It’s a hard-knock life—for outdoor concrete. Just consider the year-round punishment outdoor concrete surfaces take in the Western states:
Spring – April showers might bring May flowers, but what do they do to concrete patios, walkways and driveways? They bring the water that can create holes and swell the ground material under a slab, ultimately leading to sinking and cracking of unsealed concrete structures.
Summer – Extreme heat can worsen concrete cracks. And the sun’s ultraviolet rays can weaken unsealed concrete from the inside out.
Fall – Who doesn’t love the changing leaves? Concrete. That’s who. Along with the water-related damage that can come from autumn showers, fallen leaves can stain unsealed concrete.
Winter – The doozy of all seasons. Unsealed concrete suffers a slow and painful demise during the winter months. Freeze-thaw cycles are mostly to blame. Water enters concrete pores, then expands as the temperature plunges to freezing—creating cracks.
So what’s the solution to these yearlong outdoor concrete challenges? A quality exterior concrete sealer.
Exterior sealers can help protect outdoor concrete from water penetration, stains and corrosion. However, the wrong sealer can make concrete slippery. And some sealers even yellow with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
How to Choose the Best Sealer for Your Outdoor Concrete
Outdoor concrete is best protected with penetrating sealers. These, as the name implies, penetrate the pores of the concrete and form a chemical barrier that helps to protect it against ice, moisture, deicers, excess wear and more. Penetrating sealers won’t yellow or make the surface slippery. In fact, most won’t even change the surface appearance.
Film-forming sealers, on the other hand, create a protective barrier on the surface of the concrete. This is ideal for waterproofing and protecting concrete countertops, sinks and floors inside the home. However, this protective layer can be slippery when wet. Worse yet, epoxy, one type of film-forming sealer, can yellow in the sun.
So, for protecting exterior concrete, turn to penetrating sealers. There are two main categories of penetrating sealer, water- and solvent-based. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Read the manufacturers’ recommendations or speak with an expert to choose the best exterior concrete sealer for your given application. But, whether it’s water- or solvent-based, selecting a quality product within either category will help ensure your hard work is protected for the long haul, given that the sealer is properly maintained (more on that below).
Solvent-Based Penetrating Sealers
Solvent-based penetrating concrete sealers can provide long-lasting protection. Like water-based sealers, they often come premixed and can be applied to both fresh and existing concrete. However, because of the typically higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in solvent-based products than water-based concrete sealers, they are slowly being replaced by more environmentally friendly versions.
Water-Based Penetrating Sealers
W.R. Meadows INTRAGUARD, Creto DPS and MasterProtect H 400 are examples of easy-to-apply and maintain water-based penetrating sealers. They each use a blend of silane or calcium silicate crystals that form a hydrophobic barrier in concrete capillary pores. In simple terms, they form an environmentally-friendly, microscopic protective barrier to fend off water and harmful chemicals. Plus, unlike film-formers, penetrating sealers allow the concrete to breathe, which is vital in reducing substrate damage.
How to Maintain Outdoor Concrete Sealer
Applying concrete sealers to new or old concrete alike can help protect it from corrosion and premature wear. But, like most things, concrete sealer requires regular maintenance. Even light to moderate traffic areas should be resealed every three to five years. And frequent cleaning keeps outdoor concrete surfaces looking their best.
Choosing the right sealer for your application will help keep your concrete in the best condition possible, so you can enjoy it for years to come. Visit your local Intermountain Concrete Specialties location for any concrete help you need. With seven locations, from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.
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