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Coating or Impregnator: How to Choose

8/8/2014 4:00:00 PM
Article by Fred Hueston

Last time I discussed "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sealing Your Natural Stone." Everything that is, except how to make the determination between a coating or an impregnator? They both have their advantages and their disadvantages. The following summary should be considered carefully when choosing the proper product:

Coating - Advantages

Coatings are sealers that place a protective, sacrificial layer on the surface of the stone.

1. Coatings are generally economical. The initial application is relatively low.

2. Coatings are generally easy to apply. Unskilled labor can learn to apply them in a short time.

3. Coatings generally will provide a sacrificial coating on the stone. This layer will take most of the wear, preventing wear on the stone.

4. Certain coatings will provide added slip-resistance.

5. Coatings can be applied below grade. If a floor is located below ground level, a good coating may prove beneficial for protecting or waterproofing.

6. Coatings will generally provide various degrees of luster.


1. Since most coatings are typically softer than the stone itself, they will usually scratch, mar and scuff very easily, showing traffic patterns soon after application. This will require frequent buffing, burnishing or re-application.

2. Coatings can build up and can cause an unsightly appearance, producing an unnatural, wavy, plastic look to the stone.

3. Poor quality coatings can turn yellow. This is especially true if the stone is exposed to UV light.

4. Coatings require frequent stripping and reapplication. The chemicals and abrasives used in the stripping process may cause damage to the stone. Typically, certain stripping pads and stripping brushes can scratch some softer stones.

5. Some wax strippers can harm certain stones such as agglomerates, eating away at the polyester binders.

6. Certain coatings may block the breathing capability of the stone. Moisture can become trapped below the surface and may lead to spalling.


1. Most impregnators will not change the appearance of the stone.

2. Most impregnators do not require frequent applications. Since the impregnator is below the surface, it will generally last several years before reapplication is necessary.

3. Most impregnators are not affected by UV light since they are below the surface where UV light cannot penetrate. For this reason they can be used outdoors.

4. Impregnators are typically hydrophobic, while some are Lyophobic.


1. Impregnators that are solvent-based produce noxious and flammable vapors during application.

2. Solvent-based impregnators are harmful to the environment producing high VOCs (volatile organic compounds). For this reason, some are restricted in certain states. Always check the Safety Data Sheet (MSDS/SDS).

3. Impregnators require a semi-skilled person for application. Proper training is highly recommended.

4. The initial cost of most impregnators is relatively high.

5. Impregnators in general cannot be used below grade to resist hydrostatic pressure. Since the stone is still capable of breathing, water can be forced through the stone by pressure.

When choosing the proper product for protection, the above guidelines should help. Always talk with the manufacture or distributer, and let them know where you plan to use their product. They can be very helpful if you tell them all the conditions that apply.

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