How to Stain Concrete: Adding Color to Cement Surfaces

Learn how to stain concrete and give your cement surface a permanent color that won't fade, dull, crack or peel.

Concrete This foyer incorporates acid stains of various colors.

The advice in this article may seem straightforward, but it is following the directions and being diligent that provide the best results.


9 Examples of Stamped and Stained Concrete Designs

1. Make sure the surface on which the stain will be applied is clean, free from unwanted defects, stains and markings and ready for coloration. When adding any translucent color to anything, the pattern and colors of the substrate will show through. It's similar to applying a wood stain to a piece of wood with knots and wood grain. Concrete stain can actually highlight and intensify the variations found in the concrete — natural as well as man-made blemishes and markings.

2. Use manufacturers' color charts as a guide only. Because acid stains react differently to each type of surface, it is imperative to do a sample on the actual concrete or surface that is going to receive the treatment. The methods and timing for the sample installed should be the same as how the rest of the surface will be stained. Even though you may encounter variables during the onsite sample, it's still the best way of predetermining how the stain will react with a specific substrate.

3. If all concrete were the same, an exact application procedure could be developed. But that simply isn't the case. Acid staining is as much art as function. You must understand the application technique as well as how much stain to apply. The installer's experience and the skill level play an important role when choosing an acid-stain finish.

Potentially great jobs can turn into disasters because of improper application methods. Too little product won't give complete coverage, nor will it etch the surface sufficiently to deeply deposit the color. Too much product can cause unwanted puddling and pooling, causing those areas to have too much color.

If you use the scrubbing method, remember to scrub with a natural flow and pattern. Otherwise, mop lines and obvious swirls may appear.

4. Removing residue and neutralizing the surface is key to the success of an acid-stained concrete finish. Residue from the acid etching must be removed, and the surface should be neutralized to ensure proper adhesion of the sealant or coating system. Before it's sealed, the surface is still subject to staining and damage at this point. Take care to thoroughly wet and neutralize the entire area to avoid boot prints, splashed residue marks and other man-made unnatural blemishes.

5. Once the concrete is sufficiently dry, apply a sealant coating. Although the sealant is usually the last stage of installation, it must be done right; an improperly applied sealer system can show roller lines, leave lint and debris in the finish, or delaminate or flake off the surface. Experienced professionals can choose and apply the right sealer for the job, using techniques such as spraying, cross-hatch rolling, back rolling and buffing (in the case of a wax finish).

A lot of work goes into a stained concrete finish, and practice makes perfect. If you hire a professional, choose someone who has the skills that match the level of difficulty of the job at hand. Visit past work and talk to some of the former customers.

Even if you hire the best acid-stain concrete contractor in your area, his abilities will depend on the surface he'll work with. It may not be possible to completely hide and blend in color on a badly stained and damaged concrete slab. The concrete slab is the decorative concrete artist's canvas, so it must be kept clean and free from stains, spills, paint and other flaws. That will ensure that the finish will be everything you hoped for when you chose to use acid stain as a finish.

This article was provided by ConcreteIdeas.com.

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