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3 Types of Concrete Sealers (with Pictures)

Closeup applying sealant on the concrete floor

Today, concrete is among the most utilized building materials. Its popularity as a building material arises from its easy-to-use and porous nature, allowing it to absorb water and breathe more freely. It is vital to understand the various types of concrete sealers retailing in the market and how best to care for and maintain the surfaces of your property.

In this article, we will discuss the most common concrete sealer varieties to make your purchase decision a little easier. Read on to learn more.

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What Is Concrete Sealer?

Applying a concrete sealer to concrete structures around your property will allow your building to maintain its aesthetic appeal and significantly improve durability.

Once you have sealed your concrete surface, it will be protected from weathering and reduce wear and tear. Sealing is highly recommended for any type of building, but especially for industrial and commercial settings that experience high traffic, thus creating easier maintenance.

3 Types of Concrete Sealers

The two most common high-quality concrete sealers to choose from are penetrating and film-forming concrete sealers. However, a new type of sealer known as polyaspartic sealer was introduced recently as a solution to some of the issues presented by other types of concrete sealers.

Below, we look at the three major types of concrete sealers and their differences.

1. Film-Forming Sealers

Also known as tropical or surface-coating sealers, film-forming sealers are used to coat an entire concrete surface. Once the sealer sticks to the concrete pores, it creates a protective membrane. The membrane protects the surface from spills and moisture that could otherwise damage the surface.

Furthermore, the layer is easy to reapply and maintain and is highly durable. Film-forming sealers can further be broken down into three subcategories, each designed for a specific function as seen below:

Acrylic Sealers

Acrylic concrete sealers are the most popular in the construction industry. They are generally used to protect concrete surfaces from grime and dirt in outdoor and indoor structures. These sealers are very popular because they are not only a budget-friendly option but are easy to use. As soon as you have applied the concrete, you can proceed to apply your acrylic sealer which features great recoating abilities.

On matters of application, acrylic sealers are best suited for pattern concrete, stencil concrete, depth-colored concrete, and exposed aggregate. Due to the quick drying period, acrylic sealers are preferred for fast-paced projects.

Acrylic sealers are available in two varieties: solvent-based and water-based concrete sealers.

  • Water-Based Acrylic Sealers- These acrylic sealers are usually suspended in water and are popular in construction for several reasons. They are cheaper, easier to apply, and safer for construction workers and the environment. However, they are tougher to remove after application, freeze in low temperatures, and do not offer the darkening effect preferred by some people.
  • Solvent-Based Acrylic Sealers- Solvent-based acrylic sealers, on the other hand, are suspended in a solvent. They are preferred for outdoor applications, especially if you want to enhance the color of your concrete surface. They also offer the darkening effect preferred by some customers. These sealers are also suitable for recoating concrete surfaces. They don’t require any prior preparations, unlike the water-based ones, which require the concrete surface to be sanded before recoating.
  • Protects against oil or chemical absorption, de-icing salts, and moisture
  • Improves the color of concrete
  • Dries quickly
  • Prevents chloride and water intrusion on exterior surfaces
  • Enhances the color of your interior concrete surfaces
  • Very thin layer of protection
  • Needs to be reapplied more often
  • Tend to turn yellow after some time

Polyurethane Sealers

Polyurethane is a hardy and non-yellowing concrete sealer that is almost twice as thick as the acrylic option. These sealers are suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.  They protect concrete surfaces from abrasive materials and chemicals, and this is perhaps why they are commonly used in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls, amusement parks, walkways, and cafeteria floors.

Since they are also abrasion resistant, they can resist impacts better than acrylic sealers making them ideal for garage doors as well. They are also very versatile and come with a variety of glossy finishes ranging from high gloss to slight sheen.

Polyurethane sealers are suitable for decorative applications on concrete. They can be applied to stamped, colored, or exposed aggregate concrete. Once applied, you can wait between 4–8 years before your concrete surfaces need recoating.

Polyurethane sealers require more caution during application. Instead of relying on the typical pump-up sprayer for water-based polyurethanes, a high-pressure but low-volume airless sprayer is better equipped to handle this sealer. This is because you need high-pressure levels to achieve even, thin spray patterns not offered by water-based polyurethanes.

  • Protects against chemicals and erosion.
  • Improves the durability of your concrete structures
  • Won’t yellow over time
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Not moisture-resistant
  • Contains high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

Epoxy Sealers

Epoxy sealers are also a variety of film-forming sealers that are suitable for indoor applications, especially where the durability of your concrete structure is a priority. They are ideal for people looking to improve the aesthetic appeal of their concrete surfaces. They allow builders to add different color pigments to create a glossy surface that brings your designs to life.

Other uses of epoxy sealers include solvent and abrasion-resistant floor coverings, metallic and flake flooring, and industrial application in hospitals and schools. They can also be applied on hygiene and industrial sites that require regular cleaning and experience frequent wear. In such a situation, this sealer can be used as a low-odor, chemical-resistant, and hard-wearing concrete coating.

