How Does A Penetrating Concrete Sealer Work?

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Published: 20th September 2012
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A penetrating concrete sealer relies on the ability of a surface to absorb liquids based on three factors, the porosity of the surface, its surface energy and the surface tension of the liquid. Most concrete construction materials, or stone for that matter, are highly porous and also have high surface energy levels much greater than water, oil or other liquids that normally come in contact with them. This makes it very easy for spilled liquids to get absorbed into the pores through capillary action resulting in stains and damage. Penetrating sealers work by getting into the surface, reacting with them, altering their properties making it difficult for liquids to be absorbed thus giving sufficient time for a cleanup before any real damage can occur.

All penetrating concrete sealer products get into the surface and react with the material making an unbreakable bond. There is no chance of peeling which makes them extremely durable. This is in direct contrast to topical sealers which make surfaces liquid proof by creating a liquid repellent barrier on the surface. Penetrating sealers are of two types, densifiers and repellents. They can be either water based or solvent based, but other than their carrier, their principles of functioning are similar.

Densifiers are often used on porous and brittle surfaces like concrete. They get into the material, react with it and make the surface hard and less porous. While they make the surface tough and less absorbent, they usually need a further coating to make them liquid proof. Depending upon their properties densifiers can leave the surface looking natural, give it a wet look or provide some other form of enhanced appearance.

Repellents enter the surface and chemically react with the material. They don't affect the porosity of the material, but reduces its surface energy to a point where it becomes less than the surface tension of liquids like water and oil making it very difficult for them to get into the surface. Instead of getting absorbed into the pores, liquids when applied to treated surfaces just bead up and stay that way for a long time giving sufficient time for a cleanup. Most naturally assume that the stain protection quality of an advertised penetrating product suggests that your substrate is now stain proof. This could not be further from the truth. Stain protection simply means just that. It is akin tho using polish on ones vehicle. Just because a polish has been applied does not mean you do not need to wash it! Concrete sealing via repellents usually do not alter the colour or hardness of the surface either.

All penetrating concrete sealers, irrespective of their type, allow the surface to breathe. As they don't close up the pores in the material, the natural flow of vapours through the material is unaffected. This is a great advantage of penetrating sealers which is especially useful when treating surfaces like basements where moisture can be a big problem. Allowing the subsurface water to evaporate and leave the material prevents it from remaining damp inside. For more serious moisture concerns a waterproof membrane should be utilised preventing and stopping rising damp in its tracks.

Concrete sealing with a penetrating product is specific to the material that they are intended to treat. They are designed taking into account the properties, strengths and weaknesses of the surface and will always have the right combination of materials and the properties to give the most suitable protection to the surfaces that they are made for. Some concrete sealer kits use a combination of densifiers and topical sealers to give you unmatched protection and appearance enhancement.

If considering concrete sealing or natural stone protection, please visit the Concrete Sealer Warehouse.


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