How Long Does a Chip Seal Last?

June 4, 2019

A chip seal is an excellent option for resurfacing asphalt, extending the life of that pavement and creating a safe driving surface. Chip sealing is typically much less expensive than other repaving or pavement repair options, and creates a fresh surface that is ready for new parking lines and other markings.

A chip seal often lasts and average of seven years although this will vary according to everyday traffic, weather conditions, and how well you keep it maintained. Hiring a reputable asphalt paving company also ensures a chip seal lasts as long as possible.

Chip sealing offers many benefits for repairing and resurfacing public roadways, asphalt parking lots, and other such surfaces, but its overall longevity will depend on how well you maintain the chip sealant after installation. Knowing how a chip seal is applied and the materials used for this sealing can help ensure  you’re doing every possible to protect your new pavement over the years. You might also benefit from some tips and hints for keeping asphalt, concrete, and all paving materials in good condition no matter their location or use.

chip sealant

What Does Chip Sealing a Road Mean?

Chip sealing uses the same materials as fresh asphalt paving but the installation of a chip seal and new blacktop are a bit different. Understanding these differences can help you determine if a chip sealant is right for your roadway or parking lot, and better understand its benefits versus tearing out your current pavement and installing new asphalt.

  • Fresh asphalt starts with a mixture of hot, liquid asphalt and aggregates. This mixture is spread onto an aggregate base and compacted or pressed into place.
  • Chip sealing uses these same “ingredients” but is not mixed and then spread over an aggregate. Instead, a chip seal begins with a thin layer of liquid asphalt sprayed onto existing pavement.
  • Aggregates or “chips,” made up of gravel, polished stone, polished glass, and other such materials are then spread over the liquid asphalt and pressed into place.
  • Once the chip sealant has dried, excess or loose chips are swept away.

While a chip sealant is not the same as asphalt installation, this mixture offers a tough, durable surface that withstands most vehicle traffic as easily as fresh asphalt.

Does Chip Sealing Work?

There are many advantages to chip sealing a road, parking lot, or asphalt driveway, versus tearing out that pavement and installing fresh asphalt. Chip sealant is also a good alternative to repairing a large number of chips, cracks, spalling, potholes, and other damage.

  • Chip sealing is typically a fourth or even a fifth the cost of fresh asphalt or an asphalt overlay.
  • A chip sealant doesn’t add the same weight to your pavement as does a thick asphalt overlay.
  • Chip sealants seep into cracks, pits, pores, small potholes, and other surface damage of asphalt, filling in those gaps and creating a safe surface for driving.
  • Filling in potholes and other gaps with a chip sealant protects the asphalt from absorbing water and then softening or cracking over time.
  • A fresh layer of chip sealant protects asphalt form harsh sunlight and extreme weather conditions, reducing surface spalling, peeling, and other damage.
  • Fresh chips or aggregate adds traction to your property’s asphalt, creating a safer surface for driving and reducing the risk of traffic accidents.
  • Fresh aggregate prevents water from pooling on the surface of asphalt, also creating a safer driving surface and virtually eliminating black ice.
  • A new layer of chip sealant provides a clean, vibrant surface for fresh parking lines and other markings.
  • Fresh aggregate allows you to change the look of your pavement! Colored aggregate, polished glass, and other options add style to a parking lot or driveway.

An asphalt paving contractor can also note the advantages of chip sealing for your roadway or property in particular, given the condition of the current asphalt or other paving material.

asphalt paving contractors

How Long Does a Tar and Chip Driveway Last?

A tar and chip driveway is similar to a cheap sealant; a layer of hot, liquid asphalt is sprayed over a layer of aggregate and then fresh aggregate or chips are added. A tar and chip driveway is more stable than gravel as its chips are not loose and won’t get caught under tires or wash away during rainstorms. Many homeowners also find tar and chip driveways a bit more attractive than plain gravel while the material is much cheaper than asphalt or concrete.

