If you've ever stressed out over a paver restoration project at your home to improve…
Find out how water based paver sealer is the best choice for the easiest maintenance and lasting protection.
Table Of Contents
- What Are The Different Types Of Paver Sealer?
- Common Problems With Average Paver Sealers
- Which Sealer Is Best For Which Type Of Paver?
- How To Change The Look Of Your Pavers
- How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
- Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
- Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
- When Is The Best Time To Seal Pavers?
- How Do You Apply 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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We at CoverTec tend to use mostly water based products because solvents are more hazardous. There’s a lot of solvent in a solvent-based sealer – they can be over 80% solvent per gallon. This leads to a lot of issues with odor, flammability, and environmental hazards to your property and the surrounding ecosystem. There are a lot of reasons to avoid using solvent based sealer.
We have a lot of options when it comes to sealing pavers; and there are significant differences in the types of sealers that we can use. Whether you choose a topical sealer or a penetrating sealer, it’s important to understand the differences and how each can affect your paver sealing project.
What Are The Different Types Of Paver Sealer?
What makes one paver sealer differ from the next depends on a few factors: protection method, active sealing agent, and the carrying agent, or base.
Water Based vs Solvent Based (Chemical Based)
The base of a sealer is the carrying agent for the acrylic or urethane polymer. Typically, this carrying agent that evaporates away from the surface is either water or a chemical solvent.
Thanks to newer technology, we can now replace that solvent with water. So instead of using a solvent, we’re using water to carry that polymer. And just like the solvent, the water will evaporate and leave the polymers to dry in or on the surface of the paver (depending on the protection type of sealer).
Topical vs Penetrating Sealers
There are two general methods of sealing pavers: creating a film over top as a total barrier, and creating a protective coating that soaks into the surface.
So let’s talk about topical sealers first. These would be products like acrylic or urethane sealers. They can be water based or they can be solvent based. And, the flooring industry actually now has some acrylic water based sealers that are enhanced with urethane.
Topical sealers create that absolute barrier from water, dirt, oil, grease, etc. This film also leaves the paver with a smooth surface, making it a great way to change the sheen or finish. Use a glossy or wet look sealer to give new life to old, dull pavers. Just keep in mind that a smooth film might create some slip risks when wet.
Next we have the penetrating sealers, also referred to as impregnating sealers. So these, as the name suggests, penetrate and absorb into the paver and fill, or line, the pores and capillaris. Penetrating sealers repel water and chemicals very well.
They are also perfect for projects that do not want to change the look of the paver. If you’re using older pavers, or if you’ve got natural stone and you want to seal them but still maintain that natural look or patina.
Penetrating sealers are made generally from silane siloxane type materials, or simply, silicone-type materials. They tend to be highly water resistant, or repellant.
Then they can also have what’s called fluorochemicals, or fluoropolymers, and these are oil resistant. So not only are they water resistant, but they are very oil resistant as well. Products like our Premium is very oil resistant, with our fluorochemical formula. This is best if you were trying to resist oil stains, perhaps in a driveway or large food prep areas, like around a barbecue.
Products like our CoverSeal Pen50 are silane siloxane based. And that has excellent water resistance if you’re just focused on preventing mold and mildew, like on a pool deck or patio.
Acrylic vs Polyurethane Sealers
So there are different types of polymers that can be used in sealers.
An acrylic is UV stable and it’s very tough, and very water resistant. But it’s not as strong or as durable as a urethane.
A urethane-polymer sealer typically comes in two parts. So it’s mixed with a catalyst and, when they combine together, they link and form a tougher film because of the tougher polymer.
Both acrylic and polyurethane are UV resistant, but the urethanes are more crosslinked so they are more dense and durable than acrylics.
Common Problems With Average Paver Sealers
You can find water based paver sealers at your local home improvement store, and for competitive prices. However, this because they 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, when you use them on your pavers, you don’t see much color enhancement, and if you do, it’s short lived and it’s quickly weathered or burned off.
When people try to use them, there is not much aesthetic payoff, if any. The low quality of low cost sealers is the most common complaint we receive. 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.
We receive many reports only nine months after using a standardized solvent based sealer that the paver’s surface is not properly sealed anymore and has lost all its beautiful shine. Poor quality sealer can cause this problem. The paver’s surface will likely get stained or damaged.
