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Coating or Impregnator: what’s the difference?



Hello again, newsletter readers. This week we’re discussing a topic that – unless you are a stone enthusiast (like we are!) – you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about in your day-to-day experiences. But that’s why we’re here, to give you the information you didn’t even know you needed. Today, we’re talking about coatings versus impregnators for stone flooring.

Let’s start off with some vocabulary. What the heck is a coating and impregnator? We’re very glad you asked.

An impregnator is a type of sealant. However, this type is designed to permeate into the pores of the stone surface and filling them to prevent water, oil, and other undesirables from penetrating the stone and causing damage. A great example of a coating sealant is our MARBLELIFE® Stone Sealer. In these cases the sealer is applied, allowed to soak briefly, and then ALL excess sealer on the surface is removed so that when done there is NO sealer on the surface, and we are leaving only the sealer that has soaked into the stone pores to prevent anything else from getting in here.

A floor coating can at times also be referred to as a topical sealer which can create some confusion when we are discussing sealers. When applied, it sits on top of the stone creating a protective barrier or coating. Lie a penetrating sealer it will also prevent foreign material from getting into the stone pores, HOWEVER a topical coating is generally only used if we are seeking to impart a change in appearance or behavior to the stone surface. You installed your stone because you liked its appearance, so its not likely you are going to coat it. However if you wanted to darken a slate to provide a wet look with a deeper color, or sought in impart a non-slip traction to the surface, one might do so with a specialty coating. This is rare for marble and polished granite, but can be popular with slates and flamed-granite surfaces.

Will this coating Yellow?

If one is applying a coating to enhance the richness of the color of a slate or flamed granite floor the next question will be whether this coating will yellow. This is a very important question that is often overlooked by the home owner who is being shown beautiful deep color samples. Some chemistries are proan to yellowing, caused by a breakdown in the coating caused by natural UV light. Urethane coatings applied on slate floors across the United States in the in the seventies and eighties are now bright yellow and flaking off. Yet, the latest generations have shifted to aliphatic urethanes offering enormous improvements in this area. Silicone based chemistries offer substantial improvements here.

How Long Will it Last? and what happens when you come to apply the next application?

Remember that yellow coated slate floor discussed above. Before anything else happens that floor will need to be stripped clean to the grout lines else the new coating will not properly bond and will show the residual effects of a flaked floor beneath. The cost of stripping will greatly exceed the cost of applying the coating, requiring repeated strip applications, and attention to detail labor to get the floor free and re-ready for the next coating.

A more UV resistant coating, may need a re-application every few years due to wear showing as some dulling, which can be done quickly, but unless one is seeking a gloss finish on a non-smooth surface such as a cleft slate, honing and polishing will be a much more durable, easier to maintain, and dare I say greener solution.

Impregnator advantages

Impregantor sealers have their myths as well.

No re-application necessary – NOT TRUE

Sure there is virtually no wear on the material sealing a pore on the stone, BUT over time, if someone is cleaning with an acidic cleaner, or exposing the surface to drink spills, or prepping acidic foods, the acid will reverse the sealer chemistry and the water will float away the freed up sealer raw materials. Over time this dissolving action can damage or remove even the impregnator sealer. This is why it is important to re-apply periodically.

I don’t have to re-apply because I have a 15 year guaranteed product - NOT TRUE

In many cases guarantees are marketing propaganda coupled with difficult to meet conditions and the belief that few enough people will seek to pursue or meet the conditions of the guarantee that the costs of the guarantee are low enough they can economically make the claim…That does not mean the surface was safe for 15 years.

Many of these products suffer the same acid weakness, but who maintains the receipt from 2 years ago let alone 15, or the original bottle the product was provided in? I mean really?

The greatest advantage of sealing with an impregnating sealer is avoidance of the costs to correct a stain. This is a painful, multiple visit, smelly, many day process with no guarantee of 100% success. The cost of applying a seal every 2 years is a fraction of the cost of the counter, and avoids the frustration and anger one may encounter when that stain – and how it got there – is staring back at you every day. Who wants to be reminded of a couple simple errors – not sealing again – plus a spill, etc. It’s just not worth the risk, but it is sure easy to forget to do.

Are Sealers Smelly?

Everything has a smell. Sealers today are used in small quantities. Any odor is minor and disapates in minutes. Lets just say it is nothing near as strong than what we encounter when someone is removing nail polish.

Can I apply an impregnating sealer myself? Sure.

Just make sure you have wiped the surface free before it cures. As this material is designed to skin over in a few hours, you have ample time. The only time this becomes a problem is if someone is distracted after applying and before removing and it is allowed to stand and cure. If this happens, yes you will need a craftsman to remove the excess material from the surface. So…don’t allow someone to distract you during the 15 minute process and you should be good.

Bottomline – Seal Your Stone.
When in doubt – call MARBLELIFE at – (888) 524-3372 for some quality free advice from someone that has done is hundreds of time.

Be sure to consult a professional before making your choice and let them know where your project is and how it will be used. For any other sealant or product-related stone questions, give your local MARBLELIFE office a call and we’ll be happy to assist you.




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