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When you are finished a product for a customer after gluing that last cap of wall coping or just watered the polymeric sand, it is often the last thought we put into that project besides cleaning up and collecting the payment. However, there is still money to be made in that project.
Sealing is a service that you can provide for your existing customers to add value to the project you have completed and to improve your revenue. It is often overlooked by some, but it is a great way to increase the amount of sales your business can do without spending the time and money to obtain more customers.
In this post, we are going to run down everything you need to know for your first sealing, as well as some things you may not already know if you have just started sealing, including preparing a project, cleaning, sealing, and the tools you need. We talked with Aaron Pfifer of Techni Seal about cleaning and sealing and you can catch that episode on our podcast here:
This is not a sponsored post by Techni Seal. We have used their products in the past and recommend them for you to use in your projects. All of the photos in this post are provided by Techni Seal.
Paver Cleaning and Sealing
There are three phases if you decide to take on a sealing project. First the stones need to be cleaned of any stains, next the stones need to be prepared for sealing with a wash, and finally the stones can be sealed. The earliest that sealing can be completed after a project has been installed is 30 days after the polymeric sand has been activated. The sand needs time to cure and any moisture remaining in it will ruin your sealing job. You should also consult with your hardscape manufacturer to ask what is the optimal time to seal their product. Some concrete that has just come off of the line may require more time to fully cure.
We generally tell our customers that if they want to seal their project, we will return the following year. This ensures that everything has an opportunity to fully cure and that the customers can decide whether they like a wet look or natural sealer as they can see for themselves how the project looks after a rainfall and when it is dry.
We covered how to clean pavers in this post. It discusses how you can clean any stain from pavers. This is a necessary step before preparing the pavers to be sealed. Whether your customer has a rust, oil, grease, organic, or paint stain, there is a solution available to remove these stains.
Make sure when you are quoting a job that you are walking around and looking for different stains that need to be cleaned. You should understand that cleaning pavers requires some time to be budgeted into a job. Some stains require up to 12 hours to be cleaned appropriately, so you are likely making a trip to a job site one day for cleaning, another day for preparing the pavers, and another day for sealing which will be discussed further.
The next step in cleaning is to prepare the project to be sealed. This involves an efflorescence wash or a paver prep which is a more diluted solution. What this cleaning does is remove any efflorescence (the white residue that is salt from water within the concrete) and to clean any dirt from the surface of the stone. It also prepares the stones to be sealed.
Using an efflorescence cleaner is a must even if there is no efflorescence present to the naked eye. There could still be efflorescence within the stones that will surface after the stones have been sealed if a cleaner was not used beforehand.
This process begins with wetting any vegetation surrounding the project and wetting the project itself to saturate the joints. After allowing the surface of the stone to dry, you can then follow the dilution rate of the solution and scrub it gently with a push broom. Working in a 200 square foot area and never letting the solution dry, you will rinse the surface generously. Follow any further instructions that come with the product including safety precautions and the temperature in which it can be used.
You can then come back the following day to seal the stones given the stones have been given a chance to completely dry. The best way to do this is to clean in the morning on the first day and to return in the afternoon on the following day. You will need to ensure that there is no rain during this period and for 24 hours after the sealer has been applied.
If there is polymeric haze or slurry hardened to the surface of the stones, you can use a the Paver Restorer product provided by Techni Seal that will remove this as well as the efflorescence. If you use this product, then you will not need to use the efflorescence cleaner afterwards. Polymeric haze is caused by a dust or residue that is left behind from installing polymeric sand. If this is not blown off after sweeping in and consolidating the sand, and the sand is activated with a watering, then it will harden to the surface of the stone and need to be removed. Slurry is caused by cutting stone. If you cut using a wet saw and do not rinse off the stones in the area, you will be left with slurry on the stones surrounding the cut. If you cut dry and do not rinse off or blow off the dust, this will eventually harden on the stones especially if there is a light rainfall. These stains will also need to be removed chemically.
For the most place throughout North America, these chemicals can be run-off into the municipal sewer system. However, it is important that you check with your local municipality. It is important to note that it is safe for children or dogs to be out on a patio or area that has been rinsed thoroughly of cleaner.
After the pavers have been prepared for sealing there should be a minimum of 24 hours before sealing and no more than two weeks of a wait. There should be no rain in the forecast for 24 hours after the product has been sealed and sprinkler systems should be turned off. Everything should be completely dry and warm to the touch when sealing with a temperature typically between the range of 10 and 30 degrees Celsius. Make sure that you give the area one last sweeping and/or blowing to ensure any dirt is removed before sealing. Protect any vegetation and structures surrounding the borders of the project that is being sealed.