Inadequately sealing pavers can cause issues in their interlocking, which could accelerate their decay. If the paver joints aren’t bonded, there is no way to stop the sand from getting dislodged or even blown away. Loss of sand could lead to mold growth and other issues such as ant hills or weeds.
These standardized sealers won’t protect pavers against the chemical attack of deicing salts in colder environments, either.
Customers who purchased low-end sealers at big-box shops complain that the sealers are unable to resist hot-tire pickup. For paver sealers used in driveways and parking lots, this is particularly true.
Standard sealers made of cheaper, low quality polymers can melt quickly when heated. This occurrence is near guaranteed if the sealer is used on paver surfaces under direct sunlight. This can lead to hot tire pickup, which can be very hard to fix.
Hot tire pickup is when the softened sealer gets covered in tire marks or the tires lift the sealer up altogether.
Pavers require long-term protection that standard sealers just don’t offer. You will notice a loss in the integrity of the standardized paver sealer after a short while. You will need to seal the pavers more often with these products, perhaps once per year.
Pavers will be protected for three times longer with paver sealers that have a greater solids content.
Which Sealer Is Best For Which Type Of Paver?
Sealer performance is affected by the pH, acidity, or alkalinity of the paver substrate. When it comes to sealing, concrete pavers and bricks pavers behave a bit different.
Concrete pavers are more alkaline. So in our experience, fluoropolymers are particularly effective in penetrating concrete paver sealers. These polymers are very resistant to oil and water staining, but can affect the final visual.
The term “block” paver typically means concrete paver. Penetrating sealers have been proven very effective in sealing without affecting the aesthetic or appearance of concrete block pavers.
Sometimes clients don’t want to alter the appearance of their pavers on a vertical wall. We tend to use penetrate sealers for vertical applications such as our CoverSeal Pen50.
When it comes to brick pavers, there is a lot less alkalinity. We find that the silane siloxane based penetrating sealers work better for brick pavers.
We recommend siliconate penetrating sealing sealer for brick surfaces to our clients. CoverSeal Pen50 uses more silicone chemistry than fluorochemicals.
Manufacturers use either acrylics or polyurethanes for topical sealers. For longer-term durability, we prefer to use a two-part polyurethane sealer that is water-based. You can use this same sealer type on both a brick and concrete paver.
Patios or pool decks and driveways are great places to utilize the beauty of natural stone for your choice of pavers. Limestone and travertine in particular have been more frequently used in recent times. Some might argue marble is even more beautiful but we all know it is definitely more expensive.
These stunning, diverse stones come in a variety of porosity levels. If it is of high quality, travertine can be quite dense. Limestone, on the other hand, is much more porous. All of these can be protected with a topical sealer.
Remember that a topical sealer can darken the paver’s surface and alter its appearance. This is sometimes a good thing for a project goal. However, it’s important to not use too thick a layer.
Natural stone pavers should breathe, in order to not trap moisture. So when using topical sealers, you need to take care not to apply too thick. We may recommend one coat for travertine surfaces that are more dense than concrete pavers, which might use two.
Because they don’t alter the appearance of natural stone, penetrating sealers are very effective. They preserve the natural appearance of pavers. For this purpose, we recommend the Premium penetrating sealing sealer made with fluoropolymers. It also works well on natural stone walls, like limestone and travertine.
It is important to remember that penetrating sealers don’t leave a protective film, but rather soak in to the paver to repel moisture. This means there’s not absolute barrier to dirt, but cleaning will be easier because the pavers now repel oil and other difficult stains.
How To Change The Look Of Your Pavers
There are many choices for different sheens when sealing pavers.
A paver’s “wet look” can be described in the simplest manner. A wet-look sealer will recreate the paver’s natural color and sheen when wet.
It is more satin-like than shiny. This effect would be achieved with StrongSeal Wet Look. It is a water-based, polyurethane sealer. This sealer improves the color of pavers and makes them look wet, with lasting protection from stains and moisture.
Solvent-based sealers can be used to enhance colors and give them a higher gloss. This can sometimes be desirable, but it does not last. After only nine months to one year, the glossiness fades.
