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How to Seal a Concrete Floor Properly the First Time

  • September 15, 2019
  • / By Dale Keese
Working on Floors

If you have a commercial, residential or industrial setting and you have had newly installed concrete, you have probably been told to seal it off. What these contractors don’t tell you is why, how, or what to use to seal the concrete off. The first of these answers is that water may be the worst enemy of a concrete floor. Worse even, are the daily wear and tear and harsh chemicals. These conditions could lead to mildew or/and mold and could pose a threat to the foundation of your construction.

Working on Floors

The plus side to having a concrete floor is that they are durable and easy to clean, but, at the same time, they are also vulnerable to contaminants and spills. No matter how hard the surface is, it is bound to crack with time. And you have even more to be concerned about if you have stained or decorative flooring

When you are thinking about protecting your concrete flooring, you are likely to be confused by the tongue-twisting scientific names and claims of great performance. This is bound to happen when you are looking for a sealer for your concrete floor. If you are simply looking for the best concrete sealers, then you don’t need to go any further but simply refer to the highlighted text, and read our comprehensive guide. It also tells you the types of sealers there are on the market, so that makes for a must read. But if you are looking for an in-depth guide on the what, how or why of concrete floor sealing, read on.

Oh, they are not, and pity if you have been led to believe that. Let’s get this off the table first — floor sealers are used to seal and bind the surface, whereas floor paints are available in a whole spectrum of sheens. Also, floor sealers can just be left like that or can be painted over. There are plenty of concrete floor sealers, like the Quikrete Acrylic Concrete Cure Seal, which not only leaves a lovely but not too glossy coat. Go on, read all about it!


Concrete Floor

Should I Absolutely Must Seal Concrete?

If you have concrete flooring, chances are that your contractor told you about it. So to reiterate what the contractor told you, concrete is a porous material that has a tendency to absorb liquids. Sealing the floor would not only enhance its look and feel but will also protect it from hazards such as spilling, erosion or damage caused by high traffic.

Bird's Eye View

On unsealed concrete, freezing climates can cause the frozen liquids to expand and cause damage that will need filling. Other stuff that can damage the floor would be salt, oil, chemicals or fertilizers. So by sealing the concrete (or waxing it in some cases), you are creating a barrier between the concrete and these other elements, thereby protecting it.

Does It Make Changes to the Appearance?

Sealing the concrete may or may not change the appearance of your concrete floor, depending on the sealer. You would hardly be able to tell if you have applied a chemically reactive sealer because it is absorbed in the floor. If you have used epoxy or a solvent-based sealer, it will give your surface a wet, high-gloss appearance, making the colors look a lot more enhanced. If you have used a water-based acrylic sealer, the colors on your floor will look moderately enhanced, and satin-y, giving it a more natural look.

Concrete Building

There are sealers known as urethanes, which are generally applied over epoxies as a topcoat, and are available in gloss or matte (for a less shiny surface). Some sealers may even be colored with tints or opaque shades.

How Should the Sealer Be Applied?

Again, this depends on the kind of sealer you are using on your concrete floor. There are high-performance coatings, such as urethanes and epoxies which should only be applied after the concrete has cured completely (usually, this could take between 25-30 days). There are yet other types of sealers which are reactive (penetrative) that should be applied as soon as the concrete can take the weight of the installers. These are known as silicates and siliconates. But as a general thumb rule, nearly all sealers can be applied after the concrete has cured.

Does the Floor Get Slippery with Sealers?

When a concrete sealer is being applied to the concrete, it will usually be slippery initially when it is wet, like any other wet surface. But again, it depends on the kind of sealers you are using. A water-based sealer will be less slippery when compared with a solvent-based sealer. So for these, there are traction additives that can be used with such sealers, as the local hardware seller will tell you. These additives are very essential, especially in areas that see a lot of foot or vehicular traffic.

Parking Lot

How Long Will the Concrete Sealer Last?

There are some factors at play here, mostly the environment. The period is usually 10 years or so, in case of reactive chemical sealers which will last as long as the substrate surface. And depending on the traffic in that area, urethane or epoxy will behave in a similar manner (a wide range of 5-10 years). Acrylic resin sealers do a great job of enhancing the look of your floor, such as the Black Diamond Stoneworks Stone Sealer seem to have the shortest lifespans and generally last 1-3 years at best.

Other factors that may or may not influence the life of a concrete sealer are:

  • What is the condition of the substrate? You will need to consider the condition of the surface. Is there too much moisture there? Are you applying the right amount of sealer?
  • Is the sealer appropriate for that particular surface: You cannot use a silicate sealer on stone and expect it to work, can you?
  • How has the sealer been applied: Was a roller used or a spray?
  • How many coats were applied: One, or two?
  • Was the surface prepared before the application: Was the surface dried properly before the application of the concrete sealer?
  • When was the sealer applied: Was it raining? Was it too hot? (The environment is a vital factor when applying the coat.)

What If I Have Cracks in the Concrete?

