How To Stain Concrete Floors

DIY Concrete Stain Is Easy!

Applying concrete stain is not difficult or expensive. What if I told you that you could take that ugly, cold, gray garage floor or any other surface and turn it into a work of art that gets praise from friends, family, or customers?

Epoxy flooring is one alternative for a garage floor coating, but concrete stain is a more viable, long term solution over paint or epoxy.

What if I also told you the cost of applying the stain yourself is less than $.50 per sq/ft? By showing you how to stain concrete floors, I am going to show you a simple and inexpensive way to turn an eyesore into a beautiful masterpiece. With concrete stain, you can have the durability and the ease of cleaning that concrete is known for, with the look of stone or marble.

The name “stained concrete” can give off the wrong impression on how the whole process works. You are not actually staining the flooring, but you are using a mixture of acid, metallic salts, and other materials to cause a chemical reaction that changes the composition (and color) of the concrete. Beware of imitators that claim to be these acid-based products but are really just film. These films are like epoxy flooring and will not last as long or look as good as a legitimate stain.

Step by Step Instruction

Step 1: Equipment – Tools & Materials

The first part of this staining guide is going to cover everything you need to do get your surface ready. This includes getting your materials and equipment, testing out the color, fixing imperfections, and washing the area.

Before you get your project started, you need to have all the necessary materials for the job. Most of these items can be purchased or rented at affordable prices.

Protective Wear

Protection for eyes, mouth, feet, arms, and legs. We are going to be using a mild acid here, so it is necessary to have the proper protection. Goggles and a face mask are a must. It is also recommended that you wear gloves, long pants, and a long shirt. The product will not do any major damage if you get it on your arms or legs, but you will know it immediately if it comes in contact with your skin.
Protection for eyes, mouth, feet, arms, and legs. We are going to be using a mild acid here, so it is necessary to have the proper protection. Goggles and a face mask are a must. It is also recommended that you wear gloves, long pants, and a long shirt. The product will not do any major damage if you get it on your arms or legs, but you will know it immediately if it comes in contact with your skin.

Tools & Materials

  • Scraper, quick dry concrete, wire brush or other method to remove liquids. All your imperfections are going to show through even after the application. These items will help you get the area ready to receive the liquid. If your concrete is brand new, you can probably skip these items.

  • Painters tape and paper or plastic covering. You will want to protect your baseboard, and lower part of the wall with these items
  • Broom. This will be used for cleaning and evening out the solution on the floor.
  • Wet vac. This will be used for cleaning and removing excess liquid from the surface.
  • Sprayer. This is the recommended way to apply the stain.
  • Paint tray and roller. This will be used to apply the sealer.
  • Acid concrete stain. Enough to cover desired area.
  • Sealer. This will protect your concrete and will bring out the best colors.
  • Acrylic floor wax. This is going to make your floor look great and make it incredibly easy to maintain.

“NOTE: It is important to remember that any surface that already has a sealer or curing agents on it will not be stainable. When washing the surface, DO NOT use an acid wash; this will cause a reaction with the top layer of your floor, and it removes the ability to color the surface.”

Step 2: Choose & Test Your Colors

The first thing you do is choose a color you like. After, test the colors that you are considering using. Since stained concrete is the result of a chemical reaction, the results will be different for each unique surface. The color charts provided by the manufacturers are only guides, so you will want to see for yourself how it will look on your concrete. You will usually be able to get samples from the manufactures before you make a purchase. Find an area that is out of sight (a closet is perfect), and clean the area.

Once the surface is completely dry, box off the area you will be testing with tape. With a sponge, apply a 1:1 diluted solution of the stain and water. Make sure to label each sample, so you do not get them mixed up.

Let the sample areas dry for at least three hours before you return to check on them. Wash off any leftover residue with a wet sponge. After the areas are clean and wet, you will be able to get a good idea of what they will really look like once the process is completed. If you like what you see, it is time to move ahead with the project.

Step 3: Preparing The Concrete Surface

The first step of preparing your surface is to vacuum around the edges of your walls. Then, tape and plastic off your walls and door frames.

The next step is repairing the floor. If you have new concrete, this part will be a breeze. If you have old concrete with lots of cracks and stains, this will most likely be the most difficult task. After applying the stain to the concrete, you will still be able to see any cracks or imperfections that already existed. Think about how the grain and knots of wood look after it is stained. This is very similar with concrete staining. If your surface is new, or in excellent shape, you can skip to the cleaning stage.

Hairline cracks can add character to the final product, but anything bigger should be filled. To do this, begin by vacuuming the crack to remove all debris. Then fill the crack with concrete glue, and let it set.

Then fill the crack with concrete glue, and let it set.

After the glue has set, fill the crack with anchoring cement, and let it dry. Scrape off any high spots and sand down the new surface until it is smooth. Repeat this process until all unwanted cracks are repaired.

Scrape off any imperfections and remove any unwanted stains. CLR works well to remove rust stains, and Glue-B-Gone should be used to get rid of any carpet glue that is still around. If a spot is being difficult, you might have to use a wire brush to remove it.

Now you will want to give the area a full washing. Scrub the floor with a TSP and water mixture (1 cup TSP to 4 gallons of water). With your wet vac, suck up all the water, and rinse your floor with clean water. After your floor is completely dry, you will want to go over it with a vacuum again to ensure all debris is gone. Before you begin applying the stain, you will want to make sure the surface is completely dry, so it is best to leave it overnight.

Click here to get a free estimate from a local contractor to stain your floors for you!

Now, after you have selected the right stain for your project, we finally get to the fun part; how to apply the color.

Step 4: How To Apply Concrete Stain

“Important – One thing you should remember before you get started with the concrete is that you are going to be working with a low strength acid. It is not very dangerous, but you need to protect your arms, legs, and especially your eyes. You should also wear a face mask so you do not inhale the fumes. When picking out clothes to wear for the job do not go with anything you are very fond of, because there will likely be some damage done to those items.”

The application of the color is actually the easiest aspect of this type of project. You should dilute the liquid with water, using a 1:1 ratio. I like to use a bucket for the mixing and then fill the sprayer from the bucket.  Ideally, the application process should be a two person job. One person will spray on the stain, while the other follows behind with a broom to scrub in the solution.

When applying, the process will be made easier (and get better results) by using a systematic approach. Start at the back of your area. The person controlling the sprayer will spray on the solution while the person controlling the broom follows behind scrubbing it into the concrete. The broom is going to leave brush strokes, so once you get half way done with your current length, the sprayer should go back over that area and apply a second coat. Doing this will get rid of any trail or brush strokes and give you a natural and consistent look.

Since you do not want the edges to dry, you should go end to end in a “typewriter” fashion. This simply means that you start at the left side of the room, work your way to the right side of the room, and start the next “level” working from the right side to the left. Make sure to always go over each area with a second coat to remove the marks the broom leaves behind. Repeat this process until the entire surface is covered.

Once you are finished, you need to let the area dry. The amount of time will vary depending on which brand of concrete stain you use.

Step 5: Cleaning The Acid Stained Floor

After the proper reaction time, you will want to clean the surface with a mixture of baking soda and water. This will neutralize the acid (this just means it will stop the reaction), and it will remove any residue that might still be on your finished flooring. One person should go over the area completely with a mop and bucket (filled with the baking soda and water solution), while the other follows behind with a wet vac to suck up all the dirty water. It is very important that neither people step on the un-neutralized area, as this could leave footprints. Let this dry for a bit, and clean the floor 1-2 more times for best results. You will notice that when it dries, it will look a bit chalky. Do not worry about this as the surface will only reach its full potential after the sealer is added.

After this step is finished, your work for the day is done. You need to let the surface dry fully overnight. It is best to use fans to ensure it is dry before coming back tomorrow and applying the sealer.

Step 6: Apply Sealer

The sealer should be very easy to put on. The most important part is that you use a sealer that is meant to work hand-in-hand with your brand of stain. Put the sealer in a

paint pan, and roll it on. Allow it to fully dry (read the manufacturer’s label for drying time), and apply a second coat. After the first coat is on, you will notice that the colors are now much richer and fuller; this is the stained concrete effect that you have been working so hard to get. Once the final coat of the sealer is completely dry, it is now safe to walk on and return furniture to the room.

Staining concrete provides protection, but if you want an addition level of protection, as well as making it easier to clean, it is recommend that you add 3-4 coats of a finish. Floor finish is a wax that adds another layer of protection to your flooring, while making it look great and allowing for easy clean ups. The finish applies easily; just spill it over the floor and spread it around with an applicator. Let each coat dry for about an hour before you put on the next one.

Now that you know how to stain concrete floors… what are you waiting for!? This process is an easy, affordable, and effective way to turn those ugly, dull, and boring surfaces into something you can be proud to show other people.

And remember, if this process isn’t quite what you had in mind, there are many other options to decorate your area like paint, stamps, and mats.  If you go with paint, there are specific epoxy based paints for concrete surfaces.  Regardless of what type of decorative floor you go with, you need to also remember the importance of protecting your concrete.

Or if you would like a trained professional to complete this project…
Click here to get a free estimate from a local contractor to stain your concrete floors for you!