We dive deeper into the world of concrete sealers and driveway maintenance. Particularly relevant for homeowners looking at investing in newly exposed aggregate driveways. StoneSet’s 10-year warranty of no loose stone means you save thousands of dollars by avoiding maintenance and re-sealing programs.
May 2020 saw Australians all continue social distancing. Consequently, online research remained popular, especially for homeowners looking to knock items off that long-standing To Do list.
We here at StoneSet noticed a popular search trend in Concrete Re-sealing. So we put this article together to explore; What is it? Should I be doing it? How much will it cost me to re-seal?
Thankfully for resin-bound StoneSet driveways avoiding cement as a binder, the maintenance cost is zero! Let’s first refresh our understanding- what do concrete sealers do generally?
What is Concrete resealing?
Crudely, paving sealers are thin coats of water-impermeable polymers. They are painted onto existing hard surfaces, either creating a film over OR reacting with the binding cement to protect it from water ingress and consequent cracking and wear and tear.
Sealers can be ‘topical’ or surface film types. Others are more chemically reactive – penetrating Silicates and Siloxanes. These more chemically aggressive sealers are longer lasting, forming a chemical bond with cement. They can only be used according to the driveway and its porosity, which a concrete sealing contractor typically decides upon.
The below video details the application of Pour On gravel binder as a ‘topical’ polyurethane sealant for StoneSet resin-bound stone Driveways. The last section explains why with StoneSet driveways, sealing is never required! Rather its an optional decorative choice to ‘gloss coat’ the aggregate giving a wet look.
Why is concrete sealing important?
In harsher, colder climates, rainwater penetration on the top layer of paving causes most of the wear and tear and thus accelerates ageing.
On beautiful new exposed aggregate driveways, the water is absorbed in the top layer of cement. A daily cycle over winter of freeze and thaw (particularly over winter) causes expansion and contraction to weaken the cement binder that holds exposed aggregate together gradually.
In Australia, this is worst in climate extremes where the temperature is low enough to freeze the surface water. (for example, Tasmania or alpine regions like the Grampians and Snowy Mountains).
Preventing water ingress helps prevent ugly cracks. As cracks develop, more water can penetrate deeper into the cement, and the freeze-thaw cycle becomes destructive, further opening up these cracks.
Water ingress exacerbates the deterioration of concrete
What starts as a small crack can eventually let the water reach underneath the slab. Slow erosion can gradually weaken and destabilise the driveway base. This is where hairline cracks mutate into ugly great big cracks over time.
We’re aware that homeowners with perfectly intact driveways have a 4-tonne removal truck or skip bin removed full of heavy building waste. When weight is maximum (skip craned back on), the slab integrity is pushed to its limit and fails, resulting in multiple hairline cracks.
Homeowners have little recourse in such predicaments as contractors often operate trucks with acceptable GVMs. Our experience is the blame invariable falls on the concrete driveway being old. Sometimes driveways are so old they pre-date the use of steel reinforcing (a construction material notoriously short in supply 60 years ago during the post-war years).
Worse still, newer driveways that crack under the weight of landscaper or removal trucks are discovered not to have been laid to industry standard-32MPA load specifications, often by unscrupulous contractors.
Sealers won’t prevent such cracking but do go a fair way in preventing further water ingress through these cracks, which can lead to corrosion of lab reinforcing and further spalling due to concrete cancer. Remember, most driveways are exposed to the sun and bombarded with damaging UV radiation all day. Plus, they take the weight of cars driving in and out daily. Concrete is tough, but you start to see exactly how it takes a beating every day.
More dramatically, beautiful new decorative driveways are also susceptible to oil stains. This is not necessarily the dirty great black puddle left by your teenager’s car. Far more often, we see cement tarnished brown by the oil leached out of fallen eucalyptus leaves. Rain soaks the dampened leaves, stamping a stained brown outline where eucalyptus washes out of the leaves. Again, this oil can penetrate and stain the porous surface layer of a non-sealed paved surface.
So a simple roll-on coat of driveway sealer every 3 years ensures a beautiful driveway stays protected and continues to look new, sometimes doubling or tripling the otherwise unsealed youth span.
Do I need to seal my driveway asap?
If you’ve come into possession of a property with a nice new driveway over the last 2-3 years, then maintenance is something you don’t want to overlook.
For many of us, though, you don’t panic! Unless you’re in Tasmania or inland parts of Australia, you are far less likely to experience the rapid freeze/thaw and scale of degradation typically seen in similar cold climates in the northern hemisphere in Europe and America.
Most Australian homeowners already live with the scars of damage done – worn, cracked concrete driveways 40 or 50 years old. Indeed, a concrete sealer at this late stage would do no more than to give your cement a ‘wet look’. Cracking and spalling is already established, and even the wet look is prone to accelerated wear and tear, especially on driveways that have long daytime exposure to UV rays of the sun.
Cost to re-seal concrete driveways
Re-sealing a concrete driveway reliably can cost between $500 and $1000 every 2-3 years, which at first glance may seem excessive.
However, one must factor in driveway size and the realistic time and costs of resealing properly – Tradespersons time visiting the site to evaluate the use of a topical or penetrating sealant product. Correctly prepping using an aggressive solvent such as Xylene to strip back old sealant and remove oil stains. Finally, return to the site for the sealant application and removal of masking applied to surrounding walls and strip drains.
Advanced-wear concrete is far better being torn up and replaced. Better yet, money invested goes far further in re-surfacing over cracks and loose aggregate, using a durable resurfacing product such as StoneSet resin-bound natural stone. The gallery below shows typical driveway overlay results using StoneSet.
Break free from sealing with StoneSet’s exposed aggregate!
By now, we’ve got a good appreciation of how sealer protects concrete and its binding agent, cement. Far from inert, most concrete driveways are porous and susceptible, yet function well past their lifetime whilst we bemoan them as problem children and eye-sores.
StoneSet’s permeable solution makes obsolete 3 yearly maintenance programmes and sealant application costs, by employing our novel and incredibly tough polyurethane to bind the aggregate together, instead of a water-porous cement. Simultaneously a porous surface means no puddles and eliminates the threat of puddles causing gradual water ingress.
We issue an aftercare maintenance manual that guides homeowners on the care of StoneSet, which includes recommendations for pressure cleaning and avoiding harsh solvents such as acetone and Xylene.
So to recap, we’ve been asked recently by ‘StoneSet homeowners’ if it’s a good idea to use their ‘spare’ lock-down time to re-seal. In short, our answer: “Sure, but you don’t have to!”. In reality, the application of ‘top coating’ or ‘gloss coating’ in a StoneSet driveway has almost entirely one benefit – a wet look that enhances the natural colour of the stone, making the aggregate look more vibrant.
Investing in StoneSet means you’re not obligated to 3 yearly maintenance programmes! You are not locked into any onerous supplier-specific maintenance agreements to maintain your qualification for StoneSet’s industry-leading 10-year warranty.
Hunting down those long-standing maintenance chores to knock over during this ‘time of Corona’ lockdown is admirable, but you don’t need to worry about StoneSet. Maintenance Free, no loose stone 10 years Guaranteed!