If you've ever stressed out over a paver restoration project at your home to improve…
Whether your driveway is made of concrete, stone, or even brick pavers, using a sealer can give them a beautiful wet look that will last year round.
Table Of Contents
- How Can You Change The Look Of Your Driveway Pavers?
- What Happens When You Don’t Seal Pavers?
- Common Problems With Average Paver Sealers
- Which Sealer Is Best For Which Type Of Paver?
- How To Tell If A Paver Has Already Been Sealed
- Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
- How To Seal Driveway Pavers
- The Best Way To Deal With Slippery Pavers
- Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Pavers Clean
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The best-maintained aesthetic and structural integrity will come from sealing your pavers with a water-based polyurethane topical sealer – like CoverTec’s StrongSeal WetLook. The film created by the topical sealer will give the desired sheen, and the polyurethane will give the durability. We at CoverTec tend to use mostly water based products because solvents are more hazardous and environmental hazards to your property and the surrounding ecosystem.
How Can You Change The Look Of Your Driveway Pavers?
We often talk with our customers about the various sheens a particular type of sealer will give. There are a few specific terms that come up, with the most frequent being “wet look”.
The “wet look” of a paver is how it naturally looks when it’s wet. This is the simplest way to explain the unique sheen. When a paver is wet, the colors it shows aren’t as glossy as a shiny finish but have a more satiny look.
You would expect this from a sealer like our StrongSeal Wet Look. This water-based, polyurethane sealer is designed to improve color and add a subtle sheen, mimicking a wet surface.
Solvent-based sealers increase shine rather well. Although this can be desirable at times, the gloss from solvent-based sealers disappears quickly. after only nine month to a year. So while the initial shine is strong, the effect does not last very long.
The StrongSeal Wetlook may not appear as polished, but it will maintain its wet look for two to three years.
Keep reading for more information about why Stongseal Wetlook Sealer is the best paver sealer and how to properly use it.
What Happens When You Don’t Seal Pavers? | Why You Should Always Seal Pavers
There are many structural and aesthetic problems that could arise if you do not seal your pavers. Understanding just how porous and absorbent pavers really are is key.
Unsealed pavers are not waterproof and can be easily stained or damaged by moisture, chemicals and other substances. Oil and grease, for example, can be absorbed into pavers and create very ugly, and very stubborn stains.
Deicing salts, which are used to protect against ice in the colder, more northern climates, can also cause damage to pavers. They can lead to moisture creeping in can seep into the pavers, freezing and expanding. This could then cause cracking and crumbling upon thawing.
If you do not seal your pavers, there can be a lot more damage and staining, and they will be much more difficult to maintain properly. This is directly linked to the substrate’s porosity. Your outdoor pavers are subject to a high level of moisture, which can lead to mold or mildew growth. You will need to pressure wash your pavers more often, to say the least.
Fading is another problem. Additional colors, especially those added to concrete pavers, will fade quicker if not sealed.
We want our pavers and the surrounding sand to be sealed together, like one continuous pavement. If left unsealed, this sand is easily washed away or blown out, destroying the interlocking effect. Unsealed pavers can easily lose more sand from their paver joints.
Sealer can also be effective in preventing problems like ants hills, weed growth, and other issues.
A sealer can also be used to protect the paver from efflorescence. Efflorescence is the result of waterborne solutions and salts rising from the ground or sand and forming deposits on the paver’s surface.
Use a sealer that penetrates deeper to the paver to prevent water-driven salts from settling on the paver’s surface.
Common Problems With Average Paver Sealers | Why CoverTec Is Better
You can find low cost paver sealers on local store shelves, with plenty advertised to be perfect for your driveway. However, those are competitively priced because they have a lower solids content. The lower solids content means lower retail cost because of a lower production cost for the manufacturer – and lower quality results.
But, when you use them on your pavers, you don’t see a 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.
People don’t notice any difference after the application of those sealers – this is a common complaint that we receive. Any results they do get, aren’t very durable. The average sealer available at your local store is only 12 – 15% solids. Whereas our topical sealer products are typically 40% and then they’re diluted down 20% when applied.
