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The Top 5 Concrete Coatings

Updated on March 29, 2010

Whether you are constructing a new concrete floor or revamping an old one, there are several different coatings you can choose to finish the project. When you are unfamiliar with this process, it's not unusual to feel a bit confused by the various types of concrete coatings from which to select.

The main reason you need to coat your concrete is to provide it with protection from deterioration or contamination. Because floors are subject to daily abuse and wear and tear, it is important that you do everything possible to protect your investment and make them stronger and last longer. Your concrete floors may need to withstand abrasion, chemical spills, heavy foot and vehicle traffic, weather conditions and other damaging elements.

You may also want to accomplish some other goals by coating your concrete floors, such as making them more slip-resistant, easier to maintain, or to increase their aesthetic appeal. Whatever reasons you have for coating your concrete floors, you're making a wise decision. All concrete floors need some type of protection. The difficult part is deciding which type of protective material is right for your floors.

Here's some basic information about various concrete coatings.

Preparing the Concrete

Penetrating Concrete Sealers

Penetrating concrete sealers are most often used to coat exterior concrete surface, especially those that are vulnerable to damage from freezing-thawing conditions and other harsh outdoor elements.  These sealers dry to a natural matte finish, invisibly protecting the surface without changing its appearance. 

This type of coating works by penetrating into the concrete and creating a chemical reaction that shields the concrete from moisture and chemicals commonly used to deice surfaces. 

Acrylic Sealers

Acrylic sealers work by creating a thin layer of protective film over the surface of the concrete.  They are available in both solvent and water-based formulas and you can select the sheen level you desire. 

This type concrete coating can be used either in interior or exterior spaces.  Acrylic sealers are economical but are not as durable as epoxies and polyurethanes.  When used on interior floors, acrylic sealers require regular maintenance and waxing to reduce wear and the appearance of black heel marks.

Because acrylic sealers dry quickly, they are a good choice when a short down time is important.


Polyurethanes are also available in both water-based and solvent formulations.  They can be used inside or out and are available in a selection of sheens.  Polyurethanes are almost twice as thick as acrylic sealers and produce an extremely durable cover.  They are a good option for high traffic areas because they provide strong resistance to heel marks, scuffs and staining.  A polyurethane finish is non-yellowing and dries to a transparent sheen.

Drawbacks of Epoxy Flooring


Epoxies are a versatile choice that are available in a one or two component application.  They can be clear or can have sand, colored quartz or vinyl chips incorporated in them so a variety of colors and patterns can be achieved.  Because epoxy finishes are vulnerable to UV damage, these products are normally used on interior surfaces.  Epoxies produce a hard, abrasion-resistant coating that is durable and long-lasting.  Careful surface preparation is vital to the success of an epoxy coating.

Concrete Overlays

Concrete overlays like Flex-c-ment contain polymer resins, cement and aggregates. The polymer resins make this coating strong and durable. Overlays have become very popular in recent years because they offer a cost-efficient way to restore old, damaged concrete surfaces without having to go to the time, trouble and expense of ripping out the existing flooring. Concrete overlays can be used to smooth and level uneven surfaces and when you choose a concrete overlay, you'll experience minimal downtime, because they cure quickly. It may be only a few hours before freshly coated surfaces are able to support foot traffic.

Overlays are good choices for either interior or exterior surfaces. They are one of the most versatile options available when it comes to design possibilities. Skilled installers can create a myriad of designs and colors by using special techniques and tools. Overlays can be stamped, stenciled, textured or stained. The design possibilities are basically unlimited with this type treatment.

Overlays, like Polyaspartic flooring, are often the coating of choice when working on surfaces where aesthetics as well as durability is important. They are frequently used to create impressive retail stores and showrooms and can take on the appearance of natural stone, brick, tile or slate.

Durability of Concrete Overlays

Hopefully this article has helped to clear up some of the confusion you may have been experiencing as you examined the many types of concrete coatings available for your use.  Now that you have done your research, you will be better able to decide which concrete coating best suits your needs.


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      Ted 7 years ago

      Great article! You know, another great book for those wanting to break into the decorative concrete coatings industry is The Book of Decorative Concrete Coatings. You can view a sample chapter at