How to Repair Scratches in Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer

In the last article, I discussed the debate between staining and scratching of concrete countertop sealers, and I mentioned the importance of repairing any scratches that do occur.

Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer

The Repairing Process

Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM is easily repairable by either a professional re-application of Omega or by a homeowner process using readily available materials (automotive clearcoat paint touchup pen). The homeowner process is fully explained in a document available after purchase of Omega. The document is designed for you to print out and give to clients upon installation. There is also a Care & Maintenance document provided.

This article focuses on the professional scratch repair process for Omega. The process is straightforward: first clean the countertops, then sand out the scratches, then reapply at least 2 finish coats to restore the surface.

Step One – Clean the countertops

The process is to use a poultice made of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and acetone.

Evaluate the extent of the damage. The easiest repair is one where the cuts or scratches don’t penetrate the sealer and expose the underlying concrete. These scratches can be handled with minimal effort: simply proceed to Step 2.

If the scratches were touched up by the client using the CCI Scratch Repair Instructions, then the touchup pen clearcoat should be first removed before resealing. Use a paper towel and straight acetone to scrub away the touchup clearcoat, ensuring all of it has been removed prior to resealing. Proceed to Step 2.

If the cuts or scratches penetrate into the concrete, more work may be needed to restore the countertops. All stains and damage must be eliminated before resealing, otherwise, they will be permanently locked into the concrete.

First, remove any stains that may have occurred. Stains (mustard, wine, etc.) can be bleached out using household bleach. Soak a folded paper towel or cotton ball with straight bleach and set it on the stain. Cover with a plate, cup, or glass to keep the bleach from drying out. Check the stain every 15 minutes until it’s disappeared. Clean up with water and a mild cleaner like Windex. Allow the area to completely dry out.

If the scratches are dark but dry, then oil has penetrated into the concrete. This can be challenging to eliminate, as oil is difficult to get out of the concrete. The process is to use a poultice made of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and acetone. Make a paste, thickly smear it over the oil stain, and cover and tape down plastic wrap to prevent the acetone from evaporating. Allow the poultice to sit overnight and draw the oil out. The process may need to be repeated to eliminate as much oil as possible. Bear in mind you may not be able to get all of the oil out of the concrete.

fix concrete countertop sealer

Step 2 – Sand out scratches

Evenly sand to achieve a smooth, well-scuffed surface over the entire surface of the slab.

Once all stains are eliminated, clean the surface that is to be resealed to remove any traces of dirt, oil or other contaminants (like wax). Surface dirt, debris, and oil can be removed by first using household cleaners (Windex, Simple Green, etc.), and then made very clean using a lint-free cloth wetted with a mixture of 50% acetone and 50% water.

Lightly dry sand the surface to be resealed with regular 320 grit sandpaper to remove any ridges in the sealer. Do not sand down to bare concrete. Scratches in the surface will gradually be filled during the resealing process. Evenly sand to achieve a smooth, well-scuffed surface over the entire surface of the slab.

Step 3 – Apply 2 finish coats

Apply 2 finish coats over the sanded areas.

Spot repairs can be done, but there may be a sheen difference between the existing surrounding sealer and the new repair. Ideally, you reseal the whole countertop, seam to seam, in order to maintain an even sheen across the whole slab. No priming is necessary. Apply 2 finish coats over the sanded areas.

If you’ve never tried Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM , the time is now! Purchase either the sealer or the full starter kit today and experience a new kind of sealer for your concrete projects. Click here.

How to Reseal Concrete Countertops with Omega

Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM is designed for application to clean, previously unsealed concrete that has been sufficiently cured and has a properly prepared surface.

Applying Omega over existing concrete that has already been sealed with an unknown product and that may have been stained can be risky. In some cases, the existing concrete may have been sealed with a product that can prevent Omega from achieving a good bond with the concrete. As such, the existing concrete is likely contaminated and may cause adhesion issues.

While Omega adheres very well to clean, unsealed, and properly prepared concrete, it may not adhere to a surface that has been treated with a stone or tile repellant, a penetrating sealer/treatment, wax, a concrete hardener, or to concrete that is stained with oil or grease.

Before applying Omega over previously sealed concrete, the concrete must first be thoroughly cleaned. It must be completely free of grease, oil, dirt, wax and any other contamination. Stains in the concrete should be removed, as applying Omega over a stain in the concrete will only lock it in and potentially make it more visible. Also, physical damage to the concrete should be repaired prior to applying Omega.

Should you choose to use Omega to reseal your concrete, be aware that the outcome is highly dependent upon your effort, care and diligence, and that even with good surface preparation there are no guarantees of success.

Technique 1: Grind down to bare concrete.

Used for: Concrete that has been treated with a penetrating sealer, wax, repellants, or where an existing coating has been scratched, is peeling off, or otherwise damaged.

The best way to ensure Omega will adhere to your concrete is to remove all traces of any existing sealer and to mechanically remove all surface contamination by diamond honing/grinding the concrete to 200 grit. Physically honing away the top layer of concrete removes all traces of contamination that will affect Omega’s bond to the concrete, and it creates the optimal surface profile to ensure good adhesion.

Bear in mind that abrasive honing will change the appearance of the concrete. Polished concrete, cement-cream finishes, troweled surfaces, acid stained, dyed, or glazed concrete will no longer look the same. Honing the surface will very likely open up pinholes in your concrete, and these should be filled in with cement grout before applying Omega.

