Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
Learn how to seal concrete pavers with the best products for any look in any weather.
Table Of Contents
- Should Concrete Pavers Be Sealed?
- What Happens If You Don’t Seal Concrete Pavers?
- What Sealers Work On Concrete Pavers?
- Common Problems With Average Concrete Paver Sealers
- How To Change The Look Of Your Concrete Pavers With Paver Sealer
- Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
- Applying Paver Sealer
- How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
- Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Concrete Pavers Clean
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Using a sealer over concrete pavers is a worthy investment with it’s fair share of work, and the best quality product on the market is CoverTec’s StrongSeal WetLook. It’s the extra protection to help your pavers stay beautiful and intact for much longer. In this article, we break down just how useful concrete paver sealer is, as well as how to use it properly.
Should Concrete Pavers Be Sealed? Is Paver Sealing Worth It?
The primary reason you would want to seal concrete pavers is to protect them staining and abrasion. It is vital to keep fluids and liquids from getting into the concrete and freezing. When that ice thaws out, concrete can actually start to pit or to spall or even to crack. That’s the main concern for sealing anything – to help keep its functionality for longer.
Sealing can also be used to enhance the original colors and increase the shine. And the most important reason that we seal would be associated with safety. In this instance, we’re looking to seal slippery floors. Here, we’d want to put some kind of anti-slip treatment onto the floor.
What Happens If You Don't Seal Concrete Pavers?
If you don’t seal your concrete pavers, they’re more likely to lose their value quicker. It’s key to understand that concrete is generally very porous and very absorbent.
Unsealed concrete pavers themselves are then subject to all damage:
You will face many other issues to keep it clean and maintained. These risks are all due to the porosity of the concrete. Either way, your pavers will need more frequent washing to keep up their appearance.
Another problem is fading. Remember, added colors in those pavers, particularly in concrete pavers, and over time, the weathering and UV rays can cause fading.
When sealing pavers, we actually want to interlock the pavers and the surrounding sand. So the paver joint is filled with sand and that sand can be easily washed out or be blown out, ruining that interlocking effect. An unsealed paver can lose sand more readily from the paver joint.
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.
Advantages of Using Paver Sealer:
What Sealers Work On Concrete Pavers?
Not every paver substrate has the same pH level, so not every sealer will perform the same on every different type of paver.
Our experts have found that fluoropolymers work better on the more alkaline concrete pavers. Penetrating sealers work better on concrete when made with this active ingredient. These polymers make for very oil and water stain resistant sealers. But they do affect the final visual by darkening the surface slightly.
Remember “block” pavers typically means a paver made of concrete. In our experience, penetrating sealers have proven to be very effective on block without altering the appearance or aesthetic.
For sealing applications on vertical surfaces, like concrete block walls, we find our clients will usually want to avoid altering the pavers’ appearance. So we tend to use a silicone-based chemistry like our CoverSeal Pen50 rather than any fluorochemicals.
Topical sealers can be made from acrylics as well as polyurethanes. But a two-part water based polyurethane sealer will yield longer, more durable results. This type of sealer can be used with equal effectiveness on both brick and concrete pavers (we recommend two coats for concrete pavers).
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 Sealers On Concrete
It’s important to understand the differences between topical and penetrating sealers and how each can affect your paver sealing project. The topical sealers create an absolute barrier on the surface, and penetrating sealers create a protective coating that soaks into the surface. These are the two general ways that concrete sealers can work.
So let’s talk about topical sealers on concrete first. These would be products like acrylic or urethane sealers. They can be water based or they can be solvent based. And, the flooring industry actually now has some acrylic water based sealers that are enhanced with urethane.
Topical sealers create that absolute barrier to protect concrete from water, dirt, oil, grease, etc. This smooth film is a great way to alter the sheen, or finish, of the paver. Old, lack-luster pavers can be given new life with a glossy or wet look sealer. Just keep in mind that a smooth film might be slippery when wet.
Next we have the penetrating sealers, also referred to as impregnating sealers. So these, as the name suggests, penetrate and absorb into the paver and fill, or line, the pores and capillaris. This being said, they do not change the outward appearance of the paver. Penetrating sealers do repel water and chemicals very well.
Penetrating sealers are made generally from silane siloxane type materials, or simply, silicone-type materials. They tend to be highly water resistant, or repellant.
Then they can also have what’s called fluorochemicals, or fluoropolymers, and these are oil resistant. So not only are they water resistant, but they are very oil resistant as well. 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.
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.
Acrylic VS Polyurethane Sealers
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 Concrete Paver Sealers
A lot of the local corner stores will offer concrete paver sealers. They tend to be very competitively priced but normally that’s because they are made with 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 much change in the appearance. You don’t see a lot of aesthetic improvement, and if you do, it’s short lived and quickly worn off.
