With the time and effort put into concrete structures, protecting them with sealant is a must.
This guide will cover the information a project owner needs on the types and applications of commercial concrete sealing.
We’ll also help you choose the right one for your project.
Concrete sealing is a liquid protectant applied to the surface of commercial concrete to limit environmental damage to the concrete.
There are several types of sealants and applications for sealing concrete surfaces. Each has its own benefits and uses.
Since sealing concrete requires more money and time, let’s look at seven reasons it’s worth it.
Concrete sealing can:
A concrete sealant forms a barrier over your slab, protecting it from expansion due to temperature changes.
The UV rays from the sun can cause fading and discoloration of new concrete. Direct sunlight also heats the surface, causing deformation of the concrete. Sealants provide a protective film that makes the concrete UV-resistant.
Concrete is porous and absorbs moisture. So wet concrete will soften, crack, and crumble.
Concrete coatings will drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the amount of moisture that seeps into the concrete.
This is especially important for foundations, commercial concrete floors, and outdoor steps. That’s because these are more susceptible to the elements.
Sealants prevent fading, staining, and dings from detracting from the appearance of your floors and slabs.
Concrete sealants can even reduce the number of tire marks left on your concrete.
The wet look you get from high gloss floor coating looks chic. But if you don’t want to see your reflection through your floor, you can always opt for matte sealants.
Chemical resistance is one of the highest-valued benefits of commercial floors. Concrete floor sealers can provide that.
Cracked and crumbling concrete is dangerous. This damaged concrete can cause trips and falls in foot traffic.
Since sealants block moisture, which breeds mold and mildew, it also improves the air quality in your commercial buildings.
Sealants create a safer environment in your commercial property and reduce the property owner’s liability.
Sealants allow the concrete to last longer. The result: less money spent on repairs and less necessary refinishing.
It’s a widely accepted truth that smart business owners protect their investments. Sealing your concrete does just that.
Concrete sealant needs to be applied at the right time for it to provide benefit.
You can apply some sealants as soon as the concrete is strong enough to support foot traffic. Yet, most require that you wait until the concrete is fully cured, which is about 28 days on average.
If you still need to seal an existing slab or concrete floor, you can still reap the benefits of sealing it now.
Of course, if you have a newer project with unsealed concrete, the earlier you apply sealant, the better. It’s ideal to seal concrete within a year of completing a project.
Before applying a sealant to concrete that isn’t pristine, ensure the concrete is clean and completely dry.
As stated earlier, you have many choices for concrete sealants. We typically group sealants into two different types: topical and penetrating.
Here’s a closer look at each:
Topical sealants provide a layer of protection on the surface of the concrete.
There are four main types of topical sealants. Each will have several variations with slight tweaks in the formulation to provide a certain benefit.
Nevertheless, each of the variations of the following sealants follows the same characteristics.
Let’s list these out.
Epoxies add a glossy finish to the concrete and dry hard. In addition, epoxies are water-repellant and abrasion-resistant.
These sealants are best for interior use since UV rays can add a yellow tint to the epoxy.
Epoxies are popular thanks to their durability.
But they also have a downfall:
Epoxy takes longer to dry than other sealants and must be applied to fully cured concrete. So you need to add much more time to the concrete construction process with this sealant.
Acrylics add a thin protective coating for interior and exterior locations.
Acrylics have plenty of beneficial characteristics. For example, they dry fast (within an hour of application) and are cheaper than many other topical sealant choices.
However, acrylics are less durable and will require more frequent reapplication.
These sealants are available in a variety of finishes to match any design preferences.
Polyurethane sealants protect against UV damage, weather, chemical, and abrasions.
Of course, it requires significantly more skill and labor to apply to reap these benefits.
This sealant requires at least two layers for application, and it must remain dry and at the right temperature until cured.
Since polyurethane is so protective against the elements, it’s useful for interior and exterior concrete. This sealant is also good for high-traffic areas.
Not to mention, polyurethane enhances the beauty of decorative or stained concrete.
You’ll find two types of polyurethanes: aromatic and aliphatic.
Aromatic polyurethane changes color in sunlight, which isn’t conducive to outdoor use. Aliphatic polyurethane is more expensive, but it isn’t reactive to sunlight.
