Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
If you’re looking to seal the block pavers in your patio, driveway, deck or backyard, here’s how to get the right sealer for the ultimate wet look, shiny finish that will last longer than any off-the shelf product at Home Depot, Lowes or other hardware store.
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Table Of Contents
- Is Sealing Block Paving A Good Idea?
- What Happens When You Don’t Apply Paver Sealer?
- Why You Should Apply Sealer To Your Block Pavers
- Common Problems With Average Block Paver Sealers
- What Is The Best Wet Look Sealer For Block Pavers
- How To Tell If You Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
- Preparing Your Block Pavers For Sealing
- How To Apply Wet Look Paver Sealer To Concrete Block Pavers
- How Long Does Wet Look Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
- Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Block Pavers Clean
The best way to give your block pavers that fine, wet look finish is to use a specially-designed wet look paver sealer. It may appear difficult to get the same results as a professional contractor, but don’t worry! Stick with us and you’ll learn all you need to know to get a beautiful, wet look finish on your block pavers that will actually last.
Is Sealing Block Paving A Good Idea?
If you don’t seal your block pavers, there are a number of problems that can arise. It’s key to understand that block pavers are generally very porous and very absorbent.
When you hear “block” paver, that term usually refers to a concrete block, a manmade block that is lightweight and very porous. We tend to see that mostly in walls and other vertical applications.
Because of concrete’s porosity, a sealer is desirable to protect the paver to give it longer life, and to make it easier to maintain. And, a paver sealer can be used to not just enhance colors but also increase slip resistance with the right additive.
What Happens When You Don’t Apply Paver Sealer?
First of all, unsealed pavers have no protection from getting stained and damaged from moisture and chemicals. So things like oil and grease can get into the pavers, which is more labor to remove.
In the colder climates, in places where you would use deicing salts, those chemicals can soak in and damage the pavers. This can cause pitting, as well as moisture getting into the surface and freezing and expanding which can then crack and crumble upon thawing.
There’s a lot of physical damage and staining that can occur if you don’t seal your pavers. You will face many other issues to keep it clean and maintained.
Again, it’s directly related to the porosity of this particular substrate. There’s a lot of moisture in and around your pavers, so there’s a good chance of mold and mildew collecting. At this point, you are going to need to clean and pressure wash those pavers far more frequently.
Another problem is fading. Remember, any added colors in those pavers, particularly in concrete pavers, will fade over time from weathering and exposure to UV Rays.
When sealing pavers, we actually want to interlock the pavers and the surrounding sand. That paver joint is filled with sand and that sand can be easily washed out or be blown out, ruining the interlocking effect. An unsealed paver can lose sand more readily from the paver joint.
Why You Should Apply Sealer To Your Block Pavers
A sealer will lock everything together and even help prevent or minimize issues like ants hills and weed growth. Also, a sealer will help protect against efflorescence – waterborne salts and solutions can come up from the ground and sand, making their way up to the surface of the paver. Using a good sealer to penetrate deeper into the paver and act like a barrier to stop those water driven salts from depositing themselves on the surface of the paver.
Sealing your pavers is a great way to make your block paving look new for longer. A sealer can bring out the colors and even give a lasting glossy or wet look finish. Sealing old pavers is also a cost effective alternative to completely replacing them.
Common Problems With Average Block Paver Sealers
A lot of the big box or home improvement stores will offer topical, glossy or wet look sealers. They tend to be very competitively priced but normally that’s because they have a lower solids content. The lower solids content means a lower production cost for the manufacturer, so in turn they are able to lower the retail cost.
But, when you use them on your pavers, you don’t see a dramatic change in appearance. You don’t see a lot of color enhancement, and if you do, it’s short lived and it’s quickly burned or weathered off.
We get a lot of complaints like this where they don’t notice much of a difference when they apply it, and if they do, it doesn’t last for long. And that really is particular to paver sealers with low solids content. The average sealer available at your local store is only 12 – 15% solids. Whereas our topical sealer products are typically 40% and then they’re diluted down 20% when applied.
Solvent based sealers produce a very high shine initially, but again, they quickly lose their shine. We get a lot of reports back after nine months to a year that it doesn’t appear that the surface is still sealed. That’s an aesthetic problem that you can get, but the fact is that if it’s not sealed properly, that surface is open to the elements and being stained.
