There are two main types of commonly manufactured bricks on the market in the U.S. today. The first option is machine made, which produces a denser, more compact product. Machine made bricks are standardized in large quantities and do not offer customizable options for customers. The second most common form of brick manufacturing is handmade brick. Handmade bricks are produced in small batches using less automated equipment and are completely customizable. Handmade brick tiles, however, tend to have more porous surfaces which means that dirt and grime can more easily adhere to the surfaces if they are not properly sealed. This leads us to today’s topic of how to choose the correct sealant for your thin brick renovation project. Sealants are an absolute necessity when installing brick tile as they help to repel soil or water from your brick’s surface and make cleaning and maintenance much easier. It’s important to note that there are three main types of sealants/protectants on the market for bricks and other tiles: 1) Impregnators or penetrating sealers 2) Topical sealers and 3) Waxes, oils and polishes. 1) Impregnators or penetrating sealers
These are the most commonly used and in most cases the best option for thin brick installation projects, especially those in highly trafficked areas with frequent exposure to water or grime (i.e., kitchen floors, bathroom floors or shower stalls, mudrooms, outdoor patios or walkways). Penetrating sealers soak down into the substrate, then react chemically. The result is a more permanently formed bond with the substrate. This strong bond ensures excellent moisture resistance and durability. Impregnators can last over 20 years before re-application is required. Some penetrating sealers bring out the natural color of the tile without giving any sheen to the surface while others give sheen or enhance the color of the tile. It all depends on what finish you desire your brick surface to have. If you’re unsure of what would look best, we recommend testing out 2-3 different sealant options on various sections of a brick’s surface to compare. Another other important consideration when choosing an impregnator or penetrating sealer, is whether to use a water-based solution or an oil-based solution. In most cases, we would recommend using an oil-based solution especially for areas that are prone to oil spills, such as kitchen tiles. Oil-based impregnators also hold their seal for longer than water-based ones, meaning they require less frequent re-application. There are four main types of penetrating sealers: Silane, Silicate, Siliconate, and Siloxane. Silane penetrators are the most expensive on the market and Siloxane have the shortest wear life. In most cases we would recommend using a Silicate or Siliconate impregnator. You can find a range of both water-based and oil-based penetrating sealers from Aqua Mix and 511 Miracle.
For best results and for most applications, we recomend 511 Miracle Porous Plus. 511 Porous Plus is a penetrating sealer designed for the protection of the most porous surfaces. 511 Porous Plus forms an invisible barrier that is resistant to moisture and stains while allowing vapor to escape. 511 Porous Plus is not a surface coating and will not alter the natural look. All surfaces are harder and less slippery. Porous Plus is a matte finish sealer.
2) Topical Coatings or Sealers
Topical sealers are another commonly used product to seal thin brick floor or wall projects. Topical coatings tend to give a satin sheen to the surface of the brick and can be found in gloss or non-gloss options. They are best when used in areas that receive less frequent traction and wear and provide more of a decorative appearance to the brick. Examples of locations where topical coatings may be desirable include: kitchen backsplashes, brick accent walls, and fireplaces. Topical sealers do not penetrate as deeply as penetrating sealers do, and for that reason they wear off the surface of the brick more quickly and require re-application every 1-10 years depending on the coating type. There are four main types of topical sealants: Acrylic, Epoxy, Urethane, and Blended/Hybrid. Acrylics are the cheapest and easiest to apply, but last only 1-3 years before re-application is needed. You can find them in both water or solvent based formulas. Epoxy topical sealants are the most chemically resistant with high abrasion resistance, and usually last anywhere from 5-10 years. Urethane coatings are the highest in abrasion resistance but usually require an epoxy primer before applying. They typically last 5-10 years as well. Finally, blended/hybrid topical sealers incorporate two or more of the above types to achieve high resistance with an easy application and lower cost. You can find a few different topical sealant options from Aqua Mix’s range.
For heavy duty and commercial applications, we recomend a polyurethane sealer. Something like BEHR PREMIUM Fast Drying Water-Based Polyurethane is a clear protective finish that shields the brick tile surafces. This durable polyurethane is designed to prolong the life of the surface of the brick tiles, smoothens them out and makes them more resistant to stains.
3) Wax or Linseed Oil
Waxes or linseed oil are two kinds of products that can be used on brick to help seal and provide sheen and a glossy finish. Some home owners opt for these products because they desire a more natural, less chemical-based finish on their brick. While linseed oil and some waxes are chemical free, they are more difficult and time-consuming to apply, don’t last as long as either penetrating or topical sealers, and in some cases require additional equipment (waxes often require a buffing machine to give the surface a glossy finish). Additionally, linseed oil has been known to increase the likelihood of mold or mildew when used in areas exposure to frequent moisture (i.e. mudroom, bathroom, kitchen, outdoors). It is worth noting that if you do choose to use linseed oil on brick, it will enhance the color to more of a red-brown hue. You should thin out the oil first and apply in thin layers. It will probably require 2-3 layers of oil. Linseed oil can tend to give a tacky surface and some homeowners complain that the tacky surface never fully dries down, making it a magnet for dust and other debris. Wax coatings are rarely recommended to be applied by themselves on brick surfaces. While they do provide some protection, they will not repel dirt, grime or water like penetrating sealers will.