Aesthetic appearance improves with color

By Jeff Winke

A pavement’s condition and functionality speaks volumes about the establishment that it serves. A well-groomed and maintained asphalt-paved parking lot, for instance, will reveal the owner’s value for safety and aesthetics.

Sealcoating is a way to preserve the deep, rich hue of blacktop. It also adds a layer of protection from the wear of vehicle and foot traffic. Sealcoating is the application of a thin coat of coal tar pitch or asphalt emulsion mixed with inert fillers, water, emulsifying agents or additives.
In some cases, colored sealcoating can add a layer of much desired oomph to a site.

“Colored sealcoat is very versatile,” stated Jeff Gearheart, director, SportMaster Sport Surfaces, Sandusky, Ohio. “Overall, it is used to improve the aesthetic appearance of an area and make the pavement stand out. Whether it’s an entrance-way to a building front or focus area, it brings attention and a sense of quality and cleanliness. It can be the permanent ‘red carpet treatment’ for pavement.”

Gearheart continued, “When it comes to the versatility, colored sealcoat is available in a range of different colors and surface textures. Lighter colors can lower the surface and ambient temperatures, and darker colors can absorb heat and promote melting of snow.”

Color-coatings have been used for sports and recreational surfaces for many decades so their use on mainstream pavement surfaces is relatively new.

“In the past, asphalt and concrete surfaces were coated with colorized asphalt or pigmenting concrete that were, well… sort of unattractive,” said Girish C. Dubey, president, STAR, Inc., Columbus, Ohio. “The best possible base materials that provided any kind of durability in a coating system were dark and could only be tinted up to muted earth tones at best. Brightly coated sports surfaces leaned towards more traditional paint formulations that lacked the durability needed under pedestrian or light vehicular traffic.

“Recently there have been great strides in the development of specialty polymers that have proven much more reliable, durable and stable in a sealcoating system like pavement maintenance professionals are accustomed to. These new binders have given rise to a new generation of high-performance colorized pavement coatings with the benefit of tinting in a unlimited spectrum of colors including very bright, vibrant and visible colors that last.”

Versatility appears to be a strong descriptor of color sealcoating.

“Colored sealcoats derive their properties from best of both worlds; the latest in polymer technology while incorporating best in color fast pigments, durable fillers, and specialty chemicals,” stated Nihal Pandrapragada, research and development chemist, with STAR, Inc. “In terms of application, the colored sealcoat can be applied on asphalt and concrete surfaces. And in terms of different colors, they are limited by your imagination. These colored sealcoats can be made in an unlimited spectrum of colors, similar to interior/exterior house paints.”
The way color sealcoats are formulated appears to contribute to their versatility.

“In our research and experience, we found acrylics to be best suitable as a binder for colored sealcoat,” Pandrapragada said. “They provide the sealcoat with excellent performance properties and are cost effective as compared to epoxies and urethanes.”

Gearheart concurred on the best formulation: “100% acrylic formulations are the best for outdoor applications, due to ultra-violet stability and breathability. These coatings can suspend silica sand and specialized aggregate for non-slip texture and durability in all temperatures and weather conditions.”

A couple of questions come to mind when thinking of using color sealcoating on a jobsite. What kind of prep work needs to be completed before applying color sealcoating? Does color sealcoating require different prep than plain sealcoating?

According to Pandrapragada, the prep work for color sealcoating is similar to plain sealcoating. “Prior to application, the surface must be clean and free from all dirt, debris, oil spots and any other surface contaminations.”

Surface preparation before color sealcoating should consist of general cleaning of the surface with brooms, blowers and pressure washing if needed. The surface should be clean and free from loose coatings, organic growth, and other contaminants that could interfere with adhesion. Cracks should be filled with 100% acrylic crack fillers.

“Asphalt-based and hot applied crack fillers should not be used under acrylic coatings,” Gearheart advised. “Also, ensure that coal tar sealants have not been used prior to acrylic colored sealcoats, for best adhesion. Crack filling and repair should be performed, and repairs or leveling should be considered for damaged or raveling areas. The life of colored sealcoat can be shortened if submerged under water, or puddled areas, for long periods of time.”

There are a number of performance attributes that characterize color sealcoating. The treatment does not contain any oils, so it should not leach onto floors or carpet after completion curing. The 100% acrylic coatings are resistant to oil and fuel and also act to seal, protect, and extend the life of pavement.

Dry time for color sealcoat is very similar to traditional sealcoats and clean-up is performed with water. Application temperatures are the same as most asphalt sealants. The pavement and ambient temperatures should be 50 degrees F (10 Celsius) and rising during application and for at least 24 hours after the job is completed. Colored sealcoat is best applied with soft rubber squeegees.

“To assure the successful application of color sealcoating, it is best to allow new asphalt to age 60- to 90-days to rid the surface of oils contained in fresh asphalt,” Dubey said. “A ‘Water-Break-Free-Test’ should probably be performed to determine that the surface oils have sufficiently dissipated in order to ensure solid bonding of the color coating. Any residual oil may cause the coating dis-bond. Old oxidized pavements must be thoroughly cleaned and preferably power-washed to remove all loose particles. In addition, the manufacturer may recommend the use of a primer if the surfaces integrity cannot be assured.”

Color sealcoating can play a significant role in the asphalt paving contractor’s offering of services. Specifically engineered formulations produce highly durable pavement coatings designed for light pedestrian and vehicle traffic. With color sealcoating it is possible to preserve and beautify any asphalt surface to give it distinctive appeal.

In a sense the term “blacktop” is outdated, since with the availability of color sealcoats it is possible to have a green, red or other color asphalt surface to match any desired aesthetic and functional purpose.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through