The interlocking of the poorly sealed pavers will deteriorate faster so you will get things like weed growth, mold, and ant hills. In colder climates, those pavers won’t be protected from all that salt and chloride deicing.
There’s another complaint that we frequently get from customers who have used these lower end or big box store sealers: they’re not very resistant to hot tire pickup. This refers to paver sealers that are often used on driveways and parking areas.
This issue we’ve found with low-cost standardized sealers is that they soften with heat, especially if they’re sitting in the sun. This leads to a lot of hot tire pickup. So either tire marks are being left in the softened sealer, or the hot tires are actually lifting the sealer off the paver altogether.
With standardized sealers, pavers just are not getting the long benefit. After a season it’s totally deteriorated so you’ll find yourself having to seal pavers much more frequently, like on a yearly basis.
If you use a higher quality sealer with a higher solids content, your pavers can have professional grade protection for up to three times as long – a few years, depending on wear.
What Is The Best Wet Look Sealer For Block Pavers
The simplest definition of a “wet look” is what a paver looks like when it’s wet. It’s the colors that come out when the paver is wet. It’s not a glossy, very high shine, it’s more of a wet, satin sheen.
You can, indeed, put a sealer on pavers to make them look wet. Some sealers are specially designed for this purpose, and they easily referred to as wet look sealers. The difference between a wet look sealer and a high gloss sealer is in the finish, just as the name suggests. A high-gloss sealer will be much shinier, and a wet look will appear much more natural – even effortless.
That’s typically what you would get with a sealer like our StrongSeal Wet Look, which is a urethane water based sealer. It brings out the colors, definitely enhances it and leaves the paver with more of a slight satin sheen on the surface.
Solvent based sealers also enhance, but they will give a much higher gloss. Sometimes that’s desirable, but our experience has been that the gloss very quickly dissipates. And within nine months to a year, that gloss is hardly noticeable. The initial impact is high, but it doesn’t last long.
The StrongSeal Wet Look may not be as shiny, but that wet look and that sheen will last two to three years.
We also provide sealers with no shine or more of a matte or natural look. Our natural look sealer is a blend of acrylic and urethane, and will leave a flat natural look on the surface without changing the look. So there are a number of options to achieve different sheens using topical sealers and penetrating sealers.
How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
You will want to check to see whether the paver has been previously sealed before applying anything new. If so, it will be necessary to strip that preexisting sealer.
This is particularly true for solvent based sealers. Those solvent based penetrating sealers may not be compatible with a water based sealer, or a topical sealer.
So we want to check to see what’s currently on the surface. You should be able to visually detect if there is a topical sealer; you may be able to see a sheen or a certain glistening on the surface. But doing a water test is a simple and effective way of determining if there’s a sealer.
Take a small amount of water, just enough to fill a shot glass, and splash that on the surface. Observe whether or not that water gets absorbed. If after five minutes the water is still sitting on the top, balled or beaded up, then that’s telling you there’s likely a sealer there and that surface is not very porous.
You can also do what we call a fizz test, where you can use a slightly acidic solution. A diluted acidic solution, or even vinegar, and discreetly put drops of that on the surface and see whether it fizzes or not. If it fizzes, there is a good chance that there’s not a topical sealer on the surface. If it doesn’t fizz, there’s a good chance that there is a topical sealer on the surface.
But the water test will tell you whether there’s a topical or a penetrating sealer. If there’s a penetrating sealer, it will be more problematic to remove. Our advice would be to go back with another penetrating sealer rather than try a topical sealer because it will be rejected. Penetrating sealers are a possible bond breaker to a topical sealer.
If you are determined to have a topical sealer, then it may be necessary to etch that surface to remove that penetrating sealer. That will allow for a good bond with a topical sealer.
So, these are some of the site tests you can do to try and determine what’s on that surface before you seal it.
Preparing Your Block Pavers For Sealing
In order to apply paver sealer, you must first prepare the block pavers. Earlier we discussed the ways to tell if a paver has been previously sealed. This will indicate how much prep work you need to do before sealing.
So let’s first talk about stripping the pavers. If there’s any previous sealer still on the paver that will have to be stripped off so it doesn’t interfere with the new sealer. This interference could come in the form of an old, lifting and peeling film or that old sealer could be solvent based, which is not compatible with newer water based sealers.
