One of the most commonly asked questions I get is in regards to sealers. Which one is best? What are the strengths and weaknesses of various products? Which sealer will be best for a specific job?
The hard but brutally honest answer is that there is no one correct answer. Sealers remain a challenge both for hardened professionals and homeowners starting with their first piece. The bottom line is that one sealer might be fantastic for Tom, but Larry will not be able to get it to work right, and the sealer that Larry likes is one that Bob swears up and down isn’t worth the plastic bottle it comes in. The sealer that you choose must be one which you choose for yourself because you get reliable results that you are comfortable with. Only YOU can find the sealer that you prefer. It is up to you and you alone to decide what will work for you and what won’t. Will this involve a few ruined pieces? Probably. That’s why it’s important to always test test test test test. But NEVER, I repeat, DO NOT EVER try out a sealer on a customer’s project. Don’t even think about using a sealer unless you know what it’s going to do and why it’ll do it. I cannot emphasize that strongly enough; I have seen entirely too many terrible pieces happen because the fabricator overestimated/misunderstood the sealer, or misrepresented it to the client. Don’t be that guy.
That being said, I don’t want to leave you to find your way in the dark. Here are some tips and guidelines that will help you on your path to sealer-success:
If a sealer that you’re curious about isn’t listed, use the first article as a guide for running tests. The Survey article was written a few years ago, but is still relevant. If you have questions about performance limits (i.e., whether a sealer will do well for an outdoor feature or whether it would need to be reapplied at any point), contact the manufacturer directly. It’s amazing how many people fail to take that simple step and are left with problems, questions and poorly sealed concrete.
Here are the basic rules of sealing for your reference and guidance:
- Experiment. Try them out for yourself, on your own time, to see what you are most comfortable with. “To each his own” is completely applicable here.
- Educate yourself. Before you put your favorite sealer on a vanity, you’d better make sure it’s not vulnerable to toothpaste stains. Just because something does well in a kitchen doesn’t automatically mean it will do as well everywhere. Ask the manufacturer what they recommend.
- Know how to apply it—and how not to. The best sealer in the world (for you) isn’t going to work if you put it on wrong.
- Know the limits. Don’t promise a customer a bullet-proof sealer unless you can deliver and are willing to back it up. If there are vulnerabilities (which is every sealer on the market), be forthright and honest about them, and make sure the customer truly understands how to take care of their new countertop/sink/vanity/table/BBQ surround.
- Do. Not. Test. New. Sealers. On. A customer’s. Project.
If you stick to those rules, you’ll be saving yourself a huge headache. There will always be room for questions, and sometimes things just turn out weird and you have to do some problem-solving to figure out why. But those times should be in the minority, and should not dictate how you run your business. Once you’ve tested, tried, asked and experimented, you’ll develop a level of confidence that only comes through personal experience.
Best of luck to you on your journey,