Although the StrongSeal wetlook sealer isn’t as shiny, it will retain its sheen for at least two to three years.
There are also sealers with natural-looking finish that appear less shiny. The natural-looking sealer is made of polyurethane and acrylic. This sealer provides long-lasting protection for the pavers, and gives the surface a natural look without changing its appearance.
The sheen and appearance of pavers will not be affected by penetrating sealers. Although penetrating sealers are typically solvent-based, they can enhance your paver’s colors. But these sealers will need to be reapplied more frequently than topical sealers.
How To Tell If Your Pavers Have Already Been Sealed
You must ensure that your paver is not previously sealed before applying any new sealer. In this section, we’ll go over how to detect any old sealers.
Solvent-based sealers are especially important to remove. Solvent-based penetrating sealers may not work with new water-based or topical sealers.
If a topical sealer is present, it should be easy to see. The surface should have a sheen or glistening film on top.
If you’re not sure if there is any film, a water test may be performed. It is a simple method to determine if your pavers have been sealed. Apply a little water on the pavers and watch how it absorbs.
Water left on pavers’ surfaces, whether beaded or balled up, is an indicator that an old sealer is still present. This is the reason the pavers are water repellent.
The fizz test is another method of testing for sealers. You can use vinegar or a mildly acidic solution to see if your paver has not been sealed before.
Concrete and brick pavers that aren’t sealed will fizz. It is likely that the paver has a sealer to repel moisture if it does not fizz.
Water testing will reveal if the old sealant is either a topical or a penetrating sealer. A penetrating or impregnating sealant will take more effort to get rid of.
Recoat your surface with another penetrating sealer instead of applying a brand new topical sealer over the older penetrating sealer. An old penetrating sealer will repel a topical sealer and not bond to it.
It may still be required to etch the surface anyway before applying a topical sealer. It will ensure the sealant sticks to the surface as much as possible
These are only a few of the easy tests you can perform to determine if there is an old sealer that needs to be stripped off.
Preparing Your Pavers For Sealing
It is crucial to properly prepare pavers before applying new paver sealer.
In the previous section, we discussed how to detect old sealers. The results of the testing can be used to determine how much work is required to prepare your pavers before sealing.
Let’s begin by talking about how to remove old sealer off your pavers. You must remove any previous sealer to ensure the sealer does not get in the way of adhesion or absorption. This rule is non-negotiable!
Solvent-based sealers are chemically incompatible or unsuitable for water-based sealers. And any lifting or peeling topical sealer will prohibit a new sealer from bonding to the surface of the paver at all.
Chemical stripping agents are the best products to use for this step. Our FloorStrip HP has a high pH and will successfully remove both solvent-based and water-based acrylic sealers.
FloorStrip HP is easy to apply to pavers with either a mop or pump-up sprayer. Let it sit for three to five minutes. Use a mop or deck brush to gently agitate the cleaner again over the surface. Then scrub and rinse it off.
Depending on the size of your area and the number of layers you want to remove, there are two options: pressure wash or mop again until the pavers are squeaky clean.
Exterior pavers are the most common. FloorStrip HP can be sprayed freely and left to sit for several minutes prior to pressure washing.
To remove sealers that are made of very strong urethane polymers, a stronger stripping agent is required. PowerStrip is recommended for such situations. It has the same chemical functions as a paint remover. This is a thicker and stronger solution to remove any stubborn sealer on paver surfaces.
PowerStrip can be used for reallly heavy duty stripping. However, it can require some additional scraping or extreme pressure washing.
Before applying paver sealer, you must get rid of any old sealers. If there is no concern about a prior sealer, you don’t have to use stripping agents. But it is always important to thoroughly clean pavers before sealing them with any new products.
Cleaning Your Pavers Before Sealing
Before sealing your pavers, it is essential to clean them thoroughly. There are many ways to do this. Different chemicals may be required depending on what type of cleaning you are doing.
Mold, mildew, or even efflorescence issues could be present. Before applying sealant, you must get rid of grease and oil stains too.
These problems can all be solved with PrepWork. This acidic solution can be used to remove soils, mold, and mildew. It is easy to use to remove stains from the surface and to make sealer adhere better to the pavers.
