Knowing how to maintain concrete goes beyond simply cleaning oil spots on the garage floor. Today, concrete has become much more than a gray industrial building material. It is increasingly part of the creative design statement in homes and commercial buildings—whether in walkways, walls, or stained concrete patios. Its rugged durability provides obvious structural benefits, but today’s concrete is also an important element of a home’s visual appeal. It is important to know how to maintain concrete so you extend its life and keep it looking beautiful.
Here are some key tips on how to maintain concrete.
Maintaining concrete should always start with a simple cleaning that:
- Removes grit and dirt. These abrasive materials increase wear and tear and dull the finish.
- Provides protection against leaves and other debris. When they sit too long on the concrete they can permanently discolor the surface.
- Removes spilled substances right away. These may range from oil to barbecue grease, and can also permanently discolor the concrete.
It’s important to keep up with regular cleaning before wear or stains become a permanent part of the surface. Regular sweeping of all concrete types—standard, stained, or textured—is a basic DIY procedure. A garden hose and a consumer-grade cleaning solution are also helpful for spot-cleaning stains and tough dirt.
If your concrete has deep stains from rust or oil—or the concrete has been neglected for a long time—you may need to hire a contractor. They can power wash the surface with high-pressure equipment and professional cleaning solvents specifically formulated to restore the concrete’s appearance.
Most new residential concrete is sealed after the material has dried and cured fully for a month. Sealant preserves the finish and the color of concrete by repelling liquids that could stain. A good coating of sealant also adds protection against wear and tear from foot traffic, tires, or fading due to UV exposure. Sealant also reduces damage from winter weather. Where there is unsealed concrete, moisture can penetrate and freeze, gradually degrading the material.
Types of Sealants
The most simple concrete sealants are water- and solvent-based acrylic or polyurethane formulas. They work well for all types of concrete, especially for stamped or textured surfaces. After cleaning the concrete, professionals apply the topical sealer with a paint roller attached to a long handle and use a paint brush around edges and corners. As topical formulas that don’t penetrate deeply, these sealants are vulnerable to wear and will require reapplication every one to three years.
Other types of concrete sealants are the reactive penetrating formulas. These products are very thin liquids designed to soak as much as four inches into the porous concrete substrate. The formula forms a tough, deep-seated seal that repels water, oils, and other penetrating liquids. Unlike topical products such as acrylics and polyurethane, reactive penetrating formulas are considered semi-permanent with an expected service life of ten to twenty-five years.
Reactive penetrating formulas can be applied to concrete after thoroughly scrubbing and rinsing the surface then allowing it to dry for twenty-four hours. The sealant can be applied using a low-pressure electric sprayer or by manually applying it with a paint roller then touching up corners and edges with a paint brush. If you are applying new sealer over an existing coat, you may first need to remove the old sealant using a commercial stripper.