Over the years, concrete has largely replaced black asphalt as the preferred material for driveways. Its light color makes it more attractive and in many ways, it’s more durable. That said, the porous consistency of concrete makes it susceptible to damage from water, which can compromise the bonds inside of it and cause it to crack and chip.
Many people choose to seal their concrete driveways and patios to protect them from cracks, chips, and stains. But, while sealant can be an effective way to preserve concrete, there are things to consider before taking this approach. Concrete sealants can be expensive and laborious to install. Sealants only last for a few years before the concrete needs to be resealed. Many sealants also leave a glossy sheen that, though attractive, is slippery to walk on.
With these factors in mind, you might be wondering whether sealing your patio or driveway is the right choice. This article will discuss in detail the pros and cons of sealing a concrete patio or driveway, so you can make the right decision for your home.
- What Does Concrete Sealer Do?
- Does Concrete Need to Be Sealed?
- Should I Seal My Concrete Driveway?
- Pros and Cons of Sealing Concrete Driveway
- How Often Should You Seal Concrete Driveway?
- How Much Does It Cost to Seal a Concrete Driveway?
- Should You Seal Concrete Patio?
What Does Concrete Sealer Do?
Concrete sealer works to protect concrete by blocking the pores of the material, preventing water from soaking into the surface, and doing damage over time. Unsealed concrete is more likely to crack, stain, and fade, so sealer extends the life of the concrete. Concrete sealers consist of acrylic, epoxy, and polyurethane.
Does Concrete Need to Be Sealed?
No. in fact, concrete is durable enough to last for quite a long time without being sealed. That said, concrete sealer does help extend the life of the concrete by preventing it from cracking and fading. And, if the appearance of your concrete driveway or patio is a concern, sealant can improve the appearance by adding a glossy sheen to the surface while protecting it from unsightly stains.
Should I Seal My Concrete Driveway?
Whether or not you should seal your concrete driveway is dependent upon several factors. While sealing a concrete driveway can extend the life of the concrete by preventing cracks and fading, it also can be a pain to install.
Sealer wears away and needs to be applied every few years. Once the sealer begins to wear, it can crack and peel, making your driveway unsightly. Sealing a patio or driveway can also be costly and time-consuming. And, since most sealers use dangerous solvents, they’re hazardous to work with.
Do I Need to Seal My New Concrete Driveway?
Sealing a concrete driveway can help extend the life of the concrete while keeping it pristine looking, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Concrete is quite durable all by itself. If you do have a new concrete driveway you want to seal, you’ll need to wait before doing so. It takes new concrete about 30 days to fully dry. It’s crucial that you wait for the concrete to fully cure; otherwise, you might end up sealing moisture into the new concrete, preventing it from drying to its full hardness.
Pros and Cons of Sealing Concrete Driveway
Before deciding to seal your concrete driveway, it’s good to know what you’re getting into first to determine if it’s the right choice for your driveway or not. Ahead, we’ll review the pros and cons regarding sealing a driveway.
Benefits of Concrete Sealing
Sealing a driveway or patio can help beautify and protect it from stains, cracks, and other wear and tear. Below, we’ll review each of the advantages.
This is the most compelling reason for sealing concrete. Driveways and patios get exposed to a lot of moisture, mostly in the form of rain. Bare concrete will absorb any moisture that falls on it, which can eventually damage the concrete, especially if that moisture freezes after soaking into it. The sealer creates a barrier that prevents moisture from soaking into the pores of the concrete.
Provides UV protection
In addition to protecting from the damaging effects of water, sealer also helps protect concrete from powerful UV radiation. UV rays can break down the polymers and bonds in concrete, weakening it and causing it to deteriorate over time into a fine powder. Many sealants have additives that block UV rays, preventing them from reaching and eroding the concrete.
Can prevent cracks
When water is allowed to soak into concrete, it can freeze, expand, and create cracks. In some cases, this can even lead to frost heave, which causes large chunks of concrete to break away from and lift higher than the surrounding concrete. Since water can’t pass through the sealant, it can’t infiltrate the concrete and cause cracks.
All kinds of materials can fall on a driveway or patio, ranging from greasy food to tannins from organic material that falls from surrounding trees. These substances can stain concrete, leaving unsightly marks that can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove. All of these stains result from liquids being able to soak into the pores of the concrete. By sealing the concrete, these substances are no longer able to soak into it, preventing staining.
Extends life of a concrete slab
When concrete is sealed, it’s less like to chip, crumble or fade, dramatically extending its overall life. This is especially true in regions that experience extreme cold, which can quickly damage concrete.