Be aware also that some penetrating treatments that react with the concrete may affect the concrete at unknown depths, so you may need to remove quite a bit of the surface in order to ensure you have eliminated all traces of the treatment.

Even then, we cannot guarantee that this technique will work. Failure to remove all traces of the previous treatment will ensure the high likelihood of any new coating peeling, Omega included.

Technique 2: Apply over an existing sealer

Used for: A few popular urethane-based concrete countertop sealers that have not been stained, damaged or scratched, nor have any existing adhesion failure.

Omega has been successfully applied on top of a few popular existing urethane-based concrete countertop sealers. Some but not all finishes may be successfully overcoated, as the surface chemistry of every sealer is different and may affect the surface bond. In the cases where Omega was successfully applied, the existing sealer had not been stained, damaged or scratched, nor did it have any existing adhesion failure.

After cleaning, the surface of the existing sealer was sanded with 320 grit sandpaper to achieve a uniform dull finish without sanding through to the base concrete. Sanding down to bare concrete would affect the appearance of the concrete, as Omega may darken the concrete differently from the existing sealer.

Only undamaged, clean and thoroughly-sanded finishes may be considered for overcoating. All other conditions will require the existing sealer first be completely removed and then the underlying bare concrete roughened to accept Omega, as explained in Technique 1.

Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer FAQs

This page contains frequently asked questions about Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM.

Q: How is Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM different?

A: Omega is a revolutionary new high performance urethane sealer that is also fast and easy to apply. Omega allows you to do in 2 hours what used to take 2 days with other urethanes. You’re done in a matter of hours, and never have to worry about callbacks again.

This is a unique two-component, water-borne aliphatic-polyurethane that is highly reactive and not dependent on humidity to cure. It rolls on quickly and easily without worrying about streaks or bubbles in the final finish. The finish is ready for light use as fast as one day after application.

Omega: Fast. Easy. Done. Your sealer woes are finally over.

Why Jeff developed Omega:

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Q: Where can I buy Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM?

A: Click here to purchase in our online store.

Omega is available for purchase in Canada from Exclusive Concrete in London, ON. Please visit www.exclusiveconcrete.com or call 519-282-6495.

Omega is marketed in Australia as Mega Concrete Benchtop SealerTM, and sold through POP Concrete in Brisbane. Please visit www.popconcretesnt.com.au or call 0466 334 630.

Omega is available for purchase in the United Kingdom from Cheshire Concrete Designs. Please visit www.cheshireconcretedesigns.co.uk or call 07807 040783.

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Q: What is the coverage and cost per square foot?

A: A small kit of 16 oz A, 8 oz B (24 oz) covers approximately 133 sq ft using 1 primer coat and 4 finish coats, and up to 267 sq ft if using 1 primer coat and 1 finish coat.

Cost is $108 per 24 oz, or $0.40 per sq ft at maximum coverage to $0.81 per sq ft at minimum coverage.

The larger kit is 4 times this size (96 oz), so 532-1068 sq ft coverage at a cost of $0.39 to $0.77 per sq ft.

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Q: Where can I find the instructions?

A: The full instruction videos and documentation are available online after purchase. Search your inbox and spam folder for an email with subject line “Important instructions for Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer”. It is essential to watch and read the full documentation before applying the sealer.

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Q: What test data do you have?

A: Extensive testing for stain and acid resistance has been performed following the procedure explained here. Field testing and lab testing for UV stability, wet use, and freeze/thaw have been performed. Additional standardized tests for abrasion, impact resistance, adhesion and flexibility have also been performed. Here are the results.

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Q: How many total coats and how long did you wait for it to cure before the testing?

A: Testing was done on 4 finish coats, when the finish was 2 weeks old. This represents typical long-term performance. Early performance was very good too, but hard to characterize, as the finish is still curing when it’s only a couple days old.

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Q: Will Omega work on all concrete?

A: Yes and no. While Omega’s performance is not related to the kind of concrete it’s applied to, the appearance can be. Omega is primarily used by professional concrete countertop makers, who generally use concrete that is dense and relatively non-porous (like GFRC). Different concrete mix designs, casting techniques, curing regimens, surface processing techniques, environmental conditions, etc. will influence how well Omega is applied and how it looks.

In particular, very porous concrete can present challenges, showing dark lines that are sometimes interpreted as roller marks. Please see below for details on dealing with porous concrete.

Keep in mind also that Omega was developed specifically for professional concrete countertops and elements. It has not been tested on floors, which could range from conventional ready-mix concrete to highly polymer modified overlays to epoxy systems.

It’s strongly recommended to test Omega on a trial sample before sealing a real project for the first time. Practice in timing and application method is essential, because the outcome is often directly related to the skill and care of the one applying the sealer.

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Q: Does it stand up to mustard?

A: Mustard is an extreme staining agent due to the coloring (often turmeric) and acidity. Mustard and Tabasco Sauce (a brand of hot pepper sauce) are the only substances that made a slight stain (a little color, not etching) after 24 hours, but that stain bleached out. Only the surface of the sealer stained – the concrete did not stain – and again, it was fixed easily with bleach. Please see the test results report above, and about halfway through the stain test performance video.

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Q: Is it grease/oil resistant?

A: Yes, completely.

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Q. Will it prevent water marks?

A: Definitely, absolutely no problems with water marks. Omega can be used in wet areas including sinks, tubs and showers.

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Q: Is it food safe?

A: Yes. Once Omega is cured it is completely food safe and inert.

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Q: What is the shelf life?

