Floor Sealer

Do You Need Vinyl Floor Sealer – To Seal or Not To Seal

Do You Need To Use A Vinyl Floor Sealer?

Here is one of the more common questions when it comes to finishing floors. Do you need to use a vinyl floor sealer?

The debate goes back and forth on whether you need to use sealer on tile prior to applying finish.

This lack of understanding is due to a few common misconceptions.

Although there have been many that have written on the topic, it seems few get it right. I will try to clear it all up for you. 

What Is Vinyl Floor Sealer?

Vinyl Floor Sealer Explained

Vinyl Floor Sealer

Floor sealer is a polymer based coating that protects vinyl tile floors. It acts much like a floor finish. It is fairly easy to apply and is very durable.

What allows it to hold up so well is the make up of the polymer molecules. Their size is larger than standard floor finish, which is pretty standard across the board regardless of brand or solids content.

Since there are only a few manufactures of floor finish polymers in the world, the manufactures all use similar compounds when blending their finishes. The floor finish solids content only reflects the amount of polymers that are used in the finish.

A floor sealer uses a completely different size polymer that is significantly larger than floor finish. This makes a much stronger film on the floor. It also fills in the pores of the floor faster. The larger molecules stack up quicker, thus reducing the amount of floor finish that is needed.

Floor sealers can be used at a ratio of 1:2, meaning that 1 coat of floor sealer equals 2 coats of regular floor finish. Although the cost of floor sealer is usually about a third more that standard floor finishes, at 1:2 it becomes more economical.

Why Does Vinyl Floor Sealer Not Shine?

When a vinyl floor sealer is used, the larger polymer molecules are not a microscopically smooth as floor finish. This prohibits the light from reflecting directly back to the eye. Because the light is deflected, it loses some of its energy and therefore appears dull to the eye.

With some tile sealer polymers though, a burnisher can be used to thermally smooth the floor, thus producing some shine. applying a floor finish over a floor sealer is the best way to achieve a glossy maintainable floor.

When should you use Floor Sealer?

Vinyl Floor Sealer With Floor FinishThere are a lot of opinions on this subject but here is my standard rule of thumb. When you plan on maintaining the floor coating and doing regular scrub and re-coating is when you need to use a sealer.

Since there is a desire to prolong the duration between stripping or removing the film, the floor sealer provides a solid base to work with. With any tile  maintenance program, the goal should be to keep the dirt from grinding through to the tile itself. The best way to do this is to lock up the pores with a floor sealer.

This also reduces the cost for the initial coating process.

The draw back to floor sealer is that the larger molecules are potentially more difficult to remove once it is time to strip the floor.

Because of this, a floor care program that includes completely stripping the floor on a regular, short-term (1 year or less) basis, should use a regular floor finish to lessen the time it will take to strip the floor.

Other Uses For Vinyl Floor Sealer.

While most vinyl floor sealers are intended for use on vinyl tile, over the years, I have found several other uses.

Any floor that is very porous becomes a candidate for sealer. Specifically rubber floors come to mind.

Many rubberized flooring manufactures do not recommend any coatings but in my experience they become extremely difficult to maintain.

The deep pores and flexible surface attracts and holds dirt, leaving them dull and dingy.

Applying 2-3 coats of a floor sealer fills in the pores and makes cleaning much easier. Sealing  up the pores and removing the dirt also increases the traction on the floor, making it safer as well.

What Is A Sealer/Finish Then?

There are products known as sealer/finish. The main distinguishing factor with true sealer/finishes are, once again, the size of the polymer molecule. The size of a sealer/finish molecule is in between a floor finish molecule and a floor sealer molecule.

This makes it easier and quicker to build up a base while still providing some shine because the molecules are able to be closer together.

The real determining factor with whether to use a floor sealer or not is your maintenance program. If you are able to maintain a floor over completely refinishing it, floor sealers are an easy way to save money and achieve a long-lasting shine.

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21 replies
  1. Doug Payne
    Doug Payne says:

    Hey nice article, been doing floors for over 30 yrs. Anyway Stripped a floor last night that had sealer on it (don’t get them very often) and it was a pain. Anyway long story… So 1 other thing about sealers vs regular finishes. Is that the VCT out there nowadays is a different construction vs how they use to made. So the “porosity” of the floor is different vs what was out there even 5 years ago. In fact I find a lot of times floors need to be “broke” in a few times before they hold finish very well.. Nice article

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Doug, thanks for you comment. Yes, some sealers can be difficult to remove. Most modern sealers though come off much easier than they used to. As for new floors, as I am sure you know, they need to be stripped before the first finish is applied and take several more layers than an older floor. One tip I learned years ago is to burnish a new floor before putting finish down. Always seems to shine faster.

