The decision to stain your concrete inherently involves a choice of what
to use as a sealer. There is a persistent myth concerning concrete
stain that acid stain, the most penetrating of all materials, cannot
lose color or fade. If you could look, at surface level, at a section
of unsealed concrete of 10-20 years of age, that is in a area of high
foot-traffic, you would see a concave line from years of wear. Without
sealer, concrete stain can lose color in high traffic areas. However,
properly sealed and maintained, stained concrete will give the same
beautiful appearance for years to come. It is extremely durable, requires
very little maintenance, and will likely outlast the home or business
which surrounds it. The materials used to seal stained concrete include
water-based sealers, waxes, alternative greeen sealers and solvent
based sealers. Lets take a minute to go through these.
- Water-based sealers
based sealers while having the advantage of not darkening color,
can "blush" or
discolor when exposed to water or other liquids. This discoloration
will recede after several hours of drying but can be persistently
unsightly around areas that are continually exposed to liquids. Additionally,
these sealers offer virtually no protection from chemical spills.
These are not among the most durable sealers available and would
only be appropriate in areas that are to receive regular floor maintenance
and application of floor finish products. Water based sealers are
especially well suited where solvent fumes are not desired or permitted.
Waxes have the advantage of yielding an attractive matte finish
that looks more like natural stone than high-sheen products. Its limitations
are the same as water-based sealers in terms of resistance to liquids,
durability, and maintenance requirements. Waxed floors, in order to
maintain their beauty and protection of color, must be periodically
re-waxed. Good for a low volume business or office with no food or drinks.
I have been using a no VOC penetrating water based sealer that I really like. I use it to encapsulate the stained concrete to give more protection then just wax. We then buff on a Carnauba or petroleum wax to give the floor a nice livable satin sheen. If a floor is too shiny, like the solvent sealer, it will drive you crazy with all the scuffs and scratches. With this type of sealer, scuffs buff out with a rag, and there is no floor finish to strip off down the road. This is what I chose for my own house and it has worn great with two fifty pound dogs. I highly recommend it.
- Solvent-based sealers
Solvent-based sealers actually penetrate
the surface to create a durable surface that will resist liquids
and all but the most caustic chemicals. The only maintenance
requirement is an occasional application of floor finish. The
floor is cleaned and then the floor finish is simply mopped on
with a string mop. These sealers are excellent for exterior applications
(these sealers are very smelly however and contain xylene which is not good!
If you are sensitive to smells and to the environment this
may not be the sealer for you).