Stamped concrete driveways, patios, and sidewalks need sealer to maintain long and attractive use. This sealer protects the concrete from stains, discoloration, and moderate wear. Stamped concrete colors also look better when sealed. Sealer deepens color for a richer appearance. Stained concrete colors, colored concrete, and color stamp concrete all require sealer to reach full potential.
Sealing stamped concrete starts with selecting the right sealer for the job. There's a wide range of sealers on the market suitable for stamped and colored concrete. Each one has benefits that suit a particular kind of job. In general, however, it is important to stick to a sealer that you are familiar with, from a reputable manufacturer, and uses high quality ingredients. Follow manufacturer instructions closely every time you apply a sealer.
Interior Sealers vs Exterior Sealers:
Many sealers can be used both indoors and outdoors. Some are limited in where they can be used. This usually comes down to UV resistance, odor, and slip resistance. Sealers that are labeled for indoor use only are not typically UV-stable. This means exposure to sunlight will cause the sealer to yellow or fail over time. Indoor use only sealers can also be labeled like that if they present a slip and fall risk. Because of the type of coating they form, these sealers can become very slippery when wet which makes them a poor choice for outdoor use. On the other hand, few sealers are truly outdoor only sealers. However, many high VOC or otherwise smelly sealers may be undesirable for interior use. This is especially the case for renovations and other projects where other people are still in the building during sealer application.
Choosing the Right Sealer:
When sealing stamped concrete, it is important to choose the right material. This applies to the performance of the sealer as well as its impact on appearance. For best results, you should always select the best quality sealer available. This means choosing a sealer from a reputable manufacturer that uses high quality acrylics, resins, or epoxies. A low quality sealer can fail too soon and lead to callbacks and lost earnings.
Gloss level is another important factor when selecting a sealer. Most sealers will enhance or deepen color but they have varying levels of shine. Decorative concrete sealers range from satin to high gloss finishes. Satin finishes darken the color a little bit but add minimal shine. Satin sealers are good for subtle, natural appearance. On the other end of the spectrum, glossy sealers offer brilliant, high impact visuals. The highest gloss sealers are often referred to as "wet look" sealers because they mimic the appearance of wet concrete with a high sheen and noticeably deepened color.
Correct installation is just as important as choosing the right sealer. Sealer failures are almost always a result of mistakes during application or surface preparation. Sealing stamped concrete isn't too different from other kinds of concrete. Installers have to make sure the concrete is free of contaminants and other bond breakers. Liquid release residue and excessive antique release powder can cause sealer failure. Insufficiently profiled concrete is also a point of failure for sealer. New stamped concrete has a tight finish, meaning there isn't a much opportunity for the sealer to mechanically bond. A light etch, which is needed anyway to remove excess release, is enough to open up the pores and give sealer a good bond.
Sealer should be reapplied every few years, as wear and deterioration dictate. When using the same sealer, you can typically get away with cleaning and a light profile. With heavy deterioration, sealer failure, or changing sealers, it is necessary to strip the existing sealer and start over.
Application techniques for sealing stamped concrete are simple. Most sealers are applied using a standard, solvent-resistant pump sprayer. Spraying is best for even coverage. Some sealers, especially higher VOC sealers, can be rolled. In either case, it is best to apply in a crosshatch pattern between coats. This minimizes marks and reduces the likelihood of less than full coverage.
Sealer is there to protect the concrete. Maintaining the sealer is important to ensure long lasting and attractive concrete. Unmaintained or failing sealer looks bad and does not protect the concrete. For most sealers, you just need to clean it regularly with a neutral cleanser and clean water. When the sealer is worn through, reapply the sealer as directed in the product tech sheet. For interior application, a sacrificial coating such as Brickform Premium Acrylic Floor Finish can extend service life.