A: Omega is highly reactive, which is what makes it so fast to apply. The shelf life is 3-6 months in unopened containers, and 1 month or 3 applications (whichever comes first) in opened containers, stored properly and dry gas blanket (Smooth-On XTEND-IT) applied.

Here is how to tell whether Omega has expired:

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Q: How do I know whether Omega has expired?

A: As Omega nears the end of its shelf life, Part A will become gel-like in consistency. If you can mix Part A to liquefy it, you can still use it.

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Q: How long does it take for Omega to cure completely and gain its full performance?

A: Just like concrete, sealers need to cure. You wouldn’t expect your concrete to have full strength after only 24 hours – although it may be strong enough to handle, it will gain strength over time. Typically you should expect full cure of Omega within 4-7 days, depending on temperature. (Omega is not dependent on moisture to cure.) Most urethane coatings require similar timeframes.

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Q: It’s been 24 hours, but my sealer still feels tacky/gummy.

A: While Omega does not depend on humidity to cure, it is affected by temperature, just like your concrete, or any chemical reaction. In order for Omega to cure quickly, it needs to cure under warm conditions continuously, so ideally leave the heat on in your shop. At recommended temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius),

When brand new Omega feels oily, then it feels tacky, then it’s a bit soft and rubbery, then it continues to harden. If you lightly sand with 320 sandpaper and the paper doesn’t gum up and you get white dust, Omega is hard enough to sand out any dust spots.

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Q: What sheens are available?

A: Matte only. Please note also that Omega is color enhancing, meaning that it “wets out” the color of the concrete. Color enhancing versus non color enhancing is a different property than the sheen of the finish.

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Q: Is there going to be a gloss version of Omega?

A: We do not have a gloss version planned at this time, however Omega can be buffed to increase the sheen without affecting its performance. Simply use standard automotive clearcoat buffing equipment and techniques.

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Q: How often does it need to be reapplied or resealed?

A: Never, unless you subject it to extreme abuse (like using your countertop as a cutting board).

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Q: Do you recommend it for outdoor projects?

A: Absolutely. It is UV stable and fine for outdoors in all wet/dry and freeze/thaw conditions. It has been extensively tested on both lab samples and installed client projects for several months in challenging wet and freezing outdoor conditions. An alumnus in British Columbia, Canada, reports: “I use it for all my outdoor kitchens. It’s been raining, snowing, and freeze/thawing since and they are all perfect.” Lab tests over 6 months have shown zero effects from soaking, then freezing, then thawing many dozens of times.

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Q: Can I put hot pots on it?

A: Yes, up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius). It’s still a good idea to use trivets, because the underlying concrete may be affected by the heat even if the sealer is not.

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Q: Can I cut on it?

A: No. There is no coating you should cut on, because unless a coating is made of diamonds, it will scratch.

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Q: How do I clean surfaces sealed with Omega?

Maintenance and cleaning couldn’t be easier. Damp cloths, mild detergents and other water-based cleansers with neutral pH are all that are needed. Examples are 409, Fantastik, Windex, and Simple Green. Vinegar, bleach and bleach-based cleansers are acceptable.

Avoid harsh, acidic cleaners and solvents. Abrasive cleansers or scrubbers should be never be used. These include Ajax, Comet, Brillo pads and 3M scrubbing pads, and all similar products. Abrasive cleaning products will scratch and damage the surface, compromising the sealer’s ability to protect the concrete.

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Q: How does it perform with respect to scratches?

A: Omega has good scratch resistance. It will not scratch under normal use of simply placing objects on the counter. It will scratch if cut on with a knife, but unlike brittle finishes that fracture when scratched (that’s why scratches look white), Omega doesn’t show light cuts and scratches as a spiderweb of white lines.

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Q: Can scratches be repaired?

A: Yes, Omega is easy for the homeowner to repair if scratches do occur. This means that you won’t have callbacks due to scratches.

For any sealer, you should provide your clients with a care and maintenance guide that specifies that they should not cut on the countertops, as well as what to do if scratches do occur, and your contract should include this information. This is part of setting expectations, which is important no matter what sealer you use.

Detailed instructions for scratch repair, as well as a care and maintenance guide, are available for download after purchasing Omega. You can provide these documents to your client. There is also an article about the basic process here.

Note that with any coating, it is important to repair scratches before they become a problem. If scratches occur and are left unrepaired, staining agents, acids or oil could get through to the underlying concrete and discolor or damage it.

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Q: How does it compare to [other popular high performance urethane sealer] when it comes to abrasion resistance?

A: The abrasion resistance of Omega is very good, with a low Taber abrasor score (lower is better) – see the test results above. We don’t have comparable data for other sealers, and therefore cannot comment on which is better.

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Q: Why would I want to use a coating that might scratch if there are penetrating treatments out there that claim to provide stain and acid resistance?

A: In our experience over the past 2 decades, no penetrating treatment has ever provided consistently satisfactory performance with respect to stain resistance, acid resistance and even water resistance. Only coatings completely prevent substances from ever touching the concrete, giving total protection.

It is important to test any sealer yourself (including Omega) to verify the manufacturer’s claims as well as to familiarize yourself with the details of its performance. We strongly recommend that you follow the rigorous stain and acid testing procedure specified here before you put any new (to you) sealer on a client project – especially any treatment, because treatments allow substances to touch the concrete.

The debate between coatings and treatments has been raging in the concrete countertop industry for decades. Click here for a detailed article about this topic.

