Although many people hire a contractor to apply a concrete stain to their floor, the process of polishing, painting or staining your concrete is easy and cheap enough to be a successful do-it-yourself project. However, staining and coating concrete surfaces is a tricky job to do well. Because most people decide to apply a concrete stain to their driveway or sidewalk to enhance the visual appeal of the surface, it pays to do some research to determine the best products for your specific task.
How Concrete Stains Work
There are many different varieties of concrete stain products, each intended for use with different surfaces and in different conditions. Generally, concrete stains work in one of two ways.
Some concrete staining solutions apply a thin layer of transparent film to the surface of the concrete, coating it like paint. These products tend to be the least effective concrete stains. Not only do they fade and become damaged with the sun and other natural wear and tear, but they also accentuate natural blemishes in the concrete itself.
The more effective concrete stains react with the surface layer of concrete to form a tough shell of calcium carbonate. This tends to provide a deeper stain, as well as a durable and damage-resistant coating for your concrete. Other varieties of concrete stain fill in minuscule gaps in the porous surface of the concrete. These stains work best for surfaces that are rough or permeable.
Choosing a Concrete Stain for Your Project
The concrete stain that you choose will be largely dependent upon the size of the concrete surface and the type of concrete itself. A tougher, firmer type of concrete will require a chemically bonding stain to thoroughly and evenly stain the surface. These types of stains will not work as effectively with rough concrete surfaces, however.
In all cases, be aware that a concrete stain is permanent. Although lower quality stains may fade or be damaged over time, there is no effective way to remove a stain from a concrete surface, short of demolishing that surface and reconstructing it. Because of this, always test out numerous concrete stain solutions before beginning your project.
Testing out multiple products will allow you to experiment with a variety of colors, designs and styles. You can use old cinder blocks or broken slabs of concrete, or you can pour your own small concrete molds to test different stains. Keep in mind that diluting the stain or adding a coloring agent may help you to achieve the color and pattern that you are looking for.
Once you have the stain and design selected for your project, be careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying the stain to ensure that the coloration comes out evenly. Always clean the concrete surface thoroughly when preparing to apply a stain, and be careful to wear proper safety equipment and clothing.
If in doubt about which concrete stain product is right for you, consult with a home improvement expert for advice. The proper stain and application can turn a bland concrete surface into a tasteful and pleasing addition to your home.