When you are sealing concrete, you should choose the appropriate sealer for the product you are sealing. Wet cast and dry cast pavers have different sealers to be applied to them, as does poured concrete and natural stone. Make sure that you are choosing the correct product for the material that you are sealing and following the directions specified for application.
Sealers can be applied to projects with polymeric sand, regular joint sand, or even permeable stone in the joints. Polymeric sand needs a minimum of 28 days to be fully cured before a sealer can be applied over top. Joint sands and permeable joint stones can be sealed immediately. Sealing sand for pavers will stabilize these joints ensuring that they remain in place.
Sealing patio pavers is no different than sealing driveway pavers. Ensure that you are rolling a portion of the area at a time ensuring that there is no excess material on the surface of the stones. A smaller patio will be able to be completed in one run, whereas a larger driveway or patio should be taken slow with somebody spraying while another rolls making sure that the person spraying does not proceed too much further than the one rolling.
Ensure that your boots are clean when sealing and that you are not tracking water or dirt onto the surface of the stones when sealing. Starting at the top of the slope to spray and working your way back to back roll the sealer into the surface will ensure that you are evenly applying the sealer. Keep a wet edge on each section you are sealing so that you are not overlapping the sealer when applying.
When you are finished, tape off the area so others know that they cannot drive on it or that others do not walk on it while the sealer is drying.
Here are some more specific directions on installing water based paver sealers and solvent based paver sealers:
Water Based Paver Sealer
Water based concrete sealers have many benefits to offer its users when applying and for practical purposes. For one, they do not have a strong smell like solvent based sealers. In addition, regulations that are being introduced regionally have caused them to become more popular as solvent based sealers have become irrelevant over time.
Water based sealers are also less slippery than solvent based sealers making them the perfect product for pool decks or elderly customers that do not want to worry about the added slip factor. However, there are additional products to add to sealers to ensure they are not as slippery if your customer prefers a solvent based sealer.
Water based sealers can be both film forming and non-film forming. The film forming sealers create a protection that sits on the surface of the stone, whereas the non-film forming penetrate through the stone to add protection. The benefit of non-film forming sealers is that they are more breathable for pavers. This allows for any additional efflorescence that was not seen to the naked eye to work its way to the surface and out of the pavers with no problem. With film forming sealers this would prove to be more difficult of a fix as the sealer would need to be stripped, the efflorescence would need to be cleaned, and then the stones would need to be re-sealed.
Installing a water based sealer involves the use of a sprayer and a roller.
- After the surface is cleaned, the sealer will be sprayed onto the surface of the stones almost to the point of pooling.
- Another person will back roll the sealer until there is no more standing liquid on the stones, ensuring that their is a consistent layer of sealer on the surface of the stones. It is important that the person spraying does not proceed further than about 100 square feet than the person rolling so that the sealer does not dry to the surface of the stones before being back rolled.
- Wring out the roller when necessary or replace the roller so that it is able to remove excess sealer from the surface of the stones. A common problem when sealing is roller streaks from not rolling the sealer on evenly.
- If this is the first time the project has been sealed, you can apply two coats of sealer. The second coat can be applied almost immediately after, as long as the first coat has had time to dry to at tacky texture.
- No vehicles are allowed on the surface of the stone for 24-72 hours and pedestrians for at least a few hours or until the stone is dry and not tacky to the touch.
Solvent Based Paver Sealer
Solvent based concrete sealer has some benefits that should be explored with the customer. They are film forming only and create a semi to glossy wet look finish if this is the look that a customer wants for their project. Also, they are easier to fix mistakes by adding xylene to the surface of the stones that have solvent based sealers on them and spreading it out evenly.
Unfortunately solvent based sealers have more of an odor when working with them, they should be used in a well ventilated area, and safety precautions should be followed when using them. They are not breathable, so if efflorescence does appear in the surface of the stones after it has been sealed, the sealer will need to be stripped, the efflorescence then cleaned, and then the stones will need to be re-sealed.
The surface of the stones will be more slippery than that of a water based sealer application. There are products that can be added to these sealer products to provide more of a grit in order to prevent slips. These are fine plastic beads that get mixed with the sealer while being applied. These sealers do show more signs of wearing out in heavier traffic areas like on driveways where vehicles are moving in and out.