Oils can be effectively eliminated with microbial-based cleaners. Our CoverCleanHC can remove oil stains extremely well. You can spray or mop it on, and let it work for at least an hour before pressure washing it off.
Although they take a bit longer to work, microbial cleaners are far more environmentally-friendly. They can be washed away without damaging the environment. Our CoverClean HP is best for removing petroleum-based oils. Our CoverClean FG works best for oils derived from fats or greasy foods. (FG stands for food grade.)
Our SurfaceClean is a general degreaser as well as a concentrated cleaner. It is recommended that this product be applied after stripping chemicals have been used to remove any previous sealers. Apply with a mop and let the SurfaceClean sit for three to four minutes. You can then pressure wash the cleaner off.
To provide the best protection, the sealant must be completely adhered to the surface. The pavers must be thoroughly cleaned and prepared in order for this to happen without any obstructions.
We don’t want to seal any marks, scratches or stains on the surface of the pavers. They can make the surface look horrible and could deter the adhesion of the sealer.
This step should be taken seriously. Now is the time to break out your inner OCD and clean until those pavers are spotless.
Customers are often faced with mold or mildew growing on their pavers despite frequent cleaning. This problem can be solved by SanitzerPlus, which has been certified by the EPA. It can be used to kill the sources of mold and all you have to do is apply it to your pavers with a low pressure sprayer.
Bleach and chlorine are harsh chemicals that only work to lighten pavers. These chemicals won’t truly sanitize pavers or deep clean them. SanitizerPlus is a great way to stop the regrowth of mildew and mold without damaging the pavers at all.
Be sure to clean up all dirt and sand and allow your pavers to fully dry before you continue your paver sealing project.
When Is The Best Time To Seal Pavers?
There are some key factors to evaluate when planning to seal your pavers.
Rain is the largest concern. Seal your pavers when it is least likely during the day for it to rain. To allow paver sealer to
adhere properly, you should ensure that pavers are as dry and porous as they can be.
It’s better to apply paver sealer in a drier environment. If the paver is still wet or even damp, that moisture will inhibit the sealer.
Here in Florida, the best time to seal would be after the extreme heat and humidity of the summer passes and we get our slightly-less-hot heat of fall and winter – November all the way through May (if we’re lucky).
In the colder northern climates of the US, your best chances of getting the best bond from your sealer are after winter. This is after all the ice melts and the ground dries up enough.
The first coat of sealer should get absorbed pretty well. This is especially true for penetrating sealers. This first coat creates a barrier to keep any water from coming up through the pavers.
Applying paver sealer at the correct time of day is particularly crucial as well. Seal pavers during cooler hours. Morning and evening are the best times to seal pavers. Sealing is best done in temperatures between 50-90°F.
Paver sealer should not dry too fast or fry in the heat. Sealer will burn up if laid over pavers that are hotter than 100°F. The sealer should be allowed to dry on the surface of pavers with enough time for a full chemical reaction of the sealer’s active ingredients.
Our sealers typically take about two to three hours to dry.
The sealer will not be effective if it is applied to hot surfaces. If this occurs, the sealer will fail quickly.
How Do You Apply Water-Based Paver Sealer?
Low pressure sprayers are the best recommended tool for sealing paver surfaces. You can use either a low-pressure sprayer that’s designed for gardening or a standard one to evenly apply sealer.
A nap roller can be used with 3/8″ thickness, too. However, it is important to not apply too much. Because the roller will soak up more product and apply it in thicker layers, the roller provides less coverage than a sprayer. A decent paintbrush can be used to finish edges.
On average, a good paver sealer will cover approximately 200 sq. feet. Initial appearance of the paver sealer is white, but once it dries, it will become clear.
Trust the process. You should move around in a systematic manner while applying and allow the sealer to dry.
The first coat of a water-based topical sealer should be well absorbed in 10 minutes. A thin layer may remain on the top. The job of the first coat is to cover the paver surfaces and the top layer of the surrounding sand.
You may find some sealer puddled in low places, such as at the joints. To spread the sealer out, you will need a deck brush or a broom. You must always redistribute the sealer from any puddles.
The second layer of a topical sealer is what leaves the film. And it’s the specially designed sheen of film that creates a specific finish.