Well, in that case, you will need to repair these cracks before you apply a concrete sealer. If left vulnerable, the concrete sealer cannot protect the floor from further damage if it has been cracked because of too much sun, water or chemical exposure. You will do well to realize that small cracks can develop into big ones if left untreated, under the right pressure.

Cracked Floor

For these purposes, a product such as the one size fits all, Quikrete Concrete Crack Seal Natural has been proven to be durable and effective.

Are Floor Sealers Environment-Friendly?

Generally speaking, water-based floor sealers are environmentally friendlier than their solvent-based cousins, because the latter may contain dangerous levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs vaporize under ordinary circumstances indoors and are essentially air contaminants, and inhaling them can be dangerous. You may need to ask the resellers in your area if you are environmentally conscious and would like to know more about the regulations in your state.

Can I Do It Myself?

Glad you asked because this is what the guide is all about. This guide is for you if you want to eliminate and control dust build up from your concrete floor, protect it from spills, abrasions, discoloration and stains.

Hard Hat
  • 1
    Clear the Room - Before you start, you will have to clear the room/garage of all the equipment and put them elsewhere because you will need this area free of clutter. While you are doing that, keep in mind that this process is time consuming, and might take a while. So it is better to store these items elsewhere for the time being. You would not want to move around these items once you start sealing the floor, trust us.
  • 2
    Wipe the Floor Clean - You will need to clean all the trash from the floor. Vacuum all the dirt away; you can alternatively also use a leaf blower for this purpose. You can also achieve this goal by cleaning the area absolutely thoroughly.
  • 3
    Scrub, Scrub and Scrub - The next step is to scrub all the visible splotches, remove paint or stains that you can see. You will need a scrubbing brush, pre-paint cleaners and a roll of paper towels to soak up the excess liquid. You need to do the scrubbing and cleaning thoroughly because otherwise, the sealer won’t stick. Also, before using any cleaning product, make sure you read the instructions carefully.
  • 4
    Prepare the Concrete Floor - Pour some concrete sealer that you may have selected for this purpose on the floor and rub in the floor using your scrubber and rub it on the surface. Cover the area gradually if you have a large floor, and you can do this by working in small batches.
  • 5
    Rinse It Off - Once you have covered the entire floor with the cleaner, use a power hose or a power washer to rinse it all. That’s right, rinse the sealer off the floor completely. Start from the corner facing the door, and work your way out. If the room has an incline, make sure you are starting from the top and work your way down.
  • 6
    Wait 24 Hours - For the next step, you will have to make sure that the area is completely dry. You may leave a fan on in this area, or put on a blower. Alternatively, leaving the door open will also speed up the process.
  • 7
    Applying the Sealer - By now, we are assuming that you already have made the selection for your concrete floor, and have read the instructions on the package carefully. Make sure that you are applying the sealer at the appropriate temperature, as they won’t set properly if they are applied in too humid, too hot or too cold weather. Also, ventilate this room well; open all the windows and switch on any fans that it might have.
  • 8
    Break the Room down in “Parts” - For your own reference, divide the room into 4 parts for your convenience. This is done in order to know exactly how much work you have done, and how much is left. Once you have done that, you may also want to leave a way out for yourself so you don’t step on the wet sealer in the process of stepping out of the room.
  • 9
    Start “Painting” - You will literally need a paintbrush for this purpose, and there are brushes available on the market for just this purpose. You will need the brush because while using a roller, you will not be able to reach the corners. Dip your brush in the sealer, and make firm, but even strokes along the edges.
  • 10
    Use a Paint Pad or a Rolling Brush - Pour the sealer in a painting tray and roll the brush or the pad in it evenly, and start painting in long, even strokes. Keep adding the sealer to the brush as required and make sure that the edges don’t go dry at any point of this operation. This is to make sure that these edges will blend in the next stroke. Keeping a dry edge will leave a visible, uneven patch.
  • 11
    Apply Evenly - Complete one part of the room as you move along, applying pressure on the brush evenly. Do not let the concrete seal puddle on the floor at any given point. Puddles will make for ugly “scars” on your floor and will stand out.
  • 12
    Let It Be - If you have read the instructions carefully, you will know how long would it take for the concrete seal to dry out completely. Every sealer will have different instructions, but you should let it dry for at least 24 hours before you walk on it, and 3 more days if it is an area where you drive on.
  • 13
     Is a Second Coat Required? - Some sealers need more than one coat, while others don’t. Read the instructions on the packaging. In any case, you may need to wait as long as a week for the first coat to set in before you apply a second coat. Don’t start putting on a second coat before that because it would be pointless.
Rolling Brush

Conclusion

So there you have it, that is the entire procedure to seal a concrete floor. Sealing not only puts an extra layer on your concrete floor but also saves you money on home repairs and renovation later on. So make sure you select a professional grade and quality sealer, and you can go right ahead and read these reviews to pick up the best one for you. Sealing is the way to go if you are looking to preserve your concrete floor from harsh weather conditions, and it is easy to do so, so why not give it a go!