Posted by John Forguson on 5/29/2019 to News
Bigfoot, Elvis, and a Lifetime Sealer walked into a bar… Not to be cliche, but this old joke frame provides the perfect springboard for discussing a topic that continues to pop up in the stone care industry - “lifetime sealers”.
It seems that every year-or-so another company comes out with a “lifetime guarantee” program to entice you into buying their product. The latest debutante to the party targets quartz (man-made agglomerate) counter tops. Interestingly enough, a sizeable percentage of quartz countertops don't require sealing, at least early on into their lifespan. Even more interesting is the fact they’ve priced this product literally three times higher than their competitors in the market space. Why, you ask? Because of the “lifetime” guarantee, and the fact that a certain demographic will consistently buy into it. Does this guarantee (and others like it) have a catch? Funny you should ask…
Every “lifetime” guarantee we’ve seen in the industry comes with a caveat - you must use their cleaning product(s) exclusively for the entire life of your surface material. If you don’t, the warranty on your “lifetime” sealer becomes null-and-void. There is a very good reason for this - “lifetime” sealers really don’t exist. More sealer (impregnator) must be applied to the surface from time-to-time to ensure complete protection. This is why they force you to use their cleaning products, exclusively. These cleaning products contain a small amount of the original sealing polymers in them, and they reinforce the protective capabilities of the original sealer with each use. In the industry, we call this supplementation. Without it, these “lifetime” sealers would not last beyond their normal lifespan of 12-60 months, based on quality, application, usage, and aftercare.
Some Background Information
At a high level, all sealers (technically, impregnators) consist of two components: impregnating polymers (the part that actually seals the material), and the carrier (the liquid that carries the polymer into the stone). Therefore, the effectiveness and longevity of any sealer is determined by the type and quality of the polymers, and how well the carrier deposits those polymers into the capillaries and pores of the stone.
Here’s where it gets interesting: there are only three primary manufacturers of impregnating polymer molecules in the United States. They are (in no specific order), 3M, Dupont, and Advanced Polymer (AVP). Well over 90% of the sealers manufactured in America use polymers from one (or more) of these providers. All these manufacturers provide polymers in different “grades” based on uniformity and purity. “A” grade polymers are the most effective (and expensive), followed in succession by the lesser-quality grades.
The most expensive part of manufacturing a sealer resides in the cost of the polymer. A high polymer density sealer manufactured with “A” grade polymers will be more expensive. Conversely, a low polymer density product with sub-grade polymers will be less expensive. There is no “magic” polymer that suddenly transforms a product into a “lifetime” sealer. They are all susceptible to degradation from abrasion, ultra violet light, and chemical exposure. No exceptions. However, if you supplement them with regular use of a cleaning product that contains the same molecule and a carrier component, their lifetime can be extended almost indefinitely.
A Closer Look
Let’s take a look at products from three industry-leading companies:
- Stone Pro - Recognized by many industry professionals the performance leader in next-generation, low VOC, low toxicity sealing formulations. Utilizes California-developed aerospace and automotive coating technology to create low environmental impact, high performance products. Also just happens to manufacturer a supplemental cleaner.
- GranQuartz - The largest supplier of equipment and chemicals to the stone industry in North America. High quality chemical products, most manufactured in Germany.
- Lithofin - Northern Europe’s most popular premium stone care manufacturer. Perceived by many industry professionals as having the most potent chemical line in the world. World-wide acceptance and recognition for quality. Over 50 years of continuous product development and refinement.
What do these manufacturers have in common? They do not offer a “lifetime” sealer to their customers. Why? Because they value the reputation they’ve honestly earned for the performance and usability of their products. They don’t need sales gimmicks - the quality of their products speak for themselves. Of the three, Stone Pro could immediately offer a “lifetime” solution. Any surface sealed with their impregnators and routinely cleaned with their supplemental cleaner, Crystal Clean, would in effect provide “lifetime” protection. Could Lithofin or GranQuartz do it? Yesterday, if they chose to, but they don’t. They keep their prices fair for the quality they deliver, and do not rely on gimmicks or come-ons to sell their products.
Ok… So You Bit on the “Lifetime” Warranty - What Are You Really Getting?
Of all the “lifetime” sealer warranties we’ve seen in the U.S., there are only two remedies made available to the customer if there is a sealer failure - either a refund of the sale price of the original product, or a new container of the same sealer. Based on the company, it will either be one-or-the-other. Will they pay a professional to deal with the aftermath of the failure? No. Will they replace your stone if the staining can’t be rectified? No. You either get your money back, or a new bottle of the same sealer that failed in the first place. Oh, did I mention you need to prove that you’ve been using their supplemental cleaner when you file your claim?
Here’s the net/net:
- "Lifetime” sealers, as stand-alone products, simply don’t exist.
- There is no magic polymer or carrier.
- All “lifetime” sealers require the use of a supplemental cleaner. Stop using the cleaner and the warranty is null and void. In addition, the remedy for a failure is usually limited to the (inflated) price you paid for the sealer, or a brand new bottle of the stuff that failed in the first place.
So, if you do decide to buy a "lifetime" sealer at an inflated price, be sure to spend the extra dollars and have Bigfoot or Elvis do the application!