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Q: I’m considering priming the concrete with [popular reactive treatment] followed by Omega top coats. The reasoning is that the [popular reactive treatment] will make the concrete itself stain/acid resistant, and Omega will provide an additional physical barrier that is also stain/acid resistant.

A: Be careful about applying treatments to concrete followed by any coating. Most coatings require clean, dry, bare concrete with enough microtexture (max 200 or 400 grit depending on the coating) to bond to. Omega, and likely most urethanes, almost certainly should not go over [popular reactive treatment] or any other penetrating treatment (densifier) with a lithium/potassium/sodium silicate or silicanate or siloxane chemistry. We have not tested Omega in these circumstances.

What you are trying to achieve is a completely impervious system that even if it scratches and staining agent/acid/oil gets through the scratches, the concrete underneath will not stain. But what you’re creating is a bonding problem.

The unfortunate truth is that there is no perfect sealer. You can choose stain/acid resistance, or you can choose scratch resistance. You can’t have both. As stated above, “In our experience over the past 2 decades, no penetrating treatment has ever provided consistently satisfactory performance with respect to stain resistance, acid resistance and even water resistance.”

We believe that stain/acid resistance is far more important. Click here for a detailed article about this topic.

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Q: Can Omega be applied over a densifier?

A: Not without a lot of work, and even then it’s risky. See the answer to the previous question, and then read this article about resealing with Omega.

If you’re not resealing but making a new countertop, think about what you are trying to achieve by using a densifier, and whether it’s really necessary. Densifiers are typically used to decrease permeability and to make concrete harder for polishing. You don’t need to decrease permeability when you’re going to apply a completely impermeable coating. And you’re not going to polish concrete before applying Omega, because you’re going to stop at 200 or 400 grit. So densifiers make no sense with Omega or with any other coating.

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Q: Can Omega be applied over acid stains?

A: Yes, if you’re talking about actual acid stains that work by penetrating the surface and reacting chemically with the calcium hydroxide in the concrete. In that case, Omega should adhere fine with very thorough surface prep, as is the case for all coating sealers. The acid stain must first be completely neutralized, and all residue scrubbed off. A “white towel” test will determine whether all of the residue has been removed or not. The concrete must then be well rinsed with water. The concrete should then dry for 24 hours, since all the cleaning pumps a lot of moisture into the concrete.

Other “stains”, may actually be pigmented coatings (e.g. Smith Paints), and Omega may or may not adhere to them.

Excessive application of Buddy Rhodes Glazes can create adhesion issues (glaze to concrete and Omega to glaze).

Using pigmented coatings and glazes under Omega should be tested by the end user, because application can vary so widely.

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Q: Will Omega adhere to glass and metal?

A: Glass and metal are popular decorative embedments in concrete countertops. Omega will adhere to properly prepared glass and metal. Glass should be diamond-honed to a grit no finer than 200 to ensure good adhesion. Metal needs to be thoroughly cleaned and scuffed to ensure good adhesion. I recommend hand-sanding bare metal with a non-diamond abrasive such as silicon-carbide sandpaper to a grit no finer than 220. The metal should then be cleaned with acetone to remove residue, grease or other contaminants.

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Q: Can Omega be used on fire features?

A: Yes, if the fire feature is properly designed (as ours are) to keep direct flame off the concrete, then neither the concrete nor the sealer are going to heat up too much, so this is a non-issue. Like most coating sealers, Omega does not stand up to open flame. Nor does concrete!

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Q: How does it compare to [other popular high performance urethane sealer]?

A: That, as well as other company’s brands, are popular urethane based concrete countertop sealers with excellent performance. The advantage of Omega over the current urethanes is that it’s faster and easier to apply and get it to look good, and it still has the excellent performance. With concrete countertop sealers, both performance and appearance are essential – and it’s really nice if achieving both is quick and easy.

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Q: I am not happy with the performance of [other sealer], and would like to reseal. Can Omega be applied right over our current sealer?

A: If the other sealer is a coating, likely yes. Most coatings just need to be scuff sanded (not sanded completely off), and then Omega applied. It has excellent adherence over a few other popular coatings we’ve tested. Please see this article for details.

Please note that Omega should NOT be applied over penetrating or reactive treatments.

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Q: I moved away from [other popular high performance urethane sealer] because of the excess rolling to get the finish to layout nicely in the lower to no dilution application steps. Does Omega have the same issue?

A: The main issue with all the other urethanes that Omega solves is exactly the excess rolling. Omega lays out on its own without streaks or bubbles. The key is not to *over* back roll it.

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Q: How’s the flash dry time compared to other similar sealers? With [other popular high performance urethane sealer], I find it hard to get it to lay out flawless on the less diluted coats on larger pieces without a third hand.

A: Feedback from folks who have used that, and similar finishes, report that Omega lays out better and is less fussy. One main reason is that it requires less backrolling, so you’re not spending a lot of time trying to make a fast-drying finish look perfect. Omega lays out very nicely on its own, so you don’t need (or ever want to) over back roll it. In fact, it is best to leave any little bubbles because they pop on their own and become invisible.

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Q: What is the preparation protocol for surface to seal? I’m not a big fan of muratic acid washing the surface – I wet polish 100/200 then dry 200 and Spinflex with a 200.

A: Surface prep is important with any sealer. The wet polishing you do is fine. With Omega we recommend *not* dry polishing or Spinflexing it because it burnishes the surface and makes it too smooth. Not having to do that saves time. You would need to use muriatic acid if you did not wet polish 100/200 because you had a cream finish you wanted to preserve. The acid gives the surface a little bit of tooth, just like polishing at 200 grit does. Of course the surface needs to be clean, dry, and as dust free as possible, for any coating.

