It is a matter of debate whether sealer should be applied to concrete driveways or other concrete surfaces. The common belief that concrete driveways must be sealed every year is due to aggressive marketing by companies selling sealing products, although even skeptics agree that regular sealing can prolong the life span of concrete slabs, regardless of whether they are a driveway, patio or pool deck, and sidewalks.
Concrete will perform well if it is not sealed. However, sealing concrete every few years can extend its life span and keep it looking great. This is especially important if your concrete patio or driveway has a stained or etched surface. If you live in an area that is susceptible to winter salt, driveway sealing may be an option.
Concrete sealer is a simple DIY project that can help concrete slabs last longer and look better.
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Different types of concrete sealers
Be aware that there are many types of concrete sealers. It is important to distinguish between an acrylic resin-based sealer and an epoxy or polyurethane sealing agent.
- Acrylic resin-based sealers are excellent for their price. They apply a thin film of acrylic resin to protect the product. To increase the product’s durability, they can be mixed with epoxy, silicone, or polyurethane. Please read labels. There are many types of acrylics and not all are the same. Styrene acrylic may yellow in direct sunlight and is therefore a lower-performance product. Virgin or pure acrylic resin is a better option. It will last longer and won’t turn yellow.
- Polyurethane or epoxy sealers are more expensive than acrylics. However, the higher costs don’t necessarily make them superior. These sealers can make concrete slippery, especially if they are coated on walkways or patios. They also keep concrete from “breathing out” moisture, which can be a problem. Concrete that is not able to breathe can cause white haze between concrete and sealer.
- Penetrating sealers are products made from specialty resins such as siloxanes and silanes that penetrate concrete and act as a chemical barrier against water, oil and other contaminants. These products are clearly marked as “penetrating” sealers. They can be used to protect surfaces from stains such as driveways or garages.
Professional concrete supply stores will have the best products. These intermediate-level sealers, which are often found in hardware stores and home centers, provide sufficient performance but have a shorter life span than professional-grade sealers.
Concrete sealers can be purchased in different shine or gloss levels, just like paints. There are many options available: matte, semi-gloss and gloss. Glosses are classified by manufacturers on a scale from 1 to 100. 100 is the highest level of gloss.
Concrete driveways and patios can have a variety of gloss levels. You can choose a gloss sealer that is higher depending on the concrete’s location.
- Solvent-based sealers – Gloss level 80-100; gives a high-gloss to gloss finish
- Water-based sealers: Gloss levels of 50 to 80. Produces a matte or semigloss finish
- Penetrating sealers – Gloss rating of 0. Produces a no gloss finish
Solvent-based sealers are more likely to darken concrete’s surface than water-based ones. The “wet-look”, or liquid-based sealers, have a higher percentage of solids. Some people love the look of wet-look sealing agents, but others find them too artificial, especially when applied to stamped, colored or textured concrete surfaces such as patios and pools decks. Some wet-look sealers include coloring agents, which can be used to stain and seal a slab.
How to apply driveway sealer
Preparation is a major part of sealing concrete driveways. This includes both the concrete area as well as you. Make sure that concrete is dry and clean before sealing it. To thoroughly clean the slab, you can use soap or degreaser if necessary. Before sealing, any patching should be done. For concrete sealer to adhere properly, it is important to have dry surfaces.
Sealers should not be used on your skin or eyes. Wear gloves, long sleeves, trousers, and eye protection while applying sealer. Before you start, make sure to read the label instructions for any additional precautions. This includes suggested ideal weather conditions and temperatures for sealing.
Concrete sealers require very little equipment depending on which sealer is used. For the best method, refer to the label instructions. Spraying solvent-based sealers (oil-based) is the best method, while water-based sealers can be applied using a roller.
Either way, you want to achieve complete coverage. The majority of products can cover 250-300 square feet per gallon. Apply two to three thin coats and allow each coat to dry between them. This will prevent any puddling, which can lead to uneven coverage. To ensure complete coverage, overlap the areas you seal.
You should work in small sections, not more than 25 square feet (5-foot squares). The drying time takes about two hours. However, this can vary depending upon the weather conditions. In humid summer conditions, drying times may be longer at five to eight hours. Before you apply the next coat, the entire surface must be dry to touch and free from any sticky feeling.
A professional may be recommended if you have a large or new driveway. The cost of a professional sealer depends on how large your driveway is.
Regular maintenance is important to ensure that the sealer coat stays in place once your concrete has been sealed. A simple cleaning with soap and water every few months is part of the routine. A light reapplication of soap and water after washing is a good idea if you notice any areas that are worn.
A pressure washer can be used to clean dirt off a concrete driveway. It is important to choose the correct tip or your driveway could be damaged. A fan nozzle, which slows down water, or a rotary nozzle should be used about 12 inches from the surface. Before you commit to cleaning the entire patio or concrete driveway, test a small area to determine how it reacts. A professional will charge between $100 and $200 to pressure wash your patio or driveway. Prices vary depending on how large the job is.
There are many opinions on how often concrete driveways should be sealed. It depends on the type of sealer used, as well as the weather conditions and the level of wear on the slab. The seal coat’s lifespan will be affected by the quality of the resins used. Concrete trade organizations like Concrete Network recommend that sealers be resealed every one to three year.