problems with concrete sealers

Common Problems with Concrete Sealers

Here are some tips on the most common problems with concrete sealers and how to avoid them. You can also check out our FAQ About Concrete Sealing.

There are two common types of concrete sealers typically used in Michigan and areas with similar seasonal weather.

Reactive penetrating sealer is the most common type of sealer. It is perfect for regular, non-decorative concrete such as driveways, sidewalks, patios, etc. This type of sealer sprays on easily and soaks into the concrete. The biggest issue with this type of sealer is actually NOT applying it to the concrete. It is a very inexpensive and easy way to prolong the life of the concrete. Check out The Benefits of Concrete Sealing for more information.

Topical acrylic sealer is the second most common type of sealer. Acrylic sealer is used on decorative and stamped concrete and is necessary to maintain the integrity and appearance of a concrete investment. This type of sealer is more susceptible to issues, which are detailed below. Experts recommend having a professional concrete sealing authority like Precision Concrete apply an acrylic sealer to avoid the problems listed below.

With stamped and decorative concrete, it is important to have a regular maintenance plan to keep concrete protected for a long time. Acrylic sealer lasts 2-3 years.

Before diving into common problems with concrete sealers, it is important to note that there are many concrete sealers available on the market today. They can be found in big box stores and on the internet. Since store employees are not often experts in concrete, it is best to work through contractors and concrete specialists. They have access to a greater range of better products at more affordable prices.

Since concrete sealing is inexpensive compared to the concrete itself, most home and business owners quickly realize it is much better to have a professional apply their concrete sealer. It will be done correctly at a competitive price and save valuable time.

Common Problems with Concrete Sealers

Sealer problems can include surface bubbles, peeling/flaking, white spots, and premature fading or loss of shine. Also, the instructions that come with store-bought sealers generally don’t include anything about how to determine common issues or how to fix them. Hopefully, this list will help. If the issues below don’t address the problem you are dealing with, feel free to call Precision Concrete and our sealing experts will be happy to help.

Surface Bubbles

Too Much Heat – Surface bubbles are also referred to as “solvent pop.” They mostly occur when the second coat of sealer is applied. The first coat goes on fine but the second coat bubbles. This is caused by high temperatures and direct sunlight. The heat causes the solvent to quickly release from the first coat and become trapped under the second coat. Once the sealer is dried the bubbles will crack.

Another cause that is often overlooked is a rapid increase in the concrete temperature.  With fresh concrete, the air within the concrete begins to heat up quickly and expand. This creates pressure on the soft, fresh coating and bubbles can appear.

To avoid these issues, make sure the concrete is dry and does not contain any moisture on top from dew or rain. Sealer should only be applied when the outside temperature is between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, when the sun is not shining directly on the sealed area, either mid-morning or late afternoon.

Too Much Sealer – Bubbles can also occur if too much sealer is used. One coat of an acrylic concrete sealer should be about 5 mils thick when wet. It will be about 2 mils thick when dry. When the sealer is applied too heavily, the air displaced through the surface can’t escape, and it forms a bubble in the sealer surface.

Sealer Turns White, is Peeling or Flaking

This is also referred to as “blushing” and may be endearing on a date, but is not a good look on concrete. Two things typically cause blushing:

  1. Applying sealer to wet concrete (or concrete that hasn’t properly cured) will prevent the sealer from bonding with the concrete surface and will float on a film of water.
  2. Applying the sealer too thick can also cause bubbles as described above. Heavy coats of sealer will trap moisture and air under the debonded sealer and will appear white to the human eye. Over time, it will peel or flake off.

To avoid blushing, apply the correct amount of coats and thickness of sealer in the right temperature. However, the best way to avoid any problems with sealer is to hire a professional concrete sealer

Concrete is Stained from Chemicals, Leaves, Fertilizer, etc.

Common, store-bought acrylic sealers do not always provide adequate protection from chemicals and other things that may cause staining. For better coverage and protection, it is best to go with a commercial-grade acrylic sealer that is made specifically for outdoor stamped and decorative concrete.

The expense of hiring a professional is offset by the discounted contractor’s prices for the sealer and the fact that it will be done correctly the first time and will last longer. This saves time and money in the long run, not to mention peace of mind.

Concrete is Blotchy or has Dark Stains

Most acrylic sealers will deepen the true color of the concrete slightly and leave a glossy shine. It gives the concrete a “wet” look and really helps the detail and color of the decorative concrete to “pop.” Because every slab is unique in its color and texture, the color of the concrete after sealer application is difficult to predict. Sealers also bring out the “grain” in concrete similar to varnish on wood.  It is a good idea to do a small test area to ensure the desired result before applying sealer to the whole area.

Hopefully, you won’t have any of these problems but if you do, this list should help you troubleshoot. Removing bad sealer from concrete is a really laborious and intense process that should be avoided as much as possible.

Ready to Get Started?

Precision Concrete is happy to look at the areas you need sealing and provide a free estimate. Our team can typically complete applications in one day. If you are having problems with concrete sealers, we can also troubleshoot with you and offer our best ideas for fixing or replacing the bad sealer.


Have more questions? Check out our FAQ About Concrete Sealing.