However, as with a chip sealant, a tar and chip driveway won’t last as long as asphalt installation or concrete. Depending on vehicle traffic, you might expect a tar and chip driveway to last a maximum of 7 to 10 years before it’s time for a fresh layer of sealant and new stones or aggregate.

Chip Seal Best Practices

The installation process of a chip sealant or tar and chip driveway affects its stability and overall longevity. While adding chip sealant to your pavement is best left to a professional, note some chip seal best practices. You can then discuss these with a potential asphalt installation contractor or know what to expect with your chip seal installation, and ensure you find the best company for all your asphalt maintenance and repairs.

  • The weather should be warm and dry during a chip seal installation. Cold weather doesn’t allow liquid asphalt to spray properly and overly humid conditions won’t allow the mixture to set and cure as needed.
  • The surface of existing asphalt needs prep work before a chip sealant. The surface should be swept clean and any vegetation growing through cracks and holes removed.
  • While chip sealant will fill small chips, cracks, and other damage, larger ruts, deep potholes, and severe cracks need patching before its application.
  • Avoid using dusty or dirty chips; ensure you purchase new aggregate for your chip sealant and examine them before spreading. Liquid asphalt doesn’t cling or bind to dusty and dirty chips easily, so the aggregate needs to be in good condition during your chip seal installation.
  • Aggregate must be spread on the binder or liquid immediately to ensure those chips settle into the asphalt before it sets. When choosing an asphalt repair company, be sure they have a large enough crew to spread that aggregate quickly over the entire surface of fresh sealant.
  • A chip sealant crew will broom the surface of freshly applied sealant, to remove loose chips. However, it’s vital that they use a soft broom and gentle motions, to avoid dislodging chips from fresh sealant. Avoid the temptation of helping the crew sweep away loose gravel or trying to manage this job on your own to save money, as improper sweeping techniques can ruin your new chip sealant.
  • Timing is vital when sweeping fresh sealant. If the binder has not set properly before loose chips are swept away, this increases the risk of removing aggregate from the sealant.
chip sealing
Steamroller and dump truck crews laying new pavement in a residential neighborhood

How to Maintain a Chip Sealant

The longevity of your new chip sealant will often depend on how well you care for the new sealing immediately after installation and over the years as well. Note a few tips on how to maintain a chip sealant and keep your pavement in good condition overall.

  • Avoid driving over the chip sealant until the binder is set thoroughly. Your asphalt installation contractor will note how long you should keep a roadway or parking lot closed or avoid your home’s driveway after a chip seal installation.
  • Once your new pavement is able to withstand vehicle traffic, it’s still recommended that you avoid hard braking or sudden acceleration. Better driving habits means less risk of dislodging those chips or aggregates!
  • As with all pavement options, ensure that you repair cracks, chips, and small potholes in your new chip sealant as quickly as possible. Small cracks often grow over time and become more expensive to fix, so inspect your new pavement regularly and have repairs made quickly.
  • Motor oil and other petroleum-based products break down the binders in asphalt. Consider having your parking lot, roadway, or driveway power washed every year or as often as needed to remove oil stains and other automotive fluids.

It’s also vital that a property owner note any specific suggestions or directions from their asphalt installation contractor. He or she might note excessive wear and tear on the current asphalt or drainage issues on the property and suggest a particular type of aggregate, for better support and protection of the chip sealant and less risk of standing water. Your asphalt paving contractor might also suggest spraying the chip seal with water somewhat regularly, to remove lawn care chemicals, automotive fluids, and other corrosive materials.

Related Questions

How do you maintain a chip seal driveway?

A chip seal or tar and chip driveway doesn’t necessarily need maintenance, such as fresh sealant or repainting every year. However, it’s good to avoid parking overly heavy vehicles on the driveway and running sharp objects such as a snow blower over its aggregates.

 What is a slurry seal versus a chip seal?

A slurry seal is a cold mix of asphalt emulsion, aggregates, and water; a chip seal contains hot liquid asphalt. Slurry seals also have larger aggregates than a chip seal. A slurry seal is often used for high-traffic roads whereas a chip seal is often preferred for parking lots, roads with low traffic volumes, and residential driveways.

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