Installing a solvent based sealer requires the use of a sprayer with metal parts for ease of application and more efficient use of the sealer or a metal paint tray that is rated for solvents and a slit foam roller.
- After the surface is cleaned, the sealer will be sprayed onto the surface of the stones. If you are adding the anti-slip grit to the sealer, do it before applying and mix it in.
- Another person will back roll the sealer evenly on the stones, ensuring that their is a consistent layer of sealer on the surface of the stones. It is important that the person spraying does not proceed further than about 100 square feet than the person rolling so that the sealer does not dry to the surface of the stones before being back rolled. Alternatively, this product can be applied using only a roller as long as the paint tray is metal and rated for use with solvents.
- You will want to have several slit foam rollers available when applying a solvent based sealer as they will need to be replaced when it seems necessary as the roller becomes more saturated and will not wipe away excess sealer from the surface of the stones.
- No vehicles are allowed on the surface of the stone for 24-72 hours and pedestrians for at least a few hours or until the stone is dry and not tacky to the touch.
One of the first questions we get asked when it comes to sealing is when are they going to need to re-seal their project. This is a difficult question because there are so many factors that affect this including weather, traffic, and climate. Projects with more traffic, inclement weather, or lots of exposed sunlight will need to be re-sealed more frequently. Generally customers will need to re-seal every 2-5 years. We typically tell our customers 2-3 years so that we do not oversell ourselves. It is always better to say less time and for it to last longer than to say more time and for it to not last as long.
To test whether or not the pavers need to be re-sealed, you will need to inspect the area and see if the water is beading or not. If water still remains on the stones, water will bead rather than be absorbed into the stone. If this is the case, there is no need to re-seal the stones. If water is not beading after a rainfall, then you can inspect further by pouring a bottle of water onto the surface of the stones.
From this inspection, you can decide whether or not the stones are ready to be re-sealed or not. If sealer remains on the surface of the stones, then when you re-seal the sealer will bead on the surface of the stones and not seal properly to the pavers.
Selling a Sealing Job
After reading this article, we hope that it has helped you become an expert in theory of becoming a sealer or offering sealing services to your customers. It is important when you sell a job that you present yourself as such to your customer.
Presenting a couple of options of sealers to your customer that you are familiar and comfortable with will make the decision much easier for your customer and will be much better than just presenting them with a book and asking them to make their decision.
Use the information from this post to present your knowledge to the customer in deciding which sealer is best for them. Present them with different products with the sealers that you prefer on them so that they have a visual. You can also present them with a stone that has not been sealed. Show them that by pouring water on the sealed stones, the water will bead and not penetrate through the stone, whereas the unsealed stone will absorb the water. The same can be demonstrated with oil, grease, or other condiments to show your point that it is much easier to clean stains from a sealed paver.
You are selling your customer on protection of their investment, as well as providing value to their project and making it even more visually appealing than before. Present your customer with the pros of sealing a project and make sure that you understand the cons should they arise when your customer is talking to you about sealing so that you can provide a rebuttal.
Sealing Pavers Pros and Cons
- Protection from stains.
- Stabilizing joint materials.
- Added value.
- Aesthetically appealing.
- Added expense.
- Improperly installed sealers involve more work to fix.
- Some cons are sealer specific, such as solvent based sealers not being breathable.
Quoting a Sealing Job
When you are quoting a sealing job, you will need to ensure that you are inspecting the area before providing a quote. It is important that you know what cleaning you will have to undertake before preparing the pavers for sealing. At the very minimum it will take you two separate trips out to the site to complete the installation. You may need to budget more days depending on the stains that you will need to clean from the pavers.
Cleaning the pavers could take multiple trips out to the site to ensure that all of the stains are removed before then continuing to prepare the pavers with an efflorescence wash. Build these trips to the site into your quote, along with the trip to the site to prepare the pavers for sealing.
You will then need to add the final trip to the site into your quote to complete the sealing, along with the materials and tools required to install the sealer, your overhead expenses, and business profit. If you need help creating a quote, use our estimate template and fill in the necessary fields.
With the information provided in this article, you should have the knowledge at your disposal to sell, quote, and install sealing jobs. It is an added revenue source for your business that does not require you to get out and spend time and money to find more customers.
It is also an in-demand service in many regions and you can quickly fill up with work for this aspect of your business. The only down-side is that it requires some time when it is not going to rain which can prove difficult at some points in the season.