Concrete is a tried and tested building and construction material with records dating back to 600 BC in ancient Rome. However, while concrete may seem invincible, it is not immune to wear, tear, degradation and compounds that can break down concrete’s surface and substructure.
Like all outdoor materials, it is subject to the rigours of nature, and to ensure it reaches its maximum life span, it does require some protection. So what could possibly support the condition of a building material that has had over 200-years of success?
Scheduled cleaning and concrete sealants are the best two ways to maintain and prolong your concrete surface’s life expectancy. Read on to learn more about concrete sealing and cleaning and discover why Enviro Clean and Capture can offer the best concrete cleaner Sydney has to offer.
The benefits of concrete
Concrete is still the most prominent and consistent building material in all forms of building and construction, including residential, commercial, industrial and civil. Concrete has many properties that have driven its success and allowed it to remain at the top of the building material heap.
While mining and transporting concrete can generate its share of harmful carbon emissions, concrete is 100% recyclable, meaning it can be used for an infinite time. There are scientists, activists, businesses and environmental sustainability specialists worldwide devising systems to improve the re-use of concrete post deconstruction and demolition.
Due to concrete’s high durability, resilience, and ease of maintenance, concrete remains one of the most cost-effective building materials on earth, beating timber on many different parameters, including fallibility, resistance to animal and insect pests, and high fire resistance.
Concrete has excellent insulative qualities, meaning it stores energy, like heat, keeping properties warm in winter. It is also good at shielding properties from heat, keeping buildings cooler in the summer.
This can help reduce a property’s energy consumption, helping to reduce the property’s carbon footprint; another win for the environment. Concrete is also very low maintenance, decreasing the need for regular treatment with protective paints or solutions.
Concrete can be engineered into nearly any shape at any size, making it an architect and builder’s dream material. Concrete can also have other components added to it, like stones, colours and textures, making it versatile for walls, foundations and internal and external flooring.
The chink in concretes chain
There is one main flaw with concrete, a fault that it shares with other mineral and stone-based building materials; it is porous.
What are pores?
Pores in natural stone and concrete are networks of small holes, some visible, some microscopic, similar to the pores in your skin. This network of tiny holes is on the surface and in the substructure of your concrete.
These pores can allow a range of contaminants and pollutants into your concrete, which adversely reacts within your concrete’s internal structure, causing the concrete to degrade prematurely.
These contaminants and pollutants include compounds such as:
Dirt and grime
Outdoor beverage, food and cooking spills
Tree oils, saps and biowastes
Mycotoxins and more
Mycotoxins are things such as fungus, mildew, and mould, which can thrive from the moisture trapped within the concrete’s pores, allowing them to multiply and compromise the concrete’s structural integrity.
These mycotoxins can also discolour and stain concrete and pose a potential health risk to humans; mycotoxins have been linked to a wide range of adverse health conditions, including:
Adverse autoimmune reactions
Skin issues and more
With concrete flooring, these toxins can get washed in by heavy rain, garden runoff, and strong winds.
The best way to protect your concrete structures and surfaces is by using a concrete sealant, which is especially beneficial for protecting outdoor concrete paths and flooring.
What is concrete sealing?
A concrete sealant is a chemical solution applied to your concrete surfaces, which subsequently dries and forms a protective barrier. While most structural concrete, such as building foundations, walls and ceilings, often has a sealing treatment added during the mixing stage, called an integral sealant.
This is usually not the case with external floorings, such as patios and pathways, which generally have a coat of topical or penetrating sealant.
Different types of concrete sealant
While sealant manufacturers use different chemical compounds and mixtures, most sealants will fall into two categories; topical and penetrating sealants.
A topical sealant is applied to the top of the concrete surface. It provides a protective film that covers the surface pores, allowing the contaminants and pollutants to wash over the surface of the flooring, reducing or nullifying their ability to permeate the concrete’s substructure.
Topical sealants are often more affordable than penetrative sealants; however, they have a significantly lower life expectancy, lasting between six months to five years, depending on the quality of the topical sealant.
Another issue is that topical sealants can be prone to substandard finishes if incorrectly applied, including bubbling, cracking and flaking. Topical sealants can also leave a glossy sheen which can create a slip hazard.
There are non-slip additives and agents for topical sealants; however, this can add significantly to the cost of sealing your concrete and reduce the cost-effectiveness of your topical sealant application. These solutions can also alter the concrete aesthetic.
