Asphalt Emulsion Sealcoat Being Applied On Unmarked Commercial Parking Lot Surface

What Type of Sealcoat is Right for my Parking Lot?

Applying sealcoat is a great way to make old parking lots look new again. At the same time, regularly sealcoating parking lots will extend the useful life of the asphalt. When property managers are ready to sealcoat their parking lot, there are four major types of sealcoat to choose from:

While each type of sealcoat will provide the same dark, brand-new, appearance, they are not entirely the same. Certain types of sealcoat are better fits at certain types of properties. Property managers should understand the four major types of sealcoats in order to choose the one that is best for their property or facility. Continue reading for a complete breakdown on the various types of sealcoat and to find out which is the best option for your commercial property’s asphalt surfaces.

What is Coal Tar Emulsion Sealcoat?

Coal tar emulsion sealcoat is the oldest and original type of asphalt sealant. The primary base of coal tar emulsion sealcoat, coal tar pitch, was discovered in the 1600’s. Coal tar was widely used in the construction of the first sealed roads. It is manufactured by mixing coal tar pitch, water, and emulsifying agents.

Coal tar emulsion sealcoats are manufactured using 20% to 35% coal tar pitch. Coal tar pitch is a thick dark liquid produced as a by-product from distilling coal and manufacturing other products, such as steel.

Pro’s of Coal Tar Emulsion Sealcoat

As the original type of asphalt sealant, coal tar emulsion sealcoat is an outdated product. As a result, there are a limited number of benefits to sealcoating a parking lot with a coal tar based sealant. In general, these benefits include:

  • Extremely durable and hard once cured
  • Resistant to fuel and oil stains
  • Easy to work with in difficult weather/environments
  • Least expensive type of sealcoat

While there are benefits to coal tar emulsion sealcoat, they are limited. This is especially true compared to other types of sealcoat. It is an older product, only recommended for use under certain conditions where parking lot maintenance budgets are a major decision making factor.

Con’s of Coal Tar Emulsion Sealcoat

When it comes to coal tar emulsion, sealcoat, there are almost no benefits to using it over types of sealcoat. There are numerous drawbacks to sealcoating a commercial parking lot with a coal tar emulsion based product. In fact, when it comes coal tar emulsion sealcoat, the con’s far outweigh the pro’s. The con’s to coal tar emulsion asphalt include:

  • Known to contain cancer causing carcinogens
  • Environmentally hazardous to plants, wildlife, and the water table
  • Susceptible to cracking as asphalt expands and contracts
  • Can cause skin and eye irritation during application
  • Banned in many states and cities

Due to health and environmental hazards, coal tar emulsion sealcoat is currently been banned in numerous states, municipalities, and the District of Columbia. This map shows all the places that no longer permit coal tar emulsion sealcoats. As a result, it is not a great choice for most commercial properties.

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What is Asphalt Emulsion Sealcoat?

Just like coal tar emulsion sealcoat, asphalt emulsion sealers are made by heating up asphalt bitumen, water, and emulsifying agents. This creates the liquid sealer that can be applied to existing roads, parking lots, and driveways. This is one of the most common types of sealcoat and is widely used in many parts of the country.

Like other types of sealcoat, asphalt emulsion sealcoat will provide a dark “like new” appearance when applied to a commercial parking lot or road.

Pro’s of Asphalt Emulsion Sealcoat

Asphalt emulsion sealcoat is an excellent option because it is non-toxic, safe to handle without protective clothing, and restores the deep dark color of asphalt. Pro’s of asphalt emulsion sealcoat include:

  • Environmentally friendly – no product bans in place
  • Prevents harmful water penetrations
  • Odorless, fast curing product options
  • Protects pavement from oxidation and UV rays
  • Excellent for fixing/sealing asphalt cracks

Since it is environmentally friendly, manufacturers have continued to improve asphalt emulsion sealers over the years. Since it is fast curing, it is a great choice for all types of shopping centers, which need ample parking for visitors. As a result, asphalt emulsion sealcoat is highly recommended for use at all types of commercial properties.

Con’s of Asphalt Emulsion Sealcoat

Compared to coal tar based sealers, there are not many con’s when it comes to to asphalt emulsion sealcoat. This does not mean it is a perfect product. Con’s of asphalt emulsion sealcoat include:

  • Require strict adherence to manufacturer’s mix and application guidelines
  • Shorter product life than coal tar based sealants
  • Highest quality products are expensive
  • Challenging to apply in cooler climates and temperatures

While there are drawbacks to asphalt emulsion sealcoat, they are mostly minor. This is especially true compared to the environmental risks and legal restrictions associated with coal tar based sealcoats. Big picture, there are minimal con’s or reasons not to use asphalt emulsion at the vast majority of commercial properties.

