Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
The right sealers will keep your brick pavers protected and beautiful for longer, no matter the weather. Read on to learn how to seal brick pavers yourself with the best products for the longest lasting protection.
Table Of Contents
- Is Paver Sealing Worth It?
- What Happens If You Don’t Seal Brick Pavers?
- What Sealers Work On Brick Pavers?
- Common Problems With Average Brick Paver Sealers
- Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
- Applying Paver Sealer
- How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
- Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Brick Pavers Clean
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The best brick paver really depends on which available sealer for bricks does the best job for your project. But the brick paver sealer that maintains the most appealing visual and the structural integrity for the longest time is a water based polyurethane topical sealer – specifically the pro-grade StrongSeal WetLook paver sealer from CoverTec. Keep reading to learn just how important it is to seal your pavers and how to take the best care with your project.
Should Brick Pavers Be Sealed? Is Paver Sealing Worth It?
Generally, porous materials like concrete, brick, and natural stone are most commonly used to make pavers. Brick specifically, is made from clay. A sealer protects the very porous substrates from staining and abrasion. This gives the paver a longer performance time, and to makes them easier to maintain as a whole. And, a paver sealer can be used to not just enhance colors but also increase slip resistance with the right additive.
But we also will seal just to beautify the pavers; to increase the shine and enhance the color. The issue of safety can be solved with sealing the pavers as well. In this instance, we’re looking to seal slippery floors using an anti-slip treatment over the pavers.
What Happens If You Don't Seal Brick Pavers?
You’re more likely to encounter problems with your pavers if your leave them unsealed. Because of clay’s absorbent nature, brick pavers are more likely to absorb detrimental fluids.
This means that unsealed pavers are more susceptible to getting stained and damaged from water moisture and chemical reactions. It is very labor intensive to remove oil and grease from brick pavers.
Brick can start to crack and crumble if moisture seeps in and then freezes, expanding in the pores of the paver but holding it in place like a solid block of ice. In the colder climates, in places where you would use deicing salts, those chemicals can soak in and damage the brick. The bricks will be in need of replacement after they thaw and fall apart.
With no protection to repel dirt and damage, brick pavers will be much more difficult to keep clean and visually maintained. That means there’s also a greater chance of growing mold and mildew in them. To avoid this, more labor intensive cleaning is involved.
Brick pavers with no sealer will also fade quicker. Abrasion can dull and the UV rays from the sun can bleach the brick pavers quicker. There will be no sealer to keep the interlocking sand in from washing out from between the pavers.
Keeping that sand interlocked also reduces risk of weed growth, anthills, and efflorescence. Effloresence is the buildup of waterborne salts and solutions on the surface of the pavers. Regardless of the type, the right sealer will repel the deposits.
Advantages of Using Paver Sealer:
What Sealers Work On Brick Pavers?
When it comes to brick pavers, there is a lot less alkalinity. We find that the silane siloxane based penetrating sealers work better for brick pavers.
This is because the pH, acidity or alkalinity levels of a particular paver substrate affect the way a sealer works. We find that concrete pavers and brick pavers behave a little differently when it comes to sealing.
We frequently steer clients who don’t want to change their pavers’ appearance towards siliconate penetrating sealer for a brick surface. Our CoverSeal Pen50 is made out of more of a silicone chemistry instead of using fluorochemicals and works very well on vertical surfaces.
Both acrylic and polyurethane sealers are available, but polyurethane creates a stronger, more durable bond to the substrate. A two-part water based polyurethane sealer can be used for the same great results on both brick and concrete pavers.
Just remember, a topical sealer will darken the surface and change the appearance of the paver. Sometimes that’s desirable in a project, but just remember, a topical sealer will darken the surface and change the appearance of the paver so be careful that you don’t use anything too thick.
Here, it is important to understand that penetrating sealers soak into the surface and don’t leave a film. So the very top of that paver surface can still be open, the penetrating sealer is not an absolute barrier. But it will make those paver stones much easier to keep clean as they can better resist oil and other permanent stains.
Topical Sealer VS Penetrating Sealer On Brick Pavers
Whether you choose a topical sealer or a penetrating sealer, it’s important to understand the differences and how each can affect your paver sealing project. There are two general methods of sealing pavers: creating a film over top as a total barrier, and creating a protective coating that soaks into the surface.
