Deciding which type of concrete sealer to use for your project can get pretty confusing considering the different types to choose from. We want to help make this an easy decision and save you the time of researching the many different products out there. Being in the residential concrete business for years, we have come to know which types of products are most suitable for each situation. We also take into account the cost and difficulty of application when guiding people on which type of concrete sealer to use.
For almost all exterior surfaces,(patios, porches, driveways, sidewalks,garages,etc.) solvent-based acrylic concrete sealers are usually your best bet. These work well in residential applications and will provide protection against the elements, most chemical spills, and stains. They will also give the surface a shiny look, which is desirable in most cases, and can really enhance the colors of decorative concrete. Choose a sealer that has 25-30% solids. Also, make sure the label says "non-yellowing". The biggest complaint about acrylic concrete sealers is some of the cheaper brands will actually turn an ugly yellow-brownish color. I recommend going to a concrete/masonry supply store and spending a little more money rather than buying a cheap sealer from the home improvement store.
Due to increasing environmental restrictions, solvent based sealers are becoming less available and have actually become illegal in some states. They are hazardous and do emit harmful fumes as the solvents are released. Manufacturers are working on and making higher quality "green" or water based sealers to replace solvent sealers. For this reason, I've decided to stop recommending the solvent sealers. I have become more confident in the quality and durability of the newer "green" products. Concrete Camouflage offers a great line of "green" products that are safe to ship and handle, eliminating a huge and costly hassle.
Acrylic concrete sealers are also the usual choice for interior floors as well. For homes that are finished or being lived in, I highly recommend using a water-based acrylic sealer. Solvent-based sealers give off alot of unpleasant and sometimes harmful odors which can really stink up the house and can be difficult to get rid of. Water-based acrylics, however, are almost odorless and much less toxic. Since you're sealing indoors, you don't need the durability that solvent-based acrylics provide because it doesn't have to face the elements. Water-based acrylics will also create a glossy appearance which, again, is usually desirable. For unfinished houses, solvent-based or water-based acrylics will work just fine. Keeping a coat of wax on top of the sealer will prevent the need of resealing in the future.
For surfaces that are showing signs of deterioration, such as scaling or spalling, penetrating concrete sealers are recommended. This type of sealer will work it's way down into the pores and capillaries and fill them in with a cement-like material. This almost completely seals the concrete from water or any foreign substance penetrating from the surface or the underside. Penetrating sealers will actually strengthen the concrete itself and greatly reduce the rate of deterioration. Also, penetrating sealers won't leave a shine on the surface which makes them a good choice if a glossy appearance isn't desirabale.
Solvent-based acrylic sealers are the most suitable for decorative concrete finishes whether it's stamped, colored, stained, etc. They can really bring out the colors and textures when applied. This is especially true of acid stained surfaces. The difference is almost night and day between sealed and unsealed acid stains. Acrylic sealers can restore the look of decorative concrete to almost new.
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