Making Sense of Garage Floor Sealers

garage floor sealer

A garage floor sealer sounds simple enough when you want to seal the concrete in your garage, but did you know that they come in two categories; topical sealers, such as epoxy coatings, polyurethanes, polyaspartics, and acrylics, and then penetrating sealers.  Which do you choose?  What are you trying to accomplish?  Which is best for your application?  Getting bewildered yet?  Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it might seem at first.

Sealing the concrete in the garage is one of many garage flooring options available today. Many times you are working on the premise of protecting the bare gray concrete for a nice clean look at the most economical cost.

However, the many colored epoxy and paint coatings available on the market today are technically sealers as well.  We will look at the different type of garage floor sealers available, discuss their properties, and learn how they will work on your garage floor.

Topical Garage Floor Sealers

Topical sealers adhere to the surface of concrete.  Known as film forming sealers or floor coatings, they form a protective layer that adheres to the surface.  Film forming sealers can be colored in order to change the looks of the concrete or they can be clear.  Clear sealers will enhance the look of bare concrete as well as bring out the color of stained concrete.

Acrylic concrete sealers

acrylic concrete garage floor sealer
Clear acrylic garage floor sealer in a matte finish

Most acrylic sealers are clear and form a thin protective layer on bare concrete that is fairly easy to apply.  You can use either a pump-up sprayer for the application or apply it with a paint brush and paint rollers out of a tray.  Typically two thin coats are applied for the best protection.

Acrylics sealers will protect the floor from water and chloride intrusion and give moderate protection against oil stains, vehicle fluids, hot tire pick up, and road salt if cleaned up fairly quickly.

They can also enhance the look of the floor in your garage by giving it a somewhat wet, glossy look or you can opt for a less flashy matte finish.  Once applied, it will dry to the touch in a few hours.  It can be driven on the next day and sometimes sooner depending on weather conditions at the time of application.

Look for an acrylic sealer with UV protection if you have parts of your garage floor that is exposed to sunlight.  If you don’t opt for the UV protection, the sun can cause the sealer to yellow over time.

 Learn more here: The Easy Finish of Acrylic Floor Sealers

Though they are the least durable of the topical sealers, they stand up well to light or moderate traffic and may need to be reapplied once every 18 to 24 months.

For a more durable alternative, we recommend the performance of MMA acrylic sealers.  These have longer endurance properties than standard acrylics sealers and can withstand harsher chemicals.

Garage floor coatings

Next in the lineup of topical sealers are garage floor coatings.  These are typically 2-part resinous coatings that are mixed together before being applied to the concrete in multiple coats.  They chemically cure and create a hard coating that is extremely durable.  The thickness and abrasive properties, including chemical resistance of these coatings, can vary depending on which type of product is used.

Epoxy concrete sealers

epoxy garage floor sealer
Epoxy coated garage floor sealer

The most popular of these coatings would be garage floor epoxy.  Epoxy creates a dense cross linking adhesion in the coating due to the chemical bonding it provides.  This makes epoxy sealers a much thicker coating than acrylic and very durable.  They are more difficult to apply however.  They require thorough concrete preparation, they are time sensitive during application and must go on using paint brushes and rollers.

Epoxy sealers can withstand heavy traffic and are abrasion resistant.  They are also  resistant to water, most chemicals, oil, vehicle fluids, road salts, and hot tire pick up.  It’s generally not a problem if you are slow to clean up any oil or fluids from your car that usually stain concrete.  When you do clean, they will wipe right up and all the floor needs is mild soap and water to clean.

Epoxies are available in a clear coat as well as pigmented finishes and have a glossy shine that will enhance color in the concrete.  They are susceptible to UV rays however and can yellow if exposed to sunlight. A good quality epoxy coating can last for years on your garage floor.

Learn more here:  Why Epoxy is the Premier Garage Floor Coating

Many of the garage floor coating systems today are made with a combination of layers of pigmented and clear coat epoxy to give a garage floor a very durable, chip resistant finish that will last many years.  If that’s not in the budget, then a simple clear or pigmented coat on your floor will still give you greater protection for a longer period of time compared to acrylic sealers.

