Sealcoating Optimizes Pavement Life-Cycle Costs

Sealcoating is Key to Optimizing Life-Cycle Costs of a Preventative Pavement Maintenance Program

Pctc C Hart Aug Sept

Experienced pavement professionals understand that pavement maintenance programs consist of three different types of operation: preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance, and emergency maintenance. Preventive maintenance is typically the least-expensive type of maintenance, and emergency the most with the cost of correcting a problem being highly variable. Sealcoating is a key tool in a preventative maintenance program that keeps pavement in good condition and prolongs the time until corrective maintenance is required. A well-designed preventive maintenance program will preserve a pavement structure, enhance its performance, extend pavement life, and meet the needs of the property owner. The goal is to cost-effectively and efficiently enhance pavement performance.

Pavement preservation has many benefits, the most important of which is preserving a pavement’s structural integrity and realizing a substantial maintenance cost savings over the life of the pavement. Cost-effectiveness is optimized when pavement preventive maintenance treatments are applied early in the life of a pavement. It is much less expensive to keep pavement in good shape if treatments are applied early in its service life or to repair a pavement when distresses are just beginning to appear. The University of Minnesota’s Center from Transportation Studies illustrated the cost impact of preventative maintenance in the graph below.

Sealcoating is an integral part of a preventive maintenance program. It extends the useful service life of a pavement asset and costs considerably less than repaving or other measures that may be needed later to correct chronic or acute pavement problems.

A comprehensive assessment of the costs associated with any sealcoating must include the costs incurred over the life cycle of a paved surface. The initial cost is the cost of the sealant being applied to a surface – but that initial expenditure does not tell the whole story. The cost over the life cycle of a paved surface must be considered.

PCTC estimated that the cost savings of a pavement maintenance program that includes sealcoating results in a 12-year total cost for a commercial installation of about $0.39/sq. ft. versus an unsealed total cost of $1.76/sq. ft. This assumes that, after 12 years of use, an unsealed lot would require an overlay with 2 in. of asphalt. Details of the assumptions used in both commercial and residential examples of life-cycle cost savings are illustrated in infographics available at   

 In discussions with customers, sealcoat contractors should emphasize that cost is more than an initial, one-time consideration. The value of sealcoating is clear when life-cycle costs are considered.