This is a common complaint that we receive. People don’t notice any difference in the pavers after applying the sealer, and if they do, it doesn’t last as long. This is all due to paver sealers that have low solids. 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 over pavers 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 of the paver 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.
Poorly sealed pavers can cause interlocking problems that will accelerate the deterioration of your pavers. If there is nothing to keep the sand bonded to the paver, there is nothing to stop the sand from being disadvantageously removed, increasing drainage (moisture) problems. This can also lead to ant hills, mold, and weed growth.
These pavers will also not be protected against the commonly used deicing salts in colder climates.
Customers who have used lower-end or big-box store sealers complain that they are not resistant to hot tire pickup. This applies to particularly to paver sealers used in driveways and parking lots.
Low-cost, standardized sealers have a tendency to soften when heated, especially if laid in direct sunlight. This can lead to hot tire pickup.
Hot tire pickup means that either the tire marks are being left in softened sealer or the hot tires are lifting the sealer off of the paver entirely.
Pavers aren’t getting any of the intended long-term benefits of standardized sealers. It’s easy to see the pavers start to deteriorate after a season. You’ll need to seal them more often, such as on a yearly basis.
Your pavers will be protected for three times longer if you use a sealer of higher quality containing a greater solids content.
How To Change The Look Of Your Concrete Pavers With Paver Sealer
There are many sealer options for specifc sheens to change the look of your concrete pavers.
A paver’s appearance when it is wet is the simplest definition of “wet look”. A wet look sealer will recreate the paver’s enhanced colors when it is wet.
It is not a very shiny finish, but more of a satin sheen. This is what you’d get with a sealer such as our StrongSeal Wet Look. It is a water-based urethane sealer. It enhances the color and gives the paver a nice wet look.
Solvent-based sealers can be used to enhance colors too but will also provide a higher gloss. While this is sometimes desirable, we have found that this glossiness quickly disappears, after about nine months to only a year. Although the initial effect is strong, it does not last for long.
Although the StrongSeal Wetlook may not be as shiny, it will keep its wet look sheen for at least two to three years.
We also offer sealers that have no shine, or are more natural looking. Our natural look sealer is a mixture of acrylic and urethane. It will leave a natural, flat finish to the surface and not alter the appearance.
The penetrating sealers don’t usually change the sheen and don’t leave any visible film after curing. There are penetrating sealers available that can enhance color, but they tend to be solvent-based. These will need to be reapplied frequently.
How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
Check to make sure the paver was not previously sealed. It is necessary to remove any pre-existing sealer.
This is especially true for solvent-based sealers. Solvent-based penetrating sealers might not work with water-based sealers or topical sealers.
Visually detecting if there is a topical sealer should be possible. You should see a sheen on the surface or a glistening.
If you don’t think you can see anything, try using a water test. This can be a quick and easy way to determine if there is a sealer. Just use a little water to cover the surface and watch to see if the water gets absorbed.
If the water remains on top of the surface, beaded or balled up after five minutes, that’s an indicator of an old sealer repelling the water.
A fizz test is also another method of testing for previous sealers. This involves using a slightly acidic solution. You can use a diluted acidic solution or a little vinegar to drip on the surface to see if it fizzes.
If it fizzes there is a good possibility that there isn’t a topical sealer. If there’s no fizz, then there’s probably a sealer repelling the moisture.
However, the water test will reveal if there is a topical sealant or a penetrating one. Keep in mind it will be more difficult to remove a penetrating sealer.
We recommend that you re-coat with another penetrating sealer than trying to use a new topical sealer. Penetrating sealers are likely to reject bonding with a topical sealer.
It may be necessary to etch the surface to remove any penetrating sealer if you have decided to use a topical sprayer. This will ensure a strong bond with the topical sealer.
These are just a few of the easy tests you can perform to determine what is on the surface before sealing it.
Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
It is crucial to properly prepare pavers before applying any new paver sealer.
We have already discussed how to tell if a paver has been sealed previously. This will let you know how much preparation work is needed before sealing.
Let’s begin by discussing how to remove old sealer from pavers. You must remove any previous sealer from the paver so it doesn’t interfere with the new sealer.
Interference could simple be an old lifting or peeling topical film, or a solvent-based sealer that is not compatible with water-based sealers.
It is best to use a chemical stripping solution to remove any previous sealers. Our FloorStrip HP has a high pH and works well with both solvent or water-based acrylic sealers.
You can use either a mop or a pump-up sprayer to apply FloorStrip HP on pavers. Let it sit for three to five minutes. Next, you can use a mop or deck brush to gently agitate the surface. Next, scrub away.