Not sure if asphalt emulsion sealcoat is right for your property? Click here to get connected with a local commercial paving contractor for your next sealcoating project.

What is Oil-Based Sealcoat?

Unlike other types of sealcoat that use water as a base, oil-based sealants get their name because they use oil. The product itself is chemically different than both coal tar and asphalt emulsion based sealers.

Unlike other sealcoats, oil-based sealcoat penetrates the existing asphalt surface and creates a new bond. In many ways, they are more of an asphalt rejuvenator than an asphalt sealer. Since they act differently than other sealants, oil-based sealcoats take up to 1 week to cure and the application process creates strong odors that last up to 1 week.

Pro’s of Oil-Based Sealcoat

While there are pro’s of oil-based sealcoats, they are known for their long term performance. Like any sealcoating project, they leave parking surfaces with a dark color. Other pro’s of oil-based sealcoat include:

  • Helps prevent pavement raveling
  • Application process repairs hairline cracks
  • Provide protection for 5 to 10 years

Despite these advantages, there is almost no reason to use oil-based sealcoat at commercial properties in 2021. This is because of the application process and environmental risks posed by the product.

Con’s of Oil-Based Sealcoat

There are many con’s to oil-based sealcoats. Like coal tar emulsion sealcoat, they contain VOC’s, which are hazardous to the environment. As a result, oil-based sealcoats are currently banned in many areas. Additional con’s of oil-based sealcoats include:

  • Extremely long cure time makes parking lots useless for up to 1 week
  • Strong odors persist for days after application
  • Environmentally hazardous because of VOC’s
  • Banned in certain cities, municipalities, and states
  • No protection against UV rays, chemicals, or petroleum

If those are not enough con’s, oil-based sealcoats can also leave parking lots with a slick finish that becomes slippery when it rains. There is almost no reason to use oil-based sealcoat in 2021. Even if it were not banned in many places, it has too many drawbacks and con’s to be a great choice for commercial properties.

What is Acrylic Sealcoat?

Acrylic sealcoat uses an acrylic emulsion in place of water or oil. As a result, it is more liquid than other types of sealcoats. This makes it a great choice for smoother asphalt surfaces. It is also an environmentally friendly product. In most cases, acrylic sealcoat is used for specialty applications.

Unlike other types of sealcoat, acrylic sealcoat comes in a variety of colors. Since it works well on smooth surfaces and comes in a variety of colors, acrylic sealcoat is regularly used for sport courts, jogging paths, cart paths, and other colored asphalt surfaces. This picture shows how acrylic sealcoat is used on a tennis court:

Acrylic Based Type Of Sealcoat Used To Seal Tennis Court

Pro’s of Acrylic Sealcoat

For specialty applications requiring colored asphalt, acrylic sealcoat is the best choice. This is the key advantage it offers when compared with other products. Overall, the pro’s of acrylic sealcoat include:

  • Most environmentally friendly type of sealcoat
  • Great for sport courts and colored asphalt surfaces
  • Single application can last up to 7 years

While acrylic sealcoat has a significant lifespan, its biggest pro is being great for sports courts and similar applications. It exists for these types of specialty application and that is the main reason it should be used to sealcoat asphalt at a commercial property.

Con’s of Acrylic Sealcoat

While there are many benefits to acrylic sealcoat, it is not without its drawbacks. Chief among them is cost. As a specialty product, acrylic sealcoats are very expensive from a product standpoint and a cost to install standpoint. Additional con’s of acrylic sealcoat include:

  • Expensive. Costs significantly more than other sealcoats
  • Less effective at protecting heavily used asphalt surfaces
  • Less long term research on product effectiveness

Property managers looking to seal a sport court, jogging path, bike path, or other type of specialty surface should choose an acrylic based sealant. It is the best choice for these types of projects. At the same time, it is not a great choice for large scale sealcoating projects, primarily due to cost.


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What Type of Sealcoat is Right for my Parking Lot?

In general, asphalt emulsion sealcoat products are the best choice for commercial properties. This is because they offer a great combination of affordability, protection, and environmental friendliness. It gives older parking surfaces and driveways the dark fresh appearance that makes parking surfaces look new again. It is safe to use everywhere and offers solid protection against chemicals, water penetrations, and UV rays. This is why property managers should choose an asphalt emulsion based sealcoat when they are ready to seal their parking lots, roads, and driveways.

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