The 10 Best Stone Sealers
The Case For Sealing
Many sealers can improve the appearance of the material to which they’re applied — enhancing the colors, adding a shine, or altering the level of lightness or darkness.
If you’ve been debating whether to apply a sealer to your natural stone, let’s end the discussion right now: you should do it.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Sealing stone walls in a rarely used bathroom may not be worth the time and effort, but if the surface is at all likely to come into contact with liquids or substances that could cause staining or corrosion, sealing is a prudent, forward-thinking move.
Sealers come in a variety of styles for a range of different stone types, but they’re all designed primarily to protect the stone — preserving its appearance and prolonging its life in the process. Depending on the application, sealing provides myriad additional benefits, as well.
Stain resistance is an important one. Preventing the penetration of oils or other liquids into the capillary channels of the stone is critical, as it’s quite difficult to remove those substances without significantly damaging the stone. Sustained exposure to salt and acidic solutions can cause corrosion in many types of stone, too. Certain sealers will act as a barrier to these substances.
For anyone who is sealing a floor, walkway, or patio, you’ll want your sealer to provide reliable slip resistance to help prevent injuries. Some sealers are glossy in nature, which may look attractive, but usually doesn’t provide much resistance to slipping.
Many sealers can improve the appearance of the material to which they’re applied — enhancing the colors, adding a shine, or altering the level of lightness or darkness. While some types of sealers protect the surface from scratches and scuffs, others do not offer this type of protection at all, so make sure to keep that in mind as you assess your options.
Treat Your Surface How It Wants To Be Treated
You now know why it’s a good idea to seal stone surfaces, but what type of sealer should you use? As long as you know which types of natural stone you’ll be treating and what you want the sealer to accomplish, the choice shouldn't be too difficult.
You’ll have two primary types of sealer to select from: topical and penetrating. Topical sealers form a coating on the surface of the stone without entering its pores, shielding it from liquids and contaminants. Penetrating sealers — also known as impregnating sealers — seep into the pores of the surface, forming a chemical bond with the stone to prevent the penetration of staining agents.
In short, topical sealers protect the surface of the stone, but not the interior, whereas penetrating sealers work under the surface without offering much protection again scuffs and abrasions on the surface. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
For example, if it generates a glossy finish, that may make the surface more slippery, which isn’t something you want in an area with a lot of foot traffic.
If you’re looking to guard against foot traffic damage, you’ll probably want to look at topical sealers. Keep in mind that the more high-traffic the area is, the more ongoing maintenance the sealer will require, including reapplications. With some sealers, you’ll have to strip the previous coating prior to any reapplications, which can also cause damage when repeated in the long run.
You will want to think about how the topical sealer will alter the surface. For example, if it generates a glossy finish, that may make the surface more slippery, which isn’t something you want in an area with a lot of foot traffic. Many sealers will also enhance the stone’s aesthetics in different ways.
While topical sealers are simple to apply and fairly inexpensive, they may negatively impact the breathability of some stone materials. This can result in trapped moisture and vapor that will end up causing surface damage.
When a penetrating sealer infiltrates the pores of a stone, it produces a barrier that reduces the porosity of the surface and blocks stain-causing substances. Despite this barrier, these sealers still allow moisture to pass through, which means harmful vapors won’t get trapped inside.
Since penetrating sealers sit below the surface, they require significantly less maintenance than topical sealers, and most of them won’t affect the appearance of the stone. They are the more expensive option, however, and they can be somewhat difficult to apply. If you have no training in this area, you should consider consulting a professional.
Generally speaking, topical sealers are popular for use on porous stones such as travertine, slate, and limestone, while less porous stones like granite and marble are prime candidates for penetrating sealers.
Putting Natural Stone To Good Use
Thanks to its strength, durability, and versatility, the use of stone as a building material continues to stand the test of time. From ancient civilizations to the modern era, people have used rocks like granite, slate, marble, limestone, and sandstone as building blocks for anything from floors and counter tops to swimming pools and statues.
Use of stone is widespread in today’s residential homes. If you don’t have granite counter tops in your house, you probably know someone who does — it has become a fixation in the United States since the 1980s. Stone backsplashes, floors, showers, sinks, mantles, fireplaces, and vanities are common, as well.
Since some types of stone tend to project an image of prominence and professionalism, you’ll often find it in office building lobbies, reception areas, and conference rooms.
You can expect to find plenty of patios made of slate, limestone, or travertine in American backyards, many of which include matching benches and fire pits built with the same material. Because of its natural origin, stone is effective at enhancing the appearance of outdoor areas, creating an organic atmosphere when combined with greenery like plants and trees.
Since some types of stone tend to project an image of prominence and professionalism, you’ll often find it in office building lobbies, reception areas, and conference rooms. It requires little maintenance, making it a logical material to use in public spaces on projects like monuments, sculptures, benches, and pathways.
One of the nation’s best examples is the Wisconsin State Capitol building — built with 43 different types of stone, it is home to rocks from six countries and eight states. Its exterior features the largest granite dome in the world, while its walls and columns consist of marble and limestone from all over the world.
Going back in time, some monoliths constructed by ancient civilizations are marvels of engineering even by today’s standards — for the era in which they were built, they’re downright miraculous. Many weigh in excess of 1,000 tons.