Depending on the size of the area and how many layers you want to remove, you have two options: pressure wash or mop again.
Most often, we deal with pavers outdoors. FloorStrip HP can be sprayed freely and left to sit for a few minutes before you pressure wash it.
If the sealer is made of very durable urethane polymers, it will need a stronger agent to strip. In such situations, we would recommend our PowerStrip – which is essentially a paint stripper. This is a thicker, stronger solution that can be applied on the paver surface to remove the sealer.
PowerStrip can be used for heavy duty stripping. This may require scraping or extreme pressure washing.
Recall that you need to remove any old sealer before you apply new paver sealer. If there is no concern for previous sealers, then you don’t have to do this step – but it is important that you thoroughly clean pavers before sealing them.
Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
In this step, it is vital to clean your pavers very well. There are a few methods to accomplish this. You may need different chemicals depending on what type of cleaning you do.
You may have mold, mildew or efflorescence issues, as well as oil and grease stains that all have to be removed before you apply any new sealer.
PrepWork is an excellent way to treat this problem. This acidic solution will remove dirt, mold, and mildew from your surface. It makes it easier to remove soils, and etch the paver surface to improve the adhesion of the sealer.
There are also microbial-based cleaners that can effectively remove oil. Our CoverCleanHC can easily be used to clean petroleum-based oil stains. Spray it or mop it and let it sit for an hour or two before pressure washing.
Microbial cleaners take longer to work but are definitley more eco-friendly. They can be washed away with little to no effect on the environment. CoverClean HP is for petroleum-based oils, and CoverClean FG for oils derived from fatty and greasy foods. (FG stands for food grade.)
SurfaceClean is a general degreaser and concentrated cleaner that can be applied to surfaces easily with a mop. It is best to use this product after stripping chemicals have been use to remove old sealers. Let the SurfaceClean sit for three to four minutes. You can then pressure wash it away.
We want to make sure that the sealer adheres to the surface as well as possible. This means the pavers must be properly cleaned and prepared. This is what makes sealers last a long time.
We don’t want to seal any marks, stains or scratches in the surface. They can make the surface look horrible and will hinder the adhesion or absorption.
We strongly recommend that you take the time to prepare the surface for sealing.
Customers are often faced with the problem of pavers that have mold or mildew appearing again and again. This problem is solved by SanitzerPlus, which has been approved by the EPA. It can be used to kill mold sources by spay-applying to prepared pavers.
Your pavers will only be lightened by chlorine or bleach. These chemicals won’t really penetrate pavers to clean them. SanitizerPlus is an affordable and effective way to stop the growth of mildew and mold.
Finally, ensure that you sweep away any loose sand or debris from the paver surface prior to moving on.
When Is The Best Time To Seal Pavers?
There are many environmental factors to consider when sealing pavers.
You should seal them when it is least likely to rain. The pavers should be as porous and dry as possible so that the sealer can penetrate or the first coat can adhere.
Allow the first coat of penetrating sealer to fully soak in. This will seal the pavers and prevent water from entering the paver. If the paver has been soaked in water, that sealer won’t penetrate. Sealing in a dry environment is far better to get the sealer to soak in.
Sealing pavers in Florida is best done after the summer, usually November to May. Northern climates may require you to seal after the winter as the environment thaws out.
The time of day is also important in achieving a good seal. This is because paver sealer should not dry too quickly. The sealer should not be heating or frying the surface. We want it to have time to penetrate the surface, and properly cure there.
Seal pavers in cooler hours of day. Think morning and evening when the sun is still up, but is far away. The ideal temperature ranges from 50 to 90℉ degrees.
Applying paver sealer to a surface with a temperature of more than 100℉ will cause the sealer to burn and provide no long-term benefit. This will lead to rapid failure of the sealer.
Applying Paver Sealer
We recommend using low-pressure sprayers when applying a paver sealer to your surface. You can use a general sprayer or a garden one with a fan tip to evenly spread the sealer on the surface.
A 3/8 nap roller can be used, however it is important to not apply too much. Be aware: the roller may give you less coverage than the sprayer, as the sealer is applied thicker by the roller. An excellent tool to use for finishing edges is a paintbrush.
A good paver sealer will usually yield 200 sq. feet of coverage per gallon. We recommend applying two coats. Initial appearance of paver sealer is white, but will dry clear.
Trust the process, move around your project area in a systematic manner and allow the sealer to evenly cover the surface of each of your pavers.
All of the sealer applied in the first coat should be absorbed within 10 minutes. You might see that the sealer has gotten puddled in low spots, such as in joints. To distribute it, you will need a brush or broom.