Many paver surfaces have lost their shine and are not sealed properly nine months later after applying a standard solvent-based sealer. This is the expected affect of poor quality sealers. The small amount of solids used in these sealers gets quickly worn away and can cause the paver’s surface to become easily stained or even damaged.
Poorly sealing pavers could also cause problems in the interlocking of the pavers themselves, leaving them to deteriorate faster. The sand can get blown away if the joints between pavers aren’t properly sealed. Mold growth, as well as other problems such ant hills and weeds could result from the loss of sand.
Standardized sealers offer pavers little to no protection from the chemical attack from deicing salts in colder climates.
We often get complaints about low-end sealers purchased at big-box stores for also having little to no resistance to hot-tire pickup. This is especially true for paver sealers that are used on driveways or parking lots.
Low quality, cheaper sealers can quickly melt when heated. If the sealer has been applied to paver surfaces in direct sunlight, this is almost certain. Hot tire pickup can easily occur, and this can make it very difficult to repair.
So when the sealer gets smudged with tire marks, or when tires pick it up completely off the paver, this is called hot tire pickup.
Standard sealers don’t provide the long-term protection required by pavers. After a while, you will begin to notice the paver sealer’s integrity deteriorate. These products will require you to seal your pavers more often for basic protection, maybe once every year.
A good quality sealer with a high solids content will last two to three years and give your pavers not only the moisture and staining protection they need, but also a beautiful, lasting finish.
Which Sealer Is Best For Which Type Of Paver?
Different substrates have different pH levels; each interacts a little different to a given sealer, affecting the sealer’s overall performance. This means some sealers are better on certain types of pavers than others.
Cement makes concrete pavers more alkaline. This being said, penetrating sealers made with fluoropolymers are very effective concrete pavers. These polymers do darken the paver slightly, but make for a very oil and water stain resistant sealer.
“Block” pavers are just another common term for pavers made of concrete. In our experience, penetrating sealers have been proven very effective in sealing block pavers, without affecting the aesthetic or appearance.
Vertical walls often get sealed for ease maintenance but not altered appearance. In these instances, we tend to use penetrate sealers, like our CoverSeal Pen50.
Brick pavers are best served by silane siloxane-based penetrating sealing sealers. This is because brick has a lower alkalinity.
We refer our clients to seal brick pavers with siliconate penetrating sealing. For this project, our CoverSeal Pen50 is better because it uses silicone chemistry.
Topical sealers can be manufactured with acrylics or polyurethanes. We prefer a water based, two-part urethane sealer because it is simply a more durable polymer. And it works with equal effectiveness on both brick and concrete.
The use of natural stone pavers is a popular choice for horizontal surfaces such as patios, driveways, and pool decks. These applications have seen limestone rise in popularity. Travertine is also available. Some of the more expensive projects have even used marble.
Each of these beautiful types of stone has it’s own unique porosity. High quality travertine is rather dense, whereas limestone is more porous. A topical sealer can do very well to protect all of them, creating a film – absolute barrier – over the top.
Sometimes you want to change the appearance of your pavers, but be wary if you don’t: a topical sealer will darken the surface slightly.
We don’t want natural stone pavers to trap moisture. So don’t apply topical sealers too thick.Try one coat for denser travertine surfaces and two coats for concrete.
To best preserve the visual aesthetic natural stone pavers, use a penetrating sealer. CoverTec’s Premium penetrating sealer is made for this, using fluoropolymers. It also works well walls made of limestone, travertine, and other natural stone.
It is important to remember that penetrating sealers penetrate the surface and leave no film. The penetrating sealer does not create an absolute barrier, so the very top of the paver surface is still be exposed to dirt. But it will make it easier to maintain the paver stones, as the sealer will repel oil and other difficult stains.
How To Tell If A Paver Has Already Been Sealed | Easy Water Test
Before applying any sealer, you must make sure that the paver has not been previously sealed. We’ll explain in this section how to spot any existing sealers.
It is especially difficult to get rid of old solvent-based sealers. Most solvent-based sealers are not compatible with water-based and topical sealers, so those have to go before you try to lay down that water-based topical sealer for a high gloss finish.
