If you've ever stressed out over a paver restoration project at your home to improve…
In this article, we explain how to use paver sealers the right way for the best, and most beautiful results that will actually last.
Table Of Contents
- Are Paver Sealers Worth It?
- What Happens If You Don’t Seal Your Pavers?
- Advantages Of Using Paver Sealer
- Which Sealer Is Best For Which Type Of Paver?
- Common Problems With Average Paver Sealers
- How Long Should You Wait To Seal Pavers?
- How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
- Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
- Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
- All About Applying Paver Sealer
- How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
- How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
- Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Pavers Clean
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Generally, porous materials like concrete, brick, and natural stone are used to make pavers. Because of their porosity, a sealer is desirable to protect the paver to give it longer life, and to make it easier to maintain. Keep reading to learn how you can seal pavers yourself for professional results – the key is in knowing how sealers work!
Are Paver Sealers Worth It?
An unsealed paver can lose sand more readily from the paver joint. When installing pavers, we actually want to interlock the pavers using sand. So the paver joint is filled with sand and that sand can be easily washed out or be blown out, ruining that interlocking effect.
A sealer will lock the paver system together ( joint sand and paver) and even help prevent or minimize issues like ants hills and weed growth.
Also, a sealer will help protect against efflorescence – waterborne salts and solutions can come up from the ground and sand, making their way up to the surface of the paver. Using a good sealer to penetrate deeper into the paver and act like a barrier to stop those water driven salts from depositing themselves on the surface of the paver.
What Happens If You Don't Seal Your Pavers?
There are a number of problems that can arise from leaving your pavers unsealed. This is generally because pavers are rather absorbent.
First of all, unsealed pavers have no protection from getting stained and damaged from moisture and chemicals. So things like oil and grease can get into the pavers, which is more labor to remove.
In the colder climates, in places where you would use deicing salts, those chemicals can soak in and damage the pavers. This can cause pitting, as well as moisture getting into the surface and freezing and expanding which can then crack and crumble upon thawing.
There’s a lot of physical damage and staining that can occur if you don’t seal your pavers. You will face many other issues to keep it clean and maintained.
Again, it’s directly related to the porosity of this particular substrate. There’s a lot of moisture in and around your pavers, so there’s a good chance of mold and mildew collecting. At this point, you are going to need to clean and pressure wash those pavers far more frequently.
Another problem is fading. Remember, added colors in those pavers, particularly in concrete pavers, and over time, the weathering and UV rays can cause fading.
Advantages Of Using Paver Sealer:
Which Sealer Is Best For Which Type Of Paver?
When it comes to topical sealers, you can use either acrylics or polyurethanes. Our preference for longer-term durability is to go with a two-part water-based polyurethane sealer. This can be used with equal effectiveness on a brick paver as well as a concrete paver.
Solvent-based acrylic sealers provide shine and color enhancement. The problem is that they are very moisture sensitive and require frequent reapplication. Solvent-based sealers also contain a lot of solvents ( 70 to 80% is typical) so are very hazardous and produce a to of fumes. Water-based sealers are much more environmentally friendly are much less moisture sensitive and longer-lasting. Especially the 2-part urethanes which give the best color enhancement. Something like our StrongSeal Wetlook.
If you want little or no change in appearance then penetrating sealers are a good option. The pH, acidity or alkalinity of a paver substrate affects the way a penetrating sealer performs. We find that concrete pavers and brick pavers behave a little differently when it comes to sealing.
Cement or concrete pavers are higher in alkalinity. So when it comes to penetrating sealers on concrete pavers, we find the fluoropolymers work very well. These polymers make for very oil and water-stain-resistant sealers. But they do affect the final visual.
When it comes to brick pavers, we find that the silane siloxane based penetrating sealers work better because there is a lot less alkalinity in brick.
Our CoverSeal Pen50 is made out of more of a silicone chemistry instead of using fluorochemicals.
When it comes to vertical applications oftentimes, a client doesn’t want to change the appearance of their pavers, particularly on a vertical wall. So we tend to use the penetrate sealers on vertical applications, like our CoverSeal Pen50. In our experience, penetrating sealers have proven to be very effective on block without altering the appearance or aesthetic.
Natural stone pavers are used a lot on horizontal surfaces like pool decks, patios, and driveways. Limestone has become very popular in these applications. Travertine, as well. We’ve even seen marble used in some of the higher end projects.
These beautiful, different types of stones have different levels of porosity. Travertine can be very dense, if it’s a very high quality. In contrast, limestone tends to be a lot more porous.
These can all be enhanced with a topical sealer. Just remember, a topical sealer will darken the surface and change the appearance of the paver. Sometimes that’s desirable in a project, but just be careful that you don’t use anything too thick.
