Sealants / Comments and Recommendations
Every property owner or renter has been forced to try and find a way of sealing out moisture, mold, or other forms of deterioration, with what we all refer to as either caulk, grout, mortar or any other products that we hope will stop the intrusion, leakage, seepage, or condensation, that is accumulating or running down, or dripping, someplace in the home, rent or other structure that we are involved with.
This is a universal problem and in most cases, has no real easy solution or fix.
I am going to call all of these items “ sealants “ whether they actually fall under this identification, for the sake of this webpage, they will be referred to as sealants.
In many instances the use of a sealant is the incorrect procedure for correction of the problem. There are many occurrences, where water or moisture cannot be resolved with the use of a sealant.
What are a few of the issues within a structure that cannot be solved by the application of a sealant?
- Worn and deteriorated roof shingles or siding. The deterioration of a roof or the façade of a structure, in most cases will not be properly repaired with the use of a sealant. If the roof is a shingle roof and is over 20 years old, chances are, the deterioration is beyond the spreading of a roofing sealant to solve the moisture problem. The cracking and breaking of the façade of a structure is normally the sign of more substantial deterioration or failure elsewhere in the makeup of the entire siding assembly. In both of these situations, professional contractors or a professional construction consultant, should be contacted, and their advice strongly considered. Many times the entire roof may have to be replaced as well as the substrate inspected for moisture deterioration and loss.
- Basement or foundation issues. In many instances the intrusion of water, or the build-up of moisture on the interior of basement walls or floors, will not be adequately corrected by the application of a sealant. In most instances, if the water is consistent, and the amounts are ample enough to not evaporate for several days or weeks, the correction is not the application of a sealant, no matter what the manufacturers will indicate. As with the roofing and siding, an inspection by a local professional waterproofing expert, or the advice of a professional construction consultant should be sought. There are several solutions to this type of issue; however, they are normally more involved than merely the use of the proper sealant.
- Compromised mechanical systems. If water is the result of a broken or leaking pipe, appliance or piece of equipment, or if the condensate water off of the air conditioning condenser is seeping into the living areas of the home, the application of a sealant will not solve the problem. Broken pipes, compromised vents, and other mechanical issues that may cause water buildup, should be reviewed and corrected by a professional plumber or mechanical contractor. As with No.’s 1 & 2 already discussed, the use of a professional construction consultant should be considered to properly address these types of moisture issues.
The problems that can be solved with a sealant
- Deteriorated bathroom caulk. Caulking is used to set the sink into the vanity top, to seal the interface between the top of the tub and the adjacent tile or waterproof surface located above the tub, or the joint at the toilet base where it meets the floor tile or other finish. This caulk can be replaced with a sealant that is manufactured and designed for this use. All hardware stores and builder supply stores will carry countless brands, types and colors of this popular sealant.
- Exterior gutter and leader leaks. If your gutters or leaders are leaking on the exterior of the structure, the use of a sealant to cover these leaks and reduce them, is the proper technique for correction. The importance of having a 100% waterproof system of gutters and leaders is not as important as anything leaking on the interior of the structure. Similar to the deteriorated bathroom caulk, all hardware stores and builder supply store will carry products for this application.
- Driveway cracks and deterioration. The use of special driveway sealants, is a good maintenance routine for your driveway. Sealing the driveway as recommended by the manufacturers of the sealant products, will keep the driveway asphalt properly protected, slow down the normal deterioration of the surface and keep the driveway intact. In addition, the application of a sealer will improve the overall appearance of the driveway. Again, all hardware and builder supply stores will carry this product.
