Several years ago, I noticed that lots of my neighbors were replacing their cracked concrete driveways with concrete paving blocks. This got me thinking that maybe I should replace my old concrete driveway, but I wasn’t sure if I should seal my pavers after installing them. After some research, I decided that I should – here’s why:
You should seal your concrete pavers. Sealing your pavers will provide extra UV protection, as well as ensure any oil or other fluid spills won’t penetrate your concrete pavers. Using a joint stabilizing sealer will also help prevent paver movement and restrict weeds and moss’ growth.
If you don’t seal, your pavers will at first look great, but over time they will become unsightly with loose stones and lots of weeds, which has happened already to some of my neighbors in only a few years.
In this article, we’ll look at why you should seal your concrete pavers, the different types of sealers, and best practices focused on maintaining a functional and aesthetically pleasing driveway.
- Should I Seal My Concrete Pavers?
- Pros and Cons of Sealing Pavers
- Do All Concrete Pavers Need Sealers?
- Best Practices for Sealing Pavers
- Differences Between Paver Sealants
- Does Sealing Pavers Make Them Slippery?
- How Long Will My Paver Sealer Last?
Should I Seal My Concrete Pavers?
Yes, you should seal your pavers. Concrete paving stones are porous, as is the sand that surrounds each stone. Therefore, sealing will protect the stone from fading, insects, moisture, and other materials that could degrade the paver.
Sealing is advisable to protect the investment on your pavers. Moisture and UV damage are the prime degrader of concrete pavers, and sealing will significantly delay that degradation.
If you don’t seal your pavers, you risk your pavers breaking down and shifting. If your pavers shift or break down, the entire structure of the pavers can change, resulting in cracks, dips, and humps that will affect the look and function of the patio or driveway.
There are several different types of paver sealers on the market, and each protects differently and has a different look. In general, there are sealers that penetrate and those that stay on the surface.
Many homeowners wonder if they can seal pavers themselves. Some choose to and the materials can be found at any big box home reno store. The application is often not much more than a roller with some brushes and a tray for sealer.
Other companies will offer this service and can complete the job in a day or less, often at a cost not much greater than if you did it yourself. Current costs are somewhere in the neighborhood of between 1.50 and 2.00 dollars per square foot. Thus, if you have a smaller patio or driveway, it might make more sense to hire someone, especially if you are crunched for time.
Pros and Cons of Sealing PaversSealing pavers is, over time, a continuous process. Sealing will only last for several years, but to protect your investment, you’ll want to ensure that you are regularly sealing and cleaning to avoid damaging the pavers and the look of your patio or driveway.
There are some instances, however, when sealing your pavers isn’t a necessity. While overall I recommend sealing your concrete pavers, it might not be worth the time or money for some. Below we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of sealing your pavers to help you determine if sealing is a good option for you or not.
What are the Benefits of Sealing Pavers?
- Appearance is probably the most important reason for sealing concrete pavers for your average homeowner. Sealing can help create a glossy appearance and will keep the original color of your pavers for longer.
- Sealing prevents extensive UV damage, which means not just fading but also cracking and other surface damage that can turn the concrete bonds into pieces or dust. Concrete, while an extremely durable solid, is as susceptible to UV light as any other solid and should be protected to maintain the original color.
- Minimizing snow and ice damage is critical to maintaining your concrete pavers. If you live in an area with significant ice or snow, sealing should be essential. Moisture will penetrate your paver and the joints, freeze, expand, and shift your pavers. This will ruin the look and functionality of your landscape project.
- Paver sealer will help inhibit the growth of mildew. Mildew results from temperature and moisture. If it is warm and wet, mildew will grow on your pavers. Keeping them dry helps prevent mildew. Sealing the pavers will prevent water from entering and thus mitigate the growth of mildew.
- Applying a joint-sealing sealer, specifically, will prevent the intrusion of moisture into cracks between the pavers that will cause weeds and moss between your pavers. Weeds grow roots that will expand and dislodge stones. Preventing small seeds from lodging in the joint sand will render weeds useless and keep your pavers stable.
- Paver sealer also acts much in the same way against bugs as it does against weeds. Covering entrances into pavers, particularly the tiny openings you can barely see, ensure insects don’t enter and nest. Insects bring moisture and other damage such as further burrowing, which will hasten cracking and degradation of each paver.
- Sealing prevents the permanent staining of your driveway. If your car leaks some coolant or oil on your sealed concrete pavers, you should then be able to wipe it up without having to worry about a long-term stain. However, if the spill sits without any attention, it will eventually soak into the stone regardless of what you’ve treated it with.
- Finally, sealing prevents the pavers, and, in some cases, the joints, from degrading quickly. Weather, sun, insects, and frequent traffic, whether foot or machine, will all put a beating on your pavers. A protective coat will lengthen the longevity of your pavers.
What are the Cons of Sealing Pavers?
- One of the main drawbacks of sealing is time. It takes time to seal your pavers because you first have to clear and clean them. To do this you’ll need a power washer. You also need several coats of sealer, and you’ll do it many times over the lifetime of the paver. Thus, when you install pavers, you are committed to ongoing maintenance.
- Sealing pavers also is a cost. As mentioned above, companies charge around $1.50 per square foot to seal concrete pavers. A two thousand square foot driveway would therefore run you $3,000. That’s a chunk of change. Doing it yourself will cost a fraction of that cost, but you’ll still need to rent a pressure washer, buy sealer and tools.
- When you seal, it’s going to be messy. First, you’ll have to pressure wash. After it dries, then you seal it. If you are careful with your roller, you can contain the sealer to some extent. A sprayer has more mess – you’ve got to protect any adjacent landscaping with tarps to avoid killing it.