It’s best to use a chemical stripper to ensure all of the previous sealer is removed. High pH strippers, products like our FloorStrip HP, work well on acrylics, solvent or water based.
If the previous sealer is made from urethane polymers, this stronger bonded sealer will need a heavy duty stripping agent. In instances like this, we would use our PowerStrip, which is essentially a paint stripper. It’s a thicker, stronger solution that goes on the paver surface to strip the existing sealer.
You can use a pump up sprayer or mop to liberally apply the FloorStrip HP onto the pavers. Let it sit for three to five minutes, and maybe agitate it a little bit with a deck brush or mop. Then, come back and scrub that surface. You can pressure wash or mop again, depending on the size of the area and the number of coats you’re trying to strip off.
Generally, we’re dealing with pavers in outdoor environments. We can spray on the FloorStrip HP, let it sit, agitate it a bit, and then pressure wash it off. For heavier duty stripping with our PowerStrip, that may require some scraping and intense pressure washing.
All old sealer must be extracted and the pavers be allowed to dry completely before you apply paver sealer. If there’s no stripping involved, or even after you’ve stripped, you still might want to do a final clean before you seal.
Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
So in regards to cleaning, we have a number of recommendations. Again, there are different types of chemicals you can use, depending on what you’re dealing with.
You may be dealing with mold and mildew, maybe some efflorescence or salt deposits, and oil and grease that all have to be completely stripped off before sealing.
A good way to remove mold and mildew is to use something like our PrepWork. This is a slightly acidic solution that will etch the surface and loosen up the dirt, mold, and mildew. That makes it very easy to remove soils from the surface and increase the textured surface area for the sealer to grip.
We also have microbial based cleaners that are great for removing oil. So, for example, if you’re dealing with a petroleum based oil, use our CoverClean HC, which can be mopped or sprayed on the floor. Let that sit for one to two hours and then pressure wash.
Microbial cleaners need a bit longer to work but they’re much more environmentally friendly and they can easily be washed off without any harm to surrounding plants or vegetation. So use the CoverClean HC for petroleum based oils, and use our CoverClean FG for food based oils, like fat and grease. (FG stands for food grade.)
Our SurfaceClean is a concentrated cleaner (a more general degreaser) which can be sprayed or mopped onto the surface. This is a good product to use, especially if you’ve been using stripping chemicals. Apply and let it dwell for three or four minutes, and then pressure wash it off.
We want to be really fussy about cleaning and prepping the surface before we seal it so that we get the best bond between sealer and surface. That is what makes the sealer last for a long time. We don’t want to seal any stains or marks into the surface; they will look awful and interfere with the adhesion or absorption of the sealer. That’s why we stress good surface prep before you seal.
One of the things that customers have to face is the frequent recurrence of mold and mildew growth on their pavers. Our solution for this problem is our EPA approved SanitzerPlus. It can be spay-applied on clean and prepped pavers to soak in and kill the sources of mold.
Using bleach or chlorine, will do just as the name suggests: they will only bleach and lighten the surface. These chemicals won’t actually get in deep inside and sanitize the block pavers. So the SanitizerPlus is one very effective and inexpensive way of preventing the regrowth of mold and mildew.
Finally, make sure any loose sand or debris is swept or blown off so it doesn’t get trapped in the surface layer of the sealer.
How To Apply Wet Look Paver Sealer To Concrete Block Pavers
When it comes to the application of a topical wet look paver sealer, we recommend using a low pressure sprayer. This could be a garden or general pump-up sprayer, with a fan tip that will uniformly spread the sealer onto the surface.
You can also use a ⅜ nap roller, but make sure that you don’t apply it in a roller application that’s too heavy. You may not get as good coverage as you do with the sprayer – the roller tends to put it on a little bit thicker. A good quality paint brush is a good tool for edges.
You will typically get about 200 square feet per gallon out of a good paver sealer, and we always recommend two coats. The paver sealer initially looks white, and will clear as it dries. Just trust the process and move through your project area systematically, and really allow that sealer to soak in.
The first coat should all soak within 10 minutes. If you are seeing that sealer is puddled, maybe in a low spot like in the joints, use a brush, broom, or roller to redistribute it. You can wipe up excess, if need be.
