by Greg Walter-Walttools
Concrete comes in many different forms and is found in both exterior and interior applications. There are concrete driveways and patios, vertical concrete walls, basement floors, concrete countertops, etc., and all of these surfaces may have varying properties. One thing for sure is that concrete is very porous and can eventually breakdown from the elements (weather and sun), along with physical wear and tear. By sealing and/or waterproofing your concrete surface, you will not only protect the beauty of a decorative surface but truly extend the life of the surface.
So, what is the best concrete sealer for your situation? The answer to that depends on what you are protecting and what kind of effects that you want to see on the appearance.
One of the biggest and most notable differences between water based and solvent based sealers is that solvent based sealers will “wet out” or darken the surface but water based will not (EXCEPTION: HEAL AND SEAL and EPOXY). That means your colors and surface will be darker in appearance after sealing. If you like your surface as you see it and it just needs to be protected then a water base product will likely be suitable. Water based concrete sealers in general have very little odor and are water clean, which makes them more convenient to use.
Concrete sealers/coatings come in both water based and solvent based formulas, and as a simple single component or multiple component. Most of them will provide a visible effect and protection to a wide variety of surfaces, but many factors come into play. Below you will find a product selection guide based not only on the chemistry but field knowledge and experience. The concrete sealers and coatings are first separated by interior or exterior use and then types of items being sealed. Sealers from Walttools come in a variety of styles to meet your needs.
Exterior concrete sealers and coatings:
Floors (Concrete drives, patios, walks, porches, pavers, and natural stone) garage floors are not covered here, although they are partially exposed to the elements. You will find them in interior concrete floors.
The Stampsheen sealer line is the most common decorative concrete sealer because of ease-of-use and cost. They are either solvent or water based acrylics. Not all acrylic concrete sealers are created equal. Acrylic is a general term used to describe a group of polymers derived from acrylic acid. There are thousands of formula variations possible with acrylics that affect the overall properties. A formulator may crosslink another polymer to the acrylic or simply add it to the solution, which if not properly selected can alter the final properties negatively. Also, when it comes to other products, especially sealers and coatings, many companies repeat the mistakes other companies have made by reverse engineering or industrial espionage. At Walttools we select the finest raw materials and go through painstaking formulation and testing to bring the best concrete sealers to our customers.
Solvent based products for floors
Stampsheen 100, Stampsheen 350, and Stampsheen all have the same base formula. The difference is the unique solvent blend used to meet VOC requirements. These concrete sealers are commonly known as stamp sealer, high gloss concrete sealer, wet look concrete sealer, exposed aggregate sealer, stamped concrete sealer, acrylic concrete sealer, and brick paver sealer, among other names. The three sealers leave a high gloss finish that darkens the substrate. If you don’t want your sealed floor to be shiny, then you can use W-Matte, a sealer matting agent which will reduce the overall surface gloss. Acrylics tend to get a little slippery when wet. If you don’t want a slippery floor then add Tru Grip to the Stampsheen concrete sealer, an anti-slip compound. The above three products are solvent base and are applied with a solvent sprayer and/ or standard paint roller. The acrylic sealers will typically last 2-4 yrs. Then need a light recoat. They are great to recoat a textured concrete because the solvent based concrete sealer “bites into” the old layer below fusing as one.
Cure Seal 350 is similar in composition to the Stampsheen concrete sealer line, but is a lower solids content and contains a unique silicone that allows concrete to breath. Typical applications for this are brushed finished driveways, patios etc, pool decks, where you don’t need as much of a build(less slippery) and want to seal the slab at an earlier stage. It is also a good product to reseal a floor that a solvent based acrylic sealer was used on, since there is more solvent by volume to help “melt” the existing layer of concrete sealer.
Waterbase options for exterior floors
Heal and Seal 2K is a great option for sealing stamped concrete or any surface you want to protect indefinitely. This is a proprietary 100% silicone clear coat concrete sealer. Heal and Seal 2K is very easy to apply (lap lines disappear) and it obtains great coverage in comparison to many acrylic concrete sealers. The typical life expectancy of protection is five years. This is one of the few water based concrete sealers that darken the substrate and offers a high gloss. This sealer also chemically fuses to itself in the recoat process. This high end concrete sealer saves you time in the long run and keeps your projects looking great even longer.
Stampsheen H2O is our water based acrylic in the Stampsheen line up. Water based acrylic concrete sealers have come a long way from 20 years ago. Many products are moving to water base because of VOC limitations and the smelly off-gassing involved with solvents. Stampsheen H2O holds up very close to its solvent base counterparts. The drawback is in recoating any water-based acrylic. If the surface is still glossy and cannot be lightly sanded you may have delamination issues when you try to recoat in the future. This sealer will give you color enhancement, but no darkening and not as dramatic. The upside is that the water based concrete sealer is inexpensive, and very easy to apply.