Polyurethane concrete sealers

Next on the list of topical sealers is polyurethane.  Polyurethane has many of the same properties as epoxy and is even more durable.  It also has the added benefit of being resistant to UV rays.  So if you have a garage floor that is exposed to sunlight, you don’t have to worry about it turning yellow.

It used to be that polyurethane was only used as a clear coat sealer, but that is slowly changing however with manufactures starting to offer it in colors.  One thing to keep in mind is that polyurethane does not bond well to bare concrete and usually needs a primer such as epoxy applied first.  You also have a choice of finish from matte, to semi-gloss, to glossy.

Learn more here:  Epoxy vs Polyurethane Garage Floor Coatings

Like epoxy, most polyurethanes can be slippery when wet.  Because they have a thinner film thickness than epoxy, polyurethane makes for a great top coat to apply with an anti-slip agent.  Application difficulty and dry time is similar to epoxy as well.  Though a little more expensive, polyurethane may be what you need if you have a garage floor that is exposed to sunlight and you want something other than a glossy finish.

Polyurea and polyaspartic floor sealers

polyurea polyaspartic garage floor coating
Polyurea / polyaspartic garage floor coating

Last on the list is the newer polyurea and polyaspartic floor sealers.  These are a sub group of polyurethane and have a similar finish to epoxy and polyurethane coated floors.  Unlike epoxy and polyurethane, these coatings can be applied in extreme temperatures from below freezing to over 100 degrees.

What makes these coatings popular is their extremely fast return to service times.  They can be installed on your garage floor in one day and driven on thethe next.  Most polyurea and polyaspartic coatings need to be applied by a professional due to their very fast set up times.

Penetrating Garage Floor Sealers

Penetrating sealers is the next category in concrete sealers for a garage floor.  There are four different types of penetrating sealers for concrete, but only two need be discussed for a garage floor.

penetrating sealer on garage floor
Penetrating siliconate sealer

The first of these is a siliconate sealer.  Though this kind of sealer is used extensively for exterior concrete such as sidewalks and driveways, it will work just as well in your garage if you just want to seal the floor without changing the way it looks.

It works by penetrating into the upper surface of the concrete and reacting with free lime.  This will form a calcium silicate that essentially helps to strengthen the surface of the concrete by filling the pores and preventing liquids from migrating through.

Learn more here:  Why Penetrating Siliconate Sealers May Be All You Need

This process works to help prevent freeze-thaw damage and deterioration due to corrosion.  It has a matte finish that doesn’t change the appearance of the surface because it penetrates the concrete.  It’s easy to apply using a pump sprayer or rollers and generally only needs one coat.  Some of these sealers are expected to last 20 years or more.

concrete densifier and sealer on garage floor
Concrete densifier and sealer on a garage floor

The second choice that is being used among the bare concrete purists are concrete densifiers. Many are available as a densifier and sealer combination.

Used primarily for polishing concrete and adding strength to newly poured concrete,  these sealers are being used more on garage floors by people looking for a no nonsense simple solution that will prevent dusting, harden the surface of a working garage or shop floor and to repel liquids as well.

Final thoughts

One thing to keep in mind; if you have small issues with moisture coming through the concrete, a penetrating garage floor sealer is a good choice to consider.  Because they work by filling the concrete pores, they do well for blocking moisture coming up from underneath your slab.

If you like the finish of acrylic sealers, make sure the solids content is not more than 25% and that it is not applied in more than two coats.  This should be permeable enough to let the moisture transmit through the sealer.

Resinous coatings such as epoxy, polyurethanes, and polyurea will not allow for moisture transfer and can peel or pull up concrete with it if you have moisture problems.  Before applying any coating or sealer, you should always conduct a moisture test if your floor shows any signs of or suspect that you may have moisture issues.

For more information about the durability of concrete sealers, here is a chart from the Concrete Network that compares sealers and what they do. The chart is for decorative concrete purposes, but it gives a good description of each type.

