Oil-Based Vs Water-Based Asphalt Sealer

Oil-Based Vs Water-Based Asphalt Sealer: What’s The Difference?

The integrity and longevity of your asphalt pavement depend on several factors. Besides high-quality materials and professional paving, you need to consider effective sealcoating. The right sealcoat can increase the lifespan of your asphalt driveway by ten or more years.

When it comes to sealcoating your driveway, you have several options. Two of them are oil-based and water-based sealers. Ideally, you should consult an asphalt expert before making the decision for your driveway or parking lot. However, you can do some research on your own to assist with the decision-making process.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding between a water-based and an oil-based sealer.

What Are Sealers Made of?

For someone who has never worked with asphalt sealers before, a water-based sealer may seem less strong than an oil one. However, a water-based sealer is durable coal-tar or asphalt emulsion or a mix of the two.

To create a water-based asphalt emulsion sealer, the manufacturer simply suspends asphalt in the water. Coal-tar emulsions are somewhat harder to make. They are a byproduct of the steel manufacturing industry. These sealers are also suspended in water. However, their makeup isn’t similar to the asphalt’s.

Meanwhile, oil-based sealers are petroleum-based. They are made of asphalt rejuvenators or chemicals suspended in oil.

How do Sealers Work?

One of the biggest differences between water-based and oil-based sealers is the way they work.

·         Water-based sealers (acrylic sealers) create a protective layer over the asphalt driveway.

·         Oil-based sealers penetrate the surface and create a bond that prevents the asphalt layer from contracting and expanding during the cold months. This keeps the pavement from cracking.

Due to the difference in application and penetration, water-based sealers need to be reapplied more often than oil-based sealers do.  The former needs to be reapplied every two to three years while the latter can last for about five years.


Water-based sealers may contain latex, polymers, and clay. While they work similarly to oil sealers, they are usually more resistant to oil spills. That’s why asphalt highways and other major roadways are generally sealed with water-based sealers.

Since water-based sealers have higher resistance and integrity, they can be a better choice for roads with heavy traffic. However, for driveways that don’t need to endure heavy loads, oil-based sealers can be just as efficient.


The most important difference between oil-based and water-based sealers is their appearance. One of the reasons why property owners choose the sealcoat their asphalt surfaces is for the sealcoat’s appearance.

With time, asphalt pavements start looking greyer and duller than it did in the beginning, reducing the overall appeal of the property. According to ABС Paving, sealcoating contractor from Florida, a sealcoat can make a driveway look fresh again.

Oil-based sealers contain additional mixed polymers to make them durable when resisting vehicle fluids. Due to this, they appear duller than their water-based counterparts. Water-based sealers remain on top of the pavement instead of penetrating it. That’s why they create a more appealing finish.

Effect on the Environment

Due to the differences in makeup and penetration, oil-based and water-based sealers have different effects on the environment.  

Oil-based sealers have a longer cure time than water-based sealers do. They also produce a strong odor that stays in the air for several days after the sealcoating process is over. Oil-based sealers contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contaminate the environment. In some states, oil-based sealers are prohibited due to their adverse effect.

Water-based sealers are more environmentally friendly. That’s why they remain the preferred option for many property owners.  

Oil-based vs Water-Based Sealers: The Takeaway

When you choose the sealer for asphalt sealcoating, you generally have two choices. An oil-based sealer is longer lasting than a water-based sealer. However, it doesn’t provide the “new asphalt” shine and contaminates the environment.

More often than not, companies and homeowners choose the environmentally friendly water-based sealer. It can do an excellent job protecting the asphalt and helping it last for decades. Even though the sealer needs to be applied every two to three years, its low cost makes sealcoating accessible for the majority of homeowners.