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What Is Better Water Based or Solvent Based Concrete Sealer? 

 June 8, 2021

By  Dale Keese

Concrete is naturally porous, which means that it will absorb liquids, grease, and stains. For this reason, sealing concrete is always a necessary step to prevent damage while extending its lifespan. However, given the choice of both water based and solvent based sealers, many people may wonder which one is best.

Water based concrete sealers are usually the best option for DIY projects due to their low odor, VOC content, and ease of application. Solvent based concrete sealers are better for commercial projects and professional use.

Both sealer types are excellent at protecting concrete and are easy to apply. To find out more about the specifics of each sealer type, read on.

Concrete sealers are available in water based and solvent based formulations, and they can both be used as protective as well as decorative topcoats. Both sealers protect concrete from stains, damage, and wear and tear while enhancing its beauty through various finishes such as colors, mattes, and glosses.

To understand more about the differences and advantages as well as disadvantages of each, check out this list below:

Water-Based Concrete Sealers

Pros

  • Much safer for people and the environment especially when used indoors
  • Don’t darken surfaces, allowing for a more natural look
  • Best for decorative concrete
  • Low VOC (volatile organic compound) content
  • Low risk of common sealer problems such as roller marks and bubbling
  • Usually last longer
  • Can be used inside or outside with no issues
  • More cost-effective
  • Easy clean up and washing
  • Ideal for porous and extremely dense surfaces
  • Safer, even for children and pets

Cons

  • Can be difficult to remove
  • Tend to freeze quicker compared to solvent-based concrete sealers
  • Shouldn’t be applied in temperatures below 50F
  • May appear milky temporarily when exposed to wet weather for long periods of time, but will dry up clear once again

Solvent-Based Concrete Sealers

Pros

  • Higher gloss can enhance beauty of surfaces, especially with polyurethane and epoxy coats
  • Can penetrate deeper in polished and dense concrete surfaces

Cons

  • Can get slippery
  • Strong fumes aren’t healthy for you or the environment
  • Evaporates quickly the hotter it is
  • Requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to apply

Water Based Vs Solvent Based Concrete Sealer

Let’s get into more detail on their differences and similarities:

Appearance

When choosing between solvent based concrete sealer vs water based concrete sealer, appearance is one of the most important factors. Solvent based sealers usually finish glossy, giving concrete a wet look that’s also usually a few shades darker. For some, the darkening can be a benefit while others find it a nuisance; it’s a personal choice at the end of the day.

When a concrete surface has a stain that’s difficult to remove, or any color variances that aren’t appealing, a uniform darkening can efficiently hide these blemishes. On the other hand, if you are looking to seal decorative concrete and don’t want to change its appearance, you’re better off with a water based formula.

Keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rule; darkening water based concrete sealers especially epoxy types, do exist so be sure to read the label and do some extra research

Protection

Both water based and solvent based concrete sealers can offer up to three years of protection even when used outdoors. You’ll be able to remove automotive stains, chemicals, and spilled food with ease before they do any permanent damage to the surface.

Application

Both sealer types are available in ready-to-apply formulas. There are a variety to choose from including spray and roller formulations, each of which are suitable for a variety of applications.

Water based sealers are more popular generally, because they are nonflammable, don’t have a strong odor, and are easy to clean up when application is done. Since solvent based sealers are flammable, you have to observe extra caution during application and make sure that all gas outlets are properly turned off. There’s also a big chance that you’ll feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous or have a headache when applying solvent sealers in an enclosed space due to the VOC content.

Slippery

When solvent based sealers are applied with thick consistencies, they can end up getting slippery when wet. This can be prevented by adding a grip traction additive or floor wax though generally, they’re still more slippery compared to water based sealers. Using water based sealers doesn’t pose this problem because the goal is to apply it as thinly as possible.

Coverage

Solvents are designed to go on thick, while the opposite is true for water based concrete sealers. As a result, you’ll get more coverage and enjoy more cost-efficiency when using water based sealers.

Longevity

Either type of sealer should last you anywhere from 6 months to three years. However, solvent based concrete sealers typically last longer depending on the surface exposure to stains and contaminants, the weather, humidity, and maintenance. While sealing no longer makes the surface porous as it increases its resistance to stains, some regular maintenance is still necessary such as dry and wet cleaning.

Conclusion

Water based and solvent based concrete sealers have many similarities but water based sealers are better because of its safety, efficacy, finish, and cost-effectiveness especially if you’re going to apply it yourself.

If you’re going to outsource the job, don’t need to apply on decorative concrete, and don’t have to worry about surface darkening nor will you be using the treated area soon, then you can opt for a solvent based sealer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of surfaces are water based concrete sealers better for?

Water based concrete sealers are best for protective and decorative topcoats, applied right after the concrete has been cured.

What type of surfaces are solvent based concrete sealers better for?

Solvent based concrete sealers are best for concrete driveways and walkways as well as concrete areas around swimming pools. Additionally, it can be used as a protective topcoat for concrete.

Can you apply water based concrete sealers on top of a solvent based sealer?

You can’t apply water based sealers on concrete that was previously treated with solvent based sealer. You will need to reseal using a solvent based sealer or chemically strip the solvent based sealer, make sure the surface is completely clean, and then start over with the water based sealer.

Can you apply a solvent based concrete sealer on top of a water based sealer?

If the concrete was previously sealed with water based sealer, then you can reseal using either water based or solvent based sealers.

About the author

Hey, I'm Dale Keese.. thanks for reading.. hopefully this article can save you some time and trouble with your sealing job. I'm also in the process of making some video walk-throughs for youtube so check back soon! thanks

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