What is the Best Concrete Sealer for Driveways?
Posted by The Concrete Sealer Guy on Feb 2nd 2022
One of the most commonly asked questions we get from customers is, “What is the Best Concrete Sealer for Driveways?”. To effectively answer this question, it is helpful to understand what type of surface a customer has and what the customer is trying to accomplish. For instance, the answer to this question could be different (and usually is) if a customer has a stamped concrete, exposed aggregate, or paver driveway versus a standard broom finished concrete driveway. Since it is more common for people to have broom finished driveways, we will focus on that surface type for this article. For understanding “What is the Best Concrete Sealer for Stamped Concrete, Pavers, and Exposed Aggregate?”, an article on this subject can be found by clicking here.
It is also important to understand what type of protection the customer is looking for and what the customer’s level of expectations are for variables like stain resistance, appearance, durability, lifespan, etc.. Understanding a customer’s expectations is extremely important because many of the expectations a customer may have for a sealer for their driveway may be difficult to accomplish with the concrete sealer options that are normally used on exterior broom finished surfaces and ones subject to wheel traffic.
For instance, many customers come to us with the expectation that they can apply a penetrating sealer which is the most commonly used concrete sealer for broom finished concrete and that the sealer will eliminate any and all staining from contaminants such as motor oil, leaves, clay, rust, fertilizer, bird droppings, etc.. Unfortunately, since penetrating sealers offer protection within the micro pores of the very top layer of a surface and not on top of a surface like film forming products, they only offer limited or partial protection compared to full blown coatings (ex. epoxies) that offer absolute or maximum protection. As a result, most penetrating sealers are unable to meet the stain resistance expectations that many customers may have. While a topical coating would otherwise be the best option to provide the stain protection customers are looking for, unfortunately, most coating options are normally reserved for interior applications such as garage floors. This is the result of many coating options being prone to failure outdoors due to them not being UV stabile or not breathable which commonly results in premature peeling and delaminating.
For added stain protection, customers may wish to try an acrylic topical sealer especially one formulated with Methyl Methacrylate due to its improved stain resistance over a standard acrylic sealer. While acrylic topical sealers are film forming like topical coatings, they hold up better in exterior environments because they are normally UV stable or resistant. And, with the film being far thinner than traditional topical coatings, most acrylic concrete sealers are still breathable. As a result, they are less susceptible to trapping moisture that could lead to peeling or delaminating of the sealer.
However, in our experience, while acrylic concrete sealers may be an excellent choice for stamped concrete, exposed aggregate, and pavers, they may not always be the best choice for broom finished concrete. The reason is that most acrylic sealers have a gloss appearance to them ranging from a low gloss to a high gloss. As a result, they are typically the “go to” sealer for surfaces with colors or patterns in them like stamped concrete, exposed aggregate, and pavers. On these types of surfaces, the acrylic sealers can enhance the appearance of these surfaces by adding a shine, sheen, or “wet look” to enhance the colors or patterns within these types of surfaces. However, most broom finished surfaces are fairly porous, uncolored, and have no real patterns to them. So, using an acrylic sealer on these types of surfaces generally offers no real advantages from a cosmetic standpoint. In addition, with the rough or course texture of most broom finished concrete, often times the thin film of an acrylic sealer does not lay down consistently and could lead to an unattractive blotchy or splotchy appearance. With acrylic sealers being an extremely soft and thin chemistry, the lifespan in general on lower traffic areas may only be 1-3 years, depending on wear and weathering. On higher traffic surfaces like driveways that are also subject to heavy wheel traffic and hot tires, an acrylic sealer may have an even shorter lifespan.
