Concrete Staining for the Rest of Us

Concrete staining is an inexpensive and easy way to fix up the appearance of your concrete surfaces. Whereas tearing out concrete and replacing it can be very expensive and time-consuming, concrete staining is a perfect do-it-yourself job. Here is some helpful information to get you started on transforming your concrete surfaces.

Types of Concrete Stains

There are two main types of concrete stains – acid stains and acrylic stains. They work quite differently on different surfaces. The type of stain you choose should be according the desired look you hope to achieve.

  • Acid Stains: These stains chemically react with the free lime on the surface of your concrete and generally produce a natural translucent color. This may not be effective on exterior concrete over 15 to 20 years old, as much of the free lime may have leeched away. This type of stain works best on newer concrete.
  • Acrylic Stains: These are waterborne, and their pigments work into the pores and adhere to the concrete, creating a consistent, semi-translucent color. They resemble a dye and work to help cover imperfections and discolorations. This works best on older concrete because of the increased porosity. It also works best to disguise repairs that have been made on concrete.

Both types of staining supplies can be purchased either online or at your local home improvement or paint store. Shop around for both quality and price before purchasing stain for your project.

Things to Remember

Every piece of concrete is different and will accept stains in a different way. Having realistic expectations will help in the success of your project. Even a professional has a difficult time when trying to match a concrete stain with an exact color. It is recommended that you pick a complimentary color to your house’s brick or siding instead of trying to match it.

Basic Concrete Staining Process

  1. Prepare the surface of the concrete by cleaning it of all sand, stones, or leaves. Remove any discolorations or other blemishes on the concrete, as they will show through the stain. Cover other surfaces to prevent accidental staining.
  2. Apply the concrete stain with a mop, roller, or sprayer. If you are using acid stain, be sure to use acid-resistant brushes. You can even create patterns if you're feeling ambitious.
  3. Apply multiple coats to get the desired color, leaving adequate drying time between coats.
  4. If using acid stain, you will need to remove the acidic residue after the stain is dried and cured. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
    Generally a mixture of baking soda and water will work to remove the residue and then the floor can be mopped. A wet vacuum can remove remaining debris. Repeat using water. After it's dry, use a damp mop to remove any remaining residue.
  5. Seal the concrete using a brush, roller or spray. Look into all sealant options, including non-skid or slip resistant sealer for a steep area, as well satin or glossy finishes depending on your taste.