Jun 13, 2009

Brick Paver Sealing

One of the biggest questions that I am asked is about the sealing of brick pavers. First and foremost, brick paver sealing is usually optional. I am definitely an advocate of sealing brick pavers but the number one reason for sealing pavers is for the aesthetic value. Sealing gives the pavers the "wet look" or satin finish that typically darkens or accents the color in the paving stones. I instruct customers to wet their pavers with a hose on a cloudy day. If they like that look or if it better matches other color schemes on their house, then go ahead and seal brick pavers. In an average environment you do not have to seal your pavers to protect warranties or long term performance. Admittedly, sealing will slow down the effects of weathering of pavers and retaining walls.

Below are some steps or tips when sealing brick paver patios, walkways, and driveways.

After a new paver installation, wait approximately 3 months before sealing brick pavers or retaining walls. The reason for this is twofold. First you want to let the joint sand settle in for a month or so and perform any touch ups where needed. The second is to allow the pavers to completely dry and allow any efflorescence to occur. Efflorescence is the process whereby the brick pavers may exhibit a white powdery deposit or residue on the surface after moisture evaporates from the paving stones. The normal approach is to let this deposit or residue just weather off. After about 3 months of the concrete pavers exposed to sun & elements, this process should be complete.

Prepping for brick paver sealing is very important. If your brick paver patio or walkway has been in over a year, I suggest you do a general basic powerwash cleaning. By powerwashing you can remove any dirt or other debris off the top of the pavers and clean out any joints with soil or foreign debris in them. Let your pavers and paver joints dry for atleast 4 hours before sweeping in any joint sand. There is no need to use polymeric (bonding) sand in the joints if you are going to seal your pavers. If you are not sealing, then let your paver patio or walkway dry for 24 hours before using any polymeric sand. DO NOT sweep jointing sand into joints if the pavers or paver joints are wet! You want fine angular joint sand to completely fill all joints and wet sand will NOT achieve this goal.
After joint sanding your brick pavers, use a light mist from the house hose to wash off the top of the paving stones, letting the sand wash off the pavers and letting the sand settle in the joints. Let the brick patio or walkway dry and settle in for a day or so before application of the brick paver sealer.

Applying the brick paver sealing needs to be done on a dry and rain free day. Make sure you follow the directions of the brick paver sealing manufacturer when sealing your brick patio, walkway, or driveway. I usually wait until after 10am to let any dew or morning moisture burn off. Though most paver sealers are dry to the touch in a half hour, it is best to stay off your paver installation for 24 hours. The smell of a freshly sealed patio may be strong for a few days and usually is not noticeable within a week.

My preferred method of applying paver sealer is to use a 2 gallon pump garden sprayer. I have used 100's of different sprayers from commercial steel sprayers to cheap plastic garden sprayers. I find it is best to use the inexpensive $20-25 plastic sprayer and just throw away after use. The amount of time & effort to flush out and clean the parts of a sprayer from the thermoplastic resins is not worth keeping the sealer sprayer. Even an expensive steel commercial sprayer will need all rubber seals replaced and constantly cleaned. Spraying on sealer will give you a heavier coat of sealer that will help soak into the joints. Using the rolling method of sealer with a foam roller will stretch your sealer more evenly but is hard to get soaked into the paver joints. The rolling method of applying sealer also can experience some problems if the paver joints are wider, pulling sand up out of the joints and rolling onto the top of the brick pavers. The spraying method of applying sealer also is easier to apply to steps, walls, caps, and tight areas.

It is important not to make yourself crazy prepping to get your brick paver patio, walkway, or driveway perfect for sealer. It is not a controlled environment like inside. You can not control the weather, temperatures, wind, or any floating debris. Your goal is to enhance the appearance and performance of your brick pavers and retaining walls.