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Penetrating Sealers versus Topical Coating Sealers

Penetrating Sealers versus Topical Coating Sealers

Learn about important differences between different types of sealers and what this means for your stone, concrete, or pavers.

You’ve probably dedicated considerable thought to choosing the right natural stone, concrete, or pavers for your property. But have you given any thought to your choice of sealer?

Sealing is absolutely essential for protecting your natural stone or concrete surfaces from damage and maximizing their service life. With the right sealer, you’ll get protection from:

  • Water damage
  • Chemical damage
  • Stains
  • Abrasion
  • UV damage
  • Wear and tear

However, choose the wrong sealer, and the look of your surface may be spoiled. Correcting sealer mistakes is a costly and labor-intensive process, so it’s important to get the right product for your natural stone, concrete, or pavers the first time—and every time—that you seal them.

What is a Penetrating Sealer?

A penetrating sealer goes beneath the surface of your stone, concrete, or pavers and into the pores, where it reacts chemically to create a protective bond. This fills the pores, making the material denser and less absorbent. Once sealed, the surface will shed water and other liquids, thus reducing the likelihood of stains. It will also be more difficult for dirt and dust to get trapped in the pores, so the surface will be easier to keep clean. Penetrating sealers are an excellent choice for high-traffic areas because they do not create a slippery film on top of your stone.

What is a Topical Coating Sealer?

A topical coating sealer works by forming a protective film on top of your concrete or pavers. This film serves a variety of purposes. First of all, it helps repel moisture to prevent water damage and staining. It also provides a barrier against dirt, oil, grease, and chemicals, so your surface will be easier to clean. Plus, it serves as a sacrificial layer—wear and tear from abrasion and the elements will affect the sealer first, leaving the material beneath unharmed. Depending on the type of topical coating sealer you choose, it can also give your surfaces a darker color and a glossy finish.

Penetrating SealersTopical Coating Sealers
For natural stoneFor concrete and pavers
Penetrates into the pores of the materialSits on top of the material
Forms a protective bondWill get worn away over time
Breathable to allow moisture vapor to escapeBreathable and non-breathable options*
Won’t increase slipperinessCan make surfaces slippery**
Matte finishSatin or Gloss finish
Natural look/invisible protection or color enhancementColor enhancement

* Fuller Stone Care uses breathable coatings.
**Fuller Stone Care uses anti-slip coatings. Non-slip grit can also be applied for extra traction

Choosing between penetrating sealers and topical coating sealers is just the first step in finding the right sealer for your project. Each type of sealer comes in many different formulations, which can affect their color, cost, ease of application, curing time, performance, lifespan, and more.

Types of Penetrating Sealers

Silanes: Silane sealers are made from small molecules in the silicone family. The small size of these molecules means you get deep penetration into the pores of your material, resulting in a strong bond, excellent water repellence and abrasion resistance, and a long service life. Silane sealers will only wear away if the actual surface of your stone, pavers, or concrete itself wears away.

Siloxanes: Because siloxane sealers contain larger molecules than silanes, they won’t penetrate as deeply into the pores of your material. However, they are also less volatile, as the larger molecules evaporate at a slower rate during application and curing. This means they can provide good protection against water intrusion and abrasion at a lower cost.

Fluoropolymers: This is the most common type of sealer with a wide range in cost. Fluoropolymer sealers are easy to apply, but be careful not to over-apply or they can dry with a haze on the surface.

All of these penetrating sealers will provide invisible protection so you can preserve the natural beauty of your surfaces without altering their appearance. They are breathable, so you don’t have to worry about damage from trapped moisture vapor.

Color Enhancing Penetrating Sealers: This type of sealer is similar to fluoropolymers but enhances the color of the stone.

Types of Topical Coating Sealers

Acrylics: Available in both water-based and solvent-based formulas, acrylic sealers are easy and economical to apply and will dry very quickly. Solvent-based acrylics provide better color enhancement and weather resistance, making them ideal for outdoor use on colored concrete. Acrylics are not the longest-lasting type of topical coating sealers, but for indoor applications, they can be paired with wax or floor finish to protect them from wear and tear and extend their lifespan.

Polyurethanes: Polyurethane sealers form a coating that is stronger than acrylic and lacquer sealers and creates a very durable finish that is resistant to scuffs and staining. These sealers can be tricky to apply because they have to be mixed properly and some come with two parts to mix. Polyurethane sealers come in a range of sheen levels and will create a transparent, non-yellowing finish.

Epoxies: An epoxy sealer will give you a long-lasting, abrasion-resistant finish plus excellent water repellence. However, water won’t be able to get out of the concrete either, so you may have issues with trapped moisture. We would recommend installing a moisture barrier before applying the epoxy. Because epoxy sealers tend to yellow in the sunlight, they are best used on indoor surfaces. Clear and colored options are available. Either way you get a glossy finish that can stand up to heavy foot traffic. Epoxies can be a bit challenging to use because they are usually a two-part product that must be mixed before application.

Lacquers: Precast concrete blocks or pavers can be topped with a lacquer to create a smooth and shiny finish that is both durable and beautiful. The lacquer creates a barrier that helps protect the surface from dust, abrasion, water, chemicals, and UV rays. Lacquer is an especially good choice when you want a “wet look” on your pavers or concrete. Formulas are available for interior and exterior use.

Still Confused? Call Fuller Stone Care

When you choose Fuller Stone Care for your sealing project, you can rest assured we will use a high-quality product that is appropriate for the type of surface you have as well as your needs and preferences. If you have questions about sealing your natural stone, concrete, or pavers, please contact us at 310-944-9099.

QUESTIONS? Call us anytime at 310-944-9099

Fuller Stone Care Located at
811 Spencer Street, Redondo Beach, CA.
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