Choosing the Sealer: Oil-Based Vs Water-Based

Sealcoating an asphalt road, driveway, or parking lot helps in prolonging the lifespan of the surface, as well as enhancing its appearance. Various weather conditions can cause cracking and crumbling to an asphalt surface: heat during the hot summer days causes asphalt to oxidize, and freezing water can also damage asphalt during the cold winter days. Also, rainwater has the potential of damaging an asphalt paved surface. 

That’s the reason why applying sealant is essential, as it helps in preventing such damages from happening. Typically, you can choose an asphalt sealer depending on the surface that you need to seal or repair. However, there’s one question—what type of sealer should you use?

The two most common types of asphalt sealers are oil-based and water-based. Each of these two options has its advantages. So, you need to choose the right option depending on your requirements

What you need to know about oil-based and water-based sealers

Oil-based sealers

Oil-based asphalt sealers comprise a mixture of asphaltic chemicals or asphalt rejuvenators, blended with oily suspension. These sealers help in restoring components into asphalt, which have been lost after the surface is exposed to the elements. Naturally, asphalt is a byproduct of oil.

According to the experts at ABС Paving, a sealcoating contractor from Florida, these are some of the common types of sealers used to seal coat asphalt surfaced because of their numerous benefits. oil-based sealers have additives, which increase resistance to oil spills or gas leaks from vehicles since these components can dissolve unsealed asphalt. Some extra additives, like polymers and coal tar, are also added to oil-based sealers. 

Water-based sealers

Water-based sealers consist of either asphalt emulsions or coal-tar emulsions. One might ask, what’s an asphalt emulsion? Well, this is asphalt that’s suspended in water. On the other hand, coal-tar emulsions come from the steel industry, which makes them a bit complicated. They are also suspended in water, but their structure is different from the asphalt that they protect. 

Most water-based sealers contain polymers, clay, and latex. However, they are more resistant to gas and oil spills when compared to oil-based sealers. This is the reason why these sealers are mostly used to seal coat major freeways and highways. These kinds of roads have heavy traffic flow, which makes them more susceptible to oil spills and gas leaks. Water-based sealers can, however, help to protect these surfaces, and prolong their lifespan. 

What differentiates oil-based sealers from water-based sealers?


The primary difference between oil-based and water-based sealers is how they function. Typically, water-based asphalt sealers create a protective layer over the asphalt surface. Oil-based sealers, on the other hand, go a step further, as they penetrate the asphalt surface, thus creating a flexible bond that reduces the possibility of contraction and expansion during cold weather, which can lead to cracking. 

This, however, doesn’t mean that water-based sealers are ineffective, and cannot protect the asphalt surface during cold weather. But, since they lack elasticity, you might need to seal coat your asphalt more often compared to oil-based sealers. 


Another major difference between oil-based and water-based sealers is their appearance. Since oil-based asphalt sealers have extra mixed polymers, they are more durable once exposed to fluids, have a duller appearance, and harder to clean. 

As said earlier, water-based sealers don’t penetrate an asphalt paved surface. And, since these sealers will stay on top of the surface, they have a smoother finish, compared to oil-based sealers. 

Environmental factors

Oil-based sealers are famous because of their good performance. However, these sealers have some major downsides. Unlike water-based asphalt sealers, different oil-based asphalt sealers take a longer time to cure. Besides, they have a distinctive order, which is very strong, and mostly remains in the air for several days after the sealing project is complete. 

Besides, oil-based sealers contain volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which are major environmental pollutants. This is the reason why some states in the US have banned oil-based asphalt sealers since they are very hazardous. Water-based asphalt sealers, on the other hand, are safer to the environment compared to oil-based sealers. 

Disposal methods

Safe and proper disposal of oil-based asphalt sealers depends on the condition of the sealer. You cannot dispose of oil-based sealer alongside your household trash when it’s in a liquid state because of its composition. Rather, you should take it to a commercial or local waste facility, since these facilities have the required safety precautions to permanently dispose of oil-based asphalt sealers. 

You can dispose of water-based asphalt sealers with your normal household trash, but you must let it dry out first. This also applies to oil-based asphalt sealers, but they also need to be dry when being disposed of with household garbage. 

The verdict

The type of asphalt sealer that you choose depends on the surface that you want to seal coat. Oil-based asphalt sealers are ideal for driveways and parking lots, whereas water-based sealers are ideal for major roadways and freeways. When choosing a sealer, you must also consider the environment, as well as durability. 

In addition to that, you also need to do the due diligence when sealcoating an asphalt surface and read the instructions on how you should prepare your sealer before using it. Some sealers require thinning before application, while others don’t. All in all, you need to seek professional advice before you start your sealcoating project if you are not experienced in asphalt sealcoating.

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