project.

  8. Warranty: A confident contractor should be able to offer a guarantee or warranty on their work. This shows that they stand by their workmanship and are willing to correct any issues that may arise post-completion.

Remember, choosing the lowest bid may save you money upfront, but it could end up costing you more in the long run if the work is not done properly. Take your time in evaluating and choosing a contractor. A good contractor can provide you with the peace of mind that your pavement maintenance will be done correctly, efficiently, and at a fair price.


Proper pavement maintenance is an investment in the future of your property. By understanding and implementing crack-sealing and sealcoating, you can increase the longevity of your pavement, enhance your property's aesthetic appeal, and prevent costly repairs down the road.

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