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Q: Can I dry grind to prepare the surface for Omega? I usually do dry grinding instead of wet, or I’m doing a reseal in someone’s kitchen.

A: No. Dry grinding is not the same as wet grinding, even with the same 200 grit. Dry grinding/polishing tends to burnish the concrete surface, making it too smooth for good sealer adhesion.

The dry polishing process creates concrete cuttings which don’t get flushed away like they do with wet polishing. Because the powdery cuttings tend to remain under the polishing head longer, they break down and act as finer polishing media. This is why dry polishing is more effective than wet polishing when trying to polish concrete to a mirror shine, because the concrete cuttings themselves act as a finer polishing compound than the diamond pad that created them.

Additionally, the super-fine cuttings get forced into the open concrete surface pores, contaminating the surface, and that can cause adhesion failure.

These two characteristics are the major drawbacks of dry polishing, and why dry polishing is not permitted as suitable surface preparation for Omega (nor recommended for any coating sealer).

If you can’t wet grind with 200 grit, use the muriatic acid method. The Omega instructions you receive after purchase contain full details.

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Q: I applied the primer, and there are dark lines/blotches everywhere. I thought this sealer was supposed to lay out easily with no roller marks. What should I do?

A: Your concrete is likely porous and absorbing a lot of moisture that is taking time to dry. It’s important to differentiate these marks left by moisture in the concrete from those created from primer that has prematurely dried before backrolling.

  • Areas that are absorbing more moisture will appear darker, and this appearance is temporary and will disappear when the concrete dries.
  • In contrast, areas in which primer dried prematurely before backrolling will appear lighter than areas that stayed wet before being backrolled, and those differences are usually permanent.

Here’s what’s going on if you have the former (absorbing more moisture) situation:

It is not uncommon for the concrete to appear blotchy and uneven during and even soon after the sealing process has been completed. Dark marks in the concrete (roller lines, puddle marks, drips, etc.) are due to excess moisture in the concrete enhancing those areas that are moister. And concrete that has very recently been wet before sealing can also exhibit uneven dark areas during and after sealing.

Dark roller lines and dark spots can remain in the concrete even after the sealing process is finished, and it usually takes at least 12 hours or more for them to fade and for the appearance to even out after the last coat of sealer is applied. (This of course assumes that the primer and finish coats were applied according to the directions, and didn’t dry before being backrolled.)

The process of priming involves soaking the concrete with primer until the concrete can no longer absorb any more. During priming, large amounts of moisture are pumped into the concrete, and how much moisture gets into the concrete depends upon its age, composition and porosity, as well as how long the primer is left on the concrete before backrolling. Areas where more moisture sat for longer times will appear darker, as water is an excellent but temporary color enhancer. The darker moisture spots/marks/lines usually don’t disappear during the 10 to 30 minutes needed for the surface moisture to flash off between coats.

The fresh primer coat (or coats, if more than one is used) holds the moisture in the concrete, and subsequent primer/finish coats help retain that moisture, resulting in a blotchy or streaky appearance. This is almost always temporary, as the moisture in the concrete evaporates over time.

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Q: What happens if I accidentally spill water on the sealer in the middle of the sealing process, for example after I’ve just finished the second of four finish coats?

A: No worries, in the case of water spilled during the sealer process simply proceed with the next coat. However, if you spill water on the surface just after you have completed the sealing process, before the sealer has cured, you should blot up the water, because it will leave a dull or dark mark on the sealer. After the sealer has cured completely (usually after 4 days depending on temperature), it is completely impervious to water.

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Q: What if I get dust in the sealer? And if I don’t notice dust in the finish until the next day, and the surface is bumpy?

A: Dust is an issue in any shop, but Omega is very forgiving. If you notice dust, particles, hair, or fibers in the surface while sealing, they can simply be brushed off with your finger or a paper towel. The mark left by doing this will disappear on its own.

If you feel any roughness the next day after sealing, say if dust settled in there, simply go over it with 320 or 400 or 600 grit sandpaper very lightly and quickly by hand. There’s no machine sanding or buffing.

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Q: There are chunks in Part A, and they’re getting stuck in the roller and on the surface. What should I do?

 

A: Because of the highly reactive nature of Omega’s chemistry, sometimes small amounts of material can cure with the tiny amount of air in the container and dry on the lid, causing bits of dried material to fall into the liquid. This is similar to what happens with paint cans when using ordinary household paint. It does not indicate any problem with the sealer and simply requires straining. Straining is recommended as a standard procedure, just like automotive finishes are always strained before applying.

Simply proceed with mixing Part A, Part B and water according to the instructions, then strain the mixture with a paint strainer before using it. The instructional videos contain detailed information about this procedure. [I’ll add red text to the instruction page now, and then we can post the video when you’re done with it.]

If you don’t notice the chunks before mixing and applying, no worries, pick them out and keep going, just like if you got dust or fibers in the sealer.

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Q: When I opened Part A, there was a thick film on top. What should I do?

A: This is the same issue that can cause chunks. Simply remove and discard the thick film and proceed. The Part A container has a little extra material in excess of the 2:1 ratio to account for possible losses due to a film or chunks.

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Q: What happens if Omega freezes?