Not only do sealers create a protective shell over concrete, but they can also enhance its looks by adding a glossy layer that turns drab concrete into a more attractive surface. In addition to adding a sheen, sealers will often deepen colors, giving a patio or driveway a richer look.
Disadvantages of Concrete Sealer
While there are many benefits to using a concrete sealer to protect your driveway or patio, there are also some cons you should consider before heading to the home improvement store to buy a can of sealer.
Can make the driveway or patio slippery
Most sealers dry with a sheen that can make them slick, especially after it rains. Considering that driveways and patios see regular foot traffic, this can be a real issue, creating a hazard for anyone who sets foot on these surfaces when they’re wet.
If you decide to use a sealer, consider purchasing one that includes an abrasive additive that creates a non-skid surface. The slickest concrete sealers are solvent-based, which is what produces a high gloss. There are water-based sealers that are less slippery and less glossy and penetrating sealers that produce no slippery, glossy finish.
Need regular reapplication
Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that sealing a driveway or patio is a one-and-done project. It’s not. Most sealers only last a few years before they begin to wear off, requiring reapplication.
If you’re installing sealant yourself, this can be time-consuming. This also means you’ll need to purchase more sealant, which can be expensive, and any supplies you need to apply it.
Some sealers present an environmental hazard
Most sealers contain harsh solvents that are dangerous to people, pets, and the environment. As a result, they require safety gear during application to ensure you don’t inhale or come into contact with these harsh chemicals and fumes.
It’s also important to take precautions to prevent these chemicals from leaching into the landscaping, where they can ruin your landscaping by killing plants and grass. While there are safer sealers, they tend to cost more.
Adds an additional expense
Not sealing your concrete driveway is free. Sealing it is not, and good sealants don’t come cheap. The average cost of sealant to seal a 20-foot by 24-foot driveway is between $100 and $200, depending on the quality of the sealant.
And don’t forget that sealant will need to be reapplied every few years, so you should of sealing your driveway as a recurring expense. While you may be tempted to save money by purchasing a cheaper sealant, it won’t last as long and will need reapplication sooner, costing you as much or more money than a lumber-lasting higher-priced sealant.
How Often Should You Seal Concrete Driveway?
Unlike asphalt, which requires sealing about every 1 to 3 years, concrete sealers are more durable. Plan on resealing your concrete driveway about once every 5 years. If you live in regions with colder winters, you may need to reseal more often. To determine if your driveway needs resealing, check the surface and see if it’s beginning to look porous or worn.
How Much Does It Cost to Seal a Concrete Driveway?
While prices vary depending on the quality of the sealer, most penetrating sealers for concrete cost about $100 for a 5-gallon container. That said, some products cost as much as $200 for a 5-gallon container.
Before running out and buying the cheaper option, consider that more expensive products may last longer, increasing the length of time in between resealing efforts. Five gallons of sealant is about enough to cover 500 square feet of the driveway; however, if the driveway is very porous, you may only get about half that coverage.
Once a driveway is sealed, it will take significantly less sealant to reseal. Keep in mind that most concrete sealer is applied with a sprayer. If you don’t have one, then you’ll need to rent one, which is an additional expense you’ll need to factor in.
Should You Seal Concrete Patio?
Between a concrete driveway and concrete patio, it may make more sense to seal a concrete patio. Patios are outdoor living areas and hence aesthetics matter more than with a driveway.
Patios are also home to grills and outdoor dining areas, which means there’s a much greater chance for spills from greasy foods and beverages, such as red wine. These liquids will soak into the porous concrete, creating permanent stains.
Sealing a patio can protect the surface from these stains, preserving the aesthetics of your outdoor living space. A concrete sealer can also add a more sophisticated look than drab porous grey concrete by deepening the color and adding a sheen.
Just remember that, though high gloss sealers can be beautiful, they can also create a slick surface. Make sure the sealant you choose for your patio has a non-slip surface.
Sealing a concrete driveway or patio has many advantages. It can protect it from damage caused by water and UV rays, preventing cracks and fading. It can also cover that drab gray surface in an attractive glossy sheen that enhances the aesthetics of your home’s curb appeal or backyard living space.
Although these are great reasons to seal a patio, there are factors that also must be considered. Sealing your driveway can be costly. Sealant is expensive and must be reapplied every four or five years. Applying sealant can also be a laborious and potentially hazardous process. And while it can add to the aesthetics of a driveway or patio, it can also cause the surface to become dangerously slick.
Keep both these pros and cons of sealing a concrete driveway in mind as you determine what’s best for your home’s driveway or patio.