Concrete has always been the de facto standard for home driveways. Easier to form and lay out than pavers and similar in durability to asphalt while being more affordable than both, their popularity shouldn’t be too surprising.
Many contractors that work on concrete driveways will often suggest to homeowners to have their driveways sealed—sometimes even suggesting to have this done each year. While many will be quick to ignore this by virtue of it being an up-front advertisement, it might actually be a good idea to reexamine this offer later.
And in this guide, we will be doing just that—we will be giving you the run-down on sealing concrete driveways to help you decide whether to do it for your own home or not.
Do I Need to Seal My Concrete Driveway?
First things first—do you actually need to seal your concrete driveway?
The simple answer is no.
Just like the stuff that paves the roads and sidewalks, the concrete used to pave your driveway is quite durable even without having a sealer applied on it. Uncoated concrete should have no trouble handling all manner of weather conditions from hot and sunny summers to frigid winters.
Pros of Sealing Concrete Driveway
Now, just because a concrete sealer is not necessarily needed doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to have it anyway. When applied and maintained properly, concrete sealer can provide a number of useful benefits that can keep your concrete driveway looking better for longer.
Moisture & Water Protection
Whether it is from rain, washing your car, or some other source, concrete is known for being fairly vulnerable to water and moisture damage.
After all, concrete is a highly porous material, which means that it is very easy for water to seep into its internal structures. And when concrete is inundated with the stuff, water can soften the bonds between the concrete particles and cause cracks to form.
When applied to your driveway, concrete sealer will coat the surface of the concrete and also seep partway into its pores, cracks, and crevices. Once the sealer finishes curing, it becomes a waterproof barrier for the concrete, allowing it to last longer.
Oil & Stain Resistance
An added bonus of the water resistance offered by the concrete sealer is an improved resistance to oil and stains.
Whereas the pores of uncoated concrete will retain stains and make them harder to remove, the concrete sealer will make oil and other staining liquids bead on the smooth surface that can then be removed much more easily.
If it isn’t already obvious, having a concrete sealer greatly improves your driveway’s ability to stand up to the elements, thereby allowing it to last longer. With proper application of the sealer and regular resealing, a concrete driveway can be expected to last for many years without forming any cracks.
If you shop around for concrete sealers at your local home improvement stores, you will find concrete sealers that have varying levels of glossiness worked into their formulas.
The gloss makes the concrete sealer work as a sort of varnish in addition to its basic function, which can revitalize the appearance of older concrete driveways and enhance the look of newer ones with a brighter, shinier look.
Cons of Sealing Concrete Driveway
While it does have its benefits, sealing your concrete driveway does have its own set of drawbacks that may be a deal-breaker for you:
When shopping for concrete sealers, you may want to steer clear of the ones that are solvent-based if you live with pets or young children. Solvent-based sealers, as their name suggests, are activated with a chemical solvent that can irritate the skin or release toxic fumes.
Given that they tend to be the most common and most affordable kind, solvent-based concrete sealers are and should still be considered as a viable option for your driveway. However, if you do choose these, we would recommend hiring a professional to do the job or at least have the appropriate safety equipment if you plan to do it yourself.
As we noted earlier, concrete sealers produce a very smooth surface on top of the concrete once it has fully cured, which gives your driveway valuable resistance to water, oil, and stains. This does, however, have the unintended effect of making the driveway rather slippery, especially when it had just been newly sealed.
Now, you can very easily fix this by going over the driveway with some abrasives to rough up the surface and allow it to produce some friction. However, the fact that you will have to do this after waiting for the sealer to cure does add an additional step to an already time-consuming process.
Arguably the biggest perceived drawback of sealing your concrete driveway is the fact that this is not a one-time operation. Depending on who you ask, you may be recommended to reseal your driveway at intervals ranging from every 5 years to every 1 year.
It is that resealing interval that makes sealing your concrete driveway such a tricky decision for homeowners to make. After all, each application of concrete sealer on your driveway has more than one cost.
Besides the cost of the sealer itself and any accompanying labor, having your concrete driveway sealed also costs some inconvenience as you will have to keep yourself, your car, and anyone you live with out of the driveway for 1 to 3 days to ensure that the sealer has cured enough for foot and car traffic.
Can’t Be Used on Fresh Concrete
Although concrete usually cures in about 2 days, it typically takes up to a month for the material to reach its full strength. Unfortunately, sealers can’t be applied to concrete until after it has completed that month-long process.
As in the case of the resealing process, this extra waiting time may be a deal-breaker to some homeowners who will have to adjust several things to accommodate this.