  2. shaun
    shaun says:

    Hi, are there situations when a sealer ANDa finish are used? The home we are purchasing has 6″ American Walnut floors with an oil based SEALER on the bottom and a water based Finish on top. How should these floors be properly maintained? Buffed and then water base finish? Thanks!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Shaun, Thanks for the question. When it comes to wood, there isn’t really a sealer and finish. There is just oil and water based finishes. It sounds like you are on the right track. Water based finishes can go on top of oil based. Just not the other way around. I would recommend cleaning the floor very well, and then applying water based finish. Let me know how it turns out!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Ken. You can apply how ever much you feel is needed. I prefer to add some more protection with 2 coats of sealer and more finish, but often time and budgets do not allow for the extra coatings. Work with what you have just know that it may take more cleaning and maintenance to keep the floor looking good.

      • Larry
        Larry says:

        My answer to customers regarding this was alway,”the floor predicates how many coats of seal,you continue sealing until it is a consistent even gloss”.Ps remember don’t put every coat against the wall. Stay away from the wall to avoid buildup !

  3. Shelby
    Shelby says:

    Im going to wax halls and entrances of a school building. Its been waxed probably a million times. I stripped the floor using ammonia & water and a brown scrupping pad (not sure of technical terms yet. Im still learning). Would it be necessary to add seal?

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Shelby, Thank you for your question. Sealer is only going to work if you have the floor completely stripped, meaning all of the old finish is removed. If you just used ammonia, it is not likely that all of the finish was removed. Be sure to rinse the floor thoroughly afterward. Any finish left on the floor holds stripper like a sponge and will dry out. When you apply the new finish, the liquid in the finish will reactivate the dried stripper and cause quite a mess.

  4. Connie
    Connie says:

    I just got new vinyl floor in kitchen that is porous and I am in an apartment. I wanted to seal it so dirt doesn’t get in the ridges/fine lines that make it look wood grain. My concern is having to strip and reseal.
    How often would that need to be done.
    Is there any chance a stripper, sealer or finish would harm the dark wood color or material?
    What is the point of the finish coat if you don’t want a shiny surface?
    Is there a significant difference in the wear and need to clean on floor without a sealer?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Connie, thank you for your question. I would suggest for you to find the manufacturer of the flooring and see what they recommend. While most flooring is pretty standard, new technologies and materials are coming out all the time.

  5. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    Great article! Thank you for the all of the information. I’m trying to figure out the best method for leaning my mother’s kitchen floor. I think the floor is about 8 years old and made of vinyl. It attracts dirt badly. Like Shelby, I used ammonia and a scrubber (twice) to remove the build up on the floors. My goal is to protect the floor from further build up and leave it shiny in the meantime. My mother is unable to deep-clean the floors herself and I am only able to do it about once every 1-2 years. I’m currently considering a high-gloss finish sealer, but don’t want to make the situation worse. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Sandi,
      If possible, check with the flooring manufacturer. These types of finishes and sealers are meant for commercial tile. Residential flooring can be very different.


  6. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Hi, I’ve just installed vinyl peel and stick tiles and I was wondering if a sealer is sufficient to protect the tiles and fill the joins where the tiles come together. Would I also have to use a polish after? It’s the floor of a small workshop and so I’m not too fussed about how it looks, but would like it to shine. I just don’t want the edges of the tiles to peel up from dirt getting into the joined edges. Thanks!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Kelly. Thanks for your question. I would refer to the manufacturers maintenance and installation guide. Many common brands do recommend applying some type of finish on the floor. If this is the case, you will need to do a quick stripping of the floor to remove the factory seal. Once that is done, you can apply 2 coats of sealer which will protect the floor and then you can top it off with 3-4 coats of regular floor finish. But I do stress that you should check with what the manufacturer recommends so you do not void the warranty on the flooring.

  7. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I have a very old kitchen floor…that had burn marks on it. I bought a touch up repair kit and it worked well. It came with lacquer to apply over the painted areas, but it didn’t help cover it. It was as if I never put anything over the paint. I decided to use a floor finish over it…I put 3 coats on it…but again it didn’t seem to cover the painted area. You can see the place I painted…it looks dull compared to the other unpainted areas and you can feel,the roughness of the paint when you touch it. The dirt sticks to the painted areas and I have to continually get down and scrub it with a scouring pad that would normally be used for pots and pans….would a sealer work better than the floor finish I put on the floor? If I put a sealer on it …would it cover the painted areas and would the dirt stop sticking to the paint? If so…what sealer would you recommend? Thank you for your Help!!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Lisa, Thank you for your question. The new paint is more porous than the older area. I don’t think sealer is an option. It would have had to be applied prior to the other finish. What I would recommend doing is to apply another 3 coats of finish to the floor. This will build up a thicker film and fully coat the newly painted areas.
      Good Luck!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the wood surface in a regular manner, it is also important to seal them semi-annually. Applying sealers on the floor twice a year will prolong the life expectancy of your bamboo surface. Sealers are best […]

  2. […] The relatively deep pores quickly absorb the finish which is why a sealer is used rather than a traditional floor finish. Most people don’t necessarily want a synthetic rubber floor to shine,  but want to provide a clean-able surface that has great traction. I previously published an article about the difference between sealers and finishes that you can find here. […]

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