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June 03, 2016 • Mike Huber

Solvent-Based vs. Water-Based Sealers

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Knowing the facts about solvent-based vs. water-based sealers will make all the difference in your outdoor paver project. While they do have some characteristics in common, it’s the differences that will determine which type of sealer best fits your project.

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To use solvent-based vs. water-based ... that is the question. So let’s begin with a few advantages offered by both!

Solvent-based sealers and water-based sealers both:

  • Protect against wear and tear of your outdoor surface
  • Provide a level of stain resistance
  • Are fairly easy to apply
  • Offer UV resistance


Moving along ... the key differences:


Solvent-based sealers:

  • Are high VOC
  • Provide a wet-look finish
  • Have a strong odor
  • Are more complex to clean-up

Water-based sealers:

  • Are low VOC
  • Provide a matte finish
  • Have a mild odor
  • Are easy to clean-up

Now that we’ve outlined the basics, let’s delve a little deeper and review the answers to some commonly asked questions.


My pavers were previously sealed. Can I apply a new sealer on top of what’s already there? Well, first you need to know what type of sealer was originally used. If it was a water-based sealer, then you can safely reseal using either a solvent-based or water-based sealer. If a solvent-based sealer was originally used, you’ll want to reseal using a solvent-based sealer. A water-based sealer cannot be applied on top of a solvent-based sealer.


How can I tell what type of sealer was previously used on my pavers? If you’re resealing your pavers and are unsure about the type of sealer that was originally used, you’ll want to test the surface. Choose a low-traffic area (i.e. a corner) and pour a quarter-sized drop of Xylene onto a sealed paver. Wait about 15 seconds, wipe off the Xylene, and touch the area. If it feels tacky, it means a solvent-based sealer was used. If it’s not tacky, a water-based sealer was used.How_to_Perform_a_Xylene_Test.png
How can I be sure the sealer I purchased will properly adhere to my previously sealed pavers? After you determine whether to use a solvent-based vs. a water-based sealer, you can perform an adhesion test to make sure the product will properly adhere to the previously sealed surface.

How do I perform an adhesion test? First, choose a small test patch in a low-traffic area. Make sure the surface is clean and dry before applying a coat of the new sealer. Allow the product to dry for a full 24 hours. After the sealer has completely dried, cut a tic-tac-toe pattern on top of it using a utility knife. Press hard enough to cut through both the new and old sealer coatings. Next, place a piece of duct tape on top of the tic-tac-toe pattern, press it down, and then tear it back off. If the new coating of sealer doesn’t get pulled off with the tape, it means you have good adhesion and can proceed with using the product.

How often do my pavers need to be resealed? Depending on the level of wear and tear, the length of time between resealing will vary. Typically outdoor surfaces can be resealed every 3-5 years.


Now you're equipped with all the basics pertaining to solvent-based vs. water-based sealers! But before sealing those pavers, get the scoop on efflorescence (and how to treat it) by reading our blog post, 8 Facts About Efflorescence


Looking for a fast and easy online resource that covers all of your questions about sealing concrete pavers? Click here!


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