How to Choose the Best Patio Sealer
Patio sealer can help protect your patio from signs of weathering, as well as improve its appearance.
If your patio is starting to look a little dull and tired, patio sealer can give it a new lease of life, adding a gloss or matt finish to the stones and improving the richness of their colour.
You’ll need to make sure that you get the best patio sealer for the type of stones you want to seal, and ensure that it will achieve the effect you’re after.
The following information will help you make an informed decision when looking for a patio sealer, as well as give you tips on how to use it.
What Patio Sealer Does for Your Patio
Patio sealer has a range of benefits for your patio. Here are some of the most common:
- Protect paving from UV rays
- Protect paving from general weather damage
- Prevent or reducing the amount of algae and mould that grow on the patio
- Improve the appearance of stones and giving the patio a new lease of life
- Protect stones from spillages such as oil, grease and petrol
- Make dirt easier to clean off the patio
As you can see, using paving sealant can extend the life of your patio, as well as improve its appearance.
Adding a protective sealant can make it a lot easier and quicker to clean the patio, and ensure that grease marks from BBQs, cars or bikes don’t permanently stain the porous surface of the stones. If you find yourself constantly cleaning your patio and having to put a lot of effort into doing so, using a patio sealer could dramatically reduce the time spent on this job.
Different Types of Patio Sealer
Gloss vs Matt
Depending on the finished ‘look’ that you want for your patio, you will need to choose between a gloss or matt sealer.
Gloss sealers can offer a range of finished, from a light sheen, to a ‘wet look’, to high gloss. Most people who are looking for a relatively subtle gloss on their patio want to achieve the ‘wet look’. This is designed to replicate the richer, darker appearance that paving gains after rainfall.
The more coats of gloss sealer that are applied, the glossier it will be. Most products recommend using two to three coats of sealer. One coat may not be enough to create a durable seal.
Matt sealers are designed to give a gloss-free finish; however, some are better at achieving a matt effect than others. If you are after a truly matt finish, the best thing to do is read customer reviews from using matt products. This will give a true impression as to whether the final finish of the sealer is genuinely matt, or has a slight sheen.
The best patio sealers for creating a matt finish are ‘impregnating’ sealers that seal the holes in the porous patio material instead of adding a protective layer over the top.
Solvent Based vs Non-Solvent Based
Patio sealers are either solvent based, or water based. But which is better?
Water-based sealers are mixed with a resin. This resin might be acrylic or polyurethane. Because they are water based, these sealers do not have as strong a smell as solvent-based sealers, making them more pleasant to use.
Sealers with polyurethane are more likely to hold a gloss finish for longer than acrylic.
Here are some advantages of using water-based sealer:
- Tools and spills can be cleaned with water
- Generally not as expensive as solvent-based sealer
- Less likely to kill or damage plants if product lands of them by accident (easily done when applying with a spray)
- Can be more suitable for indoor use, or just more pleasant to apply in general, as there’s less smell
- Can often be applied with a sprayer
And here are some disadvantages:
- Takes longer to dry than solvent-based sealers as the solvent is what helps reduce curing time
- May not create as long lasting a seal as solvent-based sealers and reapplication may be required more frequently
Like water-based sealers, solvent-based sealers are also mixed with either acrylic or polyurethane resin. Instead of water, these resins are mixed with solvents like xylene.
Solvent sealers with polyurethane create a particularly tough seal. It’s a good choice to go for if you want an extremely high gloss finish, as the gloss doesn’t dull easily over time.
Solvent sealers with acrylic are a slightly cheaper option, although they still penetrate well into the paving. They are not quite as long lasting as solvent sealers with polyurethane.
Here are some advantages of using solvent-based sealer:
- May be able to get away with using just one coat, especially if after a matt finish
- Generally tougher and longer lasting than water-based sealers
- (Specific to polyurethane solvent-based sealers) Holds gloss for a long time
And here are some disadvantages:
- Stronger odour than water-based sealers whilst applying
- Harder to clean brushes, rollers and other equipment – especially if allowed to dry
Applying Patio Sealer
To give yourself the best chance of successfully applying patio sealer, you need to choose the right time of year as well as a dry weather window.
In terms of conditions, most sealers shouldn’t be applied if either the air or surface temperature is below 5°C. You should also avoid applying the sealer if temperatures are above 30°C.
The best time to apply patio sealer is at the end of spring, or during the summer. This is because you need a period of several dry days in order to prepare the patio as well as allow the sealer to dry.
First and foremost, you should make sure to follow the instructions on the specific sealer that you have purchased, including wearing any necessary safety gear. However, these are some general tips for application (including adding additional jointing sand which may be more relevant to older patios):
- Choose dry time of year. As mentioned, you need a dry spell (preferably of at least a week) when applying patio sealer to make sure you get the best results.
- Deep clean the patio approximately one week before applying the sealer. This means power washing the slabs, clearing all dirt, and weeding.
- Leave to dry thoroughly for at least a week before continuing, you want any sand in the joints to be dry before you continue.
- Once the day arrives to seal the patio, check there’s 24 hours of dry weather. Remove any weeds etc. that have grown in this time
- Sand the joints – brush jointing sand into all of the joints – don’t rush this job and take care to apply sand evenly
- Thoroughly clean excess sand once joints are refilled and level
- Choose the application method for the sealant depending on product’s recommendations – ideally use a roller or sprayer, but have a paintbrush on hand to smooth out any pools of liquid
- Make sure the product gets evenly over the joints as well as all other areas of the patio
- Apply two to three coats (depending on instructions) and leave sufficient time to dry between coats.
- After final coat, make sure patio will be protected from rain for several hours. Ideally leave 24 hours of no rain and no traffic on the surface to ensure a full cure.
Patio Sealer FAQs
Which is better, solvent- or water-based patio sealer?
Water-based patio sealer is generally considered better for the environment, and may not cause as much damage to your grass or plants if it gets on them accidentally. It’s also easier to clean rollers, brushes and equipment. However, water-based sealer does not permeate as far into the paving as solvent-based sealer, meaning reapplication may be required more regularly.
Solvent-based patio sealer generally creates a tougher seal that will last longer. Also, solvent-based sealer with polyurethane maintains its gloss for a long time.
What time of year should I apply patio sealer?
Late spring or summer are the best times of year to apply patio sealer. Ideally, you need at least a week of dry weather – first to make sure that the patio is completely dry before applying the sealer, and second to leave at least 24 hours after applying the sealer for it to cure well.
However, avoid applying patio sealer if the weather is too humid, or if temperatures are over 30°C.
Patio sealer also shouldn’t be applied if the temperature of the air or surfaces are below 5°C.
How can I be sure that using patio sealer won’t ruin the appearance of my patio?
The best thing to do is test the patio sealer on a small corner of patio, before committing to covering the whole space. Although this might sound like a waste of energy when you just want to get on with the job, certain sealers can be a lot glossier than you might like and it’s good to find this out early on.