It should be rather obvious if a topical sealer has been used. A sheen, or somewhat reflective film should be visible to the surface.
A water test can be used to determine if the pavers have any film when you don’t see one, but want to be sure. This is a super easy way to check if the pavers are sealed. You can test the absorption of the paver by putting a bit of water on the surface.
A sign that an old sealer has not been removed from pavers is the presence of water beaded or balled up on their surfaces. The pavers clearly have a water repellent coating if that water hasn’t been absorbed after a few minutes.
Another method to test for sealers is the classic fizz test. To check if the paver is sealed, you can either use a little vinegar or mildly acidic solutions.
Brick and concrete pavers without sealing will fizz naturally. If the paver does not fizz, it is most likely to have a waterproof sealer.
The old sealant can usually be tested with water to determine if it is a topical or penetrating one. It will be more difficult to remove a penetrating or impregnating sealer though.
Instead of trying to apply a new topical sealer over your old penetrating sealer, recoat the surface with another penetrating sealer. An older penetrating sealer will not bond with a new topical sealer.
You may need to still etch the surface before you apply a topical sealer. This will help ensure that the sealant adheres to the surface as best as possible
These are a few simple and easy tests that you can do to see if an old sealer needs to be removed before using a new sealer.
Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
Before applying paver sealer, it is so very vital to prepare the pavers properly.
We discussed in the last section how to identify old sealers. You can use the results to assess how much work it will take to strip your pavers.
So how do you get rid of an old sealer from pavers? To ensure that the sealer doesn’t get in the way or hinder adhesion, you must first remove all previous sealer with a chemical stripper. This is a non-negotiable rule!
As previously stated, solvent-based sealers can be chemically incompatible with water-based sealers. Any lifting or peeling of the old sealer’s surface will prevent a new sealer from bonding.
This removal step is best performed with chemical stripping agents. Our FloorStrip HP has a high pH and can remove solvent-based as well as water-based acrylic sealers.
FloorStrip HP can be applied to pavers using a pump-up sprayer or a mop. It should sit on the surface for 3 to 5 minutes. To gently agitate the cleaner over the surface, use a deck brush or mop. Next, scrub the cleaner and rinse it off.
You have two choices depending on how big your area is and how many layers you wish to take off: either pressure wash the area or use a mop again until all the stones are clean.
Sealing pavers will most common be for outdoor surfaces. You can spray our FloorStrip HP freely, and then let it sit for several minutes before you pressure wash.
A stronger stripping agent will be required to remove sealers made from very strong urethane polymers.
Our PowerStrip is recommended in such cases. This product has the same chemical function as that of a paint removal agent. It is a thicker solution and can be used to get rid of any old stubborn sealer from paver surfaces.
PowerStrip is capable of doing really heavy-duty stripping. It may require some additional scraping and high-pressure washing.
You must remove any previous sealers before you apply new paver sealer. You don’t need to strip the pavers if you know for a fact that they have never been sealed before, but it is important to clean the pavers thoroughly before applying any new product.
Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
It is important to thoroughly clean pavers before sealing them. This can be done in many different ways. Depending on the type of cleaning, different chemicals might be needed.
Problems such as mold, mildew or efflorescence could deter your new sealer from bonding properly. You must also get rid of oil and grease stains before applying sealant.
PrepWork can solve all of these problems. PrepWork is an acidic solution that can remove soils, mold, and mildew effectively. This solution is simple to use for removing stains and making sealer stick better to pavers.
Microbial-based cleaners are also able to effectively eliminate oil stains. Our CoverCleanHC is able to remove oil stains very well. Spray it on or use a mop to apply it. After that, pressure wash it clean.
Although they take a bit longer to work, microbial cleaners are far more environmentally-friendly. You can wash them away with no harm to the surrounding environment. The best way to remove petroleum-based oils is with CoverClean HP. And our CoverClean HP is best for oil derived from food fats and grease. (FG stands for food grade.)
