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Concrete sealers are designed to protect the concrete from wear and tear in addition to the provision of chemical and stain resistance for concrete. They come in water-based and solvent-based varieties both of which act as protective and decorative coats for concrete. These sealers furthermore add to the aesthetics aspect of concrete, for instance, with their application, the color of the concrete doesn’t fade away easily and lasts more than usual.

Both water-based sealer and solvent based sealer may be similar in certain characteristics such as durability, toughness, ease of application, and ultraviolet resistance. However, they are different when it comes to their composition, appearance, handling, and gas emission. A contractor should be familiar with their differences and similarities in order to select the best option for concrete surface under considerations.

Table 1 Differences between water based concrete sealer and solvent based concrete sealer

Water based concrete sealer Solvent based concrete sealer
It contains low volatile organic compound (less than 100 grams per liter) which is desired by contractors since it releases less gas compared to solvent based sealerIt contains high volatile organic compound (more than 400 grams per liter) and hence releases detrimental gases that might deteriorate health of occupants and animals around
Regulation trend is toward concrete sealer with low volatile organic compound that is why water based concrete sealer is desirableIn contrary, this type of sealer is not desirable with high volatile organic compound
Polymer particle is dispersed in water, and the water would evaporate after the sealer is applied to concrete surface as in Fig.1, consequently polymer particles move closer together and eventually generating a continuous clear coatingPolymer particles are not separate but rather both polymer and solvent create a continuous clear polymer solution, and when solvent evaporates, the polymer chains are drawn closer together and eventually intertwine.
It appears milky white upon its application, and tend to provide a lower-gloss, matte finish after curing process endedUpon its utilization as illustrated in Fig. 2, it penetrates into concrete very well and tend to wet-out. Consequently, the finish would be glossier and improves concrete color
Nonflammable, no strong solvent odor, and allow for quick and easy clean-up once the application is complete. These features are invaluable for busy contractorIt releases gases accompanied by odor and its cleaning creates problems for contractor. So, it is problematic for indoor applications
It is suitable choice when restrictive regulations are appliedIt may not be accepted when restrictive regulations are used
It is not as slippery as solvent based concrete sealerIt is considerably slippery even if grip additives are added
It is cost effective compared to solvent based concrete sealerIts cost is much higher than water based concrete sealer
Water Based Concrete Sealer
Fig. 1: Water Based Concrete Sealer
Solvent Based Concrete Sealer
Fig. 2: Solvent Based Concrete Sealer

About Madeh Izat HamakareemVerified

Madeh is a Structural Engineer who works as Assistant Lecturer in Koya University. He is the author, editor and partner at theconstructor.org.