Refinishing a driveway is relatively cheap compared to other home projects and can have an immediate impact on your curb appeal. However, a lot of homeowners are unaware that to complete the renovation, you need to seal the concrete. Even more people are unsure of how long after sealing their concrete driveway can they drive on it.
After researching 7 different brands of concrete sealer, this is what I found out….
With most penetrating concrete sealers, you will be able to drive on them within 12-24 hours. They are dry to the touch within 1 hour of application and okay to walk on after 4 hours. However, with topical sealers, you will need to wait at least 48 hours before driving on them.
Of course, these drying times are subject to change depending on the outside temperatures and what type of concrete sealer you are applying – penetrating or topical.
You can find out the recommended drying times for various temperatures below!
We ultimately went with a Driveway and Walkway Concrete Sealer by Pearless Protection. It’s a penetrating sealer that does not change the look of the concrete.
Types of Concrete Sealers for Driveways
When it comes to concrete sealers for your driveway, you can really get into the weeds! However for the sake of time, you essentially have two choices! You can go with a penetrating sealer or a topical concrete sealer.
Penetrating Concrete Sealer
Penetrating sealers work like their name suggests. They penetrate the concrete and protect from within. Because they penetrate deep into the concrete and dry from within, they usually will take longer to dry than decorative sealers.
Penetrating sealers have many advantages, including they can last for many years (even a lifetime) and you do not have to strip previous applications before applying a new coat.
They are available in either water based or solvent based. The difference is that with solvent based, you will get more of a sheen to your driveway than with a water based sealant.
In my opinion, penetrating sealers are great for people who are not as worried about aesthetics as they are about protection and ease of reapplying in the future.
If you are unsure of a particular brand/type of penetrating sealer, you can always opt for the brand that we recommend here.
Topical Concrete Sealers
With topical driveway sealers, you should expect the drying time to be longer than with penetrating sealers. In some cases as much as 72 hours depending on the outside temperatures.
Topical sealers protect the concrete by attaching themselves to the surface of the concrete, thereby creating what is essentially a protective film.
This protective film will change the appearance of the concrete, either with a shiny gloss or matte like finish. Some topical concrete sealers also include paint in their products.
Also, because they do not penetrate the concrete, but adhere to the surface, they almost always change the texture of the driveway. In some cases making it slippery when wet.
Lastly, unlike penetrating sealers, topical concrete sealers will need to be stripped before reapplying after every couple of years.
Outside Temps Affect Drying Times of Concrete Sealants
As I said before, the outside temperatures can dramatically affect the drying times of concrete sealants that are used for driveways.
To simplify things a bit, most concrete sealer manufacturer’s recommended drying times are based on the outside temperatures being between 50 and 90 degrees F.
If the temperature falls below 50 deg, as a good rule-of-thumb, it’s recommended to double whatever the recommended drying times were at 50 to 90 deg.
Because of this, for most areas of the country, sealing your driveway during the winter months is not recommended!
Other weather related factors that will have an impact on drying times are the wind and wind chill factor, the humidity, and if it’s rained frequently.
How Many Coats of Concrete Sealer do You Need
Most experts recommend applying at least 2 coats of concrete sealer to your driveway!
With that being said, more coats are not going to hurt anything, except maybe your wallet.
Keep in mind that with penetrating concrete sealers, you can start applying the second coat within about 15 minutes of the first application.
However, with a topical sealer, you will need to wait until it dries enough for you to walk on it. I recommend at least 4 hrs.
This will also give the concrete enough time to absorb the first coat.
What Happens if You Drive on Your Sealed Driveway Too Soon
If you drive your car on a sealed driveway that hasn’t had time to completely dry, chances are you are going to leave tire tracks all over your freshly sealed driveway.
It’s not going to affect the quality of the seal, it’s just not going to be very appealing.
The other problem is that the only way to get the tire marks off is to pressure wash the tire marks off.
This means that you will have to reapply the sealer to the areas that you stripped.
What Happens if You Seal your Driveway Too Soon
If you seal a freshly poured driveway before the recommended 30 days of curing time, you risk the chance that the sealer will prevent moisture from escaping the concrete, thereby preventing the concrete to cure properly.
The lack of curing will give you a driveway that is not as strong as it should be, opening the door for cracks and breaks in the future.
Wait the 30 days (or longer) before applying sealer to any newly poured concrete, especially for your driveway.
What if it Rains After Sealing Your Concrete Driveway
You can do everything right, including planning the perfect day to seal your driveway, then it happens! You’re almost done with the first coat and suddenly you hear the distinct sound of thunder.
Most concrete sealers only need about 6 hours to dry before you risk having the rain washing it away.
If it does rain within this timeframe, simply let the concrete dry and reapply the sealer.
I know freak occurrences in nature happen, but my advice is to make absolutely sure that there is no rain forecasted within a 24 hr period.
How Long Does Concrete Sealer Last on Driveways
Just because a manufacturer says that their concrete sealer will last 10 years doesn’t mean that it’s so!
According to the good folks at Lowes and Home Depot, most sealers will lose their protection after about 3 to 5 years.
That’s because just like in drying times, there are a number of factors that will determine how often you need to reapply sealer to your driveway.
This includes the weather, location, the amount of traffic on the driveway, and what type of concrete sealer that you use.
It’s recommended that you reseal your driveway every 2 to 3 years for maximum protection.
Sealing a concrete driveway can help to ensure that your driveway will last for many years to come.
The biggest thing to remember is how long after sealing a concrete driveway can you drive on it.
Driving on your driveway before it’s totally dried will not necessarily affect the sealing process, but could leave tire tracks all over your freshly sealed driveway.
As I said before, the only way to remove the tracks will be to pressure clean the areas, which will mean that you will have to reapply the concrete sealer.