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How to Choose the Best Concrete Sealer for Your Project

How To Choose the Best Concrete Sealer for Your Project

Whether you’re in the market for a concrete sealer, brick sealer, paver sealer, or basement foundation sealer, then you’ve come to the right place. Choosing the right type of sealer is critical to the success of your project. Choose wisely, and improve the look and life of your hardscaping, while reducing maintenance and potential problems. Choose poorly, and you can be in for major headaches. There are several factors to consider when deciding which sealer to choose, and there is no single product that is best for all jobs.

Below you will find details on the most common types of concrete sealers, their pros & cons, and more information that may make choosing the best concrete sealer a bit easier.

Concrete Sealer vs. Concrete Sealant?

What is the difference between “concrete sealants” and “concrete sealers”? This is a very common question. The confusion is generally linked to the terms being used interchangeably (and incorrectly). Although the terms are commonly interchanged, they do not refer to the same thing.

Concrete sealants are used to fill gaps, holes, joints, and cracks in concrete and masonry. They are typically composed of epoxy, urethane, or silicone.

Sealers, on the other hand, are applied directly to the substrate and used to protect concrete and masonry from infiltration of unwanted materials (i.e. water, salts, oils, etc.…). Sealers are generally broken into two major categories: film-forming or penetrating. 

Types of Concrete Sealers

Below you will find a description of the most common concrete sealers available.


Wax Sealers

A water or solvent-based, acrylic copolymer coating for interior decorative concrete. Water-based wax floor finishes are typically mopped on using a microfiber mop. Solvent-based options are applied using specialized buffing equipment. Several layers of wax are applied to the surface. Often used by contractors as a curing agent for green concrete and to keep surfaces clean during construction.

Pros: The most basic sealer. Easy to apply. Provides a low to high sheen. Inexpensive. When properly applied they provide slip resistance. Protects surfaces from scuffs, wear, and minor damage. Solvent-based products are resistant to heel marks. Damage to the wax coating is easy to repair.

Cons: Relatively poor sealing properties. Soft and poor durability. Stain easily. Short life. Must be reapplied frequently. Susceptible to UV rays, heat, and corrosive materials. They usually disintegrate within a few months.

Bottom Line: Often used at schools, malls, museums, and other places with dedicated maintenance personnel. A basic and high-maintenance choice.


Waterproofing Coatings for Foundations

Spray, roll, or trowel-on coatings that are applied to the outside of foundation walls. Required by the International Residential Code (IRC), for basements and other below-grade spaces. Traditionally, they are comprised of asphalt or tar. Polymerized (rubberized) waterproofing coatings are available in spray-on versions or now in sheets applied like wallpaper.

Pros: An effective first line of defense for your foundation and basement. Tar or asphalt coatings are the cheapest but are only effective for dampproofing, not waterproofing. Polymerized (rubberized) waterproofing coatings can last much longer.

Cons: Tar and asphalt are brittle and flake off over time. As the foundation settles and moves, the coating will fail. All coatings, including the polymerized waterproofing coatings, get attacked by lime in the concrete, which causes them to separate. (Solution: Neutralize the alkalis and seal the concrete first with RadonSeal.)

Bottom Line: Complies with building codes. A good first line of protection. Effective when intact.


Latex-based Waterproofing Paints

Water-based paints that us a plastic resin made of acrylic or polyvinyl. No actual latex rubber is used in these products. Waterproofing paints can be applied to foundation walls with a brush or roller.

Pros: Can be applied to interior or exterior surfaces. Water-based. Easy and safe application. Inexpensive and widely available in home improvement stores.

Cons: Will not resist hydrostatic pressure. When used below grade, they crack and peel because water pressure and efflorescence push them from the wall. Moreover, lime and alkalis from the concrete attack all paints by “saponification.” Soft and susceptible to wear and abrasion. If the paint fails, it must be completely removed first. Not suitable for floors

Bottom Line: Paints are for aesthetics, not waterproofing. Use RadonSeal Deep Penetrating Sealer before applying paint to deep-seal the concrete, protect the paint, and extend its life.


Acrylic concrete sealer (Wet Look Sealer)

A decorative coating for concrete and masonry. Particles of acrylic solids are suspended in a liquid carrier (either water or a solvent) and are deposited on the surface of the substrate. Commonly marketed as a “wet look” or “high gloss” paver sealer, or stamped concrete sealer.

Pros: Form a shiny film and enhance the appearance of colored and decorative concrete, or exposed aggregate. Easy to apply and inexpensive. Solvent-based products can provide more gloss and will hold up better on exterior surfaces. Water-based acrylics are ideal for indoors because they are much less toxic with very low odor.

