All concrete regardless of the project is susceptible to gradual erosion and environmental damage due to elements. You may have seen decrepit sidewalks cracked over time, allowing weeds to grow through, as well as slowly decaying bridge supports. There are many other examples of decaying concrete, all which emphasize the importance of protecting your concrete projects as soon as they are completed. The best way to protect concrete is by sealing concrete is by sealing using a high quality concrete sealer. Protecting your concrete with a sealant not only prolongs its life, but also helps to enhance and maintain its appearance. With so many sealer and waterproofing applications for cement-based surfaces, it may be difficult to choose the right sealant. Here are some valuable tips on how to choose the correct concrete sealer(s).
Tip 1: Determine the Type of Concrete Sealer Needed
There are four major types of concrete sealants: acrylic sealers, polyurethane sealers and penetrating sealers and epoxy sealers.
· Acrylic Sealers: Acrylic sealers are the easiest and the most economical to apply. They are available in both solvent based and water based versions. They are non-yellowing, UV resistant and provide good protection against deicing chemical absorption and water. Acrylics can be used on both exterior and interior concrete and are ideal for areas with a high traffic.
· Polyurethane Sealers. Polyurethanes are also available in both solvent and water based formulas. They can be used on both interior and exterior concrete to provide good resistance to staining and scuffs. They go on about twice as thick as acrylics and offer good protection against abrasives and chemicals. Their finish is transparent and non-yellowing with a variety of sheen levels.
· Penetrating Sealers: Examples of penetrating sealers include siliconates, silicates, silixanes and silanes. These sealants penetrate and react chemically within capillaries of the concrete, shielding it against deicing chemicals and penetrating moisture. Penetrating sealants can be used on exterior concrete surfaces subject to freeze-thaw damage and corrosion. They provide invisible protection without compromising the appearance of the surface.
· Epoxy Sealers: When a longer life is needed in a topical concrete sealer, epoxies are the best choice. Although they are more expensive than acrylics, epoxies have improved chemical resistance, abrasion and durability. They come in water and solvent based versions, and also available as one component or two component systems. The two component systems perform better than the one component systems. Epoxies can be used on floors in high traffic areas, concrete countertops and cement based overlays.
Tip 2: Determine the Amount of Concrete Sealer to Buy
Once you choose the correct sealer for your needs, the next step is to determine the amount required for your decorative surface. To determine how much sealer is needed, you need to know the total square footage of the area where the sealant will be applied as well as the coverage rate of your sealer. For instance, let’s say the sealer you plan to use has a coverage rate of approximately 200 square feet per gallon and the total square footage of your project is 1,000 square feet. To know the amount of sealer required divide the overall square footage by the coverage rate:
1000 sq. ft. / 200 = 5 gallons of sealer
Tip 3: Check Whether the Sealer is Compatible with Your Decorate Surface
Before buying your sealer, check whether it is compatible with your decorative surface. Some concrete sealants react with some coloring agents or overlays, leading to unwanted effects, such as color bleeding, bubbling or blistering. If you plant to seal a topping or an overlay, experts recommend you first check with the overlay manufacturer for recommendations on the best sealer to use.
Tip 4: Consider the Conditions the Concrete Sealer Will Be Exposed to
To minimize maintenance costs and enhance the longevity of your decorative floor, it is essential you choose a sealer that can withstand high traffic conditions and harsh elements. For example, if you want to protect a stamped concrete driveway, you will need a sealer that resists abrasion, deters the penetration of deicing chemicals and moisture as well as repels grease and oil stains. Review the features of the four types of concrete sealers to determine which fits your application well.
Tip 5: Ensure the Sealer’s VOC Content Meets Both State and Federal Regulations
If you are planning to use a solvent based sealant, ensure its volatile organic compound (VOC) does not surpass the acceptable level in your area. Both the federal and state governments have set a given maximum allowable level of VOC compounds that concrete sealant should contain. Some counties and air management district also set their own maximum VOC levels. It is important you abide to all these regulations when choosing your concrete sealer. You can determine the VOC levels of a sealer by checking the product’s data specification sheet or the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
Tip 6: Enquire About the Sealer’s Breathability and Dry Time
If you sealing an external decorative surface, it is recommendable choose breathable sealers. Breathable sealers provide excellent water repellence properties while still allowing moisture vapor within the concrete slabs to escape. Breathable sealers are commonly used for exterior applications. Acrylics and most penetrating sealers are breathable; however, epoxies only provide good water repellence properties, but end up trapping moisture in the concrete.
Apart from breathability, it is important you consider the sealer drying time, especially for fast-track projects. Acrylics have the faster drying time of between 30 to 60 minutes, and ready for light traffic after about 12 hours. Epoxies and polyurethanes require up to 24 hours to completely dry.
Tip 7: Consider the Type of Finish and Surface Appearance Required
If you want a wet look to enhance the appearance of a colored finish, go for a sealer with medium- to- high gloss sheen. Acrylics come in wide variety of sheen levels and you can easily get the right sealer for your needs. If a shiny or wet appearance is not required, you can for film forming sealers with low-gloss finishes or matte finish. In high traffic areas, go for sealers who slip resistance exceeds ASTM D2047 slip-resistance requirements. This will help you avoid the risk of slip and fall accidents.
Sealing your concrete project not only protects your decorative floor, but also helps to improve its appearance and curb appeal. It increases the longevity of your concrete and adds value to your home. With a good understanding of the above 7 tips, you certainly have an easy time choosing the correct concrete sealer for your application. Other factors you may need to consider when selecting your sealer include life expectancy, manufacturer warranty, and application temperature. For excellent results, consider hiring professionals to help you choose and apply your concrete sealant.