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What Is The Difference Between Concrete Sealer And Waterproofer? 

 October 12, 2020

By  Dale Keese

Concrete is porous, and it will absorb moisture and water. Over time, this can lead to discoloration, damage, and compromised structural integrity. Using a concrete sealer or waterproofer will protect your concrete, but people often wonder which of these products to use.

Concrete waterproofers and sealers are essentially the same thing, some manufacturers refer to their products as waterproofers while others call them sealers. When you specifically want to waterproof concrete it's best to choose a product that highlights waterproofing as a main feature.

All concrete sealers can be considered waterproofers to an extent, but some merely repel moisture while others do a better job at waterproofing the surface. Read on to learn more about these different kinds of concrete sealers.

Water is the number 1 enemy of concrete. When exposed to water in various forms, including rain and snow, this causes degradation, cracks, and other forms of damage. That’s why sealing concrete is such an important step in maintenance as it also protects from chemicals, acids, foot or vehicular traffic, and other factors that cause degradation.

Sealing your concrete doesn’t just protect it from the harmful effects of water, it also extends the lifespan of your concrete and increases its overall durability. But when you shop around for concrete sealers on the market, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the various kinds. So if you’re looking for waterproofing sealers, here’s all you need to know about them and how they protect from water:

Acrylic concrete sealers 

These are the most popular choice and widely preferred by professionals. They work by lending a thin film on the concrete’s surface that protects against water while allowing moisture to escape. Acrylic concrete sealers are affordable, effective, and straightforward. Some of them are also formulated to be ultraviolet resistant, for added protection. They work best in protecting from moisture, absorption of chemicals or oils, and de-icing salt.

Acrylic concrete sealers are available in water-based and solvent-based formulas. They are recommended for those looking for affordable, effective, and easy applications both indoors and outdoors. Another bonus is that they dry fast, in just under an hour. T

The drawback of using acrylic sealers is that it’s thin in nature, which means that they are not the most durable. They tend to wear away quickly, and will require more frequent application every few months or so.  

Penetrating sealers

They work by absorbing deep into the concrete to eliminate entry of moisture, while simultaneously allowing vapor to escape from within the surface of the concrete. Penetrating sealers do a good job of offering invisible protection while maintaining the natural look of your concrete.

Penetrating concrete sealers have versatile uses, and can protect from damaging elements other than water: ultraviolet rays, extreme weather, erosion, stains, and high temperatures. They are also ideal for projects that are exposed to freezing or hot temperatures since these are known to easily degrade the surface of concrete.

Additionally, penetrating sealers are ideal for driveways and walkways. Due to exposure to friction, these sealers are better than acrylic or polyurethane since it doesn’t leave a glossy film that may cause the surface to become slippery. Penetrating sealers are only used for exterior surfaces.

Polyurethane sealers: 

These sealers are double the thickness of acrylic sealers, which make them an excellent choice for tough waterproofing protection. In addition to that, they are also known for superior protection from chemicals, erosion, and yellowing while strengthening the concrete surface. This is why polyurethane sealers are the best choice for concrete projects that are subject to heavy vehicle or pedestrian traffic including walkways, roads, garages, shop and restaurant floors, and even shopping malls.

Polyurethane sealers leave a highly protective film on concrete surfaces that are water resistant, and also protect from chemicals and abrasion. They are also available in water and solvent based formulas.

The drawback to using polyurethane sealers is that they are formulated with high amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC), elements that are extremely harmful for both humans and the environments. That’s why it’s critical to apply it with a respirator. They also need to be applied during the day because they are extremely sensitive to moisture and water.

Epoxy sealers

Epoxy sealers are excellent in waterproofing concrete, which is why they are widely used in kitchen surfaces and concrete countertops. They work by leaving a thick film on the surface, offering long-lasting protection from moisture, water, and abrasion. They are much tougher than acrylic sealers too.

Many homeowners and professionals choose epoxy sealers for both form and function: you can easily add color pigments to customize them, and they leave a beautiful glossy sheen. Using epoxy sealers on decorative floors will make its color come alive while protecting it from water as well as foot traffic. Epoxy sealers that are low odor, chemical resistant, and are hard-wearing are recommended for projects that will lead to regular cleaning such as hygiene sites or industrial applications.

However, epoxy concrete sealers are vulnerable to stains when exposed to ultraviolet rays. That’s why it’s best for indoor applications. Water-based epoxies are recommended for better water protection.

Polyaspartic sealers: 

A newcomer to the concrete industry, polyaspartic sealers repel water, acids, and chemicals. But they work a bit differently: instead of penetrating concrete, these sealers stay on the surface to give thorough protection from absorption. Many consider polyaspartic sealers to be revolutionary because they can be applied in any temperature, can withstand extreme temperatures once cured, and curing is completed in thirty minutes.

Polyaspartic sealers can also effectively bond with any type of concrete surface while offering terrific protection against moisture, stains, and ultraviolet rays. These can be applied both indoors and outdoors. This type of concrete sealer is widely used in homes, laboratories, industrial areas, or other projects that require fast workaround time.


No matter what kind of concrete sealer you go with, remember that the proper application is key. They are not completely waterproof or water resistant until they have fully cured, and if they are exposed to water or moisture before curing, this can lead to problems such as bubbling or foaming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is solvent-based or water-based best for waterproofing?

Traditionally, solvent-based concrete sealers are preferred for their efficacy in waterproofing. But for individuals who are more environmentally and health conscious, water-based sealers are better largely in part because they are low in VOCs.

When it comes to waterproofing, solvent-based concrete sealers are more effective; water-based sealers just have an edge for being healthier but also dry and cure quicker. When shopping around, you may want to seek out newer water-based solutions because many of them are already catching up to the solvent-based efficacy in terms of waterproofing, without compromising the safety of your health and the environment.

What is the best concrete waterproofing sealer?

There are several highly-rated concrete waterproofing sealers in the market to suit every kind of application and budget. Here's a few we recommend considering:

Before choosing a sealer, there are some things you should take into consideration: indoor or outdoor application, how important VOC’s are for you, is a quick turnaround necessary, and what kind of project (residential/industrial/commercial) you’re doing. These should help you narrow down the right kind of waterproofing sealer for you.

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