For residential areas or just smaller, more enclosed areas, roller and lambswool application tools are ideal. A low-pressure sprayer is safe enough for larger areas that are better ventilated.
To apply penetrating sealers, a roller and lambswool applicator tool can be used, too. A sprayer can be used, but the pressure of the spray must not exceed what causes the sealer inside to atomize in the open air. You should avoid inhaling fine particles that can cause lung damage. Use a low-pressure sprayer.
To fully penetrate pavers, you must use a thicker coat of penetrating sealer. One coat will cover about 175-200 sq. feet. Make sure you distribute any puddles. Excess can also be wiped away if necessary.
Penetrating sealer can absorb quickly. If you need another coat, apply it within one to two hours of the first coat. This is to ensure that both layers are adhered properly.
Before sealing the entire surface of your paver, we recommend you test a smaller, more discreet area first. You will be able to gauge how much sealer you require and how many coats are necessary.
How To Deal With Slippery Pavers
We’ve worked our fair share of paver sealing projects to increase slip resistance. Those contracts were typically for natural stone pavers around a pool or patio.
Our proprietary CoverGrip, when combined with a topical sealer can significantly improve pavers’ slip resistance. You can mix the ultrafine additive with the sealer and then apply it using a roller just like normal.
CoverGrip can also be applied by spraying your sealer first, then applying the CoverGrip aggregate evenly to it. Apply another coat of sealer to keep everything secure after it has dried. For best results, we recommend that you use the StrongSeal paver sealer with CoverGrip.
The SurfaceGrip treatment can also be applied to pavers that are not sealed. This chemical treatment alters the surface of pavers and improves their traction. The appearance of pavers is not affected, and this treatment is particularly useful in outdoor spaces such as decks or patios, which are often wet.
How Long Does Paver Sealer Take To Dry?
The type of paver sealer used and the conditions of the surrounding environment will affect the drying time. Sealer drying times will take longer in colder climates than they would in warmer ones.
Before you can walk over the sealer, it must be completely tack-free. Walking over a sticky sealer will just make a mess.
The average drying time for a topical sealant is three to four hours. You can then apply the second coat and it should dry within three to four hours after that.
Before allowing vehicular traffic, you should wait at least 48 hours or 2 to 3 days. It is very difficult to get rid of tire marks that have been sealed onto the surface.
Because they are more chemically responsive, penetrating sealers dry much faster. This type of sealer can be dried in approximately 1 to 2 hours. You can then apply another coat, if needed.
Before you step on the surface again, wait until it dries completely. Allow at least 6 hours for penetrating sealer to dry before you drive over pavers.
After drying, the sealer can continue curing for up to three more days. You should keep your should really keep vehicular traffic off the sealer while it sets fully.
Best Practices For Keeping Sealed Pavers Clean
It is much easier to maintain and clean pavers once they are sealed. The sealer will protect pavers from water and oil stains as well as other chemical damage.
Only use gentle cleaners on the sealer as anything too harsh will damage the sealer. Our Emerald Floor Maintainer is a mild cleaner that won’t damage the sealer at all. And our CoverClean FG can also be used effectively for food-based stains.
It is best to rinse pavers with a pressure washer using a broad-spray at low pressure rather than a pen tip at high pressure. Any topical sealer could start to lift or peel if you use too much pressure. It’s always good to use a little common sense.
Next, remove any dirt or debris remaining on the paver surface with a quick sweep.
When making your own cleaning products at home, make sure to follow all safety precautions. Do not use too strong or too weak solutions. They can cause pH burn on your sealer or leave behind residue. It’s just more work to remove residue.
So limit the baking powder and ammonia. If a sealer reacts to chemicals with a very high pH, or very low pH, it can cause serious damage. This can lead to early deterioration.
Mixing chemicals should be done with care. Mixing low-alkali and high-acidity chemicals can cause outgassing. Be aware: Ammonia can be produced inadvertently and could pose serious health problems.
It’s better to just use a cleaner that is specifically made for sealed surfaces to preserve the sealer’s value and keep your pavers beautiful.
It is a simple process to seal pavers. However, it can take a bit of time and effort to complete the job. We promise the results will be worth it.
Before sealing the pavers with your sealer of choice, ensure that you thoroughly clean and prepare them. This is the key to lasting paver sealer.
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.