Here we share our sealing pavers pros and cons including why they need sealing and popular questions regarding sealing your paver-based hardscaping. When you cover land with a material such as concrete or pavers, it’s known as ‘hardscaping’. The hardscape material has to stand up to the people, furniture, and vehicles that will be placed on top of it, while also existing in an ever-changing environment. Weather and temperature changes affect the pavers or concrete as well as the ground around them.
Pavers are a specific type of hardscaping made up of individual shapes, laid in a pattern. The pavers themselves are frequently made from concrete. Natural stone pavers made from materials like granite, marble and slate are also popular. When used for hardscaping, bricks are also considered pavers.
Below we’ll cover whether or not pavers need to be sealed, if sealing prevents weeds from growing, and discuss some different methods for sealing paver patios. Finally, we’ll teach you how to remove sealer from pavers and give some recommendations for the best sealers on the market.
Why Do Pavers Need Sealing?
The reasons to install pavers are obvious. They beautify outdoor spaces and make it easier and more comfortable to spend time in them. It may also increase the value of your home.
However, they do require maintenance to keep them looking clean and tidy. If the base layer isn’t thick enough or the pavers were unprofessionally laid, they may become misaligned after changes in ground temperature.
Weeds can grow up between the cracks and need to be removed. Grime can build up on the pavers, requiring effortful cleaning to restore a like-new appearance and reduce slippage.
One solution that homeowners can pursue is sealing their paver-based hardscaping. A chemical sealer forms a protective barrier that coats the pavers, improves the overall drainage of your hardscaping, and looks great.
Of course, there are drawbacks, too. Sealing pavers takes time, carries an additional cost, and isn’t permanent. You must also consider the environmental impact of anything applied to hardscaping.
Here are the sealing pavers pros and cons starting with the pros.
Sealing Pavers Pros
Stops water from passing through the pavers – The reason most people consider pavers is because they want to protect the investment they’ve made in hardscaping. Most materials used to make pavers, such as concrete, brick, and stone, are porous.
That means that water can find its way both into and around the paver, encouraging mildew, mold, moss, or even grass to grow. Sealing your pavers creates a non-porous barrier, keeping water out.
Helps keep pavers in place – A protective coat of sealant will not only protect the pavers, but it also improves the drainage in your outdoor area. Pavers laid on a firm foundation stay in place.
When water seeps through the pavers and pools in the foundation, slips and slides start to happen. A layer of sealant will prevent water from soaking into the foundation, directing it off to the sides of the hardscaping.
Consider adding a gravel edge to the outside of your patio, walkway, or terrace for even better drainage.
Can prevent pavers from moving and breaking – If your hardscaping is laid in an area that experiences freezing temperatures, you have another problem. Water that seeps into the pavers will expand when it freezes.
That expansion can cause pavers to break or push away from each other. Not only does this ruin the look of the hardscaping, it can also create a tripping hazard. While sealed pavers do require some maintenance, they should prevent you from having to replace or re-lay individual pavers.
Sealed pavers look more attractive – One of the most important pros of sealing pavers has nothing to do with performance, and everything to do with aesthetics: sealed pavers look great.
Any sealer you apply will enhance the natural color of the stone. Most sealers feature a glossy, light-reflecting finish that lends the pavers a clean, wet look.
Helps to stop pavers from fading – Pavers of any material can fade with exposure to UV rays. Sealing pavers prevents fading through the use of UV blocking and/or UV absorbing additives, and keeps your hardscaping looking new for longer.
Now that you know the benefits of sealing pavers, let’s talk about the drawbacks.
Sealing Pavers Cons
Added maintenance cost – If you’ve just decided to invest in hardscaping, sealing pavers might not have been accounted for in your budget. It is an extra, up-front expense that needs to be arranged either during or shortly after installation.
And it’s not just a one-time cost, either — nothing lasts forever. The first application of sealant is generally the most expensive, but it must be resealed at regular intervals.
Skipping regular maintenance could mean removing the sealer and restarting – If you wait too long to reseal and the sealer degrades, you may have to strip it off before you can apply another protective product.
This takes both time and money. Using a thick, high-quality sealer will save money in the long run as you won’t have to replace the seal coat as often.
Of course, if you don’t seal your pavers, you will still have maintenance costs. Cleaning pavers, replacing broken or cracked pavers, perhaps even re-laying entire sections if the foundation fails due to excess moisture.
Leaving the fate of your hardscaping in the hands of the elements is risky. Sealing and resealing is an additional cost, it’s true, but at least it’s a cost you can plan for.
Environmental impact while applying – Finally, consider the impact of paver sealant on the environment around you. Bushes or plant beds near the pavers should be well-covered in plastic sheeting to prevent them from being covered in sealer or overspray.
Paver sealing should only be done on a clear, calm day, to prevent it from blowing into your yard or garden.
Safety hazard while applying paver sealer – You’ll also need to consider how to protect yourself and your home from sealer overspray.
Wearing clothes you don’t care about, a face shield and a respirator is a good start. Sealer won’t come out of fabric, so make sure to take any patio furniture or umbrellas inside before application day.
Do Pavers Need to be Sealed?
Sure, sealed pavers look better, improve drainage, and stay protected. All those things are nice to have, but are they really necessary?
That depends on the circumstance. Well-laid pavers with a solid foundation and excellent drainage, located in a tropical climate and in a shady area might not need to be paved.
They’d still need to be cleaned and maintained regularly. However, there is no circumstance in which hardscaping isn’t improved by sealing it.
If your drainage is less than perfect, your pavers are exposed to sunlight, or your area experiences freezing temperatures, sealing them is necessary to protect the investment that you’ve made.