- Sealers can be quite noxious and hazardous to inhale or touch. Solvent-based sealers are more hazardous than water-based, as the solvents have higher VOCs – also known as volatile organic compounds.
Do All Concrete Pavers Need Sealers?
Yes, your pavers still need a concrete sealer. If you live in a hot, dry place, pavers can still shift as the UV damage will cause the concrete to deteriorate and crumble. In cold, wet weather, the ice and moisture can destroy the appearance and useability of your pavers in one season if it is not sealed.
If you are concerned with the aesthetics of your patio or driveway pavers, then you must seal your driveway. UV damage will fade unsealed pavers in as little as one summer.
Water damage is equally as destructive. Water will seep into the pores of the concrete and degrade the sand joints between each block. As the sand washes away, pavers will move and create an undulating surface that will look ugly and render a patio or driveway unusable.
Best Practices for Sealing Pavers
When sealing concrete pavers, there are a few general rules of thumb to abide by in maintenance. Sealing is not as simple as just rolling on a solution, then forgetting about it for the next ten years. You’ve got to know which sealer you need, how to apply it, and how to keep it clean regularly.
How Long Should I Wait Until Sealing My Pavers?
You should wait a year before sealing your concrete pavers. One of the key components of concrete is water. Newly installed pavers still have quite a bit of water within them. That water needs a chance to evaporate. If it is sealed, it will be trapped and create a white, chalky film beneath the sealer.
If the concrete paver is left to sit for a year after installing, it will have a chance to release most of the water still trapped within. It will evaporate, and the concrete will continue to harden, leaving little to no water left after a year.
Once a year has passed, you are safe to seal your concrete pavers and you won’t run the risk of the white chalky stains appearing on top of your pavers and beneath your sealer.
Should I Clean Pavers Before Sealing?
Yes, you must clean your pavers before sealing. Pressure washing your pavers is recommended, at a low setting, to remove debris and stains from pavers. Opening the pores of the concrete will allow the sealer to properly penetrate and adhere to the surface of the pavers.
You also need to ensure that the pavers are dry before you apply your concrete sealer. Moisture can affect the drying time of the sealer, and if mixed with a water-based sealer, can affect the performance of the product. It can dilute the mixture with too much water, which will cause the sealer to function improperly.
If you are applying a concrete joint sealer, you must be sure that all your cracks are weed and moss-free. You can use a pressure washer for this task, but be careful not to have the pressure up too high – you risk blasting all the sand out with the weeds.
Differences Between Paver Sealants
There are a few different types of concrete sealers – water-based and solvent-based. Water-based sealers rely on water evaporating upon application to draw polymers closer together and form a protective seal. Solvents also evaporate but form a tighter seal than the water-based sealers.
Solvent-based sealers provide a protective barrier on the surface of the concrete paver and will not break down under UV light. They are more hazardous to install due to the higher concentration of VOCs but are considered slightly more durable than water-based sealers over time.Water-based sealers also provide a protective film over pavers and are easier to apply and less hazardous. They are more versatile in terms of the look, as they can come with matte or glossy finishes. They also will not change the appearance of your pavers, whereas solvent-based sealers can often darken your pavers to an extent.
It is also important to note that both water-based and solvent-based sealers come in both acrylic and polyurethane. The acrylic sealers are less durable but apply much more quickly than polyurethane – the acrylic sealers can dry in as little as an hour. The coating of the polyurethane film is much more resistant to scratches and dings than acrylics.When using an acrylic sealer, the percentage of the acrylic in the sealer determines the gloss. The higher the percentage, the greater the amount of gloss. Sealers with over 30% acrylic are gloss while 15 to 30% is semi-gloss, and under 15% is a matte finish.
The greater the amount of gloss, the greater the amount of acrylic concentration in the sealer. If there is more acrylic, the film over your concrete pavers will be less breathable. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you may be more likely to see some evidence of efflorescence on your pavers if you use high gloss and your pavers haven’t fully dried out.Another type of concrete sealer is the penetrating sealer. This product uses silicates to react with the chemicals inside the concrete. It forms an internal barrier to moisture and keeps it from affecting the paver. It does not change the outside appearance or form an exterior film. They are very durable and ideal for extreme weather environments. They also allow the concrete to breathe.
Does Sealing Pavers Make Them Slippery?
Yes, some concrete sealers will make concrete pavers look and feel slippery. High-gloss concrete sealer, both water or solvent-based, can make concrete pavers slippery. Higher gloss sealer has a high amount of acrylic, making the surface smoother.
How Long Will My Paver Sealer Last?
At most, your concrete sealer will last up to five years. UV light is one of the primary drivers in sealer deterioration if you do not have an acrylic sealer. For acrylic sealers, everyday wear and tear such as vehicles and exposure to weather are damaging.
Many concrete sealers advertise a lifetime of 2-3 years. This timeframe assumes that you will care for your pavers properly during that time, keeping them clean and free from stains and other debris.
If you don’t maintain your pavers, it will void the guarantee of the sealer. Follow the directions of your product to the letter, and re-apply within the timeframe the product dictates. If you do, you’ll maintain the original appearance and structure of your pavers for a long time.
Concrete pavers must be cared for like any other investment you’ve made for your home. Don’t expect to lay concrete blocks and assume they’ll “hold up” for the next ten years. Concrete continues to harden over its lifetime, meaning that it is always changing. Water evaporates and the paver changes. You need to protect the paver to keep it from drying out and crumbling.
Make sure to do your research when choosing a concrete sealer product. There are many different types, and each one has a specific benefit. You might use a different product for a concrete paver patio then you would for a driveway.
Finally, before you choose a sealer, have a look at your neighbors’ homes. See if you see a finish you like and knock on a door. You never know how a sealer will really look until you see it in person, so don’t go and blindly start applying a sealer based on the picture on the bottle!