CAS150 is our acrylic hybrid sealer. This concrete sealer is re-coatable due to the modified silica particles that are cross-linked to the acrylic. The silica actually chemically fuses to the concrete surface and acrylic making it a permanent concrete sealer. This is typically used on hard troweled, brushed, or decorative concrete floors. This sealer contains lower solids to allow it to be applied very early on slabs. It is also a bargain for protecting concrete because it is possibly the least expensive concrete sealer anywhere. The down side with this sealer is it can only be applied in thinner applications – with a thick build it tends to get cloudy. It is only available in a matte finish. This one is also easy to apply – a plastic garden sprayer is all you need!
Sealing Exterior walls
Walls are typically left in a natural state. Aesthetically, exterior walls(stone look) are more attractive if they are not shiny. The goal of a wall sealer is to protect the substrate from the elements and stop water intrusion. Walttools has several products that have been over achievers for many years protecting concrete and masonry structures.
Tru- Block is a water based, silicone-acrylic hybrid concrete sealer. It is low VOC, easy to apply, low cost, and gives a great performance making this a winner. The silicone component chemically bonds to most calcium or silica derivatives, which is found in brick, stone, and concrete. Tru-Block concrete sealer and water proofer also leaves the surface looking very natural. Tru- Block is not just a penetrating silicate type sealer, it is also forms a protective film over the concrete, brick, or stone.
Tru-Pel concrete water proofer does just that. It penetrates and bonds with some of the existing particles in the concrete creating a tighter surface. The water repellency of this product is mostly achieved by modifying the surface tension of the substrate with hydrophobic molecules. Tru-Pel comes in a concentrated gallon that makes 5 gallons when mixed with water. It is very easy to use and inexpensive for the coverage. The downside with this one is it will not protect from a lot of staining components, nor will it fully protect topical stains.
If you have a water feature – water fall or pond – that you are building with concrete, check out our additive to make the concrete itself waterproof.
Exterior Concrete Furniture and Concrete Countertops
Almost anything in terms of concrete furniture and accessories can be made these days. Concrete benches, concrete counters, firepits, ice rocks, tables, concrete planters, outdoor kitchens, seatwalls, couches, and chairs, are some examples of the popular items appearing in desirable landscapes.
WBU is a two component low VOC water base polyurethane sealer or coating. This product comes in a matte finish or a high gloss version. The B side is made with what is called aliphatic isocyanate, this is one of the components that allows a polyurethane to hold up outside. We have also used polyol components on the A side to stand up to UV, water, a host of chemicals, and extreme abrasion among other desired qualities. This water base coating is very durable and easy to apply with a sprayer or roller. WBU is king of light build outdoor coatings, rivaling some other brands 100% solids formulations. This decorative concrete coating is a little pricey but still a great bargain at our pricing.
Ultrathane 1000 is a single component low VOC water base polyurethane concrete sealer. This is also an aliphatic urethane so it is stable outdoors. Being single component (no mixing or fear of setting in container) makes this versatile concrete sealer easier to use than the WBU. That being said, the two component system is superior in regards to abrasion resistance and has a slight advantage in every aspect of protection. Ultrathane 1000 is 25% solids – so more of a concrete sealer than a coating in regards to film forming thickness.
Tru- Block as mentioned earlier is a water based, silicone-acrylic hybrid concrete sealer. Low VOC, easy to apply, low cost and great performance make this a winner. This will leave a low cost, natural look to your concrete furniture.
Protect is another, one-of-a-kind, concrete sealer from Walttools. This is a unique acrylic cross-linked to silicone system. This sealer is popular for concrete countertops or furniture. It has been used successfully on many interior floors also. Protect concrete sealer provides great stain protection and is easy to clean. This sealer is fairly low cost, especially for the unique technology people enjoy. This concrete sealer leaves a silky feel to the concrete – it actually makes concrete feel soft! It is a low VOC concrete sealant that is water based and very easy to use. The only downside would be that the abrasion or mechanical properties are not as high as a polyurethane.
Interior Concrete Sealers and Coatings
All of the exterior grade sealers mentioned above may also be used indoors. Typically you want to reduce flammability issues, and nasty smelling components when indoors. When sealing indoors it is usually more of a pain to completely recoat, so selecting a sealer with longevity and good abrasion resistance is a good choice.
Generally you are going to want to use a non-flammable sealer with low off gassing. Low VOC doesn’t mean it is healthy for you to breath or not flammable. For example some low VOC sealers are formulated with acetone as the main carrier, and acetone is highly flammable and creates dangerous vapor trails. If possible select a sealer that is safer to use indoors and always use proper personal protection with any sealer or coating.
WBU matte or high gloss, high performance, water based two component, polyurethane coating is the best choice for indoors as far as flammability and durability. There are some solvents in the B side of this sealer but once it is mixed with the water based side the risk is gone. Vapors can still build and proper ventilation (i.e. windows open and fans running) is required. This water base polyurethane concrete coating is fairly easy to apply, has high bond strength, and incredible abrasion resistance.