Our SurfaceClean can be used as both a general degreaser and a concentrated cleaner. This product should be used after any stripping chemicals have been applied to remove previous sealers. Use a mop to apply the SurfaceClean and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. The cleaner can be pressure washed off after that.
The sealant should be fully adhered to the surface in order to provide maximum protection. And to ensure that the sealant fully adheres to the surface, pavers should be cleaned thoroughly and properly prepared.
Sealing any scratches, marks or stains into the surface of pavers is not something we want. These can cause the pavers to look terrible and may prevent the sealer from adhering in all places.
You should take this step seriously. This is the perfect time use your inner OCD at full force.
Many customers find mold and mildew continuing to grow on their pavers, despite regular cleaning. SanitzerPlus has been approved by the EPA to solve this problem. You can use it to destroy the mold sources and you just need to spray it onto your pavers using a low pressure sprayer.
The harsh chemicals bleach and chlorine can only lighten pavers, but they won’t clean pavers deeply or sanitize them. SanitizerPlus can be used to prevent the growth of mold and mildew without damaging pavers.
Before you start sealing, be sure to give your pavers one more general sweep to remove any dirt and debris.
When Is The Best Time To Use Paver Sealers?
When sealing your pavers, there are a few key factors to evaluate.
The biggest concern is water! You should seal your pavers only when rain is least likely to fall. For paver sealer to become fully adhered to the pavers, the pavers must first be as dry and as porous as possible.
The pavers should absorb the first coat of sealer fairly well. The first coating acts as a barrier, preventing water from getting through the pavers.
Apply paver sealer in dry environments. The sealer will not work if the paver remains wet, or damp from the ground.
Florida’s extreme heat and humidity in the summer can temper with the sealing process, so sealing would be best after that time period. So try to plan your paver project in the slightly cooler temperatures of fall, winter, and spring. That’s usually November through May.
If you live in the northernmost regions of the US, the summer is the best time to get the strongest bond possible from your sealer. At this time the ground should have thawed out and dried well enough.
It is best to apply paver sealer at the coolest times of day. Sealing pavers is best done in the morning and at evening. The ideal temperature for sealing pavers is between 50 and 90 °F.
Sealer for pavers should be frying in the heat on a paver surface. If sealer is placed on pavers with temperatures higher than 100 °F, it will burn off and not leave any real protection.
Allow the sealer to dry completely on pavers. Ours take about 2-3 hours. This will allow for the active ingredients of the sealer to fully react.
If the sealer is used on surfaces that are too hot, it will be ineffective. This heat damage will cause the sealer to fail rapidly.
Application: How To Seal Driveway Pavers
For sealing paver surfaces, low pressure sprayers are our best recommended tool. It’s best to use a low pressure pump up sprayer, to apply the sealer evenly to the surface.
You can also use a nap roller with a thickness of 3/8″. The roller is less effective than sprayers because it will absorb a bit more product and you’ll get less coverage that way.
You can easily finish edges with a good paintbrush.
A good paver sealer should cover an average of 200 square feet. The paver sealer will initially appear white but it will clear up once dried.
A methodical approach is best. Just trust the process and follow a systematic pattern when applying the sealer to the pavers.
After about 10 minutes, the first coat of a water-based, topical sealer should get absorbed pretty well. The very top may have a thin layer of product. This first coat bonds the pavers and surrounding sand.
There may be some sealer left behind in puddles at joints and other low points. You will need either a deck brush, or a broom to spread the sealer. Always distribute the sealer out again from any areas that have puddled.
The protective film is formed by the second layer of topical sealer. This is where your chosen sheen will make its appearance.
Roller and lambswool applications tools work well in smaller areas, like residential spaces. For larger, better ventilated areas, a low-pressure sprayer can be used safely.
A roller or lambswool application tool are especially useful for applying penetrating sealers. You can also use a sprayer, however the spray pressure must not be greater than what is necessary to cause the sealer within to atomize in open-air. If it atomizes from high pressure, those fine particles will be floating around in the air, and can pose a very serious health threat – so stick to the low pressure sprayers.
