Topical vs. Impregnating sealers: What you need to know
So you’ve decided you’re going to do it: You’re going to seal your stone. You’ve weighed up the options and realized it’s going to make a lot more sense – given the type of stone you’re using, its location and your long-term finances – to seal it.
The next step is choosing a quality sealer to get the job done. But with the dazzling array of sealers out there, how do you pick one?
In this handy guide, we’ll go over the basics you need to know when purchasing a sealer for surface protection.
The two different types of sealers
There are typically two categories of stone sealers: Topical sealers and impregnating sealers.
“Topical sealers are coatings (film formers) designed to protect the surface of stone against water, oil, and other contaminants,” writes the Marble Institute of America (MIA). Topical sealers, as their name implies, are a glossy plastic type of coating that sits on top of the stone.
Using a topical sealer means maintenance is focused not on the stone itself but on the sealer, which may involve stripping and re-sealing the entire surface.
Meanwhile, according to the MIA, impregnating sealers are “water- or solvent-based, penetrate below the surface and become repellents”. They are referred to as “breathable”, meaning they allow water vapor to pass through unencumbered, rather than trapping it.
The pros and cons of each
There are some advantages to topical sealers. They are generally less pricey and relatively easy to apply – just about anyone can do it with the right care.
However, they can also easily ruin the look of your natural stone. Their softness means they are easily damaged – even by something as common as foot traffic – requiring frequent upkeep, and can build up to give stone a plastic, unnatural look. And as mentioned previously, you may even end up having to strip and re-seal the surface, which can be a huge inconvenience.
Finally, because they aren’t breathable, such sealers can end up trapping moisture in the surface, damaging stones like sandstone, limestone and slate.
By contrast, an impregnating sealer like Dry-Treat’s STAIN-PROOF Original™ allow any moisture in the stone to pass through, keeping it safe. Not only that, but they won’t alter the stone’s appearance and typically don’t need frequent application – STAIN-PROOF Original™, for example, has a 15-year performance warranty.
Lastly, they’re not affected by UV light, so they have no chance of turning yellow like topical sealers.
True, impregnating sealers may require an accredited applicator to apply them – but when you consider the benefits, this may well be worth it.
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