Topical sealers are the ones that typically contain acrylics or polyurethanes. Regardless of that active ingredient, topical sealers can be either solvent or water based. With modern technology resulting in recent innovations in the flooring industry, the market now has some urethane-enhanced acrylic sealers.
Topical sealers create that absolute barrier from water, dirt, oil, grease, etc. This film also leaves the paver with a smooth surface, making it a great way to change the sheen or finish. Use a glossy or wet look sealer to give new life to old, dull pavers. Just keep in mind that a smooth film might create some slip risks when wet.
Next we have the penetrating (also referred to as impregnating) sealers. As the name suggests, these sealers go deep into the paver to line the capillaries and fill the pores. Penetrating sealers are very water and chemical repellent as well.
They are also perfect for projects that do not want to change the look of the paver. If you’re using older pavers, or if you’ve got natural stone and you want to seal them but still maintain that natural look or patina.
Products like our CoverSeal Pen50 are silane siloxane based. And that has excellent water resistance if you’re just focused on preventing mold and mildew, like on a pool deck or patio. Penetrating or impregnating sealers tend to be more water resistant because they are made from more silicone-type materials (silane-siloxanes).
Products like our Premium is very oil resistant, with our fluorochemical formula. This is best if you were trying to resist oil stains, perhaps in a driveway or large food prep areas, like around a barbecue. These have what are called fluorochemicals, or fluoropolymers, and these are not only water resistant, but they are very oil resistant as well.
Acrylic Sealer vs Polyurethane Sealer On Brick Pavers
So there are different types of polymers that can be used in sealers.
An acrylic is UV stable and it’s very tough, and very water resistant. But it’s not as strong or as durable as a urethane.
A urethane-polymer sealer typically comes in two parts. So it’s mixed with a catalyst and, when they combine together, they link and form a tougher film because of the tougher polymer.
Both acrylic and polyurethane are UV resistant, but the urethanes are more crosslinked so they are more dense and durable than acrylics.
Common Problems With Average Brick Paver Sealers
A lot of the big box or home improvement stores will offer brick paver sealers. They tend to be very competitively priced but that lower retail cost indicates a lower production cost for the manufacturer. This is only achieved by deliberately reducing the active ingredients or polymer solids in the sealer.
But, when you use them on your pavers, the appearance doesn’t receive the makeover you’d hoped. Any improvements or color enhancements wear off fast.
The most common complaint we encounter is with those low-solids sealers: people don’t notice much of a difference in the pavers after applying it. Any sheen they do get, doesn’t last long. 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.
Many reports come back to us after nine months or more that the surface doesn’t seem sealed anymore after use of standardized solvent based sealer. This is an aesthetic issue that can be caused by poor quality sealer, and because the very surface of the paver is no longer protected, it is likely to get stained, or even damaged.
Improperly sealed pavers could cause problems in how well they interlock, which can accelerate their deterioration.
There is no way to prevent the sand being displaced from the paver if it is not bonded together. Loose sand can lead to mold growth, ant hills, weeds, and other problems.
The standardized sealers don’t protect the pavers from the common use of deicing salts for colder climates, either.
Some customers who used low-end sealers from local big-box stores complain about the inability to resist hot tire pickup. This is especially true for paver sealers that are used on driveways or parking lots.
The polymers used in standardized sealers – low-quality and inexpensive as they are – tend to melt when heated. This is especially true if they’re exposed to direct sunlight. Hot tire pickup can result, which is a very difficult problem to resolve.
The term “hot tire pickup” means that the tire marks have been left in softened sealer, or that the hot tires are lifting all of the sealer from the paver as they move they weight of the vehicle across.
Standardized sealers just don’t provide the long-term benefits that pavers need. After a certain season, you would start to notice the paver sealer begin to lose its integrity. This means you’ll be left to seal them on a more frequent basis, like once a year.
A paver sealer with a higher solids content will protect pavers for up to three times as long.
How To Change The Look Of Your Brick Pavers With Paver Sealer
You have many options when it comes to sealing pavers with a specific sheen.
