There was a time when interior concrete just meant the hard material buried under layers of basement carpet. Now, concrete is being celebrated as the durable, affordable, practical and, even, beautiful product it is. Indeed, concrete has made its way to the center stage of interior design. Just do a quick Internet search and you’ll find concrete floors, countertops, sinks, shelves and even furniture.
But here’s the thing: Concrete is porous. And that’s not necessarily a good trait for interior surfaces that are frequently exposed to stain-causing liquids and high traffic. Untreated concrete floors are prone to scuffs, stains and damage. And nasty bugs like Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other bacteria can find a comfy home in the minute holes in concrete countertops, sinks and other kitchen surfaces.
Sealing interior concrete is critical for a long-lasting and hygienic surface. It keeps liquid and dirt out and protects the surface from normal wear and tear. But what types of sealers are best for indoor applications?
Three basic types of concrete sealers are recommended for interior use: acrylics, polyurethanes and epoxies. Rather than penetrating sealers, which are commonly used on exterior surfaces that may be exposed to freeze-thaw cycles (the topic of a different blog), interior concrete benefits most from these products that form a thin protective coat on its surface. The three most common types of “film formers” are listed below.
A disclaimer: This is far from an exhaustive list of all the available indoor concrete sealers. Manufacturers offer a wide variety of products—some are even hybrids of the three most common types included here. This guide is meant to get you on the path to choosing the product that’s right for your individual needs and intended application.
Softer than polyurethanes and epoxies, acrylic sealers tend to wear down faster. However, their fast-drying nature means they may be best for those projects that need to be completed quickly. In fact, most acrylics will dry to the touch within an hour. And, even though they lack the durability of the harder sealers, they still provide adequate protection against liquid and dirt. Both water- and solvent-based acrylics are available, but note that solvent-based products will generally enhance color. Acrylics are commonly available in a variety of sheens. Pro tip: A “sacrificial” floor wax is recommended over acrylic sealers to prevent premature wear, scuffs and scratches.
These are nearly twice as thick as acrylics—making them much more durable. Polyurethanes provide a chemical- and abrasion-resistant finish. They’re common in high-traffic areas to help prevent scuffs and staining. But these film formers aren’t only used on floors; they’re commonly found protecting and enhancing the appearance of concrete countertops and sinks. Like acrylics, polyurethanes are available in a range of sheens and may “edit” the hues in colored concrete. Be sure to choose the sheen accordingly to achieve your intended finish.
If this list was in descending order of “soft” to “hard” sealers (which it is), we’ve arrived at the hardest of them all. Epoxies form a strong, durable, abrasion- and water-resistant finish. However, some of these products can yellow when exposed to UV light, so they may not be good for those areas bathed in afternoon sunlight shining through the windows. However, if you’re looking to “kill two birds with one stone,” many epoxies come tinted in an array of colors. (As an aside, there are additives available to color other types of sealers as well, but you’ll need to check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure compatibility.) Epoxies are best used for those high-traffic areas or, most notably, garage floors. Some polyurethanes can also be used on garage floors, but epoxies are generally recommended for their superior durability, quality and stain-fighting powers. And again, just remember that epoxies don’t love the sunlight as much as the others and will have a tendency to yellow over time.
Intermountain Concrete Specialties
Choosing the appropriate sealer for the specific application will help keep your concrete in tip-top shape for years to come. If you need help, Intermountain Concrete Specialties is here with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls. We have the expertise and knowledge to help with any concrete undertaking—large or small. Contact one of our helpful and friendly associates today.