Concrete Paint vs Stain vs. Sealer

Taking care of concrete floors is more than just a challenge. For starters, there are three substances you can use—paint, stain, and sealer—to make concrete look as good as it feels while quite possibly protecting it against harsh climates. In this guide, we’re going to go over what concrete pain, stain, and sealer are to help you decide which of them you should use.

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Concrete Paints
As you can imagine, concrete paint is paint that is used specifically on concrete. This type of paint known simply as concrete paint or masonry paint contains binding elements that contract and expand along with the concrete surface. This differs from regular old exterior house paint in how it adheres to concrete surfaces—house paint can simply be washed away by hard rain or crack by light exposure to sunlight.

Concrete paints are oil-based, water-based, or latex-based. Oil-based concrete paint tends to last longer than the others, but when applying the paint, it leaves a nose-wrinkling odor that dissipates only after the paint has completely dried (two to three days). Water- and latex-based paints are odorless and better for the environment since they wash away with water, but each coat deteriorates quicker than oil-based paints.

Concrete paint does not offer protective services. It remains on the surface on concrete and will eventually wear off. Time and weather will eventually strip concrete of its beautiful coat of paint in a matter of years, and you’ll need to redo the entire arduous process of prepping and painting.

Concrete Stains
Unlike paints, concrete stains are absorbed into concrete to give an eye-pleasing coloration that takes considerably more time to fade away. Staining concrete can produce a translucent surface that opaque paints can never achieve.

Stains are either water-based or acid-based. Water-based stains soak into concrete and becomes a semi-opaque color with little to no discoloration after drying. Acid-based stains contains salts that react with the minerals in concrete that can make concrete look like strong, tanned slabs of leather. Applying acid-based stains is much more time-consuming but is more than worth the effort.

Paints and stains share one similarity: they do not protect concrete from the elements of Mother Nature. The longer it is exposed to water and heat, the quicker the appearance will fade. However, there is a way to ensure the added paints and stains remain for longer. That’s by using…

Concrete Sealers
Concrete sealers are the only trusted agents that will ensure longer-lasting paints, stains, and concrete integrity for longer periods of time. A sealer protects concrete from natural freezing and thawing cycles, as well as protecting paints and stains from permanent discoloration caused by dirt, oil, and many, many more contaminants.

The most common types of sealers used on concrete are epoxy-based, acrylic-based, and water-based. Epoxy-based sealers are several times more durable than acrylic-based sealers and are particularly helpful at preserving concrete in high-traffic areas. Acrylic-based sealers are softer, require a bit of floor wax to apply on indoor concrete floors, and is cheaper than epoxy.

However, if you’re working in indoor rooms with poor ventilation (e.g. basements), we’d recommend sticking to an odorless water-based sealer. It’s not as protective, but in areas with little traffic, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Concrete Sealer
Concrete Sealer

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