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Do It Yourself Concrete Staining-What You Need to Know

Updated on December 3, 2009


Do It Yourself Concrete Staining and What you Need to Know


Do it yourself concrete staining is the cheapest and easiest way to enhance the appearance of your concrete surfaces. The alternatives such as ripping out your concrete and replacing with new concrete or even using a decorative overlay may not be for the DIYer. But before you commence your staining project there are several things you need to know.

There are two types of concrete stains to choose from, acid stains and polymer stains. Concrete acid stains create color by introducing metal salts to the free lime in the concrete and this creates the beautiful translucent look that we all love. They can manufacture mottled, variegated and sometimes multi-hued coloring. A unique outcome can be expected from every concrete floor because the acid stains react differently to each surface depending on how it was finished. Polymer stains are waterborne and have pigments that seep into the pores and adhere to the concrete, therefore creating a more consistent, semi translucent color like that of a dye. Polymer stains may help mask scratches, chips and discolorations whereas concrete acid stains actually enhance them.

For most concrete surfaces acid and polymer based stains may work equally as well, but the one you use depends on the particular look you are going for. But, there may be certain cases where one type of stain may work just a little better than the other. For aged, exterior concrete (more than 20-25 yrs old) acid concrete stains may not stain as darkly because much of the free lime has been exhausted. Polymer stains are great for old concrete because of its increased porosity over time. Concrete acid stains may work better with newer concrete because the free lime has not been used up. If repairs need to be made such as patching pop outs or scaling, then polymer stains may be the better choice to help disguise the repairs. Nearly all patching materials will stand out when using concrete acid stains. For smooth trowelled interior surfaces with less porosity, acid stains are usually better because they don't require as much penetration to color the concrete.

Before you start this project it is really important to have some realistic expectations for the outcome. Concrete staining can transform lifeless, gray concrete surfaces into a beautiful and colorful finish, but it's almost impossible to know precisely how the finished concrete surface will turn out, especially with concrete acid stains. Pretty much every single concrete slab is different and will take stains in a different manner. The very same concrete stain color will react differently on two sepoerate concrete slabs. There are only a handful of pros that can tell you what a floor will look like before they start. For this reason, it's not a good idea to try to exactly match the color of concrete to anything else such as brick or siding. There's a pretty good chance you may not be successful. Instead, choose a complimentary color or shade for your concrete. For instance, if you have light brown siding, then choose a dark brown stain.

The absolutely most critical part of staining is the preparation of the concrete surface. It is important that you have a good idea what you would like your concrete to look like before you prep the concrete for staining. You get one shot at getting it right unless you want to do a major overhaul to the surface. Staining your own concrete floors is really not that hard but you have to be diligent in the prep stage to achieve the results that you may expect.

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