When my neighbor first decided to install a paver-block patio behind his home, he chose paver stones for several good reasons. He thought they would last longer than other materials like wood, or poured concrete, he thought they had a really “rich” elegant look to them and most of all, he thought that they would be maintenance free. Well, he almost had it right. They do look great and they’re incredibly durable, but it wasn’t long before he learned that they aren’t completely maintenance free.
After several seasons of rain, snow and sun, the patio just didn’t look as good as it first did when he had it installed. The sun was beginning to fade the color in some areas, the sand between the stones had been washed away by the rains and weeds had started growing in the gaps between the pavers. He even began to see ant colonies beginning to form using his precious paver sand as their new home.
Well, the solution to his problem was fairly simple. It was time to clean the patio up and seal it for protection. And though he was somewhat reluctant at first to attempt this project on his own, once I began to walk him through the various steps, he decided it didn’t sound that tough and he ought to be able to seal his patio himself.
I concurred. “Just observe these simple 11 keys”, I told him, “and when you’re done your patio will look like it was done by the Pros!”
1. First, take your time
With every project that I undertake, I can’t stress this point enough. From the beginning to the end, with every step in between, take your time. When you rush a project through you make mistakes, and mistakes are what the pros are able to avoid. Sometimes it’s just a matter of cleaning the surface a little better, or rinsing things off a little more. Maybe it’s allowing a little more time between coats for your sealer to dry or waiting a few more hours before re-installing your patio furniture. With every step of the process, take your time. The chances are much better that when the work is all done and the tools have been stored, you’ll look at the finished result and be satisfied that it turned out just as you had hoped it would.
2. Acids can be great cleaners
Often times when you inspect the patio, prior to washing you’ll notice stains. Leaves that have remained on the patio can leave tannin stains. Iron furniture that sits on the patio will most likely leave rust stains. Whatever stains you find need to be removed prior to sealing or they will be sealed in and become permanent, so now is the time to work on them. The simplest way to get the stains out is by using an acid cleaner. Conventional muriatic acid works well and it’s cheap, but I hate it. If you get it on your skin it burns and the vapors from it are just terrible. Instead, I use a “safer” cleaner, such as Defy Safer Masonry Cleaner. For severe stains, I simply pour a little cleaner at full strength on the stain and give it a few minutes to work before rinsing. If the whole patio is fairly dirty, dilute the cleaner 4:1 (four parts water to one part cleaner) and using a garden-type pump up sprayer, spray the entire surface with cleaner. Allow the cleaner to remain wet on the surface for 5 minutes or so, and then begin the rinsing process using a power washer.
3. Clean, clean and then clean some more
In regard to the prep work, sealing you patio isn’t much different than staining your deck or painting your house. Much of the quality of the job comes down to how well you prepare the surface.
Patios that have weathered will often times have mildew, moss and algae growing on the stones and in the sand between the joints. Weeds that have begun to grow as well as any other foreign debris need to be removed, and for a patio that means a good cleaning. The easiest way to clean things off is with a power washer.
Make certain that you select a washer with enough power to do the job. I try to never use anything rated less than 2400 p.s.i. Select a tip that will fan the water out slightly, 15° or so. Also, always work in sections.
Patios should be constructed so that water runs away from the home. So begin working near the house or the high side of the slope of the patio. Rinse debris down the patio’s natural flow, away from the house. You’ll loose some of the sand between the joints during the cleaning process and that’s ok. We’ll replace the sand once the patio is cleaned up. Just be careful not to blow out more sand than is necessary while doing your cleaning.
4. Now this one’s on the “level”
With the patio now cleaned, look around and inspect the condition of the pavers. Over time, paver stones can settle or shift, making them unlevel. If you have some bricks that are out of place, using a screwdriver and a stiff putty knife, pry the uneven stones out. Once removed, you can add a little sand, smooth it out with the blade of your putty knife, and re-install the bricks. A couple of taps with a rubber mallet to make things perfect and voila’, the bricks are level once again.