A: You will know it! Part B shows no signs, but Part A becomes a hard, rubbery puck when frozen. When fully re-thawed, it has the consistency of gummy yogurt. During the winter, we ship Omega only next-day or two-day, and we put heating packs in the boxes.

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Is There an “Ideal Sealer” for Concrete Countertops?

Let me introduce you to a concrete myth: Concrete countertops are stain prone and high maintenance. While in the past this may have been have been true, sealers have come a long way from the simple wax and acrylic sealers once used. With the right sealer you can create a countertop that fulfills many of the essential functions one wants in a kitchen: stain-resistant, heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, food safe, easy to clean, easy to maintain and perfectly smooth.

Floor Sealers and Countertop Sealers Are Not the Same

With the increased demand for concrete products, both in flooring and countertops, manufacturers are starting to recognize the demand and create more concrete sealer products. A problem arises however when manufacturers mistakenly recommend a sealer designed for concrete flooring for countertop use. Although both flooring and countertops can be made from concrete, the performance requirements are vastly different. Floor sealers are optimized for walking on, not necessarily cooking on.

The Ideal Sealer for Concrete Countertops

Bare concrete is porous and vulnerable to staining and chemical attack. Liquids will tend to soak into the surface, carrying stains into the concrete itself. Acidic substances like vinegar and lemon juice will dissolve the cement paste, etching the surface. For concrete to be a practical countertop material, it must be sealed to protect it from stains and etching.

The Ideal Sealer for concrete countertops must satisfy the basic criteria that are important both to consumers and those making the countertops.

Criteria that are important to clients (end users of the countertop):

  • Enhance the appearance of the concrete without degrading the look or feel
  • Non-porous
  • Completely resist stains from food, oil and other common household substances
  • Resist any etching from acidic substances like lemon juice and vinegar
  • Resist heat from hot pots and pans take directly from the oven or stove top at a wide range of temperatures
  • Resist UV degradation and yellowing from sunlight
  • Scratch-proof
  • Food safe (non-toxic)
  • Easily cleaned using common household cleaning products
  • Provide long term protection without the need for frequent maintenance or reapplication
  • Not peel, flake, chip or bubble
  • Easy to repair

Criteria that are important to the concrete countertop maker:

  • Inexpensive
  • Quick and easy to apply
  • Strong client appeal

Unfortunately the Ideal Sealer does not exist. However, one comes close: Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer. I developed this sealer in 2017 after many, many years of frustration and compromises with other commercially available sealers.

Omega is much faster and easier to apply than the recently popular professional-grade high-performance sealers, but it is still requires practice and attention to the instructions. It is also fairly expensive, given the advanced chemistry. That’s why I say it is not the Ideal Sealer. But it is the best concrete countertop sealer on the market. Click here to learn more.

The Hard Truth About Concrete Countertop Sealers

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?

Water beading on sealed concrete

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:  

How to stain-test sealers

Survey of Sealer Options for Countertops

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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,

Jeff

Why is the 200 grit disc special for concrete countertops?

Most concrete countertops are processed using diamond discs. Two common looks are exposed aggregate and a “salt-and-pepper” look. Exposing aggregates requires very coarse discs, often metal bond cup wheels, while a salt-and-pepper look has just the sand particles exposed.

Regardless of the first grit that was used, processing always follows a progression of finer and finer grits. At some point the 200 grit is reached. With some instances this could be the very first grit used on the concrete (when only a very light honing is required).

The 200 grit disc is a special grit and represents an important point in the processing stage of a concrete countertop.

A very coarse metal bond cup wheel removes a great deal of material very fast. That’s its job. But it leaves an uneven, gouged surface suitable only for sidewalks. Most often a coarse resin bond disc (often 50 grit) is used to flatten the surface and remove the gouges from the cup wheel. Next a 100 grit disc further refines the surface, removing the visible scratches left from the 50 grit. And finally the 200 grit does the same thing. In fact each finer grit simply refines the surface and removes the scratches left by the previous, next-coarser disc. This is true of the 100 grit, and it’s true of the 3000 grit disc.

But the 200 grit disc is special because it represents a point in the production stage in a concrete countertop where many things can happen. Grouting is performed after the surface is honed to a 200 grit finish. Chemical densifiers are applied to a 200 grit finish (if polishing is going to occur), and most importantly, nearly all coatings are applied to a 200 grit finish.

Grouting occurs at the 200 grit stage for a practical reason. Most 100 grit pads leave small tool marks (multiple crescent-shaped scratches) that are hard to see when the concrete is unfinished, but when filled with grout they often show up after sealing. This is not acceptable to clients. On the other hand, good quality 200 grit pads do leave minor swirl marks, but these are not deep enough to be filled with grout, so therefore don’t show after sealing. In addition, hardened grout is removed with a 200 grit pad. If grout was removed with a 100 grit pad, not only would the surface have 100 grit scratches in it, the coarser pad is too aggressive and will cut deeper into the concrete and expose more pinholes, requiring further grouting. A 400 grit pad may not be aggressive enough to efficiently remove the hardened grout in a reasonable amount of time, and the smoother finish may prevent a coating-type sealer from sticking (more on that later).

A concrete surface honed to a 200 grit finish is satin-smooth to the touch but looks nearly dead-flat in sheen. If the concrete is to be polished, densifiers are applied at the 200 grit stage (after grouting) so that the cement paste can be hardened and polished along with the sand and aggregate. Chemical densifiers (especially the popular lithium based ones) leave a micro-thin, hard, transparent deposit that helps to fill in the micro-texture left by the 200 grit pad. Generally polishing begins at the 400 grit stage, when very little material is removed. Having the surface already densified before polishing begins makes the process more efficient and results in a better looking surface.

