When it comes to sealing your driveway, there are a few different types of concrete sealers you can use. Which concrete sealer is best for your concrete driveway will depend on a few factors, including:

  • What do you want your driveway to look like once sealed?
  • Is your driveway currently sealed?
  • Why do you want to seal your driveway?
  • How often do you want to maintain your driveway sealer?

First, what do you want your driveway to look like once sealed?

If you want your concrete driveway to look like it looks unsealed, then you want a penetrating concrete sealer. Penetrating concrete sealers penetrate into the surface of the concrete where they chemically react below the surface in the pores. The two most common types of penetrating concrete sealers are silicate densifiers and water repellent sealers.Concrete Driveway Sealer

  • Silicate Densifiers: Silicate densifiers chemically react below the surface to form a crystalline barrier within the pores. Densifiers are used to increase the density of the concrete and reduce deterioration caused by weak concrete and surface abrasion. The two best densifiers to use on concrete are the Armor S2000 (for porous concrete) and the Armor L3000 (for dense concrete).
  • Water Repellent Sealers: Water repellent sealers chemically react below the surface of the concrete to form a hydrophobic barrier within the pores. Water repellent sealers reduce the absorption of water on the surface and reduce deterioration caused by water absorption. Water repellent sealers are the most popular type of concrete driveway sealer because they provide the most benefits. They reduce cracking, spalling, pitting, staining, mold and mildew, and efflorescence. The three best water repellent sealers to use on concrete are the Armor SX5000 (DOT approved solvent based Silane Siloxane), SX5000 WB (DOT approved water based Silane Siloxane), and Armor SC25 (water based Siliconate). The Armor SC25 is great for light or white concrete, while the Armor SX5000 and Armor SX5000 WB are top rated sealers for virtually all types of concrete and masonry.

If you want your concrete driveway to have a wet look, low gloss, high gloss, or colored finish then you want an acrylic sealer. Avoid the use of concrete paints because they are hard to maintain and don’t have a consistent finish when it comes time to recoat.

Acrylic concrete sealers penetrate through the surface in order to bond, but they also leave behind a visible, protective surface film. The two primary types of acrylic sealers are acrylic lacquer sealers and acrylic co-polymer sealers. Acrylic lacquer sealers are pure acrylic sealers and acrylic co-polymer sealers contain styrene. Most acrylic co-polymer sealers double as a cure and seal. One type of acrylic sealer is not necessarily better than the other, but pure acrylic lacquers perform best on cured concrete and acrylic co-polymers work best when applied to uncured concrete.

Under the main types of acrylic sealers there are water based and solvent based acrylic sealers. There are a few differences between the two:

  • Solvent based acrylic sealers will darken the surface of the concrete to make it look wet, but water based acrylic sealers won’t.
  • Solvent based acrylic sealers can be repaired with Xylene, but water based acrylic sealers require screen sanding and new material.
  • Solvent based acrylic sealers can be applied in clear or color options, but water based acrylic sealers can only be applied in clear.
  • Non-slip additive can be added into solvent based acrylic sealers without issue, but when added into water based acrylic sealers can cause issues because of how think the acrylic material is.

Best acrylic driveway sealers:

Next, is your driveway currently sealed?

If your driveway does not currently have a sealer on it, you can use any type of sealer you wish to seal your driveway. For the best concrete sealer for your driveway, refer to the section above. If your driveway is currently sealed and there is still old sealer left on the concrete, then you need to make sure that the new sealer is compatible with the sealer currently on the driveway.

  • Silicate: If your driveway was previously sealed with a silicate concrete sealer, you can apply a water repellent sealer or an acrylic sealer to the surface.
  • Silane-Siloxane Sealer: If your driveway was previously sealed with a Silane-Siloxane sealer and it has been five or more years since being sealed, then you need to run a water test. When you spill water onto the concrete surface, if the water is instantly absorbed into the concrete then you can re-coat with a Silane-Siloxane sealer or an acrylic concrete sealer. If when you spill water onto the surface the water beads, you need to reapply with a solvent based acrylic sealer or a solvent based silane siloxane sealer, and only after a test area has been proven successful. Do not attempt to use a water based product because the water repellent will repel the water based sealer.
  • Acrylic sealer: If your driveway was previously sealed with a water based acrylic sealer then it needs to be recoated with a water based acrylic sealer. If your driveway was previously sealed with a solvent based acrylic sealer then it needs to be recoated with a solvent based acrylic sealer. You can’t put a water based acrylic over a solvent based acrylic, or a solvent based acrylic over a water based acrylic because the solvent based sealer will “attack” the water based sealer causing both sealers to fail.

Third, why do you want to seal your concrete driveway?

Each category of sealer is has very specific performance abilities. Sealers are designed to reduce, and coatings are designed to stop. Penetrating concrete sealers still leave the surface of the concrete exposed, which means that while penetrating sealers can reduce deterioration and staining, they can’t stop it. Acrylic concrete sealers leave behind a protective surface film which means that the acrylic sealer will take the abuse instead of the concrete. Each type of sealer has its own set of strengths.

  • Silicate Sealers: If you are having issues with concrete dusting or deterioration from surface abrasion, silicate concrete sealers will help to increase the surface strength and reduce dusting and deterioration. Silicate sealers won’t repel surface water and the surface of the concrete won’t have a film. Cracking, spalling, pitting, and staining caused by the absorption of water will still occur.
  • Water repellent sealers: Water repellent sealers won’t increase the strength of the concrete so they can’t stop dusting and deterioration caused by surface abrasion. They will however help to reduce deterioration caused by the absorption of water. Water repellent sealers are often used as preventative sealers to reduce staining, cracking, spalling, freeze-thaw and ice damage, mold and mildew, and efflorescence. While water repellent sealers can significantly reduce damage, they can’t stop it, especially in severe environments. They also can’t stop oil stains or hot tire pickup.
  • Acrylic sealers: Acrylic sealers will stop most damage to the concrete because acrylic sealers leave behind a protective surface film. They put a layer between the concrete and the environment. Stains and deterioration can still happen to the sealer, but the sealer will protect the concrete.

Lastly, how often do you want to maintain your sealer?

Each type of sealer has a very specific life expectancy and while certain factors can extend or shorten the life, the following is a fairly accurate guideline:

  • Silicate sealers last forever. The crystalline barrier formed within the concrete during the chemical reaction between the silicate and the concrete can never be broken down or removed unless the concrete itself is removed.
  • Water repellent sealers last for anywhere from 6 months to 10 years. Lower quality water repellents usually need to be resealed every year, and higher quality water repellents every 7-10 years.
  • Arylic sealers need to be recoated every 1-5 years. Acrylic sealers don’t typically chip or peel, but the level of gloss is reduced from surface abrasion and exposure to UV rays. On average, an acrylic sealer is recoated every 2-3 years when a high quality acrylic sealer is used.