The pavers made of natural stone should be able to breathe. We don’t want to be able to trap moisture. So care has to be taken when you are using topical sealers. On the more dense surfaces like travertine, we may only be recommending one coat as opposed to two coats that we might recommend on a concrete paver.
Penetrating sealers work very well with natural stone because they don’t change the appearance. They allow the pavers to keep their natural look. For this application, we recommend our Premium penetrating sealer, made with fluoropolymers. It works well on natural stone walls, too. If we’re using travertine or using limestone on the wall, we can also seal vertically.
Here, it is important to understand that penetrating sealers soak into the surface and don’t leave a film. So the very top of that paver surface can still be open, the penetrating sealer is not an absolute barrier. But it will make those paver stones much easier to keep clean as they can better resist oil and other permanent stains.
Common Problems With Average Paver Sealers
A lot of the big box or home improvement stores will offer the different kinds of paver sealers. Those tend to be very competitively priced but that’s because they normally have a lower solids content. The lower solids content means a lower production cost for the manufacturer, so in turn they are able to lower the retail cost.
But then, when you try to use them on your pavers, there’s no dramatic change in appearance. You don’t see a lot of color enhancement, and if you do, it’s short lived and it’s quickly burned or weathered off.
Our office gets a lot of complaints just like that: where a person will use standardized sealers and won’t notice much of a difference when they apply it, and it doesn’t last for long when they do. This is all due to the lower solids content. The average sealer available at your average store is only 12 – 15% solids. In contrasting example, our topical sealers are typically 40% and then diluted down 20% for application.
Standard solvent based topical sealers produce a very high shine upon applying, but will quickly lose it. We get a lot of reported loss of sealer after nine months. After that period of time, the surface doesn’t appear to be sealed anymore. While it is an aesthetic problem, the technical truth is that the very surface of the paver is open to the elements if it’s not properly sealed.
The interlocking sand in the joints of the poorly sealed pavers will deteriorate faster so you will encounter things like weed growth, mold, and ant hills more frequently. In colder climates, those pavers won’t be protected from all the deicing salts.
There’s another complaint that we frequently get from customers who have used these lower end standardized sealers: they’re not very resistant to something called ‘hot tire pickup’. This refers to sealers used in areas like driveways with vehicular traffic.
This issue we’ve found with low-cost sealers is that the lesser-quality solids will soften with heat, especially if they’re sitting in direct sun. This leads to a lot of hot tire pickup. Which means either tire marks are being left in the softened sealer, or the hot tires are actually lifting the sealer up and off of the paver altogether.
Pavers just don’t get any long term benefit with standardized sealers. After a season, the sealer is deteriorated so you’ll find yourself having to seal your pavers again on a more frequent basis, like every year.
If you use a higher quality sealer with a higher solids content, your pavers can have professional grade protection for up to three times as long.
How Long Should You Wait To Seal Pavers?
When sealing your pavers, there are several environmental factors you should consider.
Seal them only when it least likely to rain. You want the pavers as dry and porous as possible, so that the penetrating sealer can really soak in and the topical sealer can leave a nice film to cure.
The first coat of a penetrating sealer should be allowed to soak in completely. This will lock the pavers together and create a blocking layer that prevents any water from getting through the paver.
The sealer will not penetrate properly if the paver is soaked in water. It is much better to seal in as dry a climate as possible. In Florida, the prime time to seal pavers is after the summer, typically November through May. Northern climates will require that you do this after the winter, as the environment thaws and dries out.
Getting a good seal is also dependent on the time of day. This is important because paver sealer shouldn’t dry too quickly. The sealer shouldn’t be heating or frying on the surface; we want it to take time to penetrate the surface and stay there.
Seal pavers during cooler hours of the day, so think morning and evening, when the sun is still up but is the farthest away. The ideal temperature is between 50-90℉ degrees.
A paver sealer applied to a surface that is more than 100℉ will only cause it to burn up and not provide any long-term benefits. This will cause the sealer to fail very quickly.
How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
It is necessary to check to make sure the paver was not previously sealed – any pre-existing sealer must be removed. This is especially true for solvent-based sealers. Solvent-based penetrating sealers might not work with water-based sealers or topical sealers.
We want to find out what is currently on the surface. Visually, you should be able to detect if there’s a topical sealer. You may see a sheen on the surface or a certain glistening.
A water test can be a quick and easy way to determine if there is a sealer when you don’t think you can see any film. Just use a little water to splash the surface, and watch if the water gets absorbed.
If the water remains on top of the surface after five minutes, beaded or balled up, it’s likely that there is a sealer and the surface isn’t very porous.
A fizz test is also possible, in which you use a slightly acidic solution.
Use a diluted acidic solution (even just a little vinegar ) to apply drops to the surface in a discrete area. If it fizzes, then there is a very good possibility that the surface doesn’t have a topical sealer. It is possible that there is a topical sealer if it does not fizz.
