How do I Stain Concrete?

Ron Marr
Ron Marr
A man smoothing out a concrete floor.
A man smoothing out a concrete floor.

Deciding to stain concrete is a little like deciding to get dressed in a dark room. You reach into a pitch-black closet and make your selections, but it’s anyone’s guess whether your attire matches or clashes. You will be dressed, that’s a certainty, but your appearance will remain a mystery until you reach the light of day.

Still, if venturing out in public, being clothed beats the alternative. A similar analogy applies if you wish to stain concrete. Unless you are into monochromatic shades of whitish gray, stained concrete will look better than bare concrete. Also, it’s a do-it-yourself project that will end up costing less than $1 US Dollar (USD) per square foot (0.092 square meters). Moreover, it’s easy.

Concrete stains come in either acid or acrylic versions. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending upon the final appearance you most desire. Acid stains work by reacting with the free lime found in concrete, and will result in a final product possessing various shades and tones. It should be noted that acid-based stains will not usually work on concrete that is over a decade or more old. By the time concrete reaches that age, most of its free lime content has disappeared.

Acrylic stains contain pigments, much like a paint or dye, and they work their way into the concrete. Acrylics will always produce a more consistent color than acids. Acrylics also work well for staining old concrete, as the surface is more porous. The greater the porosity, the better the pigment can seep in and do its work.

The application method required to stain concrete is very simple. Using a hand-held sprayer, you coat the concrete with either your acrylic or acid stain. When the surface is completely covered, smooth it out with a broom. Then, spray another coating. Let the stain sit in place for five or six hours, and then wash it off.

The washing procedure is also simple. Use a regular mop and bucket, and clean up any gunk or residue left from the stain. Next, put on rubber gloves and dry the floor with light-colored rags or towels. When stain stops adhering to the rags or towels, you are done cleaning.

Don’t touch the surface for a couple of days, and allow the stain to completely dry. The final step is to apply sealer. Any sort of acrylic sealer with a wax coat is fine, and can be applied with a mop or squeegee.

There is one word of warning for those who decide to stain concrete. There is never a certainty of what the final appearance may be. Pour the same acid or acrylic stain on ten different slabs or floors, and you will have ten different results. On the other hand, at least your concrete is no longer naked.

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    • A man smoothing out a concrete floor.
      By: Lilyana Vynogradova
      A man smoothing out a concrete floor.