Taking care of your pavers: Why is it important to seal natural stone
Pavers are extremely durable and are well-loved for their ease of maintenance. As long-lasting as they are, paving stone need care to keep them looking new. One of these practices is called sealing.
“Sealing is the process of applying treatment to the surface the paving stone to reduce the negative effects of corrosion, erosion, and staining. Essentially, it is like putting all-weather protective clothing on your natural stone.”
Sealing is best done immediately after the paving has been installed to ensure that the paving is protected from the start. If sealing was not carried out, do not despair. With the right professionals and a little elbow grease, there is a way to clean and restore worn pavers.
How does sealing help your pavers?
Sealing your natural stone is important and comes with a host of benefits. Some of these include:
Protect the beauty
Whether on the patio, driveway, walkway or even as backyard aesthetics, your pavers will take a beating from the elements. Exposure to the sun for long periods can cause fading and other color changes. Wind, snow, rain, and groundwater are worse. They cause expansion and contraction within the stone as the water freezes and thaws. This can create cracks or cause weakness in the stone. Eventually, the pavers will crumble due to the stress.
Sealing the pavers creates a protective layer that protects the stone from these elements. They protect the surface from the fading effects of the sun and preserves the color for longer. The sealer will also limit the amount of moisture inside the stone, which in turn reduces the effect of water damage. One of the most common types of moisture damage is efflorescence, which happens when mineral within the stone is moved to the surface by water and form a cloudy white substance. Applying a sealer especially in wet or humid weather will help combat efflorescence.
Pavers are exposed to a lot of mechanical stress. This is usually something we do not think about but even during everyday activities, pavers are exposed to scraping, scratching, pounding, and pressure from heavy items. On the patio alone, for instance, human activity alone will cause a lot of damage, with shoe scraping, children’s bikes and toys scratching, and the weight if the patio furniture. It is worse with the driveway since you are dealing with heavier objects. This will result in the deterioration of the surface of the pavers, as it gets chipped away. All this stress can also cause the pavers and the grouting (joints) to weaken and become loose.
Sealing the stone protects the structural integrity of the pavers by forming a protective layer, which absorbs most of the scrapes. It also keeps the grouting from feeling the brunt of the abuse. This, in turn, reduces the chances that pavers and cobbles will become loose over time.
Make it easier to clean and maintain
One of the main problems paver owners face is staining. It occurs when oils from different sources seep into the capillaries in the stone and form deposits that are difficult to remove without causing damage to the stone. This is why the remedy for most stains is buffing, which is essentially removing the top layer using steel wool or special sanders for pavers. Most stains are caused by common household spills such as beverages, cosmetics, food and barbeque grease, motor oil, inks, and even wine.
Sealing your pavers gives them a coating that gives you enough time to catch the spill before it becomes a stain. They also prevent the oils from seeping into the stone, which happens quickly if the paver is unprotected. This protective layer makes it easy to remove dirt using a rag and some water, or even a broom. It will also protect against water spots in granite and marble, and reduce the chances of fungi, algae, and lichen from growing on your pavers.
What else should you know?
There are a few other things you should know about the application of stone sealers. These include:
- Always spring for a professional. It may seem like something you may want to turn into a DIY, but the improper application of the stone sealer is tantamount to not sealing at all. It is also better to let a trained professional handle the cleaning, prepping, and sealing. They will also carry out any repairs and replacements needed before applying the sealer.
- When choosing a sealer, spring for the good stuff. There are cheaper alternatives in the market, but these tend to be lower quality and eventually cloud, bubble, and even flake. They also do not have a long lifespan and you may end up resealing after a few months. Low-quality sealers are also a headache to strip. The stripping process is labor-intensive, and some of the practices may result in damaged and broken tiles. You end up spending more on buffing damaged tiles as well.
- Use water-based sealers, especially around wet parts of your home such as pool areas and around gardens. Most are penetrating and will sit inside of the tile, effectively eliminating the glossy slick feel on the surface. This will prevent efflorescence more efficiently. Furthermore, since the tiles are less slick, they grip better and there is less chance of slipping. This is an important feature if your pavers are on the patio or pool area which are areas that children and the elderly use frequently.
- Avoid applying too much sealer; more will not equal better protection in this case and the too much will be detrimental to the stone. It traps prevents the tiles from breathing naturally, and traps moisture inside. The result is unpleasant cloudy tiles which ruin the aesthetics you were trying to achieve.
For the best results, it is best to reseal tiles every 2 to 3 years.