5. It’s time to fill this joint
The last remaining step in getting the patio ready to seal is to re-grout the joints between the stones with fresh sand. This step isn’t hard, but it does take a little time so be patient. To do this, I use a fine grade of run-of-the-mill play box sand. Pour a small amount on the patio and begin sweeping it into the joints using a push-broom. Sweep in both directions; back-to-front and left-to-right to insure the joints get completely filled. As the sand gets used up by filling the joints pour a little more onto the patio and keep sweeping.
6. Break time
This is the part you’re going to love. Go take a break! Remember when we started I said to take your time? Well now it’s very important that you take your time. After all of the cleaning that we did, the ground under those pavers is soaking wet and needs to dry out. Give the patio a couple of good, hot sunny days to dry out before applying any sealer. If you don’t, you could end up trapping moisture under the sealer and the whole project will turn a milky-white color…yuck!
7. Take a look at Waterborne Sealers
It’s time to pick out your sealer now and the choices are solvent-based products or water-based products. I hate solvents! “Why?” you ask. Here’s why:
- They’re bad for our environment.
- If they get on my grass or flowers, they kill them.
- They smell terrible.
- Everything has to be cleaned up with messy solvents.
Water-base sealers are a much better choice. Besides being both easy to use and easy on the environment, they offer another amazing advantage. They “stabilize” the sand. When cured, water-based sealers such as Defy’s Epoxy Fortified Paver Sealer, will harden the joint sand and lock it into place. This prevents it from washing out during future rains.
8. Read the can, follow directions
Every manufacturer’s product can be little different so always read the directions. It only takes a few minutes but it will ensure that you have all the right information before you get started. Pay attention to details such as how many coats of sealer to apply, how long to wait between coats, how to properly apply the product and how to clean it up. There are any number of variations to these questions and more. Read the label first and you’ll be likely to get it right the first time.
9. This sprayin’ stuff is easy
Now the fun stuff begins…applying the sealer. To do this, I love to use a garden-type pump up sprayer but I’ll warn you in advance, don’t buy a cheap one! The better sprayers (they usually cost over $50 bucks) have a metal fan-style spray tip and do a much better job than the inexpensive weed sprayers. When you’re looking for a sprayer, the key here is to look for a “fan-style tip”.
The patio edges can be cut-in using a 4″ nylon brush and then you’re ready to start spraying. Water-based sealers normally require two coats to be applied. Once you’ve cut-in the edges, spray the entire patio with the first coat. Then wait for the sealer to dry enough that it can walked on, and do the same thing all over again…two coats! If you get things on too heavy and the sealer starts to puddle, use the brush to get rid of the puddling by simply brushing it out.
If you want to see what this process looks like, you can visit defyinfo.com where you can find a streaming video detailing each of the steps that we’ve taken.
10. MORE is definitely NOT better
Ok, if a little is good then a lot must be better, right? No! Remember, we’re sealing concrete paver stones and these stones are sitting on a bed of sand. When the sand gets wet and then the sun comes out, these pavers need to breathe, meaning they need to let any water vapors pass through them. When too much sealer is applied, the water vapor can no longer pass through, which results in a white “blushing” effect or even potentially peeling.
Don’t be fooled, I know how great this stuff can look if you really lay it on, how cool that high gloss finish is. But it will blush and peel. Limit your application to two coats and you won’t have a problem.
11. How about a little maintenance
Ok, great job, now just one more thing. How about a little maintenance? Blow the leaves off when they fall to keep them from staining. Rinse the dirt and debris that seems to just show up over time. And as the weather begins to dull down the finish and the patio loses its luster, simply rinse it off and apply a light maintenance coat. Catch it before the patio gets too weathered and it’s really that simply.
So that’s it. That’s everything. Eleven keys to sealing your patio. Go ahead and try these eleven keys for yourself. See what the results are when you set out on your next project to do it like a pro. You might just surprise yourself!