- Small exterior foundation cracks. As we have discussed in other webpages on this website, the stopping of water entering the basement, must be done on the exterior of the foundation wall. There are sealants that are designed to provide a waterproof seal on the exterior foundation wall for small cracks and compromises in the foundation walls. Once again, as we have stated numerous times, any attempt to seal substantial cracks or issues with the foundation walls on the interior of the structure will eventually fail. Water must be stopped on the exterior of the basement or managed once inside the basement. Unfortunately there is no 100% solution to sealing the interior surface of foundation walls and stopping the flow of water into the basement. Eventually the water will penetrate the sealant, causing bubbles as well as compromises within the applied surface. Water on the interior of the foundation, or the basement slab, must be managed by either stopping the water, prior to entering the basement, or channeling the water, once it gains access into the basement.
The success of any sealant application is the preparation of the surface to be sealed. As with any product being placed over the top of another surface, the bonding of the applied material to the substrate is the primary element of success. If the sealant bonds to the substrate, and does not separate from the surface, the sealant will remain intact. Once the sealant starts to delaminate from the substrate, the entire system is compromised and eventually will fail.
What steps should be taken to ensure that the surface is prepared for the application of the sealant?
- If possible all other sealant, primer, paint, stain or other existing application to the surface must be removed. This removal should be accomplished by mechanical means if at all possible. Mechanical means is the use of sanding paper, emery cloth or grinding wheel. The reason that the material should be removed by mechanical means is to not introduce another chemical or solvent to the surface that is going to be coated with sealant.
- If all the old material cannot be physically removed from the surface, it is imperative that the edges of any remaining material be blended into the surface to be newly coated. There should be no obvious ridges or areas that are raised from the surface that will be covered with the sealant. In addition, if the existing sealants cannot be totally removed, there can be no part of the remaining material that is loose from the surface. This is critical. Do not think that the new application will bridge or seal the old material. This area will always present a compromised surface, and will be the first area to deteriorate.
- The temperature of the surface that will be accepting the sealant, must be within the designed parameters, as noted on the product labeling. This is important! The surface cannot be too hot or too cold. In most instances, the concern would be that the surface was too cold to apply the sealant. It is important that the characteristics of the surface to be sealed, is in accordance with the research and design requirements needed to provide the proper bond. Temporary heat must be applied to the ambient surrounding air, to properly apply the material, if the air is too cold. If the air is physically too hot, the application should be applied, once the temperature cools off.
- The surface must be dry from all moisture, for the proper bonding of the sealant on the surface. There can be no condensate, no moisture, or even a damp atmosphere may interfere with the proper bond of the sealant on the surface accepting the sealant.
- Proper ventilation is required, in all circumstances, when applying a sealant to a surface. Although this may appear to be a minor inconvenience, the stuff is smelly; this can be a hazardous condition and must be avoided. Ventilation should be maintained by placing fans to move the air within the area that the sealant is being applied. In addition, masks should be worn by the individual applying the sealant.
Sealants can be used to maintain your home and prevent moisture damage and deterioration.
However, although the manufacturers will promote their product as a miracle cure, sealants applied over the top of problematic areas, or situations will NOT solve the problem. If water or excessive moisture is entering your structure, there is an issue that will not be properly solved by the application of a sealant. Once again, although the DIY industry as well as the advertisements for miracle sealants will tell you otherwise, if properly constructed, there should be no need for sealants to stop water.
Proper construction should stop water, period, proper flashings, proper installation, etc.
Yes, there are caulking issues, there are roof sealant flashing issues, and there are expansion and construction joints that require the application of sealants to provide moisture integrity. However, in the majority of issues involving water damage, or concern within the home, the application of a sealant to solve the issue is only a temporary fix.
Hire that professional, who will review the issue, and guide you in the proper direction towards a permanent fix
The knowledge obtained by allowing a professional construction consultant or contractor review the water issues, will provide you with a recommendation regarding correction of the issue that will be permanent, and not simply a patch, that will eventually fail.
It is important that homeowners understand that water issues, must be properly corrected and resolved, failure to correct this type of issue will result in damage and future problems.
Water on the interior of your home is a major issue, and in most cases will not be simply corrected by the application of a coating or sealant over the top of the problem!
Find the real issue and correct it!