Why Choose Pre-Sealed Natural Stone?

The team at Arbour Landscape Solutions strongly recommend that you seal natural stone pavers. Why? Because it preserves the look and feel of the stone and keeps it looking good for longer.  Choosing pre-sealed natural stone saves you a lot of hassle on site and could potentially prevent the kind of complaints and bad press that damage a Company’s reputation.

All too often landscapers receive complaints from their clients about efflorescence, picture framing and staining. Those grumbles, and the cost of placating the client could so easily be avoided by simply investing in stone sealing.  

MD Richard Bickler explains how stone sealing works and talks us through the advantages of choosing pre-sealed natural stone.

What Is Stone Sealing And How Does It Work?

Stone sealing is simply applying a substance to pavers or tiles to prevent the stone from absorbing moisture or oils that might affect its appearance or performance. Sealing can also protect stone from being damaged by acid rain.

Types of stone sealers are:  Hydrophobic ie resists water and Oleophobic ie resists oil. 

If you are building a patio or a driveway, imagine what kinds of liquids could be dropped on it (engine oil, bbq sauce, wine, cola etc) and choose an appropriate sealant.  Personally, I’d be inclined to keep it simple by choosing a sealant which protects against both oil and water.

Two Ways To Apply Stone Sealers

Topical Sealants: These coat the surface of the stone, a bit like a polish or a varnish.  They are generally the cheaper option but can be prone to scratching/scuffing  and will wear away over time.  A 2 year old patio with track marks where footfall is greatest is not a good look. With topical sealants there is also a risk of sealing in efflorescence so that it doesn’t naturally disappear over time. If I’m honest, I’d be more inclined to spend a little more and use an impregnating sealant.

Impregnating Sealants: These penetrate the surface of the stone and coat the stone molecules with a layer of silicone based protectant.  It’s like giving each particle it’s own little raincoat.  This method of sealing means that there are still microscopic gaps between the particles which allow air to circulate so that the stone can ‘breathe’. 

Because the minerals are sealed, the risk of them being dissolved by rainwater and emerging as efflorescence is greatly reduced.  In pre-sealed stone it’s also unlikely that minerals can react with grouting materials to give that horrible picture framing effect.

Impregnating sealants sit beneath the surface of the stone and don’t affect its overall appearance or its slip resistance. Whereas topical sealants form a film on top of the stone and can make it appear unnaturally shiny.

What happens If I Don’t Seal My Natural Stone Pavers?

Some people choose not to use a stone sealant and that’s perfectly OK. Left ‘au naturel’ pavers may need a settling down period. Some of the salts and minerals within the stone will interact with water and redistribute themselves.  This reveals itself as efflorescence, a temporary white coloured bloom that generally takes 6-12 months to disappear.  

Untreated stone could be more susceptible to the freeze thaw phenomenon. That’s where, in cold weather, water within the stone expands as it freezes and breaks the bonds between molecules.  As a result - small pieces of stone sheer off.  It’s a natural process and is how scree slopes are formed on mountains.  You won’t get a scree slope on your patio, but you may over time see a change in the texture of the stone.  Freeze-thaw can make a horrible mess of steps though, leaving the edges all raggedy and unsafe.

The other risk with leaving natural stone pavers unsealed is that they are susceptible to staining.  If you don’t mind your hard landscaping developing a bit of extra ‘character’ over time, than that’s OK.  The choice is entirely yours.

 

image showing a piece of stone paving, half of which has been treated with a pre-sealer, the other half is untreated and you can see a clear difference in staining and dirt levels

The difference between sealed and unsealed natural stone

Should I buy Pre-Sealed Natural Stone or Should I Treat Pavers On-Site?

Again, you have a choice.  Arbour Landscape Solutions has a huge stock of completely natural stone and we can also supply you with a good quality stone sealer  to apply yourself.

Applying topical sealant is a relatively easy job which can be done by untrained labour. But, as we discussed earlier in the article, it’s not a great long-term solution.

If you prefer to use an impregnating sealant (highly recommended!) the process is a little more complicated, but it’s not difficult.  We’d advise you to invest in some training before you start on a project because mistakes can be costly.  

For best results, slabs will need to be treated before they are installed, and they will need to be stored in a dry place with good air circulation whilst the sealant soaks into the stone. Each slab must be scrupulously clean before you start - the last thing you need to do is seal dirt into the stone.  You need plenty of room for on-site sealing AND you need to be confident that the weather will be on your side.

When you are comparing costs, remember that sealing on-site will potentially use several man-hours.  Is that the best use of skilled landscaping staff?

Pre-Sealed Natural Stone on the other hand is easy-peasy.  All of the work is done for you in a controlled environment. Your pavers will be delivered to site ready for you to prime and lay as usual.  There’s no messing about with chemicals, no worrying about the weather and you don’t need to deploy staff to do the sealing.  It’s a win-win situation.

Justifying The Extra Cost Of Pre-Sealing To Landscaping And Garden Design Clients

In a cash-strapped world, it’s understandable that clients will want to avoid extra costs as much as possible. Here’s how to explain to them why they should invest in stone sealing

  1. Order unsealed and pre-sealed natural stone samples from Arbour Landscape Solutions.
  2. Use the samples to demonstrate porosity to your clients.  Put a few drops of water onto each sample and noting how long it takes for the water to be absorbed.
  3. Explain that ‘damage’ due to efflorescence and/or staining may not covered by supplier warrantees and that the cost of repairing such damage could be quite high. ‘Cost’ of course applies to the financial cost of replacing and relaying stone, the risk of mis-matching with ‘new’ stone from a different batch and, of course, the potential cost to the environment of using harsh stain removers.

Interested in Pre-Sealed Natural Stone?

Browse our ready-to-order range of presealed natural limestone here. These pavers are in stock now and can normally be delivered within 2-3 working days.

Pre-sealing can also be applied to other natural stone products in our range but lead times will be a little longer. Contact the Arbour Landscape Solutions team to discuss your requirements.

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