Ultrathane 1000 is a single component low VOC water base polyurethane concrete sealer. This is also an aliphatic urethane so it is stable outdoors. Being single component (no mixing or fear of setting in container) make this versatile concrete sealer easier to use then the WBU. That being said the two component system is superior in regards to abrasion resistance and a slight advantage in every protection aspect. One advantage indoors is the very low solvent content in this sealer formulation, so flammability issues are minimized.
Heal and Seal 2K(mentioned earlier)is a great option for sealing stamped concrete or any surface you want to protect indefinitely. This is a proprietary 100% silicone clear coat concrete sealer. The upside to this concrete sealer for interior use is you get the darkening effect of a solvent base acrylic without all the solvent.
Stampsheen H2O is our water base acrylic in the Stampsheen line up. Stampsheen H2O holds up very close to its solvent base counterparts. The drawback is in recoating any water base acrylic. If the surface cannot be lightly sanded you may have delamination issues when you try to recoat in the future. This sealer will give you color enhancement, but no darkening and not as dramatic. The upside is, the water base concrete sealer is inexpensive, and super easy to apply.
Floorshine is a topical or standalone sealer used over the top of water base acrylic or other sealer types to create a sacrificial barrier that can be reapplied from time to time as needed. Floorshine sealer is a water base acrylic with additives that allow it to spread out and bond to other sealers and have increased abrasion resistance.
CAS150 is our acrylic hybrid sealer. Typical indoor applications with this sealer are garages or warehouse floors or a cure and seal on fresh poured concrete. This concrete sealer is recoatable due to the modified silica particles that are cross-linked to the acrylic. The silica actually chemically fuses to the concrete surface and the acrylic making it a permanent concrete sealer. This is typically used on hard troweled, brushed or decorative concrete floors. This sealer contains lower solids to allow it to be applied very early on slabs. It is also a bargain for protecting concrete, as it is the least expensive concrete sealer possibly anywhere. The down side with this sealer is it can only be applied in thinner applications. A thick build and it tends to get cloudy. It is only available in a matte finish. This one is super easy to apply – a plastic garden sprayer is all you need!
If you are looking for a thicker build with a lot of depth, then an epoxy or polyaspartic type sealer mentioned below would satisfy your needs.
Walttools Epoxy HP is a highly durable 2 part decorative coating designed for stained concrete floors, countertops, and other decorative concrete surfaces where a hard wearing surface is a must. This 2 part system is simple to apply and provides excellent protection and enhancement to decorative surfaces. This coating will give you the thickest build. Although 100% epoxies have no solvent or dangerous fumes, you will still want to ventilate the area because there is a distinct smell. The scratch resistance is not as good as the WBU product line though bond strength is similar. Epoxy floors have been around for decades and are still popular. This is probably not a newbie or DIY product, so get some practice on some small projects before tackling something large.
Walttools PolyKoat is polyaspartic technology. This concrete coating is similar to polyurethane, but with a faster reactivity profile and lower elongation properties. Polykoat concrete coating will darken the substrate and be high gloss. Basically, what that means is a short pot life once mixed and that it may be harder than a polyurethane, but not as scratch resistant or as impact resistant. This concrete polyaspartic coating formulation is 80% solids, with the balance solvents. There are some fumes associated with it. PolyKoat is easy to apply with a roller, sets quick (recoats happen faster), and return to service is timely.
Removing a concrete sealer
Tru Strip sealer and coating remover is a revolutionary product that makes removal of coatings and sealers tolerable. Nobody really likes this messy job, but sometimes it needs to be done. If a sealer was applied the wrong way or done prematurely, a customer changed their mind about the coating or color underneath, there is a need to refurbish an old project, another brand sealer fails, etc., are some of the reasons you might need this product. Sealer and coating removal is simple just spray brush or roll on Tru Strip, let it sit for 1-2 hours then pressure wash, scrape, and clean up the left overs. On some coatings two applications may be necessary. This material reacts with most compounds and softens them, then prevents the polymer from rejoining with itself, in effect changing the chemical composition slightly. This is a lot better than using just a solvent to remove paint or sealers. Solvents just create a gooey mess and anywhere that goo flies off, it re-hardens there. If you are a contractor, you might want to keep a pail of this on hand.
How to prevent slippery concrete sealer
Concrete can get slippery especially with the application of certain sealers. Around pools it can get dangerous with people running on the pool deck. There is no need for injuries. Tru Grip by Walttools is a sealer and coating additive that reduces slippage tremendously. It is simply premeasured to treat 5 gallons of sealer or coating product. So, add the entire contents to a 5 gallon bucket and mechanically stir for 2 minutes or manually stir for 5 minutes. The sealer can still be sprayed or rolled the same way. If you have less than 5 gallons to treat just weigh in partials or estimate the volume needed.