Does Sealing Pavers Prevent Weeds
In a word: Yes. By forming an impermeable barrier on top of your pavers, paver sealer prevents any weeds from breaking through to the surface.
Not only that, the sealant permeates the joints between pavers, turning loose sand into solid mortar and removing the opportunity for weed growth.
How to Seal Pavers
Sealing pavers is a multistep project. First, you must clean and prepare the pavers for sealing. Then, joint sand must be added to the areas between the pavers. Next, water is used to set the joint sand. The pavers must be cleaned again before sealant can be applied.
Sealers are usually applied in two thin, even coats. A sprayer is the application method of choice.
Two coats of sealant, applied 2-3 hours apart and allowed to fully dry, should be sufficient. Don’t overapply — the pavers and joint areas shouldn’t be soaked, just lightly covered.
How Long to Wait Before Sealing Pavers
Ideally, you would seal pavers as soon as they are installed, before any grime has accumulated. The joint sand needs to be set with water before sealers can be applied, and this process can take a day or two, depending on the size of your hardscaping.
Some installers recommend waiting a few days to allow the foundation, pavers, and joint sand to settle before applying a sealant.
How to Clean Pavers Before Sealing
If you’ve decided to seal pavers that were previously installed, your first step will be to restore them to a like-new condition. Use a screwdriver to scrape out any weeds, and prevent their return with a commercial or home-made weed killer.
Clean pavers are essential to the sealing process. Dirt, dust and grime interfere with the sealer’s performance, and once you’ve sealed them in, they are a permanent part of your hardscaping.
You can scrub the pavers to remove accumulation using a stiff-bristled brush, but a power washer will be faster and easier. They can be rented for an afternoon or a weekend at many home improvement centers.
Video on How to Clean and Seal Pavers:
How to Seal Pavers with Sand
There are three different types of sand that can be used to stabilize pavers; regular joint sand, sealant-activated joint sand, and water-activated polymeric joint sand. The second two options will help prevent weeds from growing between your pavers.
Polymeric joint sand looks like regular sand, but when water is added, the loose sand hardens into a mortar-like barrier. This prevents weeds from growing between your pavers, but will not protect the pavers themselves.
Sealant-activated joint sand works similarly to polymeric sand, but instead of requiring water to harden, it needs sealant.
You may need to apply sealant directly to the joints before applying it to the surface of the hardscaping, to allow adequate penetration. Look to the product manufacturer for detailed instructions.
Regular joint sand is simply fine-grained sand. Adding water will help it settle and compact, reducing movement between pavers, but will not seal the pavers or the joints. If you use regular joint sand and don’t apply a sealer over the top of it, you can expect regular weed growth between pavers.
Whatever type of sand is used, the sand must be carefully poured into the spaces between the pavers using a cup or a funnel. The layer of sand should stop approximately ⅛ of an inch before reaching the top of the pavers. You may need to remove sand if you overfill.
Try to keep the sand off the pavers themselves as much as possible. Gently sweep excess joint sand off the surface of the pavers and into the joints. Tap the pavers with a rubber mallet or use a tamper to settle the pavers and the sand.
Wetting the sand with water is the next step for standard joint sand or polymeric sand. Remember that water-activated polymeric sand will begin to harden as soon as it gets wet, so make sure it is exactly how you want it before you add water.
Use a spray bottle to add water to the joints without disturbing the sand. Don’t soak or drench the area as this may displace your sand or cause overflow. Mist every 15 minutes or so, for about one hour, and allow the pavers to dry.
How to Remove Sealer from Pavers
If you’ve inherited a botched sealer job, you may see a plasticy or mottled layer sitting on top of the pavers. It might be uneven or patchy.
Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is by removing the sealer and starting over from scratch, unless you have the patience to wait a few years for the sealer to degrade naturally.
Paint thinner is used to dissolve the bond between sealer and paver, as well as diluting the sealant so it can be washed away.
To remove sealer from pavers, use a spray bottle to cover the surface with paint thinner. Wait about three minutes for the chemical dissolution to occur. The sealer will mix with the paint thinner and return to a liquid form, which can be wiped up with a rag.
Rinse the paint thinner off the pavers. When your hardscaping is dry, inspect it for remaining traces of sealant, and repeat the process if necessary.
Sealed Pavers vs Unsealed
Sealed pavers are resistant to weed growth, moisture damage, mold, mildew, and moss. They have an attractive shiny finish that accentuates pavers of any material.
Though the sealant should be reapplied every three to five years, the extra expense and effort is worth it to keep your hardscaping looking like new. Plus, sealing your pavers protects them from fading in the sun.
Unsealed pavers have a less finished appearance, and the colors may appear dull. They absorb water and are vulnerable to moisture-related damage. Lack of sealant allows water to penetrate the paver’s foundation, which can shift when it becomes waterlogged.
Unsealed pavers set with polymeric joint sand are resistant to weed growth. Standard joint sand provides minimal protection from weeds.
Visit our gallery to see types of brick paver ideas.
Best Sealer for Concrete Pavers
Paver sealers come in two formulations: Film-forming, and non-film forming. Film-forming sealers have a shiny finish, whereas non-film sealers will dry to a matte finish. Either is appropriate for use with concrete.
To protect concrete pavers, look for a ‘penetrating’ sealant. These products sneak into every nook and cranny of concrete, leaving no space for water to accumulate.
This is especially important for concrete pavers, because they are susceptible to expansion and contraction damage when the weather shifts. But penetrating sealants don’t stop there.
Penetrating sealants will filter down into the substrate below the pavers, providing a firm foundation that prevents shifting.
Are there any sealing pavers pros and cons that we’ve missed. Let us know in the comments whether you feel sealing pavers is worth the time and cost. For more related content check out our comparison of pavers vs concrete patios here.