A cracked or stained driveway not only detracts from curb appeal, but it can also make your entire house look dated and drab. So it makes sense to treat your hardscape—be it concrete or asphalt—with the best driveway sealer to protect the surface from freeze-thaw cycles, chemicals, and harsh UV rays. While installing a driveway is a job for the pros, sealing a driveway can be a simple DIY project.
The best sealer will vary depending on the individual driveway’s condition and the reason for sealing it. Read on to learn about the different concrete and asphalt sealers, and find out why the following products are among the best you can buy.
- BEST OVERALL: Armor Silane Siloxane Penetrating Concrete Sealer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: MasonryDefender Concrete Sealer De-Icing Protection
- BEST FOR CRACKED ASPHALT: Latex-ite Sand Mix Driveway Filler Sealer
- BEST FAST-DRYING: Gardner Drive Seal Driveway Filler and Sealer
- BEST FOR FRESH CONCRETE: Quikrete Acrylic Concrete Cure and Seal
- BEST MOLD-INHIBITING: AQUA-X Penetrating Stone and Concrete Sealer
- BEST FOR A WET LOOK: Quikrete Concrete & Masonry High Gloss Sealer
- BEST PENETRATING: Foundation Armor Penetrating Concrete Sealer
Choosing the Right Asphalt Driveway Sealer
It’s hard to beat the aesthetic appeal of an asphalt (blacktop) driveway, but the material can develop spider web cracks and low spots over time. Left untreated, these issues can lead to larger problems such as potholes. Expect to pay between $0.25 and $0.65 per square foot for an asphalt sealer.
There are several types of concrete sealers from which to choose, including coal tar, asphalt-based, plain surface, and fill and seal.
Coal Tar Sealers
These standard sealers have been used on asphalt driveways and streets for decades. True to their name, they’re made from coal tar, a sticky black substance derived from bituminous coal. Coal tar goes on as a syrupy, black liquid and then forms a tough surface on asphalt known as a “sealcoat.” Application is not a DIY project, as it requires industrial equipment that heats the tar to liquefy it.
Coal tar sealers can effectively fill cracks, seal, and recoat asphalt driveways with a protective coating that lasts up to 4 years. These sealers contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), so chemical masks and protective clothing are required during application. Coal tar sealers are not considered environmentally friendly, and some states and communities have banned their use. A driveway resurfaced with coal tar sealer may emit a tar-like odor for months. Though a coal tar sealer will become very hard and protective, it isn’t flexible once it cures; this means rather than expanding and contracting, it will likely crack.
As durable as coal tar sealers, asphalt-based sealers are composed mainly of asphalt cement and emit fewer toxic fumes, making them a popular choice for most homeowners. They are designed to fill cracks and provide a smooth, hard surface that should last up to 6 years before requiring recoating.
Asphalt-based sealers, which contain the same ingredients present in the original asphalt driveway, can be applied by a professional driveway resurfacing crew as well as a knowledgeable DIYer, as there’s no special heating equipment required. Like a coal tar sealer, an asphalt-based sealer creates a hard, durable surface, but it expands and contracts slightly with temperature variations, so it won’t crack as easily.
Plain Surface Sealer
Plain asphalt driveway surface sealer is a thick black liquid that is generally applied with a heavy-duty paint roller, making it a fairly DIY-friendly project. It’s intended for use on a driveway that’s in relatively good shape, with no potholes or sinkholes. Plain sealers do not contain sand, so they don’t fill holes or cracks, which should be patched or filled (see below) before applying plain sealer.
The product often contains fine silica powder that produces a textured, nonslip surface. Some plain sealers are low-VOC, meaning they create minimal, if any, noxious fumes. A surface sealer offers an added layer of protection that can last up to 3 years.
These sealers contain sand, or sand-like ingredients, that fill cracks up to ⅛-inch wide when spread onto the existing driveway with a utility broom or driveway squeegee. Crack filler products leave behind a textured, nonskid surface. Potholes and cracks wider than ⅛-inch should be filled with an asphalt patching product before applying a fill-and-seal product.
Fill-and-seal products for asphalt are DIY-friendly, and they are often available in low-VOC formulations. A coating will last up to 3 years on average.