The simplest way to describe “wet look” is how a paver looks when it’s wet. The paver’s natural colors will be recreated by a wet-look sealer.
This is not a shiny look, but more of satin sheen. You would get this effect with StrongSeal Wet Look. This is a water-based, urethane sealer. This sealer enhances color and gives pavers a wet appearance.
You can also use solvent-based sealers to improve colors, and they will also give you a greater gloss. Although this can be desirable at times, it is not a lasting result. The glossiness disappears after only nine months to one year. The initial shine is unfortunately temporary.
The StrongSeal Wetlook is not as glossy, but it can keep its sheen at least for two to three more years than your average wet look sealer.
You can also choose from sealers that have no shine or look more natural. Our natural-look sealer is made up of acrylic and polyurethane. The sealer will provide lasting protection to the pavers and give the surface a flat, natural finish without altering its appearance.
Penetrating sealers won’t change the sheen or leave behind any visible film. Penetrating sealers can be used to enhance the color of your pavers, however they are usually solvent-based. This means will have to be applied again and again.
How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
Make sure that the paver has not been previously sealed. You must remove any sealer that may have been applied to the paver before applying a sealer yourself.
This is especially true for solvent-based sealers. New water-based sealers or simply topical sealers may not be compatible with solvent-based penetrating sealers.
It should be possible to visually detect if there is a topical sealer. A sheen or glistening should be visible on the surface.
A water test can be used if you aren’t sure you can see any film. This is simple way to find out if there is any previously applied sealer on your pavers. You can apply a small amount of water to the surface, and then watch to see how much water is absorbed.
If water is left on the surface of the paver, beaded or balled up, it’s an indication that an old sealer has been applied, which is why the water is being repelled.
Another method to test for sealers is the fizz test. You will need to use a slightly acidic solution. To see if the paver is unsealed, you can either use a slightly acidic solution or vinegar to drip onto the surface.
Unsealed brick or concrete will fizz if there’s no protective sealer. If it doesn’t fizz, there is probably a sealer that repels moisture.
The water test will show if the sealant is either a topical sealer or a penetrating sealer. It will be much more difficult to remove a penetrating or impregnating sealer.
It is better to recoat with another penetrating sealer, rather than using a new topical sealer. Penetrating sealers will likely reject bonding with a topical sealer.
If you are still planning to use a topical sealer, it may be necessary for the surface to be etched first. This will help to ensure that the topical sealer sticks well to the surface.
These are just some of the simple tests that you can do to check the surface before sealing it.
Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
Before applying paver sealer, it is important to prepare the pavers properly.
We already covered how to determine if the paver was sealed previously. Completing that testing will indicate how much work you need to do before sealing.
So let’s start by talking about how to get rid of old sealer from your pavers. To ensure that the old sealer doesn’t get in the way of the new sealer, you must first remove all previous sealer. This is a non-negotiable rule!
It could be a peeling or lifting topical film or a solvent-based adhesive that chemically incompatible with water-based sealers.
To remove previous sealers, it is better to use a chemical stripping agent. FloorStrip HP is pH high and can be used with great results on either solvent-based or water-based acrylic sealers.
FloorStrip HP can be applied to pavers using either a mop, or a pump up sprayer. Allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes. To gently agitate the surface, use a deck brush or mop. Next, scrub and rinse off.
You have two choices depending on how big the area is and how many layers of dirt you wish to get rid of: mop or pressure wash again.
We deal most often with pavers in exterior settings. You can spray FloorStrip HP freely, and then let it sit for several minutes before pressure washing.
A stronger agent will be needed to remove sealers made from very strong urethane polymers. PowerStrip, which has the chemical function of a paint stripper, is recommended in such cases. To better remove stubborn sealer from paver surfaces, this is a stronger and thicker solution.
PowerStrip is perfectly suitable for heavy-duty stripping. But it may involve scraping and extreme pressure washing.
You must remove all old sealers before applying new paver sealer. You don’t need to use any stripping agents if there are no concerns of a previous sealer. However, it is essential that pavers be thoroughly cleaned before you seal them with any new product.
Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
It is important to thoroughly clean and dry your pavers before you start sealing. This can be done in a number of ways. Depending on the type of cleaning, you may require different chemicals.
