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Using a Topical Concrete Sealer: The Pros and Cons

August 22nd, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Sarah Etler

Find out some of the unique benefits and drawbacks of using a topical sealer on your concrete surfaces.

If you’ve ever looked into replacing your existing concrete or pouring a new slab from scratch, you probably know that it can be quite an investment. Installing a new driveway can cost anywhere between $2,340 to $7,500 and beyond! 

But as a way to protect and maintain that expensive investment, sealing the concrete with a high-quality sealer can help it last as long as possible. 

And the good news is that you have options. Depending on what you’re after for your concrete, you can choose between topical or penetrating sealers. Both come with their own unique benefits and drawbacks.

Here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we usually only use penetrating sealers to seal and protect our customers’ concrete, but we know that many people like the idea of using a topical sealer and want to know more about it.

For that reason, we’ve created this article that will walk you through the pros and cons of using a topical sealer on your concrete.

Topical Concrete Sealer Pros and Cons Overview

Pros Cons
  • Covers up stains
  • Needs frequent reapplication
  • Customizable look
  • Can make concrete slippery
  • Easier DIY alternative
  • Hard to get an even surface
  • Prone to patchy spots and discoloration
  • Doesn’t play nicely with concrete caulk

Pros of Topical Concrete Sealer

  • Covers Up Stains

Tints and sheens can be added to topical sealers that make it harder to see stains beneath the surface. While they don’t remove the stains, the sealer additives help blend in what couldn’t be cleaned away.

  • Customizable Look

With topical sealers, you have the power to get creative and tailor the appearance of your concrete to exactly what you’re looking for. Whether you prefer a glossy finish or a tinted look, the options are endless.

  • Easier DIY Alternative

When compared to penetrating concrete sealer, applying a topical sealer is much easier. It doesn’t require prior experience to achieve a decent result. It’s also easier to find in big box stores, making it more accessible to DIYers.

Cons of Topical Concrete Sealer

  • Has To Be Reapplied Frequently

Topical sealers require more maintenance to ensure continued protection. Acrylic topical sealers typically need reapplication every 1-3 years, while epoxy or urethane-based sealers can last 5-10 years.

  • Can make concrete slippery

Topical sealers sit on top of the concrete, covering up its natural texture and tread. Many of them have a glossy finish, and the combination of a glossy surface and lack of tread can lead to slippery surfaces

With this being said, there are additives available to make topical sealers less slippery.

  • Hard To Get an Even Surface

Even though topical is an easier DIY method when compared to penetrating sealers, it still comes with challenges during the application process.

When applying topical sealer, you may notice a strong odor, bubbling if applied in hot weather, and difficulty in achieving a consistent surface due to roller marks. 

  • Prone to Patchy Spots and Discoloration

If your concrete has sections that are spalling or chipping away, the sealer will likely separate from the damaged areas, leaving behind patchy spots. Topical sealers may also discolor quickly due to their constant exposure to the sun and weather.

  • Doesn’t Play Nicely With Concrete Caulk

Topical sealers harden up on the concrete surface and don’t allow for the natural expansion and contraction that takes place in concrete. If this sealer is applied over concrete caulk, it can pull the caulking up when it shrinks during the drying process or when the concrete expands and contracts naturally over time.

Your Next Steps

After weighing the pros and cons of topical concrete sealers, you now have a better idea of whether they are the right fit for your concrete surfaces.

But don’t stop here – penetrating sealers are another option that can protect and preserve your concrete.

Over the last 30+ years here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we’ve found that the benefits of penetrating sealers outweigh those of topical sealers, which is why we only offer penetrating and not topical.

If you want to see both options compared side by side, check out this article: Penetrating vs. Topical Concrete Sealer: Which Is Right for You?

Want to see what concrete cleaning and sealing can do for your concrete? Click the link below to request a free onsite cost estimate:

Click Here to Find Your Nearest Location and Receive a FREE Estimate

Sarah Etler

Sarah Etler joined A-1 Concrete Leveling after receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Kentucky University. As A-1's Content Marketing Manager, she works closely with industry experts to produce content that will best answer questions related to concrete repair and maintenance practices. Sarah loves living a life full of discovery and is excited every day to see what new things she can learn and share with those around her.