Penetrating sealer is better applied in one (thicker) layer. This give enough product to saturate and fully penetrate the pavers’ surfaces. A single coat covers approximately 175-200 square feet. Any puddles should be redistributed, and if necessary, excess can be wiped off.
The penetrating sealer should be absorbed rather quickly. Apply another coat within 1 to 2 hours for proper adhesion between layers if you feel you need more product.
We recommend that you first test the surface of your pavers in a small, discrete area before sealing all of them. This will allow you to determine how much sealer is required and the number of coats that are needed.
The Best Way To Deal With Slippery Pavers
Our CoverTec team has worked on many paver sealing projects, especially ones to increase slip resistance. These contracts were usually for natural stone patios and pavers that would be placed around pool.
When combined with our proprietary CoverGrip, paver sealers can have a significantly higher slip resistance after drying. Mix the ultrafine additive and sealer together, then use a roller to apply the mixture like normal.
CoverGrip can be also applied to a fresh wet coat of topical sealer after it has already been sprayed down. To keep it secure the loose aggregate, you can apply another thin coat overtop. We recommend using the StrongSeal paver sealer and CoverGrip together for best results.
For unsealed – but still slippery – pavers, our SurfaceGrip can be used to increase traction and slip resistance. The chemical treatment actually modifies the paver’s surface at a microscopic level, but it does not affect the appearance of the pavers at all. This is especially useful for outdoor areas such as patios or pool decks that are frequently wet.
How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
Drying time will depend on the type of sealer you use and the environmental conditions you’ll be sealing in. In colder climates, the drying time of a sealer may be longer than in a warmer climate.
Your newly applied sealer must be completely tack-free before you try to walk over it. A sticky sealer can make a really big mess.
A topical sealant should dry in three to four hours. The second coat can be applied after then, and it too should dry in three to four hours.
You should prohibit vehicular traffic for at least 48 hours, or two to three days. Tire marks imprinted in the sealer are very hard to remove.
Penetrating sealers have quicker reaction times, so they will dry faster than topical sealers. The drying time for this type of sealer is approximately one to two hours. If necessary, you can apply another coat if you saw the first get absorbed really fast.
Again, wait until the sealer dries thoroughly before you attempt to walk on it. And before you start driving over your pavers, allow at least six hours for the penetrating sealer to dry tack-free.
Just be aware that the sealer will continue to cure for about three days after the time of application. While the sealer is setting, it’s best to keep all vehicular traffic away from it for this period of time.
Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Pavers Clean
Sealing pavers makes it much simpler to clean and maintain them. Sealer protects pavers against water, oil staining and other chemical damage.
Use gentle cleaners from now on to clean your sealed pavers. Anything too harsh can cause damage to sealer and may make it deteriorate quicker. Our Emerald Floor Maintainer, a mild cleaner, won’t cause any damage to the sealer. And our CoverClean FG is also very effective for cleaning food-based stains.
Pavers should be rinsed with a pressure washer at low pressure using a broad spray and a pen tip at higher pressure. If you apply too much pressure, any topical sealer can lift and peel. Use common sense.
The next step is to sweep away any debris or dirt from the surface of your paver.
Make sure you follow all safety precautions when making your own cleaners at home, if you insist on doing so. Don’t use solutions or chemical ingredients that are too high or too low on the pH scale. These can burn your sealer and leave residue behind. Removing residue is just more labor that we were trying to avoid by using the sealer in the first place!.
Limit your use of baking powder or ammonia in your diy cleaners. Your paver sealer can react with these and loose their luster or even start to lift and peel.
It is so important to take care when mixing chemicals not just for the maintenance of your sealer but also the safety of your property. Outgassing can be caused by mixing low-alkali with high-acidity ingredients. Ammonia may be accidentally produced and can cause serious health issues.
To preserve sealer’s integrity and to keep pavers looking beautiful, it is better to use a deliberately manufactured cleaner for your pavers.
The Lasting Wet Look For Those Dry Days
You don’t have to be a contractor to get professional results! With CoverTec’s Strongseal Wetlook Paver Sealer, you too can get that perfect wet look to last those long hot summers.
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.