Sealing concrete surfaces is not like painting. While they both ultimately protect the surface they are applied to, they do so in much different ways. Paints sit on top of surfaces and build film to provide their protection. Concrete sealers typically penetrate and fill porous surfaces preventing substances from getting in and causing damage. Water, combined with the freeze and thaw cycle, can slowly degrade your concrete surfaces. Oil stains are unsightly and other chemicals, such as acid, can literally eat through concrete. Ice melt or road salt, while helping prevent slips and falls, breaks down concrete over time, causing spalling.
Once concrete starts spalling, it only gets worse as it allows moisture to intrude easier and the freeze thaw cycle has a greater effect on the concrete. I am sure you have seen a north facing driveway that is all broken up and flaking. Being north facing, the snow and ice don’t melt off as fast, so homeowners use ice melt chemicals and road salt to melt the ice and help prevent slips. Eventually, the spalling gets so bad that the concrete needs to be replaced. It’s much less expensive to apply a quality sealer over time than to jackhammer and replace concrete once it has broken up beyond repair.
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and concrete sealer is definitely the ounce of prevention in this situation. High-quality, professional grade, penetrating concrete sealers are a cost effective and simple way to slow down the degrading of your concrete. For exterior applications, it can be used on driveways, walkways, patios, porches and pavers. Use it anywhere you want to seal the concrete to protect it from any of the situations listed above. For interior surfaces, such as warehouse floors, garage floors or shop floors, it can be used to help prevent oil stains or damage caused by most chemicals that may be used in those settings. Sealing interior concrete surfaces also makes them much easier to sweep and keep clean. It is also a lot more economical than applying an epoxy coating. Sealers won’t protect nearly as well as an epoxy coating, but it’s a great choice if you don’t need as much protection and you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
As with anything else, you will get what you pay for when it comes to the quality of the material and the correct application. Water base concrete sealers from big box stores are available and can be applied easily by a homeowner. They are certainly better than not applying any sealer at all. However, there are professional grade, solvent based sealers that can be purchased from a paint supplier like Rodda Paint that are much higher quality and will last longer.
A good example of this would be Saltguard by Prosoco. Saltguard is a solvent-based, general-purpose, silane/siloxane water repellent and chloride screen for concrete and masonry, including concrete block, and clay and concrete brick surfaces. Saltguard protects horizontal and vertical surfaces from moisture intrusion and chemical attack of chloride salts, reducing rebar corrosion and surface spalling. For interior concrete surfaces, Prosoco makes Concrete Protector SB, which is a solvent-based, penetrating, reactive treatment that provides water, oil and stain repellency for every kind of finished concrete floor. It improves stain resistance and simplifies maintenance cleaning of interior and exterior, horizontal and vertical concrete surfaces. Concrete Protector SB is low-odor and VOC-compliant.
Most homeowners don’t like to mess around with solvent based products, so hiring a professional company that knows how to work with solvents may be worth the money. If you choose to seal your concrete on you own, your only costs will be the cost of the material, anywhere from $30 to $50 a gallon depending on the quality of the sealer you choose, and your own time to apply it. If you want to hire a professional company like Roe Paitning to apply it for you, you can expect to pay between $1 and $2 a square foot depending on the choise of sealer and total square footage you want sealed.
All sealers will break down due to use and exposure to UV. Reapplication will need to be done periodically. A good way to test if you need to reapply the sealer is the beading water test. If you splash some water on the concrete and it still beads up and runs off, you are good to go. If it soaks in and darkens the concrete, the sealer has worn away or broken down from UV exposure and you will need to reapply. Reapplication is pretty simple. Just clean and rinse the surface and once it is dry, reapply per the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you choose to seal your concrete, we think it will be worth the money you spend on the material and the time you spend applying it, or the money you spend paying a professional to apply it. Once you finish, don’t be alarmed if it looks like you didn’t do anything. That means you did it correctly. Penetrating sealers have no sheen (don’t look shinny), they don’t build a film and flake off over time and they don’t change the appearance (darken) your concrete. But, they do protect your concrete and help prevent possible future failures.