Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This Old House . . . for Women

Labor Day weekend was reserved almost entirely for doing some outdoor sprucing up. We live in an 1800s Georgian-style Colonial, and it'll probably take our entire natural lives to restore and renovate the house, but we focused our efforts on a few key projects. We pressure-washed the house; I painted the back door; and my husband did some long-overdue weed-whacking in an area where I can't take the mower.

But our big job was sealcoating our asphalt driveway. My husband says its length is about 5 car lengths, but I think it's more like 6. Regardless, it felt pretty long as we toiled in the sun. (The picture above is our actual driveway.)

Most of the women in our neighborhood have a princess complex and wouldn't dream of breaking a sweat, not when it's so easy to whip out the checkbook and pay a service for it. (To be fair, if our drive were any longer than it is, I would've won Olympic gold for checkbook whipping.) But by buying the sealcoating ahead and on sale (it's a petroleum product, so I'm betting the cost was up this year), we saved about $200 on the project.

For those of you hardy vixens out there who pride yourselves on being independent-minded do-it-yourselfers, here are a few tips I learned about sealcoating one's own driveway.

  • Don't begin at first light. People will tell you to take advantage of a cooler morning. But if you let the sealcoating sit in the sun for a couple hours, it will be easier to spread.

  • Get a partner. Unless you have a tiny driveway, sweet-talk somebody into helping you. Without my husband's help, the job would have taken me all day. We started at the street and worked our way back toward the house, working the coating into the grooves in a kind of crosshatch pattern.

  • It's worst in the beginning. At first, my husband and I were both complaining, "What were we thinking?!" But as we got our bearings and developed a rhythm for applying the coating, it got easier. (Or maybe it was the dwindling number of 5-gallon buckets that spurred us on?) So stay the course.

  • Use a push broom as an applicator. Most hardware stores and home centers encourage people to buy a squeegee or paint rollers, but we took a helpful tip from our neighbors and used custodial push brooms. A broom's bristles will work the coating into any cracks you may have, won't spray as much as paint rollers, and will be more efficient than squeegees. And if you're the frugal type, you can save the broom for the next application (experts say to sealcoat every 2-3 years) by pressure-washing and storing it.

  • Pace yourself. Be prepared to get a serious cardio workout. Don't plan anything else for the day. We were spent after sealcoating in the sun for 3 hours. It wasn't terribly hot--in the mid-80s--but it sure felt like it!

It takes about 2 days for sealcoating to cure (many packages won't tell you how long to stay off the freshly sealed drive), so today I will enjoy removing the blockade from the end of our drive. And even though we complained in the beginning, we believe it was worth the savings to do it ourselves.

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