Depending on what you want your garage floor sealer to do for you, decide which product is best suited for your requirements and budget.  Either way you choose, a good sealer will be a nice investment in the care and finish of your floor.


Comments

  1. says

    I had a man that put 2 coats of 1% slate gray epoxy paint under my garage. after drying a couple of weeks, he came and put some tyoe of sealant on top of this. After six days the sealant is tacky and if you walk on it all of the paint comes up, so I’m afraid to drive on it. What is causing this?

    • Shea says

      Hi Wyman. What was the product your guy put down exactly? You say 1% epoxy, did you mean 100%? You mention that it went under your garage. Is this on a below grade slab under the garage? What type of sealant was used? I think this may be the biggest problem. You do not seal epoxy as it is already a sealant. You can apply a clear top coat of additional epoxy or polyurethane, but you would need to prep the surface properly after waiting two weeks. It can’t just be applied on the top without prep.

  2. Sam says

    My house is 20 years old and I want to seal the concrete garage floor. There are existing stains that I don’t care about. My objective is a cleaner looking floor and cut down on the dust from the concrete. Which type would you suggest as most economical for’this purpose? Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Shea says

      Hi Sam. A penetrating sealer is going to be your most economical choice for what you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that you will want to clean up the stains best you can in order for the sealer to work in those spots. It cannot penetrate the concrete and seal it if oils from stains are blocking it.

        • Shea says

          Yes, it’s very easy Sam. The most important part is cleaning the floor properly. The application can be done with a paint roller or a pump up garden sprayer. Just follow the manufactures instructions and you can always call their tech line if you have any questions.

  3. Ron B. says

    I have a Rock Solid epoxy stone flooring in my garage. I am looking for something to put a clear shiney sealant/coating. Something that work with that type flooring system. Thks

    • Shea says

      Hi Ron. The RockSolid flooring is already a sealant. We suggest using the RockSolid polycuramine clear coat. It should be compatible with your floor. We always recommend contacting the manufacturer first to verify however. You will need to prep the surface of your current floor first before applying it. You can read more about how to do that here.

  4. Darlene says

    We are having a new cement floor done in our garage. From reading these articles, seems the best sealer for our purposes is a siliconate penatrating sealer, as we are in a cold winter climate. A few questions:
    – how soon after the cement is poured can we apply the sealer?
    -since that type does not give a nice surface finish, can we apply a paint or acrylic on top of it? If so, how soon afterwards and what is best?
    Thanks

    • Shea says

      Hello Darlene. Most penetrating sealers can be applied within hours of the pour and can be used if you plan on installing a topical coating later. They will actually help the concrete cure. There are also “cure and seal” sealers that are acrylic in nature. These however don’t have a very durable acrylic top coat. Plus, you will need to remove the top coat if you want to apply a better acrylic sealer or other topical coating later.

      One thing to keep in mind is that most topical coatings such as acrylic and epoxy are sealers. There is no need to apply a penetrating sealer if you are going to apply a topical sealer unless you are concerned about the concrete curing properly. Paint on the other hand is not a sealer and not a long term solution. There are many good products out there. We recommend that you contact Legacy Industrial as they have a wide range of penetrating and topical sealers to choose from.

      • Darlene says

        Thanks for a quick response.
        Good to know we can apply it right away.
        I’m not clear about the 2nd question. The description for penetrating sealers mention it would still look like bare cement afterwards. We may want some colour and/or sheen. Could we apply an acrylic sealer or concrete paint on top of the penetrating sealer right away, solely for that purpose? Or are there penetrating sealers with colour?
        My searches on the site you mentioned didn’t work. Note I live in Canada, so would want products available here.

        • Shea says

          Penetrating sealers can be tinted, but they will have a matte look, no sheen. The color will not pop. Again, acrylic is a sealer. No need to apply a penetrating sealer if you want to apply an acrylic sealer. The difference is that acrylic is topical. Acrylic sealers can be tinted and are available in glossy finishes. Most can be applied to the concrete soon after the pour. Concrete paint is not a sealer, it will peel up eventually, and you have to wait a minimum of 30 days before applying. It will have to be repainted once a year or so. It really is considered a budget flooring option. If you want color like paint, you would be much better off with an epoxy or polyaspartic floor system, but it will require much more floor prep and more money.

          Here’s a link you should look at. The MMA sealers are acrylic and can be tinted for color. You can call and ask about the penetrating sealers as well. They ship free, they ship to Canada, but I don’t know if they ship free to Canada. You will need to ask. I wish we could help you with suppliers up there, but we aren’t familiar.

  5. Steve says

    Want to seal my painted garage floor. What is the best approach? and the best products to consider.

    Steve

    • Shea says

      Hello Steve. There are very few options since paint really is not a good base for a sealer. A couple of the paint manufacturers make a sealer, Behr is one of them, but the sealer is designed more for foot traffic than vehicle traffic. You can drive on it, but we know from the experience of others that it will not last and hot tires will pull it up.

  6. dominic says

    You gave some recommendations for the SILICONATE SEALERS but made not recommendations for the densifier and sealer combination. What products do you recommend? Should they be applied by a professional?

    • Shea says

      Hello Dominic. There are quite a few good products out there. Legacy Industrial’s HD-39 is a good product, TrueLock TL39 as well as Concrete Sealers USA PS-104 just to name a few. These are not hard to apply yourself and qualify as a DIY install.

  7. Carl Thorpe says

    We are about to pour new concrete slab in garage. Which method will give the best life wear?
    Option 1 – How soon can I apply epoxy coating to new concrete that 4500 psi? The footage is 650 sf.
    Option two – have the concrete add color mix at the plant then apply clear polyaspartic coat?

    • Shea says

      Hi Carl. You need to wait a minimum of 30 days and preferably longer (60 days) if you can. The reason is that newly poured concrete gives off quite a bit of moisture vapor while it cures. Epoxy and polyaspartic coating will not let that moisture transmit through like other sealers and can lead to failure if you apply it too soon.

      Both options will be very durable in a garage with normal traffic. Ultimately it comes down to how many coats are applied. An epoxy coating with a primer, 100% epoxy color coat, and a coat or two of polyurethane is a very tough coating. If you go with at least two coats of the clear polyaspartic over the colored concrete, then you will have a very tough and durable clear coat. It will make the color in the concrete “pop” as well.

  8. Manoshi says

    We are a 26 unit three floor condominium complex and have a large covered garage. The building is 12 years old. The garage has been sweeped and washed before, but now the question of sealants came up. What kind of sealants will be lasting, durable and resist car oil and other harsh chemical stains? Matt finish is okay for us. We are not looking for looks, just durability and excellent protection. Please help. Thanks.

    • Shea says

      Hello Manoshi. We recommend that you contact VSeal about your requirements. They make excellent commercial sealing products and will have a couple suggestions based on your needs.

  9. Stephanie says

    Great information – my question is how to handle applying a penetrating sealer to a garage floor with moisture problems from the ground – garage is partially below grade. I have one small section that seems quite moist. Thanks.

    • Shea says

      Hi Stephanie. The first thing you want to do is make sure that the drainage around the foundation of the home is good. Many times problems such as yours can be caused by earth that slopes towards the home allowing water to collect against the foundation. Broken sprinklers and down spouts that don’t allow for water to drain away from the home are contributors as well. These are one of the leading causes to moisture issues in garage floors that are partially below grade.

      Next, you need to prep the floor by cleaning and following any other recommended instructions from the sealer you use. While the rest of the floor is drying from cleaning, you will want to place a fan to blow air across the small section where you have issues. The air moving across the surface will help the water evaporate and wick away moisture. It may take a day or two. Once that spot looks bone dry, you will want to test it by taping down a 16″x16″ sheet of plastic over the middle of the area. Make sure the edges are all sealed and let it sit overnight. Pull it up the next day and check for moisture. If the underside of the plastic is dry and you don’t have a dark spot in the concrete, then go ahead and apply the sealer. If the concrete is dark from dampness, you will need to run the fan longer until it passes the test.

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