Choosing the Right Concrete Driveway Sealer
A good concrete sealer will stave off stains and discoloration from chemicals and rust and will also minimize the damage that can occur due to freeze-thaw cycles. Concrete is porous, so when ice or snow melts and refreezes, it expands and stresses the surface. In response, flaking can happen and cracks can eventually appear. Expect to pay from $0.15 to $0.70 per square foot for concrete sealer; cost is determined by coverage per square foot and the concrete’s porosity. Here are some points to consider when selecting a product for your concrete surface.
Cure and Seal Products
Cure and seal products for use on concrete are applied as soon the newly poured surface will bear weight. They help concrete retain moisture and thereby cure more slowly, promoting a harder, more durable surface. The standard method of curing is to wet new concrete down thoroughly multiple times a day for a week. When that’s not feasible, a cure and seal product, which protects the driveway for up to 3 years, is a reasonable alternative.
The formula of a cure and seal product is a clear liquid that can be brushed or sprayed over the new concrete’s surface in a thin, even coat. Though fairly DIY-friendly, these products are not designed to prevent concrete from staining or cracking. Their sole purpose is to help the new concrete cure slowly.
Penetrating sealers—the most common type of concrete sealer—should not be applied before new concrete is completely cured, which is at least 28 days. A single application can last from 5 to 10 years, based on quality, weather conditions, and the manufacturer’s suggestion. Penetrating sealers, which may be solvent-based or water-based (the more eco-friendly choice), soak into the concrete’s top layer and bond with the surface to keep water, stains, and chemicals from penetrating.
Penetrating sealers bond with the particles in the porous concrete surface to prevent stains and keep water from soaking in, which reduces the risk of cracking due to freezing. Depending on the product, a penetrating sealer can be sprayed or poured on and then spread evenly with a squeegee or brush.
Concrete sealers are available with mold and mildew inhibitors, which is an asset if you live in a rainy or humid region where mold is likely to develop. Both mold and mildew can alter the look of a concrete surface: Mold tends to leave darkened stains, while mildew causes powdery, whitish stains. Before applying a concrete sealer that prevents mold or mildew, any existing staining must be removed. This typically involves scrubbing with a brush and a mold-removing product that contains bleach or detergent.
Specialty penetrating concrete sealers can add various levels of sheen, including satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss. On overdyed concrete, gloss sealers will enhance the color of the concrete while offering an attractive “wet look.” For the best results, apply a surface effect sealer over new concrete that has been cured for 28 days. For existing concrete, clean the surface thoroughly to remove stains and dirt before using a penetrating sealer.
The simplest way to apply most concrete sealers is with a regular garden-type sprayer. A paint roller or a large driveway squeegee is also usable and sometimes recommended. When applying a sealer to a concrete driveway, treat the entire surface all at once, without starting and stopping. Should a partial coat of sealer dry and more product be applied later, overlap lines may be visible on the finished surface.
Our Top Picks
The following driveway sealers for concrete and asphalt are all well suited to various needs. Coverage varies by product, and if you want to apply two coats, which is recommended for some of the sealers, be sure to purchase enough to coat the driveway twice.
To reduce the risk of damage or deterioration to concrete caused by moisture and temperature extremes, check out Armor Silane Siloxane Penetrating Sealer. Two coats, applied with a pump-type sprayer, will protect the surface for 7 to 10 years without changing the look of the driveway.
This Armor sealer comes in a 5-gallon container. One gallon will cover 175 square feet of concrete, and the whole barrel will treat approximately 435 square feet with two complete coats. The sealer will not make the driveway surface slick. This sealer is suitable for use on brick and flagstone surfaces as well as concrete.
For robust, comprehensive protection against weather-related damage, such as cracking and pitting, consider MasonryDefender Concrete Sealer. This affordable sealer also protects concrete against chemical damage resulting from frequent use of ice melt-type products that can cause cracking or surface peeling. The product comes in a 1-gallon jug and will treat up to 150 square feet of concrete.
For the best results, the driveway must first be thoroughly cleaned to remove dirt, dust, and spills. Apply a single coat of MasonryDefender with a pump-type sprayer. A second coat isn’t necessary to create a water- and chemical-resistant surface that will protect the driveway for up to 5 years.
To fill small cracks of up to ⅛-inch while adding a protective sealant to asphalt driveways, check out Latex-ite Sand Mix Driveway Filler Sealer. The 4.75-gallon pail covers up to 400 square feet using a driveway squeegee. The product contains no coal tar and is low VOC, so there’s no worries about nasty fumes.
The sealer smooths on neatly and camouflages hairline cracks to provide a good-looking, durable, nonskid surface. An application of two coats should last up to 5 years.
