When my neighbor first decided to install a paver-block patio in the back of his home, he chose paver stones for several good reasons: he thought they would last longer than other materials like wood or poured concrete, they have 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 color in the pavers was beginning to fade from the sun in some areas and the sand between the stones had been washed away by rainwater. Weeds had started growing in the gaps between the pavers and he even began to see ant colonies starting up, using his precious paver sand as their new home.
The solution to his problem was fairly simple. It was time to clean the brick paver patio up and seal it for protection, and though he was somewhat reluctant at first to attempt this project on his own, as I began walking him through the various steps to sealing pavers, he decided it didn’t sound that tough and he ought to be able to seal his patio himself.
I concurred. “Just follow these simple brick paver sealing steps, and when you’re done your patio will look like it was done by the pros!”
1). First, take your time
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 you make mistakes, and mistakes are what the pros are able to avoid. Cleaning the surface a little better or rinsing a little more could mean the difference between a successful project and a failed one. Maybe it’s allowing just a little more time between coats for your sealer to dry or waiting a few more hours before re-installing your furniture. Take your time and the chances are much better that you’ll be satisfied with the finished result.
2). Acids can be great cleaners
Often times when you inspect a paver patio prior to washing, you’ll notice stains. Leaves that have been left to lie on the patio can leave tannin stains. Iron furniture that sits on the patio will most likely leave rust stains. Any stains you find need to be removed prior to sealing pavers 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 it burns your skin and the vapors from it are terrible. Instead, I use a “safer” cleaner, such as MasonrySaver Safer Brick & 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 rinse using a power washer.
3). Clean, clean, and clean some more
In regards to the prep work, sealing pavers 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 have mildew, moss, and algae growing on the stones and in the sand between the joints. Weeds and any other foreign debris need to be removed; and for a patio, that means a good cleaning. The easiest way to clean your brick patio 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°- 25° or so, and 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, rinsing 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 okay. We’ll replace the sand once the patio is cleaned up. Just be careful not to blow out more sand than is necessary while you’re doing your cleaning.
4). Level uneven pavers
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 or unlevel, use a screwdriver and a stiff putty knife to pry them 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 should make the bricks level once again.
5). Break time
This is the part you’re going to love. Go take a break! Remember when I said to take your time? Well, that advice is very applicable now. After all of the cleaning that you did, the ground under those pavers is soaking wet and needs to dry out before proceeding any further. Give your brick paver patio a couple of good hot sunny days to dry out before applying any sealer. If you don’t, you could end trapping moisture under the sealer and the whole project will turn a milky-white color!
6). Re-grout the joints
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. 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 ensure that 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. You’ll most likely need to brush over the entire patio several times to get the joints all evenly filled.
7). Take a look at waterborne sealers
When you choose your sealer, you’ll find that the two choices are solvent-based and water-based. I hate solvent-based sealers for the following reasons:
- 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 paint thinner
Water-based 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 water-based sealers cure, they will harden the joint sand and lock it into place. This helps to keep the joint sand from washing out during future rains. An example of this type of product is MasonrySaver Paver Sealer. It’s a great brick paver sealing product that will stabilize the sand as well as give a rich, paver sealer wet look. Some of the older water-based sealers had a tendency to “blush”, or cloud up if they encountered any moisture or rain, but the MasonrySaver product is much more forgiving and virtually blush-resistant.
8). Read the can and follow the 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. It will give you valuable information 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 a number of variations to these questions so read the label first and you’ll be likely to get it right the first time.
9). Brick paver sealing
Now the fun stuff begins. This section will walk you through how to seal pavers on your brick patio.
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”.
Any of the patio edges that need to be cut in can be done so using a 4” nylon brush. After cutting in the edges you’re ready to start spraying. Water-based sealers normally require that two coats be applied. So coat the entire patio, then wait for the sealer to dry enough that it can be walked on (normally an hour or two). After an hour or two has passed, do the same thing all over again, applying two coats in total. If you put the paver sealer on too heavy and the sealer starts to puddle, use a brush or dry roller to get rid of the puddling by simply brushing or rolling it out.
10). More is definitely not better
So if a little is good then a lot must be better, right? No. Remember, we’re sealing concrete or brick paver stones and these stones are sitting on a bed of sand. When the sand gets wet and the sun comes out, it’s going to draw the moisture out of the wet sand and paver stones. These pavers need to be able to “breathe”, or allow the water vapor pass through them. When too much sealer is applied, the water vapor can have trouble passing through, resulting in a white “blushed” appearance, or even potentially peeling.
Don’t be fooled. I know how great this stuff can look if you really lay it on heavy and how cool that high gloss finish is when sealing pavers, but blushing and peeling stinks! Limit your application to two coats and you won’t have a problem.
11). Maintaining your paver patio sealer
Okay, great job. Now there’s just one more thing – paver sealer 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 with a garden hose and apply a light maintenance coat of paver sealer. Seal the paver stones before the patio gets too weathered. It’s really that simple.
So that’s it – “How to seal pavers on your brick patio”. Go ahead and try sealing pavers yourself and see what the results are when you follow these tips. You might just surprise yourself!