Concrete, left untreated, is highly porous, and hence, prone to stains and scratches. According to the American Concrete Institute, concrete sustains the most damage from moisture or chemical intrusion. Traditionally, basic materials like acrylic or wax were used to seal concrete. However, with the range of technological advancements today, one can choose from a wide selection of professional concrete sealers that resist heat, stains and scratches. You can also opt for food-safe concrete sealers for kitchen countertops – these also provide an easy-to-maintain experience.
The first thing to look for when buying a concrete sealer is if it suits the end use of your concrete product. For instance, sealers for concrete floors are vastly different from concrete sealers for countertops. Also, if you are using a concrete sealer on a decorative surface, you may need to check with the manufacturer or an expert on whether it is likely to interact with coloring agents or overlays. You can pick from two basic types of sealers: penetrating sealers and topical sealers. Do note that if your concrete has a glossy finish, only penetrating sealers, wax and densifiers/hardeners can be used on it.
Pick a sealer depending on the type of finish you want for the end product: colored finishes generally look good with a wet look. In this case, go for concrete sealers with a high-glossy sheen. Acrylic and solvent-based sealers are available in an array of sheens. If you would rather not go for a shiny look, check out products with low-gloss or matte finishes. Alternately, you can use a penetrating sealer, which is nearly invisible after application as it soaks into the concrete.
For a DIY project, it is important that you are able to use the surface soon after you have it prepped and ready. In that case, you can avoid going for polyurethane and epoxy sealers, which need a long time to set—more than 24 hours to be completely cured. The swiftest-drying sealers are acrylic, which may be ready for light use in as little as 12 hours.
If you plan to use a solvent-based sealer, do check that its VOC content falls within the legally acceptable limits for the area. The VOC content will be listed, among other things, on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or specification sheet of the product. Also do note that if you are using the sealer indoors, it would be wiser to opt for a water-based product. Solvent-based sealers are highly flammable, besides emitting noxious fumes.
Check if the concrete sealer manufacturer provides a warranty on the product. If yes, do take care to apply the product exactly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also, when buying a sealer, go in for the best product that suits your requirements, noting that price often equals quality.