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Maintaining Decorative Concrete Sealers

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." The origin of this phrase traces its roots back to ancient Greece, but the speaker might just as well have been talking about modern stamped concrete. Once that elusive beauty is captured, the trick is to properly maintain your stamped concrete so it remains sound and looks good for many years to come.

Common Causes of Staining

There are many contaminants that can stain concrete or acrylic sealers. Some of the common sources include:

  • Decaying leaves that produce tannic acid

  • Fertilizers & lawn chemicals

  • Rust & oxidation from furniture, buildings, roofs, etc.

  • Food & beverage spills

  • Grease & oil spills

  • Automotive chemicals

Your concrete sealer is durable, resilient and attractive, but it requires some basic effort to minimize stains throughout its serviceable life. Some suggestions include:

  1. Clean drips and spills as soon as they occur.

  2. Use a mild detergent if necessary. Don't use cleaners/degreasers with harsh solvents, as they will damage the sealer.

  3. Place drip/spill barriers below and in front of grills and other stationary sources of stains.

  4. Re-paint rusting patio furniture, planters, etc.

  5. Replace/repair leaky gutters & downspouts that may be sources of oxidized metals, or roofing materials.

  6. Routinely rinse off your concrete.

  7. Do not allow mowers, lawn equipment or other potential sources of leaks and drips to dwell on decorative concrete.

Don't Jump the Gun on Stripping

If you're sealer is looking a little worn, don't jump to the conclusion that it needs to be removed. Strippers contain harsh chemicals that pose a health risk, are harmful to lawns and landscaping, and produce residue that can't be hosed down the drain. As a result, stripping or removal of a concrete sealer should be a last resort.

There is a common misperception that when a decorative sealer loses its gloss, it has also worn away. But decorative sealers can lose their gloss long before they lose the ability to protect your concrete from stains, freeze/thaw cycles, and other means of damage. As a result, concrete sealers are often applied with greater frequency than necessary and tend to "build up."

Over time, this build up can cause problems of its own, including:

  1. Loss of "breathability," resulting in whitening or delamination.

  2. Bubble formation as solvent is trapped at greater coating depth.

  3. A "gummy" or incomplete cure from trapped solvent.

  4. Bubble formation from entrapped air.

Try a Repair First

If your solvent-based sealer has bubbled or exhibits signs of whitening and delamination, the best advice is to repair the coating rather than remove it. These lacquer systems can frequently be re-paired with careful use of xylene (or xylol).

  1. Power wash the sealer and allow to dry overnight.

  2. Lightly saturate a small area with xylene and allow to dwell on the sealer for two minutes. This re-solvates the sealer.

  3. Gently back roll with a solvent- resistant roller cover to break any bubbles or remove whitening/delamination.

  4. Repeat the process in small areas until the entire area has been repaired.

  5. Allow the solvent to evaporate and the sealer to cure on the concrete surface.

This process will solve most of the common sealer issues. Some localized spots may require more than one treatment.
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