So, what is the best concrete sealer for broom finished driveways? The answer is water repellent penetrating sealers. These types of concrete sealers generally don’t alter the appearance of a surface and typically offer a natural look. Often times, a broom finished driveway treated with such a sealer does not look much different than it did prior to sealing. The one exception to this is when the concrete is wet in which case the concrete typically looks a lot lighter in color because water is not able to penetrate into the surface as much or as deeply. When water fully absorbs into an unsealed surface, the surface normally has a darkened or wet appearance. And, while these water repellent sealers do not offer the stain protection found in most topical sealers and coatings, they are the overwhelming choice for sealing broom finished concrete surfaces such as driveways. They are highly UV stable and do not break down in the presence of UV rays. Also, since the penetrating water repellents operate within the micro pores of the top layer of a concrete surface, they have a much longer life span (3-7 years depending on wear and weathering) than acrylic topical sealers. These sealers are also fully breathable and will never peel or delaminate.
So, how does one benefit from a water repellent penetrating sealer on their broom finished driveway? The main benefit is that they extend the life of concrete by cutting down on the harmful effects of freeze/ thaw damage, deicing chemicals and salts, acid rain deterioration, alkali attack, corrosion of reinforcing steel, and UV damage. The sealers mainly accomplish this by imparting some water repellence and restricting or limiting the amount of moisture that can enter into a surface. Premature deterioration, erosion, and corrosion of concrete is almost always moisture or water related. Penetrating water repellents can also normally help cut down on dirt buildup, retard mold and mildew, and make surfaces easier to clean and maintain. In many respects, penetrating concrete sealers work to protect the integrity of concrete much like fluoride treatments protect the integrity of people’s teeth. Here’s a helpful blog article to more fully understand this analogy, “Penetrating Sealers are Like a Fluoride Treatment for Your Teeth”.
With all that being said, the Best Concrete Sealers for Broom Finished Driveways that we offer are as follows:
1) PS101 Siliconate Water Repellent WB Penetrating Sealer—This sealer works well on all uncolored and unsealed broom finished or smooth troweled concrete. This sealer is ideal for customers who have a “California” finish where the surface is mostly broom finished but the edging is troweled smooth.
2) PS102 Siliconate Water Repellent WB Penetrating Sealer—The advantage of this sealer is that it can also be used on freshly placed uncolored and unsealed broom finished concrete as a curing agent. For the other concrete sealers noted, it is best to wait 28 days until a concrete surface is fully cured prior to application. This sealer should not be used on smooth troweled concrete.
3) PS110 Siloxane Water Repellent WB Penetrating Sealer—This sealer also works well if customers have other surfaces they would like to seal (ex. concrete pavers, exposed aggregate, brick, stucco, block, etc.) in addition to broom finished concrete and customers only want to purchase one product for all the surfaces they intend to seal.
4) PS104 Lithium Silicate w/ Siliconate Densifier WB Penetrating Sealer—This sealer is normally used as a densifier and hardener to improve the durability and wearability of machine troweled floors which are commonly found in garages, warehouses, sheds, pole barns, workshops, etc.. However, many of our customers have had success using this product on broom finished concrete especially in Northern/ Midwestern climates subject to freeze/ thaw cycles and exposure to salts and deicing chemicals. The PS104 sealer is part densifier and hardener and part water repellent. The water repellent component provides much of the same benefit as that of the PS101, PS102 and PS110 sealers noted above. However, the densifier and hardener component fortifies the top part of the surface making it denser, harder, and stronger. The unique chemical composition of this product yields a surface that is both more durable and more weather resistant.
5) PS100 Fluorinated Water, Oil & Salt Repellent WB Penetrating Sealer—This sealer contains fluorine which is a chemical substance that is uniquely water and oil resistant. The other concrete sealer options noted above are only repellent of water and not oil. Topical sealers and coatings are normally the “go to” options for stain protection because they form a barrier on the surface that blocks contaminants from even coming into contact with a surface. Penetrating sealers like the PS100 are not film forming though so contaminants can still come into direct contact with a surface. And, at that contact point, the contaminant could still leave a stain. With the PS100, any staining that does result is generally reduced, minimized, or easier to remove with a good cleaner though as the sealer typically prevents the deep penetration of most contaminants into a surface. The PS100 was developed for machine troweled floors where the tightness and smoothness of this type of surface allow the product to perform very well compared to the performance of the product on rougher and coarser surfaces. However, if one wants improved stain protection over a standard water repellent, this product might be one to consider especially if you have a good maintenance program and normally get at spills quickly.