However, the water test is the best way to test for a penetrating sealer.
It will be more difficult to remove a penetrating sealer than a topical one. We recommend that you use another penetrating sealer instead of a topical one because it will get rejected. Penetrating sealers can be a bond breaker for a topical sealer.
If you are set on using a topical sealer may be necessary to etch the surface to remove any penetrating sealer. This will ensure the strongest possible bond with the new topical sealer.
These are some easy tests you can perform to determine what is on the surface before sealing it.
Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
Before you apply paver sealer, it is important to prepare the pavers correctly. We discussed earlier how to determine if a paver was previously sealed. And this will tell you how much preparation work is required before sealing.
Let’s start by talking about how to strip the pavers of old sealer. Any previous sealer on the paver must be removed so that it does not interfere with the new sealer.
This interference could be caused by an old lifting or peeling film, or a solvent-based sealer that is incompatible with water-based sealers.
To ensure that all previous sealers are removed, it is best to use a chemical stripping agent. FloorStrip HP is a high pH stripper that works well with acrylics and both solvent or water-based sealers.
To apply FloorStrip HP to pavers, you can either use a pump-up sprayer or mop. Allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, use a deck brush or mop to agitate the surface a bit. Next, scrub the surface.
Depending on how large the area is and how many coats you are trying to remove, you can either pressure wash or mop again.
We most commonly deal with pavers in outdoor settings. You can freely spray the FloorStrip HP and let it sit for a while before agitating it and then pressure washing it off.
If the sealer was made from urethane-polymers, this stronger bonded sealer will require a heavy duty agent for stripping. We would use our PowerStrip, which is basically a paint stripper, in such cases. This is a stronger, thicker solution that can be applied to the paver surface in order to remove the sealer. Heavy duty stripping using our PowerStrip may require some scraping or intense pressure washing.
So to recap, before applying new paver sealer, you must remove all of the old sealer. Even if you don’t need to complete this step, you should still clean the pavers thoroughly before sealing.
Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
We have many recommendations for cleaning. Depending on the type of cleaning you are doing, you may need to use different chemicals. There may be mold, mildew, efflorescence, salt deposits or oil and grease issues. All of these must be removed before sealing.
Surface PrepWork is a great way to get rid of efflorescence, cement marks mold and mildew. It is an acidic solution that will etch and loosen dirt, salt , mineral deposits mold, and mildew from the surface. This makes it easy to remove soils and to increase the texture of the surface for the sealer.
Microbial-based cleaners are also available that can be used to remove oil very effectively. For example, if your oil stain is petroleum-based, you can use CoverClean HC to clean the floor. Spray or mop it on and allow it to sit for at least one hour before you pressure wash.
Although they take a little longer to work, microbial cleaners are much more eco-friendly and can be washed away without causing any damage to surrounding animals or vegetation. Use the CoverClean HC for petroleum-based oils and our CoverClean FG for food-based oils like fats and grease. (FG stands for food grade.)
Our SurfaceClean, a concentrated cleaner and general degreaser, can be sprayed on the surface or mopped on. This product is best used after stripping chemicals. Allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes. Then, just pressure wash it.
To get the best seal between sealer and the surface, we want to take extra care in cleaning and prepping it. This is what makes sealer last a long time. We do not want to seal any stains, marks or scratches into the surface. They will make it look terrible and hinder the adhesion of the sealer. And so we strongly recommend that you put a lot of effort in to prepare the surface before sealing.
Customers often have to deal with the recurring appearance of mold and mildew on their pavers. Sanitzer Plus, which is approved by the EPA, solves this problem. You can use it to kill mold sources by spay-applying on prepared pavers.
Bleach or chlorine will bleach the pavers and lighten them. But these chemicals will not penetrate the pavers and clean them. The Sanitizer Plus is an effective and affordable way to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
Lastly, make sure that any debris or lose sand is swept from the sealer’s surface before you move forward.
All About Applying Paver Sealer
We recommend using a low-pressure sprayer when applying a paver sealer. You can use a general pump-up sprayer or a garden sprayer. The fan tip will evenly spread the sealer on the surface.
A 3/8 nap roller can be used, but you make sure it doesn’t get too thick. The roller may not provide as much coverage, because it will apply the sealer a bit thicker. An excellent tool for edging is a quality paintbrush.
A good paver sealer will usually yield 200 square feet per gallon and we recommend applying two coats. The initial appearance of paver sealer is white, but will turn clear upon drying. Trust the process; move around your project area methodically and allow the sealer to soak in.
The first coat should be absorbed within 10 minutes. If you see that the sealer is getting puddled in low spots, such as in the joints, use a brush, broom or roller to redistribute it. Sealer should not be left in a puddle or dried too thick on the surface.
