Consequences of environmental regulations
Changes have been made in many sealer formulations due to regulations from our government that center on VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are released as a gas from the sealers we use, as well as from many cleaning supplies, paints, pesticides and building materials. In our industry the rule changes meant that our solvent-based sealers needed to contain less xylene and more acetone or other fast drying solvents. Xylene has been the main carrier for years to spread and evenly lay out the resin that forms the sealer coating. It worked well because it evaporated slowly giving the resin time to properly form a film. Xylene’s primary replacement is acetone, a solvent that evaporates five times or more faster than xylene which is important for the contractor to understand.
Just about every person has used acetone. It is found in everyday items such as markers and finger nail polish remover, both items where the liquid quickly evaporates. Faster drying solvents may have virtually no effect on sealer performance, but they create many other situations that will create problems for the contractor. The biggest is that the faster drying time sometimes do not allow for the resin to properly form its film. When the film has not properly formed it will lead to adhesion problems, discoloration and general sealer failure. Many projects that could have been previously sealed in the warm afternoon sun must now wait for a cooler evening or morning to be completed. Contractors are more likely to see roller marks, spider webbing coming from their roller and surface blistering due to the newer solvents.
Contractors may think that the "thin to win" answer overly simplified, but they should be thankful that all they are being asked is to do is follow recommended coverage rates and weather related guidelines. If they acknowledge and adapt these practices, they should expect to see a reduction or hopefully an end to the sealer issues that have plagued them in recent years.
To continue the education process and help bridge the communication gap between the manufacturer, distributor and contractor, the ASCC Decorative Concrete Council is developing Sealer Selection & Application Guide. The guide will not only help contractors choose the correct product for their project but will explain the terms used and best methods for application. An entire section will be devoted to sealer troubleshooting and repair methods. A large amount of photographs will demonstrate many of the signs seen on sealer failures, and correction methods will be offered. Look for this helpful guide soon at www.ASCConline.org and at most major concrete events.