When buying a concrete sealer, it is always a good idea to do your research. However, the savvy consumer will immediately be struck by the sheer magnitude of information available online about concrete sealers. Some will advocate for sodium silicates, some will reference VOC contents, and still others will debate the efficacy of solvent- or water-based sealers for various projects.
The important thing to realize, as someone looking to seal their concrete, is that the type of sealer used will vary greatly given each particular project. Some projects, such as a basement, will require a penetrating sealer, like a sodium silicate. Others, like a driveway in the Northeast, will be better off with a lithium silicate. Still others, like pool decks in Arizona, will find an acrylic sealer most effective. The proper application will vary given the different project parameters.
At its most basic level, concrete sealers will either penetrate the material, or they will remain on the surface. Surface sealers, like acrylics and epoxies, are solutions that are made up of large particles of sealing material. These large particles will not fit through the tiny pores decorating the surface of concrete. Instead, they will remain on the surface, acting like a raincoat for the concrete to help resist water. Of course, like a raincoat they will not keep water out indefinitely; they are simply water resistant, not waterproof. In fact, there is no way for a company to guarantee its product to be fully waterproof, although many companies claim this about their products.
Penetrating sealers, on the other hand, are solutions whose particles of sealant are so small that they actually are propelled past the surface of the concrete, sinking into the material where the protection begins. Penetrating sealers are not at all like a raincoat. There is, instead, a chemical reaction between the particles (typically of silicate, siliconate, or a blend of the two) and the free lime and calcium already present within the concrete. This reaction leads to the production of CSH, or calcium silicate hydrate, which serves to repair cracks and fractures within the concrete, as well as filling in the tiny pores flecked throughout the material. The process makes the concrete stronger and more durable, helping prevent the passage of water and vapors through the concrete, all while allowing the concrete to breathe, which is crucial to its strength.
While acrylic sealers are better for decorative concrete, such as pool decks, patios, and driveways made up of concrete pavers, penetrating sealers are better for basements, garages, and driveways made of more traditional, tougher concrete. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make regarding any type of concrete sealer, whether acrylic or sodium silicate, surface or penetrating, is whether to use water- or solvent-based versions of each respective product.
Water-based products, whether surface or penetrating, are safer for the environment. Their volatile organic compound (VOC) contents are either zero or very low, making their environmental impact significantly less than that of their solvent peers. Water-based sealers are also a lot safer to apply. They are typically recommended for indoor projects, such as basements, because they do not emit as many (if any) dangerous fumes, and they do not tend to be at as high a risk of flammability as solvent-based products.
In contrast, solvent-based products tend to be more expensive. They are more harmful to the environment, yes, but they also tend to be more cost-effective, as they are often much stronger than their water-based counterparts. As technology continues to improve until we will live in a society of robots, flying cars, cities on Mars, and virtual immortality (thanks, Ray Kurzweil), water-based sealers are gradually becoming stronger and more competitive with solvents. Similarly, more and more states like California, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania are enacting environmental restrictions that prohibit the use of solvent-based sealers. At the present time, however, solvent-based sealers are still a viable concrete sealing option, as they last long and deliver a deeper, richer, glossier color to the concrete to which they are applied.
For a more in-depth look at which concrete sealers to choose, Concrete Sealer Reviews has one of the best articles describing the various concrete sealing options to the layperson – that’s the article you should read if you’re that aforementioned savvy consumer faced with too much information about concrete sealers. And, of course, GHOSTSHIELD product line (manufactured by KRETETEK) is one of the strongest available on the market today. It has a couple solvent-based options (and most of the solvent-based options are actually legal in those strict states), a lot of water-based offerings, and a wide variety of choices for penetrating and surface sealers, from sodium silicates, lithium silicates, silane/siloxanes, acrylics, epoxies, and polyaspartics, all of which are discussed in that article linked above.
KRETETEK manufactures GHOSTSHIELD concrete sealers, waterproofers, densifiers, epoxies, urethanes, decorative concrete sealers and cleaners.
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