You do not want the sealer sitting in a puddle and drying on the surface. The job of the first coat of a water based topical sealer is to predominantly soak in, and if anything, leave a very thin film on the surface. It should soak into both the surface of the paver as well as the surrounding sand.
Then, the second coat forms the protective film on the surface, which can provide your desired wet look or glossy sheen.
We always recommend that you do a little test area or a test panel first to determine the absorbency of your block pavers. This test will tell you how much product you need to apply, and how many coats to use.
How Long Does Wet Look Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
If the sealer is left to dry in a colder, less humid climate, then everything takes longer than in a warmer, more humid climate.
A topical sealer will typically take around three or four hours to dry. It needs to be tack-free and non-sick before you walk on it. And then you can apply your second. Three or four hours should be enough time for the second coat to dry tack free.
So, for two coats, with three or four hours between coats, should take three or four hours to dry, depending on the temperature and humidity.
Don’t walk on the surface if it is still tacky. We recommend at least 48 hours (two to three days) before permitting any vehicular traffic. If that sealer is tacky and soft and you drive on it, it will leave tire marks, which are extremely difficult to remove.
Once the sealer is down and cured, it’s going to continue to cure for two or three days. That’s why we advise keeping the vehicles off until it’s fully cured.
Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Block Pavers Clean
Going forward, cleaning and maintaining your sealed pavers should be much easier now. Because of the sealer, your pavers will easily repel and restrict oil, water, and chemicals.
Don’t use any harsh chemicals, as they can affect the performance of the sealer. Instead, use light pressure washing – do not use a high pressure, pencil tip very close to the pavers. That will end up removing or damaging the sealer and damaging the paver itself. A little common sense here will go a long way.
Gently sweep and loosen any dirt or debris from the surface. Use only mild cleaning solutions like our Emerald Floor Maintainer. If you’re facing food based stains, you can use our CoverClean FG.
So don’t use harsh chemicals, nothing too acidic, nothing too alkaline, like bleach or chlorine.
If you’re using homemade remedies. You can use those, but follow the same caution: don’t make solutions that are very, very acidic or very, very alkaline. Don’t use too much ammonia or too much baking powder.
These types of chemicals can create a very high pH cleaner that can dull, or burn the surface of the sealer. They can also leave a deposit or residue on the sealer and dull it down that way.
So be very careful about the concentration and the chemicals that you’re mixing together. Mixing a lot of acidic and alkaline products can sometimes generate outgassing. You might accidentally create ammonia, which is quite toxic.
You've Put In The Work, Now Enjoy The Results
Getting a wet look or shiny finish on your block pavers doesn’t have to be difficult.
Simply use the right products top strip, clean and seal the surface.
Depending on your budget, you can always choose the cheap stuff at your local hardware stores, or you can use our pro-grade sealer(s) to achieve a lasting, professional wet look finish, without any of the side-effects you could experience when using off-the shelf, poorer quality products.
As always, if you have any questions about which product is the best for your unique situation, call us at: 754-253-3401
Bonus Tip! | How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
From time to time, we have found ourselves working on a sealing contract to deal with slippery pavers, particularly with the natural stone, or pavers around a pool deck. Our job in these scenarios is to make them less slippery.
To increase the slip resistance of pavers with a topical sealer, you can use our CoverGrip. This ultrafine additive can be mixed into your sealer and roller applied like normal.
Another method for application would be to spray on your sealer, and then evenly cast the aggregate over the wet sealer. Then when that dries, come back and apply a second coat to lock everything down. This is best done in combination with our StrongSeal paver sealer.
Using our CoverGrip is a very effective way of providing a non-slip, sealed surface on a paver or natural stone. You also have the option of using our SurfaceGrip Treatment, which is a chemical treatment that modifies the surface of the paver and creates traction, with minimal change to the appearance. It’s also very easy to use, because there’s no coat or sealer that will require extended maintenance. This is particularly useful in outdoor wet areas like pool decks and patios.
About Our Expert | Charles Idowu
Charles Idowu started his career as a civil engineer in 1983 in the UK. After achieving his MBA and his Chartered Engineer qualifications, Charles quickly became the waterproofing and coatings expert for a renowned British construction company. His international work landed him in South Florida, where he combined his engineering experience and passion for business to start CoverTec Products.