Choosing the Right Sealer for Your Concrete Floor
In our last article, we discussed the basics of restoring concrete floors with the help of our Onfloor products. After repairing or restoring your concrete floor by means of grinding, you may be asking yourself a very valid question: How do I choose the right concrete sealer or concrete dye for my project?
There are a couple of important questions to consider:
- Where is your floor? If the sealer has the potential to emit harmful fumes during the application process, you have to be incredibly careful indoors. Make sure the sealer does not increase the potential for slips, especially in a high traffic area such as the garage.
- What look are you going for? Sealers and stains come in various colors and sheens. From satin to glossy, sealers can do a fantastic job at accenting a floor. The higher the level of gloss, the greater the level of color enrichment you’ll expect to see.
- Think about how the floor is used. Different sealers have different properties.
- What is the life expectancy of the product? Generally, if a product is cheap, it’s life expectancy will not be satisfactory. We don’t recommend buying a bargain brand.
Sealers have a wide variety of applications. Bare concrete is porous and therefore vulnerable to staining via chemicals, acid and food. If you’re sealing your garage or driveway, look for a sealer that has some or all of these characteristics:
- It’s non-porous. You don’t want moisture slipping through because of rain or oil leaks.
- It’s scratch proof and heat resistant.
- It’s long term. Remember, sometimes paying less now means paying more later.
- It’s acid resistant.
The primary type of sealer used for exterior concrete is a solvent or water-based acrylic. This will keep maintenance at a minimum. For a concrete driveway, you’ll want a sealer that repels oil, car chemicals and grease, while also protecting the substrate that is in a high-traffic area. If a sheen on the surface isn’t your thing, a penetrating sealer can be used as an alternative to provide a natural look and protection against outdoor exposure.
For an interior floor, sealers with good resistance to scuffs and stains will generally be the best option. An epoxy or polyurethane sealer will do the job and prevent wear and heel marks. Solvent based products can be extremely flammable and the fumes they emit are hazardous to breathe. For this reason, it’s usually safer to use a water-based product indoors.
Concrete dyes are coloring agents usually mixed with alcohol or acetone. This allows the dye to penetrate the concrete and change the color. If you want intense color, then this may be the way to go, especially it the concrete is indoors. Most dyes are NOT UV stable. For this reason, manufacturers recommend them for indoor use only. Dyes usually dry within minutes and do not require rinsing with water.
Some concrete stains contain hydrochloric acid, metals and water. These chemicals react with calcium hydroxide in the concrete to ultimately change the color of the concrete. This type of stain (Acid Stain) etches the surface of the concrete (unlike dyes, and most water based stains which penetrate the porous surface of bare concrete), resulting in a mottled finish. The color is usually different from the container on the finished product, so be wary of this. The final color will become apparent after you let it dry for several hours. Acid and water-based concrete stains resist wear and fading, are useful indoors and outdoors, and have excellent UV longevity.
Application of Concrete Dyes and Stains
Since you may be dealing with hazardous fumes, a respirator is a recommended piece of equipment in addition to goggles, rubber gloves, and an application device. Both stains and dyes are easy to apply. However, stains take a few hours to dry and acid stains require washing up after. A water and ammonia rinse, followed by a water rinse is required to neutralize the acid. Other dyes and stains do not require you to rinse prior to sealing. This is very important to note: application of concrete dyes and concrete stains should occur BEFORE sealing concrete or polished concrete.
Do you Have to Seal Concrete?
Sealing your renovated concrete is typically the last step in the restoration or installation process. We recommend sealing floors of any kind, especially areas that experience high amounts of car or foot traffic. Sealing concrete removes its natural porous quality and protects the surface from weather, erosion, spills and heavy use. Sealing concrete protects your investment and extends the lifespan of your hard work. Sealing concrete will provide your surface with richer colors and remove the dull look of plain concrete. Adding in a stain or dye will enhance the color even more. If you need quality products to help get your concrete ready for the sealer stage of concrete prep, we would love to answer any of your questions.