Choosing the best driveway sealer for your concrete driveway will depend on a few factors:
- What do you want your concrete driveway to look like once sealed?
- Why do you need to seal your concrete driveway?
- Has your concrete driveway ever been sealed before?
What do you want your driveway to look like once sealed?
- No change in appearance: Armor SX5000
- Wet Look, Low Gloss: Armor AR350
- High Gloss: Armor AR500
First, let’s go over what you want your concrete driveway to look like once sealed. Most people are looking for a natural sealer, or a sealer that won’t change the look or color of the concrete. If this is the case, and you want a sealer that performs without changing the physical appearance, then you want a penetrating concrete sealer.
Under the category of penetrating sealers, there are concrete densifiers and water repellents. Concrete densifiers are permanent sealers that chemically react within the pores to create a crystalline barrier that can never be broken down or removed. The two most common types of densifiers are Sodium Silicates and Lithium Silicates. Densifiers are best when used on old or weak concrete, or on concrete having issues with dusting. Their primary purpose is to increase the strength of surface, but they will NOT help with deterioration caused by water absorption, staining, or snow and ice because they don’t repel water. If you want a clear sealer that protects against those factors, then you want a water repellent sealer. Water repellents can be applied to concrete previously sealed with a densifier (allow 7-10 days between applications), or to unsealed concrete. The most common types of water repellent sealers are Silane sealers, Siloxane sealers, Silane Siloxane sealers, and Siliconate sealers. The best water repellents to use are Silane Siloxane hybrids, or Siliconates. Siliconate water repellents are fast-acting, cost effective water repellents that provide immediate satisfaction. Water will bead off of sealed surfaces almost immediately, and they require only one coat. Siliconate water repellents are best to use on white or light concrete, as they can leave a white residue on dark or porous surfaces. Silane Siloxane sealers are a bit more industrial than siliconates and require two coats. They can be applied to virtually all masonry surfaces including concrete, block, brick, and pavers. Approved by the Department of Transportation, Silane-Siloxanes are a great choice for homeowners looking for a truly professional grade sealer.
If you don’t like how your driveway looks and want to enhance it with a color, wet look, or high gloss, then you want an acrylic sealer. Not all acrylic sealers are the same however so it is important to know the differences.
Resins: The resins in an acrylic sealer are what set apart one product apart from the next. Sealers that use cheap imported resins from Chine often sell for $75-125/pail and last for about a year. Sealers that use high quality US manufactured resins often sell for $175-200+/pail and last for 2-3 years on an exterior application, and 5+ years on an interior application. There are several other factors that contribute to life, but the price of the product is most often associated with the quality of materials used in the formula.
Water VS Solvent Based: There are several differences between water based and solvent based acrylic sealers. Here are a few of the main differences:
- Most water based acrylic sealers are only available in clear, while solvent based acrylic sealers are available in both clear and color.
- When it comes time to reapply a solvent based acrylic, you simply put more solvent based acrylic down over the existing coating. When it comes time to reapply a water based acrylic, you need to screen sand the surface before applying more water based acrylic.
- Water based acrylics can’t be applied over solvent based acrylics, and solvent based acrylics can’t be applied over water based acrylics. Unless you remove all of the acrylic currently down, you need to recoat with the same material applied 1-5 years prior.
- If you are looking for a darkened surface, you want a solvent based acrylic. The resins are what aid in darkening the surface appearance. Water based acrylics will provide a level of gloss, but the change to the surface appearance will be minimal compared to a solvent based acrylic.
Why do you need to seal your driveway?
There are many benefits to sealing your driveway. Whether you seal it immediately after being poured, or wait until the concrete is 10 years old, it should be sealed.
There are many ways in which concrete and pavers can be damaged:
- Snow and Ice: When snow and ice melts it turns into water. When in liquid form, the concrete will absorb the water. When temperatures drop, the water freezes within the pores causing the concrete to crack, chip, and spall. Water repellent sealers and acrylic sealers will help reduce damage and deterioration caused by snow and ice.
- Surface Abrasion: Surface abrasion caused by foot and vehicle traffic will slowly eat away at the surface of the concrete. Acrylic sealers will help reduce damage and deterioration caused by surface abrasion. If you don’t want to put down a coating, consider applying a densifier to increase the strength of the surface, followed by a water repellent sealer to reduce internal damage.
- Water Absorption: Water from melted snow and ice, and irrigation systems, will slowly eat away at the concrete from within the pores. Water that gets trapped within the pores will cause issues such as staining, mold and mildew growth, cracking and spalling, and more. Water repellent sealers and acrylic sealers will help reduce damage and deterioration caused by water absorption.
- Staining: While stains may not cause the concrete to deteriorate necessarily, they will make a clean concrete driveway look old and dingy fast. Acrylic sealers will help reduce damage and deterioration caused by surface stains. If you don’t want to put down a coating, consider applying a water repellent sealer to reduce liquid absorption.
Has your driveway ever been sealed before?
This is very important because it will determine what you can put down NOW.
- Silicate Sealer: Silane Siloxane, Siliconate, and Acrylic sealers can all be applied over surfaces previously sealed with a silicate based densifier. While Silane Siloxane and Siliconate sealers may not have any issues, it is important to test the surface before applying an acrylic sealer. If the acrylic sealer doesn’t have enough pore space to appropriately bond, you can experience delamination. Silicate sealers can’t be applied AFTER another sealer has been applied, but they can be applied before most other sealers.
- Silane Siloxane Sealer and Siliconate Sealers: It is best to contact a product technician if your surfaces has been previously sealed with a water repellent sealer. There are several factors to take into consideration such as whether it was water or solvent based, when it was applied, and if there is still any active chemicals left in the concrete. These factors will also determine when, how, and if another water repellent sealer, or an acrylic sealer, can be applied to the surface.
- Water Based Acrylic Sealer: Water based acrylic sealers can be recoated with a water based acrylic sealer after necessary prep work has been completed.
- Solvent Based Acrylic Sealer: Solvent based acrylic sealers can be recoated with a solvent based acrylic sealer after the surface has been cleaned and dried.