Because a 200 grit surface has a very slight micro-profile, it’s perfect for applying coatings. Most coatings rely on a mechanical bond to adhere to the concrete. Very smooth surfaces don’t allow a good bond, so coatings are at risk of peeling. And nearly all coatings leave a thin film of material that completely obscures the smooth profile of a polished surface. Even if the coating would form a reliable bond it’s a complete waste of time to polish at all. You simply cannot tell the difference between concrete honed to 200 grit and concrete polished to 3000 grit after they have been sealed with a coating.

So remember, if you’re using a coating sealer, stop polishing at 200 grit. Going any further is a waste of time and could compromise the sealer’s adhesion.

Buffing roller marks in a topical concrete countertop sealer

I got the question recently:

“What do you do to buff the roller marks out of sealer?”

Ideally, here is how you prevent roller marks:

  • Put the finish down fast
  • Roll everything to the same film thickness (quickly)
  • Minimize the amount of overrolling and backrolling
  • Keep all areas rolled the same amount

In practice, you are almost always going to end up with a few marks.

There weren’t really any major physical roller marks, rather most of the roller “marks” were sheen variations. The sheen variations occurred because of areas that had been rolled more than others. Backrolling, drips, roller holidays and simply working around the columns necessitated going over areas more than once. Usually with matte finishes the sealer loses sheen more in areas that are over-rolled and that have a thinner film thickness.

For the few areas that had small bumps or minor roller texture, I first sanded with 400 grit sandpaper on a random orbit sander. To even the sheen a bit more I used a common green 3M scrubbing pad on the random orbit sander. This made the duller areas shinier and the shinier areas duller, evening out the sheen and obscuring the roller marks.

Another great question. Keep them coming!

Color enhancement in concrete countertop sealers

I recently got the question:

“Is the ‘pop’ in color the same as a dry vs. wet look. I’ve applied sealers and although they looked matte, they still made the concrete look darker than before sealer is applied. Will the change the color of the concrete?”

When a sealer “pops” the color of the concrete, it’s making the color seem richer, darker and more vivid. This is similar to what water does when it wets out the surface of concrete. A dry piece of concrete often looks very light, dull and lifeless. But when you wet it with water or seal it with certain sealers, the concrete comes to life, the color is truer and more vivid. This is all because of the way the sealer (or water) helps visible light reflect off the concrete.

Dry concrete scatters a lot of white light, so most of the light shining on it is scattered. The result: the concrete looks pale and lifeless.

light reflection rough

Wet concrete, polished concrete and concrete sealed with certain sealers reflects more of the light as colored light (the color of the concrete) and has less white light scattering. That’s why the concrete looks richer and more colorful.

light reflection wet surface

“Wet-look” sealers are sealers that make the concrete look like it’s wet with water. They pop the color and are typically very glossy. Not all finishes that pop the color make the concrete glossy. But high gloss finishes give the “wettest” look because of the combination of gloss and low white light scatter.

All sealers will affect the depth of color somewhat, although some waterbased acrylic sealers do very little to deepen the color. In effect they are the opposite of wet look sealers. Though the surface might be shiny from the acrylic, the color of the concrete still looks pale as if it were dry and unsealed. Every sealer is different, so you have to test the sealer to see whether its effect on the concrete’s color depth is what you want.

Thanks for the question, and I hope that helps.

(I also covered this topic in a recent article for Concrete Decor Magazine.)

My concrete countertop sealer epiphany

Recently I had an epiphany that I would like to share with the world. It isn’t earth-shattering, it isn’t revolutionary and it’s not even that radical. However I believe that it is important, so I’m taking the time to write this.

For many, many years I have used coatings to protect my concrete countertops. I am a strong and vocal advocate for using a high performance coating to protect concrete from stains and acid, and I’ve invested an extraordinary amount of time and resources testing and reporting the stain performance of a wide variety of sealers. My recent epiphany isn’t really about sealers directly, and it doesn’t contradict my position on them. What it does do is paint a broader and more coherent picture of their place and how we all can be successful with our concrete.

We, the concrete countertop industry, are in a strange and precarious position. Other countertop materials have well-defined and widely accepted identities. Everyone who looks at, buys, wants, uses and works with those materials has an idea of what those materials are, and everyone’s pretty comfortable with the way they are. Those countertop materials are accepted, even coveted some may say, at face value. Concrete isn’t given that freedom of acceptance; it’s not given the same benefit of the doubt. So we, purveyors and crafters of concrete have to dig into our bag of tricks and make compromises in an attempt at satisfying challenging, difficult and sometimes impossible demands.

I’m not going to start a dialog on the virtues of such-and-such sealer, or what fantastic new technology is going to solve all our problems. We all are wise enough to know that right now there’s nothing that satisfies everyone; someday perhaps, but not right now. What I am going to say has to do with responsibility. When I’m done, perhaps it will become the map that helps you find the path you’ve been looking for.

When a client chooses Carrara marble, she does so deliberately. Carrara marble has a very rich heritage that is at the source of its wide appeal. It was prized by the Greeks and Romans and widely used as a sculpting material during the Renaissance; Michelangelo carved the statue of David from a block of Carrara marble. The historic and contemporary value of Carrara marble is unquestionably high. Its luminous beauty and refined texture elevate it to super-premium status where it exemplifies high design and expensive taste.