These types of sealants are also popular as a DIY option, which can be disastrous if applied unevenly or inconsistently. These problems can be avoided by hiring an experienced professional concrete sealer.
Topical sealants only provide limited protection, and any moisture or contaminants that break through the surface film will find their way into the substructure of the concrete. Most concrete cleaning and concrete sealing professionals suggest using a penetrative sealant to optimise your concrete’s protection.
A penetrating sealant, also known as an impregnating sealant, provides your concrete with significantly higher levels of protection than a topical sealant. As well as offering surface protection, a penetrating sealant also permeates and impregnates the substructures of your concrete, coating a majority of pores within your concrete flooring.
Impregnating sealants also have a significantly longer life expectancy, with many industry-leading penetrating sealants expected to last up to five and even 15+years with the proper care protocols.
Penetrating sealants often have a matte finish and are less prone to flaking or cracking unless left too long before cleaning and re-sealing or have been incorrectly applied.
Although penetrative sealants often cost a little more than topical sealants, they provide a more cost-effective option when considering how long they last and how much more protection they offer.
How is a sealant applied?
There are two common ways to apply a sealant: rolling, using a paint-style roller, or pressure spraying. A professional concrete sealing technician will almost exclusively use the spray method, regardless of whether they are applying a topical or penetrating sealant.
While some DIY sealant kits provide instructions for rolling on sealant, this method is notoriously inconsistent and prone to leaving uneven coverage. Rolling can also alter your concrete surface’s aesthetic, which can be disastrous for expensive patterned or multicoloured concrete paths.
Concrete sealing Sydney
The best way to ensure your concrete is evenly and optimally protected is by hiring a professional concrete sealing company. To get the best results, it is always best to use the right tools for the job.
Experienced concrete sealing professionals have the skills and equipment to ensure your concrete is given consistent coverage and optimal penetration when penetrative sealants are used.
Depending on the type of concrete finish, a specific sealant may be more appropriate. Choosing a DIY solution without the proper knowledge could result in selecting the wrong kind of sealant, compromising the visual appeal of your concrete surfaces.
A professional concrete maintenance technician can assess your concrete and provide you with the appropriate solutions for your property.
Concrete cleaning Sydney
Often, a coat of sealant is applied when concrete is first poured. However, the concrete will require re-sealing when the sealant has worn thin or degraded past its usefulness, often due to wear and tear and UV exposure.
Before a new coat of sealant can be applied, the entire concrete surface will require a thorough clean to remove any excess sealant that may still be present.
The best results are often achieved using a pressure cleaner; however, DIY-hire and standard industrial pressure cleaners are often too harsh for the job. In addition, an industrial pressure cleaner can potentially damage your concrete, removing layers of the concrete’s top surface, and creating diverts and premature wear.
Our Enviro Clean and Capture technicians use concrete cleaning appliances designed to provide concrete with an optimal clean without affecting the structural integrity of the concrete’s surface and sub-structure. Once the surface has been reconditioned, it is ready to be re-sealed, protecting your concrete until the next deep clean and re-sealing are required.
If you require residential or commercial concrete cleaning in Sydney and surrounding New South Wales regions, call our Enviro Clean and Capture concrete cleaning techs today.
Concrete re-sealing Sydney
Once your concrete has been cleaned, and the previous layer of concrete sealant has been removed, the concrete is ready to be re-sprayed with sealant. Unfortunately, DIY re-sealing can often result in lacklustre finishes and unprotected areas of your concrete, promoting uneven wear and degradation in uncovered spaces.
Spraying consistency, like all things, is a learned skill and something that takes practice to get right. A trained and qualified concrete cleaning and sealing technician can ensure that your concrete has the proper sealant selected for your unique concrete surfaces and use their experience to provide optimal protection for your outdoor concrete flooring.
Caring for your concrete in between re-sealings
As well as providing maximum protection for your concreted paths and spaces from contaminants, pollutants and UV radiation, correctly applied sealant also makes cleaning your concrete between sealing applications significantly more manageable.
The protective layer helps wash away dirt, grime and debris with nothing more than some mild soapy water, a stiff-bristle broom and a quick washing down.
However, it is essential to clean up accidental spills such as:
Foods and beverage spills etc
Things like acidic foods, chemical cleaners, and cooking and motor oils can potentially break down your sealant prematurely, leaving compromised patches of concrete that can discolour or degrade ahead of the surrounding spaces.