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The best basement floor sealer is one that corrects any existing defects in the concrete slab while serving to enhance the overall purpose of the room. Basements which are prone to water leakage and standing moisture should be treated with a penetrating sealer which can combat those issues. Individuals who wish to create a finished look in this area of their homes but do not struggle with water issues, should use an epoxy sealer.
Basement floors are typically made from concrete. They are poured directly against the dirt and serve as the foundation of the home. This type of material is semi-porous, allowing ground water to soak through and enter the home. Applying a good basement floor sealer to this area can prevent excess water moisture from accumulating in the living space.
A basement floor sealer is different from concrete paint. Many brands of paint approved for use on concrete also claim to provide a moisture barrier. These paints, while thick enough to avoid soaking into the concrete, are not strong enough to prevent large amounts of water vapor from seeping through the floor. Sealants are generally clear and are labeled for use as a sealant only and not for any other home improvement projects.
Penetrating sealants are the best type to use when attempting to prevent water leakage, which is a common problem. This type of basement floor sealer can soak through the pours of the floor slab up to a depth of 4 inches (about 10.2 centimeters). The chemical expands and binds with the lime naturally occurring throughout the concrete. A network of crystalline structures is formed that creates a hard and impenetrable surface. Water can continue to condense on the outside of the concrete, but it will not travel through to the interior of the home.
Using a penetrating sealer on the floor will also prevent the leakage of harmful gases into the home from the subsoil. Unlike surface sealants, which only rest on top of the concrete like a plastic shield, a penetrating sealant bonds with the concrete to create a new barrier. This chemical is safe to use with any type of additional flooring the homeowner may wish to install. Treated wood, carpet pads, tiles, and vinyl can be adhered to or laid over this surface without damaging the new materials.
An epoxy sealant is the best choice for homeowners who want a finished look for the concrete basement floor and do not face water issues. An epoxy sealant is similar to paint in that it is tinted and creates a glossy finish. It is much thicker than standard concrete paint, however, and can also fill in small nicks and cracks that may be present in older basement slabs. Certain types of epoxy may also be sold with a non-skid agent, which is ideal for use in areas which may receive a high volume of foot traffic.
Acrylic sealers and urethane are the other most commonly sold chemicals used as basement floor sealers. Acrylic sealers are either water based or solvent based and only serve to create a thin barrier that rests on top of the concrete slab. They are the least expensive type of sealant available and must be reapplied frequently. The solvent-based type of acrylic sealer and urethane are both extremely toxic and should only be used when proper ventilation is available to the work area. These types of sealants are not good choices for individuals with respiratory problems or in homes with small children.
@Logicfest -- No, that is a problem best left to a professional. No matter how good you are at home repairs you are, you really don't want to venture into something that serious unless you absolutely know what you are doing.
The good news is that most people who are professionals when it comes to foundation repair will be able to assess your problem and recommend a solution for either a low cost or no cost at all. Getting professionals to produce estimates is par for the course when it comes to such issues.
If you are going to pick a professional, make sure to get a recommendation or two from friends or family. A good foundation repair company will even suggest using a sealer if that's all you need to fix your problem rather than doing the "hard sell" so you will pay for a repair you might not actually need.
A sealant might do the job, but be very careful if it is your intention to apply flooring over the sealant. Why? Severe cracks in the slab cannot typically be fixed by mere sealants. You could run the risk, then, of both not addressing the underlying problem of water leakage and the expense associated with the flooring that will inevitably be ruined.
Here's the question -- is fixing severe cracks in the slab a good do it yourself project? An entire industry has been built around people who like doing their own home repairs, so is a cracked foundation one of those?
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