There are many benefits to sealing pavers, but it's not absolutely necessary. It really depends on your expectations of pavers and how long you would like them to look great. Pavers that aren't sealed will be more likely to grow weeds in the joints, they will fade and loose their color from wear and UV breakdown, and because most newer paver sealers include an additive that will harden the joint sand it is less likely that you will have settling or shifting caused by joint sand loss.
All that being said, yes, you should seal your pavers. Most paver manufacturers will tell you that it's not required to seal your pavers; however, it is highly suggested.
I'm going to try and answer this question without being redundant. If you don't seal your pavers, they won't deteriorate and wither away. You will likely have to clean your pavers more frequently, and the stains will be harder and, in some cases, impossible to remove. You see, sealing was designed to protect pavers from rain, snow, ice, and even sun (although most pavers are designed to be UV resistant). Sealing can also protect your pavers from anything foreign that might fall on them – staining from oil, leaves, spills. Sealing creates an invisible layer on top of your pavers that repels water, oil, and anything else you might accidentally drop, as long as you wash it away as soon as you notice it.
Vegetation/weeds will likely grow in paver joint sand if you don't seal your pavers. A properly installed paver patio with proper drainage will go a long way to prevent weeds; however, sealing pavers with a joint stabilizing sealer will harden the sand in the joint making it very difficult for weeds to grow. A lot of people are confused where weeds in the joints of pavers come from. It's often thought that the weeds come from beneath the pavers and grow through the joint; or that maybe there were seeds in the sand setting bed and they germinate and grow up through the joint. Both of these cases are wrong and probably impossible. Weeds in pavers almost always come from seeds being blow in and deposited into the sand joint from neighboring weeds. If you have a lot of weeds in your yard or landscape beds, it's almost a guarantee that you will have weeds in your pavers. Of course, sealing your pavers with a joint stabilizing sealer will help combat the weeds.
If you notice sinking spots or your pavers shifting, chances are its not a result of your pavers not being sealed. It's more than likely a result of poor base installation or edge restraint failure. That being said, another leading cause of pavers shifting around is the lack of sand in the paver joint. The sand in the joint acts as a spacer between each paver. When that sand goes away, there are little spaces between each paver, allowing them to move around because they're no longer tight. If you were to seal your pavers with a joint stabilizing sealer, it would prevent sand loss, which in turn could prevent your pavers from settling or shifting.
Of course we're going to tell you that you can't, its our job. Just kidding! However, there are some things that can go drastically wrong if you don't know what to look for when sealing your pavers. Some of the most common problems that we see from DIY paver sealing is a hazing or a white film trapped under the sealer. If this happens, the only option is to strip all of the sealer (which is a tough job) and start all over again. We also see pavers sealed that weren't properly cleaned first. We use specialized equipment to clean the pavers. Since the sealer enhances colors, you may not notice a stain after cleaning, but after sealing it, it could be improved, causing the stain to look worse than it did before cleaning it.
You really won't save much money by cleaning and sealing pavers yourself. You will pay retail for the sealer; you'll more than likely have to rent a pressure washer ($50-$100 per day), you'll need to buy new sand, buy paver cleaner, and possibly efflorescence remover and not to mention the time it will take you. We're able to clean and seal most paver patios and driveways in one day – we're efficient and have the right equipment. It could take you an entire weekend or more, depending on how large your project is. And who wants to spend their weekend cleaning/sealing a patio?
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