Cons: Acrylic sealers are decorative coatings, not true sealers. Protection is marginal and temporary. Acrylics wear unevenly and are vulnerable to vehicle and foot traffic. Solvent-based acrylics pose health and fire hazards. Acrylics are susceptible to black heel marks and “hot tire” pick-up. Treated surfaces are slippery when wet.

Bottom Line: Makes for a pretty finish. These products require frequent reapplication to keep them looking their best. Not good for high-traffic areas or concrete driveways. Slip hazard is high on pool decks, stairs, & sidewalks. If you are considering a wet look sealer, this Article is a must read. 

Polyurethane coatings

Polyurethane coatings provide a high-build protective film on a concrete floor. They can be clear or colored. The coating is several times thicker and more durable than acrylic sealers.

Pros: Much stronger than acrylics and resistant to traffic, abrasion, and chemicals. UV resistant and will not yellow in the sun. Used indoors or outdoors to beautify colored, stamped, or decorative concrete. Available in a variety of sheen levels. Water-based urethanes are better for indoors due to their low odor and inherent safety.

Cons: Urethane coatings do not breathe. If applied to on-grade or below-grade, they will trap moisture, activate efflorescence, bubble, and crack (solution: deep-seal the concrete with RadonSeal first to prevent moisture transmission from the negative side). Application can be tricky and if the surface is not properly prepared, it will delaminate and fail. Additionally, treated surfaces will be slippery when wet. Solvent-based polyurethanes pose health and fire hazards.

Bottom Line: If you know what you are doing, polyurethane sealers can provide great protection and appearance. Because polyurethanes do not “breathe”, they are not for use below grade or where moisture is a concern. *Pro-Tip: Use RadonSeal Deep-Penetrating Sealer before using a polyurethane coating to prevent moisture problems.


Epoxy coatings

Another high-build topical sealer for concrete. They combine a resin and hardener to chemically bond with the concrete. Form a hard, protective layer over concrete. Available in clear or colored options. May require a primer to ensure proper bonding to concrete.

Pros:  Very strong and durable with good chemical and abrasion resistance. Bond well with concrete surfaces provided they are prepped properly. Allow for easy cleanup of spills.

Cons: Not permeable to water vapor. Trap moisture and will not let the substrate “breathe.” This causes efflorescence, bubbling, and cracking. Require significant surface preparation before application. Expensive. Will yellow when exposed to sunlight.

Bottom Line:  A good option to protect indoor concrete surfaces. Best suited for workshop floors or a garage floor, where there is minimal direct sun exposure. Highly customizable finish. Epoxy coatings are vulnerable to water or moisture. If there is water in the concrete during the epoxy application, the coating will fail. Additionally, moisture from the under the floor will get trapped under the epoxy and cause it to bubble, and delaminate. First use RadonSeal Deep-Penetrating Sealer to mitigate negative-side moisture transfer and extend the life of the epoxy coating.


Cementitious slurry concrete sealer

Thick cementitious coating that is troweled onto the surface of a foundation wall. Composed of Portland cement and fine sand. Some versions are impregnated with water-proofing additives. 

Pros: Well-proven for stopping water seepage through leaking concrete walls. Some contain silicate crystals that penetrate into the surface of concrete.
Cons: The “cold joint” of the coating with the old concrete is vulnerable and will eventually break off and fail. Efflorescence and water pressure cause separation and cracking. A very messy and time-consuming process. Once cured, the finish is “unattractive”. Cannot reduce water vapor or radon gas. As the waterproofing crystals get pushed out over time, the material loses its waterproofing properties. (Then, it can be re-sealed with RadonSeal.)


Silane sealers

A reactive, penetrating concrete sealer derived from the silicone molecule. Silanes are closely related to siloxane, and the two often appear together in blended water-repellent sealers. Silane sealers can be water based or solvent based. Solvent-based options are more expensive and require specialized application equipment. Silane sealers penetrate and react in the presence of alkali to form a hydrophobic resin inside the pores.

Pros: Because they are very small molecules, silanes penetrate deep (1/8” to 1/4”). This results in above average salt/chloride protection, and weather resistance. This is very important in cold climates where ice melting chemicals are used and freeze thaw cycles are common. Excellent water-repellent qualities. Allows surfaces to breathe and will not trap moisture. A durable and long-lasting option.

