Adding a layer of sealant onto a plain concrete floor can raise the aesthetic of your flooring , as well as protect the porous material.
From plain and durable clear silicone sealers to swirls of design etched or painted into the material, there are many inexpensive options to seal a concrete floor that add style and flair to the flooring. With the proper amount of care and maintenance, a sealed concrete floor should shine for years to come.
A coat of paint, slick of sealant or stain with sealant applied to an untreated concrete floor will keep it from inadvertently getting blemished and help it to keep its pristine, clean look.
Why Concrete Flooring Needs Sealant
An expanse of unsealed concrete floor will readily absorb any moisture that hangs in the air or collects beneath the slab. This can lead to mold, mildew and other issues that are mainly caused by humidity and dampness. A concrete basement floor sealer can be applied in one coat and keep moisture issues at bay.
Dust also collects on the nappy surface of a rough, unsealed concrete floor. The dust can build up in the cracks and crevices of a concrete floor and lead to respiratory or allergen issues. The naturally rough surface of unsealed concrete is difficult to sweep completely and keep free of dust.
Inexpensive Concrete Sealants
There are many types of sealants available, from a plain, cheap concrete sealer to a bright cheery red or deep mahogany brown stain that includes a sealant. The cheapest way to seal concrete is with a commercial sealant, a long paintbrush and some patience.
A simple coat of sealant is enough to create a durable surface on the concrete floor if you are simply looking to make the surface less susceptible to mold or damage — or both.
Concrete Floors with Design
Adding a design element with dyes or concrete floor paint can change up a slab of dreary basement or garage flooring. It's an inexpensive and creative project.
Designs with dyes or paint aren't impervious to wear and tear, and will eventually fade over time. However, the design, color or condition of your concrete floor can be renewed with a slick of sealant after a few years to return it to its original splendor.
A sealant can also intensify a color and design while protecting it from harmful sun rays or the long exposure the concrete floor receives from overhead indoor lights. The design that you have created and the distinct shade can be preserved quickly with a coat of clear silicone sealant.
Dyes vs. Stains for Concrete
Synthetic dyes have come to contain very fine color pigments, which make them different from stains. The ink solution in today's synthetic dyes can easily break through the tight construction of concrete for a lasting impression. Dyes create a more uniform color in the concrete flooring as it adheres to the material and leaves a permanent mark on the surface.
On the other hand, a stain leaves a more variegated look and doesn't penetrate as deeply. Stains react just to the surface of the concrete and may require more frequent touch ups overtime compared to the more indelible synthetic dyes. Stains are sold in semi-transparent and solid colors that can be added or wiped off easily to control the color as it reacts to the concrete floor during the application process.
Dyes and stains both need a sealant to lock in the color or design. Dyes are not ultraviolet (UV) stable and can fade rather quickly without the protective sealant. With proper care, the color should keep for quite a few years, although you may need to apply a fresh coat of sealant within five years of applying, depending on the brand, application and design.
Concrete Floor Paint
Paint can be rolled onto concrete quickly and easily. It does require a thoroughly clean surface to avoid peeling or chipping. Use a commercial degreaser before applying concrete floor paint.
When applying concrete floor paint, don't pool the paint in large areas and spread it around. This can cause the thick liquid to clump and bubble. Smoothly spread it in small areas, working from one side of the room toward an exit.
Prepping Concrete Floors
Check the concrete floor for cracks, divots and pits. Fill any gaping cracks that are wider than the edge of a nickel or pits larger than a dime with caulk or masonry crack filler.
Use a caulking gun or putty knife to completely fill these unwanted imperfections. Sand the filled divots until they are even with the rest of the floor.
If the floor is uneven, you'll need to fill hills and valleys to create an even surface. Lay a 10-foot long 2x4 board across the concrete floor and look for gaps larger than 3/16 of an inch.
Materials to Apply Sealant
Once you begin to apply the stain or sealant, you will want to have all of your needed materials on hand. The wet materials can't sit long, or it may leave an unsightly border where one area was allowed to dry because you had to halt the progress mid-project.
Use long-handled rollers that are used for painting walls. Small paint brushes will help address drips or mistakes. Make sure to have towels on hand to clean up errant spills quickly. Also use painters tape to mark off areas that you don't want to mar with sealant, such as edging, baseboards or carpeting.
How to Apply Sealant to Concrete
The surface of the concrete should be washed with a mild solution of water and dish soap and allowed to dry thoroughly — or at least overnight. Don't use vinegar to clean the concrete because that acid-based cleaner can etch the concrete.
Before using a sealant with a stain, test a small patch in an area that is inconspicuous. You want to make sure that the sealant or stain you have chosen reacts well with the concrete. Concrete is a naturally porous material and will immediately soak up the sealant, paint, stains or dyes.
Tips for Sealing Concrete Floors
When applying the sealant, use wide strokes and even pressure. Start in one corner of the room and apply a small amount of the sealant to the concrete floor.
Slowly work across the floor in wide, even strokes toward the exit. Continue to put small pools of sealant down as you work across the room rather than a large puddle. This can create bubbles or thin areas of sealant that can crack and peel once it's dry.
Before pouring the sealant onto the floor, read the manufacturer's recommendations to ensure you don't have to redo the endeavor.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.