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How to apply a water-based sealer

Barefoot Concrete specializes in water-based concrete sealers. Our major points of difference are:

  • All our water-based concrete sealers are concentrated with high solids content. This means they can be diluted and can cove at least 4x the area of other sealers.
  • All our water-based concrete sealers can be applied to wet surfaces where most other sealers have to be applied on dry surfaces. This means that jobs can be completed much faster!

But, how are concrete sealers applied?

Applying a concrete sealer is not difficult, however, there are many factors that need to be considered as to how a concrete sealer is applied depends on the kind of sealer and the type of concrete you’re working with.

In all situations, you need to figure out what is the right product for the job and the right application method for the substrate you are applying the sealer to.

There are literally thousands of brands out there with strong marketing all claiming to give you a fantastic result. We don’t rely on or have fancy marketing, we build our brand on the product itself and word-of-mouth marketing and we grow customer by customer and trust in the viral effect to help our sales grow.

Our water-based concrete sealers are concentrated, therefore, the single most important factor is to determine the correct ratio. When in doubt, start thin, as “thinner is the winner!”

However, common sense and a little knowledge will go a long way to getting the best results. The best place to start is to ask someone who knows!

Associated conditions

We have a number of professionals using our products and although each does it a little differently and their technique may change, but ultimately it comes down to making sure you understand the associated conditions.

You also need to apply the right dilution, use the recommended quantity of material as suggested by the supplier, as problems may occur when you take matters into your own hands. Don’t start with an “I know better” or “I’ll just guess,” attitude, this may get you into problems that may be costly to correct.

Some kinds of sealers are better applied by spray because they are not formulated for rolling. Some sealers work best by spraying and rolling. For example, solvent-based sealers, which contain slow-evaporating solvents are better for rolling.

If the product is sprayed, as our water-based sealers are, the sealer is usually coated unevenly, therefore, we recommend always back-rolling every application, as you see in the main image.

Back-rolling the sealer

Back-rolling the water-based sealer aids penetration and helps to work the material into the surface. It also forms the basis for a stronger adhesion for the next coat you apply.

Most of our applicators who clean and seal or who do decorative concrete coatings prefer the spray/back-roll method.

When applying the water-based concrete sealer, the layers should be thin, the first layer is for penetration and adhesion, the second and subsequent layers are for the resistance and integrity of the coating.

When rolling a water-based sealer, more material is applied if you dip the roller, therefore, we recommend using a low-pressure sprayer and then back-rolling the sealer evenly. We recommend using a long-handle roller for systematic and even strokes and distribution of the sealer.

An important factor in sealing concrete with a water-based concrete sealer is when you seal the concrete. This can be as important as how you apply the sealer, as ideally a water-based concrete sealer should be applied above 10 degrees celsius and below 30 degrees celsius. 

Wet on wet application

With our sealers being applied on wet surfaces, you don’t have to pressure-clean early and then wait a few hours for it to dry, you can apply the sealer as soon as you have finished pressure-washing the concrete, saving you heaps of time!

Another point to consider in sealing concrete, no matter what product or method you use, is that the concrete needs to be properly cleaned beforehand. If the concrete is really dirty we suggest using a very light degreaser, acid washing or using urea hydrochloride like TED Efflorescence Destroyer.

Always use lots of water to rinse off especially if using a light acid solution where you will need to neutralize the surface too.

In the ideal scenario, you want the concrete to be very clean, and then you can apply the Barefoot Concrete sealers immediately, even when wet or damp.

Most other sealers don’t work this way, the concrete needs to be very dry, with less than 5% moisture in the concrete, and they cannot seal wet concrete.

Applying sealer to wet concrete will cause problems other if you use another sealer and not those supplied by Barefoot Concrete. When other sealers are applied to wet surfaces, they can fog up.

This is why most other suppliers suggest applying the sealer to the concrete when it is completely dry, however, you will also have to avoid applying the sealer during the heat of the day. 

When you use Barefoot Concrete’s water-based sealers you don’t have to worry! As long as the operating temperature is good, and rain is not threatening to wash away your water-based sealer, you can seal your concrete, preferably when it’s wet!

What often happens with other products and methods is that concrete cleaning happens in the morning and then it is dry around midday. However, applying the sealer when the sun is directly overhead can give the sealer a plastic sheen. They then recommend waiting until later in the afternoon to apply sealer.

Can you see the problem?

A job like the one above will take a whole day, whereas if you use Barefoot Concrete’s water-based concrete sealers, you can pressure-clean and seal immediately and be off to your next job in the afternoon!

Instead of waiting for concrete to dry, and costing you money while you wait, just clean and seal and don’t waste time!

 At this point, we need to consider the two primary problems people make: underapplication and overapplication of the sealer.

Under application

Underapplying is the less serious of the two as you can always apply another layer if the coating is too thin.

This usually happens because the person applying the sealer is either not paying close attention to his work or he’s trying to save on the sealer by spreading it too thin.

When you underapply the sealer you lose the benefits of having a sealer. The first application should be generous, to get adequate penetration and good adhesion to the surface in preparation for the second coat. 

Underapply a sealer will also diminish the life of the surface. It may also result in streaks and light and dark spots.

To avoid underapplying a sealer, determine the square meters of the workspace and then follow the directions of use as supplied by the supplier. Therefore, fixing this problem is relatively simple, just apply another coat of sealer.

Over application

Overapplying is more common and more problematic. This is the most serious issue we see when supplying a concentrated sealer as people just don’t follow instructions.

Overapplication can lead to bubbling from outgassing or create a milky fog on the concrete. It can also result in peeling or slow the drying process.

The best way to avoid overapplying is to do your homework and understand all the associated conditions you are working with, practice and experience, as well as learning from experienced applicators who have a lot of experience.

While applying the water-based concrete sealer always take care of excess sealer and just broom it off the surface or roll it until it has penetrated – don’t allow pooling! Using the right equipment for the sealer will also help to prevent overapplying.

If you need to fix overapplication, best call the company who supplied the product to you. Depending on the situation, sometimes spraying a light coat of xylene (on the water-based sealer) and back-rolling fixes it, and for Barefoot Concrete this needs to be done within 72 hours before the self-crosslinking process has fully completed.

It may be that you will have to strip the sealer and reapply the process. Sometimes you can leave it for a few weeks or months if you can live with it, for the sealer to naturally break down.

In most instances, we have found that to thin the film with a solvent wash opens up the sealer and allows it to breathe, but we advise caution, always talk to an expert as winging it will likely make the situation worse.

Conclusion

Applying a water-based concrete sealer is very individual, but you can learn the process, develop your own method, and your system of application, once tried and tested, can make you a lot of money as a professional applicator.