There may be mold, mildew, or efflorescence problems. You also need to get rid of oil and grease stains before applying any sealant.
PrepWork can be used to solve these issues. The acidic solution can remove soil, mold and mildew from the surface. This makes it easy to clean soils and to etch pavers to maximize adhesion to the sealer.
Microbial-based cleaners can also be used to effectively eliminate oil. CoverCleanHC is able to remove oil-based stains very, very well. It can be sprayed or mopped on and left to dry for at least an hour before you pressure wash it.
Although they take longer to clean, microbial cleaners are definitely more environmentally-friendly. You can wash them away without causing any harm to the environment. CoverClean HP works best to remove petroleum-based oils. CoverClean FG works best to remove oil derived from fats and greasy foods. (FG stands for food grade.)
Our SurfaceClean can be used as a concentrated cleaner and general degreaser. This product should be used after any stripping chemicals have been applied to remove previous sealers and is easy to apply with a mop. Allow the SurfaceClean to sit for 3-4 minutes. Then, you can just pressure wash the cleaner away.
The sealer must adhere to the surface as best as possible to get the longest lasting protection. So, the pavers should be cleaned thoroughly and properly prepared.
Sealing any scratches, marks or stains in the surface is not something we want. These can cause the surface to look terrible and may hinder adhesion to the new sealer.
It is essential to take this step seriously and properly prepare your surface for sealing.
Many customers are faced with the issue of mold and mildew appearing on pavers again even after cleaning. SanitzerPlus has been approved by EPA and can solve this problem. You can use it to destroy mold sources by spay-applying to pavers with low pressure sprayer.
Harsh chemicals like bleach or chlorine can only lighten pavers. They won’t penetrate the pavers and deep-clean them. SanitizerPlus can be used to prevent any regrowth of mold and mildew.
Before you move on, make sure to sweep up any loose dirt or sand from the surface of your paver.
When Is The Best Time To Seal Pavers?
Sealing pavers at the right time requires the consideration of many environmental factors.
Most importantly, seal your pavers only when it’s unlikely to rain. You should make sure that your pavers are as dry and porous as possible to allow the sealer to properly adhere.
The first coat of penetrating sealer should be left to fully absorb before you apply another coat. The sealer will keep water out of the pavers. The sealer will not penetrate pavers that are still damp with water. It is better to seal in dry conditions to allow the sealer to penetrate.
In Florida, sealing pavers is best done in the coolest months. This usually happens between November and May. Northern climates might require that you seal the pavers after the winter, when the environment has thawed and dried out in the spring sun.
It is important to seal the paver properly at the right time of day as well. Seal pavers during cooler hours. Consider morning and evening, when the sun is up but it is not too close. Temperatures between 50 and 90°F are the ideal climate for sealing.
Paver sealer shouldn’t dry too fast, or left to fry on the surface. It should have enough time to adhere to the pavers and cure on its own.
Paver sealer applied to surfaces with temperatures exceeding 100°F will burn the sealer and cause poor quality protection. The sealer will quickly fail if this happens.
Applying Paver Sealer
When sealing paver surfaces, we recommend using low pressure sprayers to apply the product. To evenly apply the sealer to the surface, you can either use a regular low pressure sprayer or one that is designed for gardening.
You can use a nap roller with a 3/8′ thickness, but it’s important not to apply too much . The roller will provide less coverage than a sprayer because the sealer applied by it is thicker. A paintbrush is an excellent tool for finishing edges.
A good quality paver sealer should cover 200 square feet per gallon on average. The paver sealer will initially appear white but it will clear up once dry.
Don’t be afraid to trust the process. Move around the project in a methodical manner, and then allow the sealer time to dry.
The first coat of a water based topical sealer should be mostly absorbed within 10 minutes. There might be a thin layer left on top of the surface. Sealer must penetrate the entire surface of the paver and surrounding sand.
It is possible that some of the sealer may have pooled in places like low joints. You will need to use a deck brush and a broom to spread it out again. The sealer must not be left on the paver in a puddle.
It is the second layer of topical sealer that protects the surface. This film can provide you with the glossy, or wet look appearance.
Rollers and lambswool applicator tools work well for smaller or residential areas. For larger, better ventilated areas it is safe enough to use a low pressure sprayer.