Cons: Can only react in when applied to surfaces with a high pH, like poured concrete, and concrete blocks. They are not for clay brick, pavers, and porous stone. Cost 2-3 times more than siloxane. May darken the substrate. Not suitable to prevent negative side water pressure. Not paintable. High volatility during curing requires high solids content – this results in higher cost.

Bottom Line:  A good water-repellent sealer for cement-base substrates. A solid choice for stamped concrete and outdoor concrete in general, but a very expensive one. Often referred to as “siloxane’s older, more expensive, brother”. Silane sealers are becoming hard to find without siloxane, as the siloxane component makes the sealer much more versatile. If you are considering a silane/siloxane sealer, read about our DryWay silane/siloxane sealer. 

Siloxane sealers

Derived from silicone, like silane. Perhaps the most common penetrating water-based sealer on the market. Although, there are still some solvent-based sealers available. Best applied with a sprayer under low-pressure. Forms a water-repellent layer below the surface, which sheds and beads water. Like filling the pores with silicone caulk.

Pros:  Let the substrate “breathe.” Can be used on any porous surface (concrete, brick, stone). Relatively inexpensive. Excellent water repellent qualities.

Cons: May become slippery when wet. Not paintable. Not suitable for negative side water pressure. Large molecules result in limited performance on more dense surfaces like, pre-cast concrete, heavy weight block, & smooth faced block. Larger molecules sit higher in the surfaces and are vulnerable to abrasion and weathering. This results in a shorter life expectancy when compared to silane sealers.

Bottom Line: A good choice when it comes to a muilti-purpose residential sealer. Effective on many types of surfaces, concrete, brick, pavers, etc. A silane/siloxanxe blend is the best choice as the two compliment each other well.


Polyester/Polyurethane penetrating sealers

The newest and best performing penetrating water-repellent sealer available. Polyurethane and polyester polymers penetrate 2 inches into the substrate and harden like a durable plastic (often referred to as “poor-man’s epoxy”). This type of sealer is water-based and leaves a natural finish. However, some varieties are modified with acrylic to leave a low-gloss sheen.     

Pros: Incredibly versatile – will work on any porous surface (even untreated wood). Penetrates deeper and last longer than silane & siloxane sealers. Hardens and binds surfaces to eliminate dusting and prevent spalling and flaking of brick and concrete. Ideal for old, soft, brick. Lets the substrate “breathe.” Paintable. 15+ years service life.
Cons: Reduce but not stop vapor, gases, and efflorescence.

Bottom Line: The “best of the best” when it comes to water-repellent sealers. The ability to seal and harden surfaces makes this type of sealer unrivaled.


Silicate concrete sealers

Pros: Penetrate the deepest and seal the tightest. React with lime and alkalis in concrete to fill the pores. Like filling the pores with cement. Strengthen the concrete and harden the surface. Seal against both positive and negative side water pressure. Let the substrate “breathe.” Stop efflorescence. Permanent. No re-application is needed.
Cons: Only for concrete and cementitious materials.

State-of-the-Art Penetrating Concrete Sealers

These premium waterborne concrete sealers have higher concentrations of the key compounds and unique characteristics that make them top-performers in their categories:

RadonSeal Deep-Penetrating Concrete Sealer is a silicate-based reactive sealer. Compared to other silicate sealers, RadonSeal is heavier, penetrates deeper, and seals tighter – not only against water but also against vapor and even radon gas. Still lets the substrate “breathe” and dry out. More
about RadonSeal Concrete Sealer

Unlike other siloxane-based sealers, Ion-Bond Armor Subsurface Elastomeric Sealer penetrates much deeper into the substrate and forms a waterproof barrier well below the surface, hidden from UV-rays. It is the only siloxane sealer that is also effective against negative side water pressure. About Ion-Bond Armor Concrete Sealer

LastiSeal Brick & Masonry Sealer is a polyester-based sealer that waterproof a wide range of materials – concrete, blocks, bricks, pavers, and
masonry. Its deep penetration makes the seal almost permanent. LastiSeal Concrete Stain & Sealer waterproofs and beautifies concrete in one step with a choice of colors and safety superior to acid staining. About LastiSeal Brick & Masonry Sealer or LastiSeal Concrete Stain

Taking the best features of siloxane and silane sealers, our DryWay Water-Repellent Sealer penetrates into the substrate and forms an internal water-repellent barrier. A long-lasting protection for driveways, garage floors, pool decks, outdoor concrete, pavers, and masonry. Sheds water for 10 years. About DryWay Driveway Sealer

For tips how to select the best sealer for your application visit Cutting-Edge Penetrating Sealers for Concrete, Brick, and Masonry