Water-based epoxy sealers can bond well with concrete surfaces to create a bright glossy finish. If you want a more natural look, you can always add some matting additive for a matte finish. You can also tint epoxy sealers.

  • Durable, robust, and abrasion-resistant
  • Water-resistance properties
  • Helps protect the floors from high foot traffic damage
  • Highly susceptible to UV rays that tend to cause staining on the surface
  • Not safe for use in living quarters

2. Penetrating Sealers

As the name suggests, this type of sealer is absorbed into concrete to prevent moisture, contaminants, and stains on concrete while allowing vapor inside the concrete to evaporate. They basically protect without necessarily affecting the natural appearance of concrete surfaces. They achieve this by penetrating deep into the concrete to create a durable protective barrier against water-based pollutants and salts.

Penetrating sealers are versatile in applications and can be used on bare concrete surfaces, concrete pavers, and porous natural stones. They help safeguard against extreme temperatures, UV rays, erosion, and staining. They are also resistant to extreme weather elements that could easily destroy concrete surfaces.

These sealers are suitable for application on frictional surfaces, such as driveways and walkways. They are preferred over film-forming sealers because they don’t leave a glossy finish, which would increase the slipperiness of the surface. They also help increase the durability of concrete surfaces.

Furthermore, penetrating sealers are made from an advanced formula that prompts a chemical reaction with capillaries in the concrete, thus preventing chemicals, moisture, and de-icing salt penetration. Unfortunately, penetrating sealers are not ideal for indoor concrete surfaces. Also, if a recently coated surface is exposed to moisture before it dries up, it is likely to foam and bubble.

There are three types of penetrating sealers retailing in the market. They include silicate, silicone, and silane, each suitable for different applications.

Silicate Concrete Sealers

These are mainly used on concrete surfaces to help harden and increase the density of your concrete. Furthermore, they also do not alter the natural appearance of concrete surfaces. However, they have one major drawback: they cannot guarantee protection against water erosion.

Silicone Concrete Sealers

These are ideal for short-term use because they only offer temporary protection to concrete surfaces. Hence, you must regularly recoat the surface to maintain that natural look.

Unfortunately, this type of concrete sealer doesn’t protect against UV rays. So, they are not a good choice if you want to coat horizontal surfaces or any outdoor concrete structure.

Silane Concrete Sealers

Unlike the other penetrating sealer varieties, the silane sealer usually has multiple coatings that range from two to three layers. The thick application helps the sealer to improve the durability of concrete surfaces and can last for as long as 8 years without requiring recoating. This type is usually applied on exterior vertical surfaces and parking garages made up of concrete blocks and bricks.

Yet, due to the many thick coatings, silane concrete sealers usually darken the surface, which alters the natural appearance. So, silane sealers are suitable for use if the protection and sturdiness of your concrete surfaces are your main concerns.

3 Polyaspartic Sealers

As earlier mentioned, all sealers have different benefits and drawbacks that can limit their application for different environments. In a bid to solve some of the issues presented by other sealer varieties, a new floor coating was introduced.

Below are some properties that make it stand out:

  • The Polyaspartic sealer is a high-quality and modern sealer that can be applied at almost any temperature (usually between -30°F–140°F) and cures in just 30 minutes after application.
  • It can easily bond with any concrete surface creating a film resistant to staining and UV rays.
  • Due to the low viscosity of these sealers, they are ideal for wet environments.
  • While other sealer varieties may bubble when exposed to high humidity levels, this sealer creates smooth surfaces that are bubble free, even when exposed to moisture.
  • Furthermore, they feature 100% solid content that limits the presence of VOC when applying the sealer.
  • Once the surface has dried, these sealers can withstand high temperatures (up to 350°F) with higher abrasion resistance when compared to other sealers.
  • The finish is clear and sturdy enough to resist stains from fats, oil, and red wine.

These sealers are ideal for both indoor and outdoor applications. However, you must add a traction aid if used for outdoor concrete surfaces. They are popularly used in shopping centers, laboratories, homes, industrial spaces, and any site which requires fast curing after application.

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Despite the type of concrete sealer you use and its application method, the most important consideration is whether your concrete structures are sealed and protected from chemicals, oils, UV rays, moisture, and abrasions. A good quality concrete sealer should not only protect your surfaces but also help improve durability and enhance the aesthetic appeal of your concrete structures.

Some of the sealers on our list are designed for indoor use, while others are suitable for outdoor applications only. Some brands claim that their products can protect your concrete structures from dampness, moisture, and cold weather, but some are less effective at protecting concrete surfaces from freezing, thawing, or damp floors. Other sealer products may not even offer enough protection against hard impacts, scuffing, staining, or the salt from de-icing products.

The wrong type of sealer will require frequent recoating at best and at worst could discolor and damage your concrete surface finishes. We hope our review of the types of sealers will help alleviate your purchase decision and that suits your requirements.

Featured Image Credit: GCapture, Shutterstock


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