One of the most amazing sights you’ll see is a newly sealed stamped concrete surface. The deep color, the shiny surface – you could stare at the concrete for hours wallowing at its beauty. Then it happens – bubbles appear and the surface turns white. It goes from gorgeous to hideous – so much so that you want to cover the entire surface with a tarp so your neighbors don’t see it. Well, we have some good news. First, this isn’t the case with all stamped concrete sealers and second, if it does happen, often times it is a very easy fix.

The most common type of stamped concrete sealer is an acrylic sealer, and acrylic sealers are very predictable. When properly applied, they will provide years of life and beauty before the need to recoat. When they aren’t properly applied however, they can have issues.

Bubbling: Bubbles are caused by solvent pop and solvent pop most often occurs when the acrylic is applied when the concrete itself, or the air temperature, is too hot. While the bubbles may not be evident immediately, they will start to form as the concrete cures.

White Haze: White haze, also known as blushing, is caused when there is delamination. Delamination, or a loss of bond, can be caused by several factors including compatibility issues with a previously used sealer, but most often delamination is caused by moisture. Moisture is the number one cause of acrylic failure which is why it is important to apply an acrylic sealer to a surface that has been given at least 24 hours to dry, and remains dry for at least 24 hours after applying.

While most issues with stamped concrete sealers can be prevented, they do occasionally happen. The solution to fixing them will depend on the type of acrylic used. Water based acrylics and solvent based acrylics are very different, and for that reason need to be handled differently.

Water Based Acrylics: Water based acrylics are a bit harder to work with because there is no real way to bring them back from a solid to a liquid state (re-emulsify). Bubbles can often be sanded down and then recoated, but white spots/blush areas will need to be removed.

Solvent Based Acrylics: Solvent based acrylics are very easy to work with and repair because Xylene can bring a solid acrylic back to a liquid state, allowing it to properly cure. Using Xylene and a roller, bubbles and white spots/blush can easily be repaired by saturating and rolling the area, and allowing it to re-cure.

Choosing the Best Sealer for Stamped Concrete

The right concrete sealer will enhance dull or faded surfaces and bring out the natural coloring of the stamped concrete, and it will provide years of life and protection against staining and deterioration. Choosing the right sealer in the beginning will save you time and money when it comes time to recoat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a concrete sealer:

  1. If you want to enhance or darken the color of the stamped concrete, or bring out a dull or faded surface, you want to use a solvent based acrylic. Solvent based acrylics will darken the surface of the concrete and leave behind a low gloss to high gloss finish. Water based acrylics will leave behind a low to high gloss finish, but they will not darken the surface of the concrete.

  2. Solvent based acrylics sealers are easier to recoat than water based acrylics. When it comes time to recoat a solvent based acrylic, you simply put more material down to a clean and dry area. When it comes time to recoat a water based acrylic you need to screen sand the surface, clean the surface and let it dry, and then apply a recoat. A key thing to remember is solvent based acrylics needs to be recoated with solvent based acrylics, and water based acrylics need to be recoated with water based acrylics. If you put a solvent based acrylic over a water based acrylic, or a water based acrylic over a solvent based acrylic, it will result in coating failure and both products would have to be removed.

  3. Not all acrylics are treated equal. Many manufactures used acrylics that are made from recycled resins. While you can easily purchase them for as little as $90-150/pail, you will find the need to recoat them every 1-1.5 years. Using an acrylic that is made from non-recycled resins will come at a higher price tag, but can yield up to 2-3 times the life and level of performance.