Carrara marble countertop

Although it is highly valued for its rich heritage and aesthetic qualities, Carrara marble is actually a relatively poor material to make a kitchen countertop out of, in a practical sense. Marble is a soft and porous stone, and Carrara’s light color makes almost any stain stand out. Marble is vulnerable to common acids like vinegar and lemon juice.

Despite those limitations, Carrara marble is still viewed as a desirable and valued material. The natural stone industry and consumers are aware of and accept Carrara marble’s physical limitations, yet little is done to improve or protect the material. It is unheard of to apply a coating to Carrara marble. At best a penetrating repellant or a coat of wax is all that is tolerated.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Carrara marble is a relatively new and popular countertop material. Engineered quartz is a synthetic composite of quartz aggregate in a durable resin binder. This combination yields an extremely durable countertop surface that often carries 10 to 15 year warranties, and its physical properties convey a nearly stain- and acid-proof surface. Its manufacture provides all the protection, so no sealing and no maintenance are required. These factors, along with the broad range of aesthetic choices offered by the engineered quartz manufacturers make it a popular choice and a strong competitor to granite.

engineered quartz countertop

Not to be outcompeted by a synthetic material, most granite on the market today is resin impregnated. This makes the granite nonporous and greatly increases its stain resistance.

Both of these materials, engineered quartz and resinated granite, provide very durable, virtually maintenance free surfaces that can stand up to most anything a homeowner can spill on it.

So where does concrete fit in? From a custom, high-end material standpoint it’s in league with Carrara marble. No other material can look and do and be what concrete can.

Unfortunately, most of the clients concrete is presented to think it’s just another countertop material, and that almost all home-center grade countertop materials perform similarly, providing nearly maintenance-free stain-proof performance. It’s not surprising that most clients ask for, or even demand that kind of performance.

And that leads me back to where I started. You can, and have always been able to, provide your clients with a surface that will stand up to heat, mustard, vinegar and oil (amongst many other sauces and lotions and liquids). Not only do they want “stain-proof”, they want absolutely zero maintenance. No waxing, no resealing, nothing, because even if they had to do it they wouldn’t. After all, if they can’t even keep the countertops clean, do you think they’d apply a sealer every so often, or even once? Not likely. Such performance is possible, but it comes with a price, and that price is that you must use a coating.

These homeowners want to be absolved of any responsibility for keeping the countertops looking like new. In their mind, that’s what the sealer is for. They want to be slobs and not have to worry. And they can, but to get close to what most clients want requires a very high performance coating. A coating that stands up to everything a homeowner can spill on it, and one that does so every time it’s used and on any kind of concrete it’s used on. This places all of the responsibility on you, the concrete countertop manufacturer.

You bear the burden of choosing a finish that stands up to everything you anticipate the client will do. Choose poorly, and you’ll pay the price with callbacks, lost revenue and even lost business. Choose correctly and you can sleep well, knowing your concrete will look like new for a long time.

So where am I going with all of this? I’m not driving you towards one end solution. What I want you to do is think about your concrete and your clients and your message. Are you selling Carrara marble or are you selling engineered quartz? Neither is wrong, but both require an explicit and very clear understanding of responsibility.

If you choose to sell concrete like Carrara marble, tell your clients that 100% of the responsibility for upkeep and maintenance is on them. If you choose to sell concrete like engineered quartz, then take 100% of the responsibility for engineering its performance so that no care and maintenance are required of the client.

Think about this: Whom do you want to bear the responsibility for keeping your concrete looking like new? You or your client? 

While either choice is acceptable, the end product, the concrete, looks, feels and performs differently. You’re not making the same “stuff” and packaging it two different ways. They are different animals, and are looked at and valued in fundamentally different ways. Both are high value. Both are correct, but both must be matched to the right client. If not, then no one will be happy.

Lastly, a word of caution. I believe most of the headaches, callbacks and problems people have had stem from the fact that the finishes conflicted with the defined roles of responsibility.

If I use a finish that provides a good deal of protection, but it gradually wears off, then that finish requires periodic reapplication. If I select a finish that stands up to some common staining agents but not others, then that finish doesn’t provide the kind of protection the client wants. The line of responsibility is vague and shifts. Using some kind of finish that offers limited protection is worse than using none at all because at some level the client knows I’ve sealed the concrete, so the expectation is that staining won’t happen, or it won’t happen so badly, or that it shouldn’t happen. But it will, so in their mind I’ve let them down, even though I set their expectations up front.

This scenario has played out for many concrete countertop makers over the years.

If I simply wax bare concrete, then the client knows, up front, that just about anything will stain the concrete and that they had better take great care and clean up any spills. If they do that then “bad things” won’t happen. And if they do, it’s obvious where the fault lies.

On the other hand, if I coat the concrete with a high performance, reliable coating, then nothing short of gouging the concrete will damage the finish. The homeowners don’t need to do anything. In fact they don’t even need to keep the countertop clean. All the responsibility is on me.

It’s that gray area in between, with finishes/treatments/coatings/whatever that provide limited protection, or only work some of the time for some of the people, or are too difficult to get to work, or simply don’t work when tested despite what’s written on the bottle or posted on a forum. With these types of finishes the line of responsibility is vague. It shifts. It’s movable, and you can be sure that when bad things happen the client will push the line in the direction most favorable to them. And that means you pay the price.

So, are you selling Carrara marble, engineered quartz, or are you caught in between, in the gray area of frustration, callbacks and lost profits? It’s up to you. Just be clear about where you stand.

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