The first coat of a water-based topical sealer should primarily soak in and, if maybe, leave a thin film on the surface. It should cover both the paver’s surface and the surrounding sand. The second coat creates the protective layer on the surface. This will give you the desired glossy or wet look.
You can use either a roller or a lambswool applicator to apply penetrating sealers. A sprayer can be used, but the pressure must be low pressure so that the penetrating sealer can’t atomize. Those finer chemicals can be harmful to your health if you breath them into lungs.
For residential or smaller areas, a roller or lambswool applicator works best. Low pressure spray equipment is best suited for larger areas that can be properly ventilated.
To adequately soak the paver, this type of sealer will require a thicker coat. One coat will usually suffice and provide coverage of around 175-200 sq. feet per gallon.
After 10 minutes, check that everything has soaked in. Make sure to redistribute any puddles. You can even wipe up excess, if necessary.
You may find that the penetrating sealing sealer absorbs very quickly. In this case you can apply a second coat, just be sure to apply within one to two hours of the first coat.
To determine the absorbency and strength of your pavers’ penetrating sealer, we recommend you test the area discreetly. This will help you determine how much product to apply and how many coats you should use.
How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
We have had to work on paver sealing projects to make them less slippery. These areas are usually natural stone pavers around a pool deck.
CoverGrip can be used to increase slip resistance in pavers with a topical sealer. You can mix this ultrafine additive into your sealer, and then apply it with a roller as normal.
Alternatively, you can also spray on your sealer and then evenly apply the aggregate to the sealer coat. Once the sealer has dried, apply another coat to secure everything. We recommend using our StrongSeal paver sealer in combination with the CoverGrip for best results.
For non-sealed pavers, our SurfaceGrip Treatment can be used. This chemical treatment modifies the paver’s surface and creates traction. It has minimal impact on the appearance. Because there is no sealer or coat that needs to be applied, it’s very simple to use. This is especially useful for outdoor areas such as patios and decks that usually get wet.
How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
The type of paver sealer used, the thickness of the coating, and the weather conditions will all affect the drying time. It will take longer for the sealer to dry in colder climates that are less humid than in warmer climates.
It will usually take three to four hours for a topical sealer to dry. Before you can walk on it, it must be smooth and not at all sticky. Then you can apply your second coat, which should take another three to four hours.
So: two coats (with three to four hours dry time in between application) should dry in three to four hours, depending on temperature and humidity.
If the surface is still tacky, don’t walk on it. We recommend that you wait at least 48 hours (two or three days) before allowing vehicular traffic. It is very difficult to remove tire marks from sealer that is still tacky or soft.
Things tend to go faster when it comes to sealers that penetrate the surface. A penetrating sealer will have a shorter reaction time. This type of sealer usually takes only one to two hours to dry. Again, if the surface feels tacky, you should not walk on it.
You can apply another coat after one to two hours. Wait another few hours for the surface to cure enough to be able to walk over it.
Before driving on pavers that have been sealed with penetrating sealer, wait at least six hours. After the sealer has dried, it will continue to cure for two to three days. That’s why we recommend that you keep the vehicles off the pavers until the sealer has fully dried.
Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Pavers Clean
It will now be easier to clean and maintain your sealed pavers. Your pavers will be protected from oil, water and other chemicals by the sealer.
First and foremost: avoid using harsh chemicals as they can cause damage to the sealer. Use mild cleaning products such as our Emerald Floor Maintainer. Our CoverClean FG is also a great option if you have to deal with food-based stains.
Light pressure washing is better than using a pencil tip to clean your pavers. High pressure will damage the paver and cause it to lift. It’s worth using a little common sense here.
Afterwards, take care to gently sweep away any dirt and debris.
Make sure you follow the same precautions when making homemade remedies. Don’t use solutions that are too acidic or too alkaline.
Do not use too much baking powder or ammonia. These chemicals can cause a high pH to ruin the sealer’s surface. These chemicals can also leave a residue or deposit on the sealer, which can dull it.
Be careful with the amount of chemicals you are mixing. Outgassing can occur when you mix a lot of alkaline and acidic products. It is possible to accidentally produce ammonia which can be very toxic.
That’s why it’s always better to use specifically designed cleaning products whose proportions are already measured.
Sealed And Ready
Sealing pavers is not a difficult process, just a technical one. Make sure to prepare and clean your pavers before sealing with the right product for your project. After that, you only have to worry about simple maintenance. So while your sealer dries, just sit back and relax; you’ve got this project all taken care of.
As always, if you have any questions about which product is the best for your unique situation, call us at: 754-253-3401
About Our Expert | Charles Idowu
Charles Idowu started his career as a civil engineer in 1983 in the UK. After achieving his MBA and his Chartered Engineer qualifications, Charles quickly became the waterproofing and coatings expert for a renowned British construction company. His international work landed him in South Florida, where he combined his engineering experience and passion for business to start CoverTec Products.