Sealer should not sit in a puddle drying on the surface. A water-based, topical sealer should be absorbed into the paver and maybe left on the surface as only a thin layer. The sealer should penetrate both the paver’s surface and the surrounding sand.
The second coat creates the protective layer on the surface. This is the film that can give you the desired glossy or wet look.
You can either use a roller for penetrating sealers or a lambswool applicator. A sprayer can be used, but the pressure must not be so high that it will atomize. Any inhaled super-fine particles are dangerous to your lung health!
For residential or smaller areas, a roller or lambswool application tool are the best choices for application tools. Low pressure spray equipment is best for larger areas that are ventilated.
To fully penetrate the paver, this sealer needs to be applied with a thicker coat. One coat will usually suffice and provide coverage of around 175-200 sq. feet per gallon.
You can apply penetrating sealer using a pump-up sprayer at low pressure. Make sure you distribute any puddles. It can be wiped off, if necessary.
You may find that the penetrating sealing sealer absorbs extremely quickly. If you need, apply a second coat, but within one to two hours of the first coat.
To determine how absorbent the sealer is on pavers, we recommend you test the area first, discreetly. The test will show you the amount of product that you should apply and how many coats you’ll need.
How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
From time to time, we have found ourselves working on a sealing contract to deal with slippery pavers. This is usually for natural stone pavers that surround a swimming pool deck.
Our CoverGrip is a product that can increase the slip resistance of pavers when used in conjunction with a topical sealer. This ultrafine additive can be mixed into the sealer and applied with a roller just like normal.
Alternatively, spray your sealer, then apply CoverGrip additive evenly to the wet sealer. Apply another coat of sealer to ensure everything is secure once the first one has dried. For best results, we recommend that you use the StrongSeal paver sealer with CoverGrip.
Our SurfaceGrip Treatment is suitable for non-sealed pavers. The chemical treatment alters the surface of pavers and gives them more traction. The appearance of the paver is not affected by this chemical treatment. It is particularly useful in outdoor spaces such as decks or patios, which are often wet.
How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
The type of paver sealer used, its thickness and the surrounding environmental conditions will all affect the drying time. It will take longer for the sealer to dry in colder climates than in warmer climates.
It will usually take three to four hours for a topical sealer to dry. Before you can walk on the sealer, it must be smooth and not at all sticky. The second coat can then be applied. The second coat should dry tack-free in three to four hours, depending on temperature and humidity.
If the surface is still sticky, don’t try walking on it. It is best to wait at least 48 hours (2-to-3 days) before allowing vehicular traffic. It is very difficult to get rid of tire marks left to cure in the sealer.
Things tend to go faster when using penetrating sealers. A penetrating sealing sealer will simply have faster reaction time. This type of sealer usually takes one to two hours to dry. Again, if the sealer still feels tacky, you should not walk on it.
You can then apply another coat, if needed, after one to two hours. Wait a couple of hours to allow the surface to dry completely before you can walk on it again. You should wait at least 6 hours before you drive over sealed pavers.
After the sealer has dried, it will continue to cure for another two to three days. We recommend that you keep vehicles off of it until it is fully cured.
Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Concrete Pavers Clean
Your sealed pavers will be much easier to maintain and clean. The sealer will protect your pavers from water, oil and other chemicals.
Avoid using any harsh chemicals that can damage the sealer. Our Emerald Floor Maintainer is a mild cleaner that won’t impair the sealer at all. If you need to clean up food-based stains, CoverClean FG is a good choice.
It is much better to use a low pressure, wide spray than a high pressure pencil tip while washing your pavers with a pressure washer. The paver will be damaged and may lift if it is subject to such high pressure. A little common sense will go a long way.
After that, gently brush off any loose dirt or debris.
When making your own cleaning remedies at home, make sure to follow all the usual precautions. Do not use too acidic, or too alkaline solutions.
Use less baking powder and ammonia than you think you need. An extremely high or an extremely low pH can damage the sealer’s finish by causing it to react with those chemicals. The sealer can become duller if these chemicals are left behind in the form of residue. But keep in mind, cleaning up residue from your cleaning chemicals is just double the work!
Mixing chemicals should be done with care. Mixing high alkaline products and acids can cause outgassing. Be warned: accidentally generating ammonia can cause severe health problems.
Your best option to ensure safety and maintain the value of your sealer is to use a specially designed cleaner for sealed surfaces.
Confidently Cover Your Concrete
So don’t fret! Concrete sealer is easy enough for anyone to use – homesteader or contractor – and well worth the investment. The professional grade products from CoverTec have all your concrete paver sealer needs covered.
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.