A roller or a lambswool applicator can also be used to apply penetrating sealers. You can still use a sprayer, however the pressure should not exceed that which causes it to atomize. Inhaled fine particles can be dangerous for your lung health, so go with a low-pressure sprayer.
Penetrating sealer must be used in a thicker layer to penetrate the paver. A single coat is sufficient to cover approximately 175-200 square feet. Be sure to distribute any puddles. If necessary, it can be wiped away.
The penetrating sealer may absorb very quickly. Apply a second coat if you feel the need. However, it should be applied within 1 to 2 hours of that first coat so both layers adhere adequately to each other.
We recommend that you first test a discreet paver area with a small amount of sealer before sealing your entire paver surface. This will allow you to determine how much product you need and the number of coats that are needed.
How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
We have had our fair share of contracted work to address slippery pavers. These sealer projects are typically for natural stone pavers surrounding a swimming pool deck or patio.
When combined with a topical sealer, our proprietary CoverGrip can greatly improve the slip resistance for pavers. The ultrafine additive is easily mixed with the sealer, and can then be applied using a roller as normal.
Another method of applying CoverGrip is to spray your sealer down first and then evenly apply the CoverGrip aggregate to it. Once the sealer has dried, apply another coat to secure everything in place. We recommend using the StrongSeal paver sealer and CoverGrip together for best results.
Our SurfaceGrip Treatment can be used on non-sealed pavers. This chemical treatment changes the paver’s surface and increases their traction. This chemical treatment does not affect the appearance of pavers. This is especially useful for outdoor areas such as patios and decks that are frequently wet.
How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
Drying time will depend on the type and thickness of the paver sealer, as well as the environmental conditions. In colder areas, the drying time of sealer will be slower than it would be in warmer climates.
A topical sealer will typically dry in three to four hours. The sealer must be completely dry before you can walk on it. ]You can apply the second coat after three to four hours depending on your temperature.
Do not walk on a sticky surface – that will just make a big mess. You should wait for at least 48 hours (or 2 to 3 days) before you allow vehicular traffic. Tire marks sealed into the surface are very difficult to remove.
Penetrating sealers are much quicker to dry, because they have a faster response time. Drying this type of sealer takes approximately one to two hours. After that period of time, you can apply another coat if necessary.
You should wait for the surface to completely dry before you walk on it again. Before driving over sealed pavers, you should allow at least six hours for the sealer to dry and become tack-free.
The sealer will keep curing for two to three more days after it has dried. It is best to keep your vehicles away from the sealer until it has fully set.
Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Brick Pavers Clean
Sealing pavers makes it much simpler to clean and maintain. Your pavers will be protected from oil, water, and other chemicals by the sealer.
Use only gentle cleaners that won’t damage the sealer. The Emerald Floor Maintainer, a mild cleaner, won’t harm the sealer in any way. CoverClean FG can be used to remove food-based stains.
When washing pavers using a pressure washer, it is better to use a wide-spray of low pressure than a pencil tip at high pressure. If you apply too much pressure, the paver may crack and lift or even peel. Common sense is a valuable thing here.
Then, brush any remaining dirt and debris from the paver surface.
Make sure you follow the proper precautions when making homemade cleaning products. Avoid using too strong or too weak solutions that either burn or jut leave residue. Removing residue is just more work!
You should use less ammonia and baking powder than you believe you will need. A sealer can be damaged if it reacts with chemicals of an extremely high or low pH. These chemicals can cause the sealer to lose its strength quicker.
It is important to take care when mixing chemicals. Outgassing can be caused by mixing high-alkaline and low-acidity solutions. Warning: Inadvertently generating ammonia could cause serious health issues.
A cleaner specifically designed for sealing surfaces is the best way to keep your sealer safe and preserve its value.
Sealing brick pavers with a sealant is easy, just a little time-consuming to do a thorough job. But, we promise, the results are worth the effort.
So before sealing your pavers with your choice of sealer, make sure you clean them thoroughly. The rest of the maintenance is easy. You can now relax and let the sealer dry and do its work.
As always, if you have any questions about which product is the best for your unique situation, call us at: 754-253-3401.
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.