Stamped concrete is a beautiful material well suited for exterior landscapes such as patios, pool decks, and walkways. However, it requires regular sealing to protect against fading, stains, and damage from the elements. But with all the sealers out there, many people wonder what the best kind of concrete sealer to use for stamped concrete.
The best concrete sealer for stamped concrete is a solvent-based acrylic sealer, especially if it’s intended for outdoor use. Water-based acrylic sealers are another good alternative for sealing stamped concrete.
There are several excellent solvent and water based acrylic sealers on the market, which are ideal for use on stamped concrete. To find out more about them, keep reading this article.
Table of Contents
- How to Choose the Right Stamped Concrete Sealer
- How Is Stamped Concrete Sealer Applied?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Need Recommendations?
How to Choose the Right Stamped Concrete Sealer
Stamped concrete is an excellent choice for exterior landscapes. But with time, its exposure to ultraviolet rays, foot and vehicular traffic, and the elements can cause stamped concrete to degrade. You may notice fading, stains, or other kinds of damage.
This is why it’s so important to routinely clean and seal it: doing so allows you to restore its original beauty, as long as you use the correct sealer. Both solvent and water-based acrylic sealers are beneficial for stamped concrete since they are breathable, economical, easy to apply, non-yellowing, and resistant to ultraviolet rays.
Acrylic sealers fall under the category of film-forming or topical sealers, which work by leaving a protective film on the surface. The “film” is usually visible, and can cause the surface to be slippery when wet. You may want to purchase an anti-skid additive for application after sealing your stamped concrete in order to give the surface more traction while preventing slips.
Water and Solvent Based Sealer Similarities
Both types of sealers are effective in protecting stamped concrete. They can last for up to three years with proper care and maintenance in between. Additionally, they provide great protection from stains. This means you no longer need to worry about damage if automotive stains, chemicals, food, or beverages spill on its surface; just be sure to remove it as soon as you notice it. They are both also breathable, allowing moisture to escape from the slab.
Since stamped concrete is primarily used in the outdoors, solvent and water-based acrylic sealers are best because they protect from the elements. They are completely transparent to ultraviolet lighting and even more protection from ultraviolet rays can be expected if you use 100% acrylic-based concrete sealers. Freeze thaw damage can occur if you are living in a cold climate; this is evident through cracks or flakes in the surface and will happen when water seeps through the concrete surface, resulting in expansion during freezing. Applying sealer can prevent freeze thaw damage from occurring.
The sealer’s dry and cure time will depend on the product and brand you use. Generally speaking, it takes 4 to 12 hours to completely dry but always wait 48 hours until you expose it to any kind of traffic. Acrylic sealers also tend to be slippery when wet, so you may want to purchase an anti-skid additive to add once the sealer is completely dry.
Water and Solvent Based Sealer Differences
Appearance: Solvent-based sealers are known for resulting in a glossy finish that beautifies the underlying concrete. In many cases, they can also darken the surface. Meanwhile, water-based sealers tend to look milky white during application due to the polymer particles in its formulation. But after curing, water-based sealers give off a matte, low-gloss finish. You can choose from a range of finishes and colors, including clear.
Safety: Volatile organic compounds (VOC)’s are man-made chemicals that are emitted by certain products including concrete sealers. They have a strong odor, are harmful to inhale, and not environmentally-friendly. Solvent-based acrylic sealers usually have a high VOC content, while water-based sealers have a much lower VOC content, or in some products, none at all. This makes the latter a better option for indoor application or in areas of low ventilation.
Outdoor use: Solvent-based acrylics are better for outdoor use, because they penetrate better and won’t turn white.
Clean up: Water-based sealers are much easier to clean up, while solvent-based cleaners can be more difficult to clean up.Coverage: Solvent-based acrylic sealers tend to be thicker, while its water-based counterparts are thinner. In other words, water-based acrylic sealers offer more coverage and are thus more economical.
In the end, the results from both solvent and water-based acrylic sealers are similar: they will give your stamped concrete long-lasting and superior protection.
How Is Stamped Concrete Sealer Applied?
Remember that sealer’s performance is also dependent on proper application. The process is fairly simple, though it can vary depending on the sealer formula so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions on the bottle. As a general rule, these are the steps involved in sealing stamped concrete:
- 1Wash: Stamped concrete surfaces should be completely clean, free from surface contaminants such as dirt, oil, grease, and waxes. Use a garden hose then scrub off the surface with a liquid dish soap. Wipe it down with a clean, dry rag. After a wash, lots of water can still remain on the surface even though it looks dry so it’s always recommended to mechanically remove or chemically strip it to remove residual curing compounds. Applying a sealer on wet concrete can result in “blushing”, which is when the surface turns white; this can also result in adhesion problems.
- 2Apply: Apply the sealer following the manufacturer’s directions; it usually involves using a sprayer and a roller at the same time for even distribution. If you are working with a “wet look” or glossy sealer, you can add a coat or two more if you want more shine, allowing for proper dry time in between coats.
- 3Dry: After the stamped concrete has been sealed, allow it to dry for at least 48 hours before exposing it to traffic.
Last but not least, remember that application should only be done when the air and surface temperatures are between 50-65 degrees F. Application should also be done on a clear, warm day. A majority of sealer problems can easily be avoided when you seal in the proper conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should stamped concrete be sealed?
Stamped concrete should be resealed at least once every two or three years. If the surface is prone to more wear and tear due to traffic, inclement or harsh weather, pets, and stains, you can reseal more often than this in order to protect it.
How long after sealing stamped concrete can the surface be used?
The sealer’s dry and cure time will depend on the product and brand you use. Generally speaking, it takes 4 to 12 hours to completely dry, though the formula will continue to harden on the stamped concrete for up to 48 hours. Don’t expose the surface to traffic for at least 48 hours after application.
Can previously sealed stamped concrete be resealed?
Yes, you can reseal stamped concrete, though the processes involved would depend on the type of sealer used. Solvent based acrylic sealers are easier to reapply compared to water-based sealers since all you need to do is reapply over a clean, dry surface. If the previous sealer used is water-based, the surface needs to be screen sanded, cleaned, and dried before reapplying sealer.
Keep in mind that solvent-based acrylics can only be reapplied on solvent-based acrylic sealer; the same goes for water-based sealers. If you apply one type over the other, the coat will not blend together efficiently and you would then have to remove both coats. If you want to switch from one sealer to another, you’ll have to properly remove the old sealer.
Here are some great quality, highly recommended solvent and water-based acrylic sealers for your stamped concrete, all of which are available on Amazon: