Understanding the different types of sealers for concrete

Film-forming and penetrating sealers

To keep decorative concrete or even plain looking attractive for a long time, we strongly recommend sealing with a high quality concrete sealer. Once sealed, the concrete will be protected from grime, spills, and weather to help prevent any staining and reduce wear. Sealing for commercial and industrial environments that have high traffic is particularly important as it will ensure the surface can be easily maintained and kept looking good over a long period of time.

There are two common types of sealers to choose from – film forming and penetrating, with each offering their own different benefits and each suitable for different applications.

Film forming sealers

Film-forming sealers, also known as film-coating, surface-coating or topical sealers, coat the entire surface. The sealer adheres to the pores of the concrete and sits on top of the surface creating a protective layer. They offer excellent protection from moisture and spills, are highly durable, and are easy to maintain and reapply. There are three types of film-forming sealers, each designed for a specific purpose outlined below.

Acrylic sealers are commonly used for general protection from dirt and grime in both indoor and outdoor applications. They form a thin layer of protection on the concrete surface. Acrylic sealers are easy and quick to apply and tend to be the more cost-effective option, however due to their thin layer of protection they can wear more easily and require recoating. Available in both water-based and solvent-based formulations, they also come in a variety of sheen levels to enhance the surface colour, stamped pattern, or exposed aggregate.

Polyurethane sealers provide a hard-wearing and non-yellowing layer of protection for both interior and exterior applications. They are a versatile sealer that can achieve a variety of gloss levels and can also be tinted. Commonly used in areas with high traffic, they also provide good protection against chemicals and abrasive materials. Polyurethane sealers are available in both water and solvent-based formulations to suit a variety of environments such as shopping centres.

Epoxy sealers are ideal for interior applications where durable and long-term surface protection is required. There is a range of epoxy sealers to choose from, each with its own list of benefits. For example, some have fast drying turnaround times for areas such as shopping centres or they can provide superior strength for industrial and commercial areas like car parks. The finish is glossy but if a more natural, matte finish is required, a matting additive can be added. Epoxy sealers can also be tinted.

To summarise, some of the benefits of using a film-forming sealer on concrete include:

  • Enhancing the colour of your the surface
  • Preventing contaminants from penetrating the surface
  • Protecting the surface from damage and making it easier to clean and maintain
  • Protection from environmental elements
  • A range of products suitable for a myriad of applications
Examples of coloured concrete with CCS surface coating sealers
The above examples demonstrate the same coloured concrete before, (far left) and after treatment with different types of CCS surface-coating sealers.

Penetrating sealers

Penetrating sealers retain a natural-looking finish whilst protecting the concrete surface from water, stains and contaminants. These sealers penetrate into the capillaries of the concrete to form a long-lasting, durable barrier of protection against the ingress of water-borne pollutants and salts. Penetrating sealers are often used in indoor and outdoor applications for concrete, porous natural stone and concrete pavers.

CCS offer a number of penetrating sealers available all designed for special purposes such as:

General Purpose: Ideal for using on large commercial or industrial concrete areas to provide a good level of protection from general grime and spills

Substrate Colour Enhancement: An excellent choice where there is a need to bring out the colour of the concrete whilst providing protection from an array of contaminants and stains.

Stain Blocking: Designed for public precincts, alfresco dining spaces and food service areas where there is a need for oil and staining resistance to food and drink spills.

Industrial Protection: Offering 3 way protection for industrial concrete substrates to prevent and assist dusting, wear and staining from oils and greases.

Examples of coloured concrete with CCS penetrating sealers
The above examples demonstrate the same coloured concrete before, (far left) and after treatment with different types of CCS penetrating sealers.


Considerations and common questions for sealing concrete

  • Can you seal new concrete straight away?

A sealer should only be applied after freshly laid concrete has been allowed to cure for 28 days.

  • Can you seal old or existing concrete?

You can seal existing concrete at any time and on multiple occasions. Sealing your old concrete can assist in restoring its appearance.

For existing slabs, make sure to clean the surface before applying another sealer. For guidance on cleaning and preparation, please get in touch with us.

  • What if your concrete needs resealing?

It is possible to reseal your concrete.

Speak with the team at CCS about the prep work and best products required to reseal your concrete. We can put you in touch with a trade professional to complete the project for you.

  • What are the signs that concrete needs to be resealed?

Water soaks into the surface instead of beading on top and the sealer appears dirty, scratched and worn

  • How often should you reseal your concrete?

It depends on the type of sealer, and the level of use the area gets. Sealer lifespans range from 1-10 years.

  • Will sealing the concrete change it’s appearance?

It depends on the sealer chosen – film-forming sealers tend to enhance the colour and add a gloss; whilst penetrating sealers offer a natural matte finish. It is possible to use a coloured sealer – this will guarantee a change to the existing colour of the concrete.

  • What makes a good sealer?

A good sealer will prolong the life of your concrete, enrich and preserve the appearance, provide protection against contaminants, stains and moisture, and make it easier to clean and maintain your concrete. The best sealers do all the above and are breathable, which allows any moisture and air to rise to the surface of the concrete and escape.

To ensure decorative concrete lasts a long time and remains attractive, it is essential to seal it. The benefits range from protecting the surface and preventing stains to reducing the cleaning and maintenance required. Sealers and coatings also make it much easier to clean any stains or grime from the surface.

Film-forming sealers are available in three different types: Acrylic, Polyurethane, and Epoxy; each have unique benefits, while providing a gloss or sheen to the surface of the concrete. Penetrating sealers, provide a natural look to the surface of the concrete that offers a long-lasting and durable barrier to a variety of contaminants.


If you have any questions or are working on a project and need assistance specifying the right sealer, get in touch with us via Live Chat or send us an email