The most expensive of all topical sealants is polyaspartic. However, this is only because they last longer and are quite durable.
Polyaspartic sealant cures fast, so you’ll need to be cautious and apply it right the first time. This sealant’s one downfall is that it’s susceptible to chemical exposure.
Penetrating concrete sealers, as you may have guessed, penetrate the concrete. These sealers provide invisible protection against outdoor exposure and corrosion.
Below are five different types of penetrating sealants and their unique characteristics:
Silanes are great for use in garages and city parking lots and are very anti-corrosive and protective against pollutants and salt.
However, these sealants can be expensive and require multiple applications. With that in mind, silanes are best for circumstances that require this powerful sealant.
Silicates fuse as crystals inside the concrete. This increases the concrete’s strength and protects it against humidity and high heat.
Silicates are especially good for outdoor locations with direct sunlight.
This sealant easily penetrates and dries quickly. But it requires multiple layers and a specialized application.
Best for deeply porous materials, siloxanes protect against water, mold, mildew, and algae.
Siloxanes are good to use on concrete near salt water. But, unfortunately, it’s too expensive for larger areas.
Fluorinates are best as primer layers before applying other sealants. It dries fast but doesn’t hold well to extreme temperatures.
Siliconates also protect against water, mold, mildew, and algae. This sealant dries clear and hard.
Dry, hot, or windy environments make application difficult, so the application must be in a well-protected area.
After deciding on a sealant, you’ll need to choose an application method.
These are the four main methods to choose from:
Using a brush roller, apply the sealant over the entire surface. Let that coat dry, then apply another coat in the opposite direction.
This method is the best for applying topical sealants.
You need to use a brush with polyester bristles for water-based sealants and Mohair for solvent-based.
Spray application is best for penetrating sealant. Simply spray the surface of the concrete with the sealant, let it dry, then reapply.
The sprayer can be low-pressure, high-pressure, or airless. Which is best depends on the type of sealant you’re applying.
There’s nothing wrong with the old-fashioned method of mopping on sealant. However, this is only an option in certain circumstances.
The mop features synthetic materials and can only apply water-based sealants.
You can also use flat microfiber mop pads to apply low-solid water-based sealants to smooth surfaces. This method achieves a very thin coverage of sealant.
The last method involves using a squeegee to push the sealant forward and then roll it backward.
The answer to this question really depends on the type of sealant used.
Penetrating sealants typically last longer, up to 10 years. Meanwhile, topical sealants require reapplication earlier.
The decision behind the right sealant depends on a few factors. One of them, of course, is just your personal preference.
Nevertheless, some aspects of your commercial concrete project are wise to consider, such as:
Penetrating sealants need fresh concrete. Of course, oil, water, and dirt buildup over time can make penetration impossible.
You’ll need to use a topical sealant if your concrete is older.
Some concrete will require a certain sealant based on the specs of your project.
Check building codes to see if they mention sealants, or ask the engineer if they know which sealant you need.
Porous concrete would benefit most from applying a penetrating sealant.
In contrast, a topical sealant is better for dense concrete.
The local environment can affect which sealant is best based on exposure to certain environmental elements.
Weather conditions can also dictate which sealant is necessary. That includes severe temperatures, humidity, or storm cycles.
Is your commercial project in an area near the ocean? If so, the salt in the air will require you to use a very protective sealant.
Chemicals and pollution can quickly deteriorate concrete. So if your commercial project is in an industrialized area, you must choose a chemically resistant sealant.
Also, the location of concrete requiring sealing can make one sealant better than another.
Indoor concrete can use some sealants that wouldn’t be ideal for outdoor concrete simply due to the sun exposure or the freeze-thaw cycle.
Your budget will also dictate which commercial concrete sealers you can afford.
How much can you invest now and in the future?
Consider how much it will cost for general upkeep if you use a less durable and long-lasting sealant.
It may be a better idea to invest more upfront so that you can save time, hassle, labor costs, and materials in the future.
Concrete sealing is important if you want your commercial concrete project to keep its integrity and its luster.
Although it may be easy to decide that sealing your concrete is a good idea, it’s another ball game to complete the sealing.
We always recommend a licensed professional complete the construction and sealing of concrete slabs.