Driving, walking, inclement weather, and more can leave lasting imprints on sealed driveways if the sealing is not dry. Any damage to this coating is a waste of money, since it needs to be repaired or redone. To avoid this problem, the sealing must be allowed enough time to dry and fully cure.
Most contractors recommend waiting at least 48 to 72 hours after sealing, to ensure the product is fully cured. However, many factors can affect the drying and curing times, so you may have to wait longer. Sometimes, you may even be able to use the driveway in as little as 12 hours if the weather is sunny and dry.
Using The Driveway After Sealing
After sealing your driveway, it is essential to allow it to dry so you do not damage this protective layer.
In the meantime, you have to find another parking spot. You also need to figure out a path to your mailbox without touching the sealcoating. If walking on the surface after a few hours, take care not to scuff or drag your feet so that you do not crack or scratch the sealant.
These approximate drying times are for using the driveway in ideal sunny and dry conditions:
|Type Of Sealant
|Hours To Dry
|Regardless of type, for optimal results
|48 to 72 hours (fully cured)
Drying Vs. Curing
Drying is different from curing.
Drying means that the upper surface can be touched without leaving a sticky residue.
Curing is when all of the moisture has evaporated and the surface has hardened.
So, you may be able to drive and walk on the driveway after a short time. However, waiting several days ensures that the application has fully cured and can handle foot and vehicle traffic without being damaged.
Types of Sealant
Many home improvement products are oil- or water-based. The same is true for driveway sealers.
Some states have prohibited the use of some kinds of sealers due to hazardous pollution.
These contain petroleum with asphalt compositions in an oily suspension.
Oil-based sealers will form an upper layer of protection and penetrate the surface to reduce the likelihood of cracks due to temperature changes.
Oil-based can take longer to dry and emit an odor for several days.
These consist of a coal and tar combination or asphalt suspended in water.
A layer of water-based sealer will form a protective topping on the driveway, but does not penetrate deeper into the pores of the surface like oil-based ones. Water-based sealers tend to need reapplication more frequently.
These sealers dry faster as the water evaporates. They are friendlier to the environment and do not emit strong odors like oil-based ones.
Oil- and water-based are the most commonly used, but there can be other combinations that contain acrylic or polyurethane for example.
Check with your contractor for specific details on how long you need to wait before walking or driving on the surface.
The Impacts Of Weather On Driveway Sealing
Contractors that seal driveways consider several factors before they complete a job. Weather conditions, above all, will affect drying time or could create the potential for uneven sealing or damage.
Even though you can drive on sealed driveways after 12 hours in ideal conditions, the weather cannot be completely controlled or predicted 100% accurately.
Sealing contractors recommend waiting 2 to 3 days (48 to 72 hours) before driving on it to ensure you get the best results.
Ideal temperatures for sealing are approximately 50 to 90°F.
If it is too cold, the sealing does not set well. It might not adhere to the driveway, which can then stick to your tires, show track marks or discoloration, or wear away more easily.
If it is too hot, the sealant may dry too fast and will not permeate the pores of the underlying pavement.
Additionally, other components of sealers will melt at 100°F, leaving a stickier surface that struggles to dry.
This results in sealing that does not adhere well and will show marks and stripped areas where you drive on it.
Temperature Of Pavement Surface
The surface of the driveway can be a different temperature than the surrounding air.
Generally speaking, the surface is colder in the mornings, since it has cooled overnight. In the evenings, it will be higher since it has been warmed up by the sunlight and ambient temperatures of the day.
Typically, the surface temperature takes longer to shift and often does not match the ambient temperature. Therefore, contractors will wait until desirable ambient temperatures are reached.
This is to make sure the driveway surface has also warmed up to an acceptable temperature for application.
Humidity should be low to avoid extra moisture and longer drying times, ideally, below 60%.
Humidity at 90% or higher has too much moisture in the air and will extend the amount of drying time considerably. This is because the air cannot absorb the moisture from the sealing for it to dry.
If the forecast calls for rain within 24 hours of application (before or after), you should postpone the task.
Water can get underneath the sealing and permeate the pavement, resulting in cracks and a weakened driveway.
Generally, if the sealer has been applied in ideal temperature and humidity conditions, it will dry enough to prevent rain penetration after 12 hours.
Sunlight And Cloud Cover
When sunlight hits black surfaces, such as driveway sealcoating, the dark color will absorb the heat and speed up the drying times.
If it is overcast, the sealing will take longer to dry.
If your driveway is shaded by a tree or building, the sunlight will not be able to heat the surface effectively, increasing drying times.
Ideally, a freshly sealed driveway needs minimally two hours of direct sunlight to dry and cure well. Shaded spots will take longer to dry and may not have a completely smooth surface like the areas that have sunlight.
If cracks occur due to nearby tree roots from a shade tree, sealing will not correct this problem. Rather, the tree will likely need to be removed, and then driveway repairs can take place.
Wind And Air Circulation
A gentle breeze (3 to 10 mph) can push humidity away from surfaces such as the driveway. This allows the driveway to dry faster.
If there is no breeze, then the moist air can “sit” on top of the driveway, increasing drying times.
High winds over 25 mph, can still dry the surface. However, the wind can fling sealant onto undesired areas during application.
Additionally, if the wind brings precipitation or broken branches and debris to a freshly sealcoated driveway, items could stick to or damage the coating.
Season And Region
Temperatures and precipitation patterns affect when sealcoating should be done.
In the Northeast, sealing is done in the late spring and summer to avoid winter weather. Winter weather can make sealers crack or peel, allowing moisture in.
In other areas, ideal conditions may be in the fall, when there is less rain and temperatures are not too hot.
Benefits Of Sealcoating
If a driveway is not cracked or chipped, it can be resealed every three to five years.
If there is some damage or signs of wear and tear or aging, you may have to seal it annually or every other year.
The following are benefits of sealcoating a driveway:
- Protection from water penetration and damage
- Protection from UV damage
- Curb appeal
Sealing a driveway can prevent weather elements from cracking or damaging the surface, resulting in potholes and an uneven surface.
However, you should also not seal too often. Oversealing can cause some cracking or flaking to occur as well.
If you’re not sure what to do, it is best to contact a professional to inspect your driveway and make recommendations on how often your driveway should be sealed.
After sealing your driveway, it is ideal to wait 48 to 72 hours for it to fully dry and cure.
Since the weather and type of sealer can affect the overall drying times, speak with your contractor for their recommendations before walking or driving on the surface.
Generally, warmer temperatures and lower air humidity help reduce drying times.