When minimizing downtime is important, this fast-drying asphalt sealer may fill the bill. Gardner Drive Seal can be walked on in as little as 1 hour after application.
Water-based and low-VOC, it has an easy-to-spread gel formula that can be applied with a driveway squeegee. The 4.75-gallon pail will cover up to 350 square feet with two thin coats, providing a jet-black protective finish that lasts up to 5 years.
New concrete typically requires periodic rewetting to cure properly, but when time is of the essence Quikrete’s Concrete Cure and Seal may be just the ticket. Apply this product with a roller or a sprayer to fresh concrete as soon as it hardens enough to bear weight (usually within a few hours after installation).
Cure and Seal dries to a soft satin finish and protects fresh concrete from drying out too quickly, reducing the risk of cracking and flaking. Once cured, the driveway will be better able to stave off stains and cracks. A 1-gallon container of Cure and Seal covers up to 200 square feet, and its protective seal will last up to 3 years.
Fortified with mold and mildew inhibitors, AQUA-X Clear Penetrating Sealer is a smart choice for those living in rainy or humid regions. Two coats, sprayed or rolled on, will stave off mold and mildew. The product, which provides a clear, natural finish, also protects concrete from freeze-thaw cycles.
For those looking for an eco-friendly, low-VOC sealer, AQUA-X is a solid choice. The 1-gallon size of this solvent-free sealer covers up to 500 square feet to protect a driveway and other masonry surfaces for up to 5 years.
To obtain a wet look on a stamped concrete driveway, check out Quikrete Concrete & Masonry High Gloss Sealer. This product imparts a glossy sheen plus ample protection from oil and grease spills, chemical de-icing products, and most food stains. For best results and a high-gloss finish, apply two coats with a high-density foam roller; just be aware that spilled acids may cause dulling.
One gallon of the water-based, low-VOC sealer covers up to 400 square feet and protection will likely last 5 years.
Solvent-based Foundation Armor SX5000 Clear Concrete Sealer offers dependable driveway protection even in cold climates. A single coat of this penetrating sealer forms a durable bond with the surface, protecting it for 7 to 10 years from damage caused by de-icing chemicals, salts, stains, and freeze-thaw cycles.
This Foundation Armor sealer won’t change the appearance of the driveway or leave a film. A gallon covers up to 200 square feet and can be applied with either a sprayer or a paint roller.
How to Clean a Driveway Before Sealing
It’s best to get the driveway as clean as possible before sealing. Scrub with a detergent or stain remover to banish evidence of spills, and follow up with a power washer to deep clean dirt from the surface. For the best results, make any necessary driveway repairs before applying a sealer.
How to Apply Sealer to a Driveway
Most concrete sealers can be applied with a pump-type sprayer. If puddling occurs, use a large push broom or squeegee to distribute the liquid evenly. Some asphalt sealers can be spread with a squeegee or rolled on with a heavy-duty paint roller.
FAQs About Driveway Sealers
Q: What is the difference between driveway sealers?
Different driveway sealers address a variety of issues and are suited to different surfaces. They contain different ingredients based on whether the driveway is concrete or asphalt and whether the intent is to protect a new surface, repair a damaged surface, or fill cracks.
Q: What is the best driveway sealer to use?
The Best Overall pick in the lineup, Armor Penetrating Concrete Sealer, is a good option for most concrete driveways.
Q: What is the best type of blacktop sealer?
For cracked blacktop driveways, Latex-ite Filler Sealer does double duty—it helps fill cracks up to ⅛-inch wide, and it also provides an attractive driveway coating.
Q: Is oil or water-based driveway sealer better?
Both of these product types have pros and cons. Oil-based sealers (used on asphalt) can take days to dry and are more likely to create disagreeable fumes, but they provide a very durable surface. Water-based sealers dry quickly and create fewer fumes, but they are often limited to use on concrete only.
Q: What is the difference between blacktop and asphalt?
The terms are pretty much interchangeable, although in some areas, the term “blacktop” is used mainly for residential driveways, while “asphalt” is used more often to describe roads and highways.
The application of a driveway sealer can protect new driveways as well as help repair damaged ones. Many concrete sealant products are DIY-friendly. While some asphalt sealers are also intended for DIY use, if a heated asphalt coating is desired, it will need to be applied by a professional asphalt recoating company that has the necessary equipment. Whichever route you choose, sealing a driveway is likely to help it retain, or even enhance, its appearance.