How to Stain Concrete

How To Stain Concrete Floors Indoors Or Out

Concrete floor stain gives you more bang for your buck, adding rich color as well as a beautiful sheen to ordinary concrete, and whether it’s for back yard projects or indoors, the methods of applications are the same.

Learning how to stain concrete will not only save you a small fortune, it also gives you a sense of satisfaction when it looks exactly the way you envisioned. It sure got us a ton of compliments from our neighbors!

Will acrylic concrete stain work for you? There’s a lot you need to think about which is why I’m going to share what I’ve learned plus several important updates at the end of this page.

Before photo on left shows faded, 10 year old concrete color. “after” photo (right) was taken the following week, after transparent concrete stain and a satin concrete stain sealer were applied. It also had been trampled with muddy shoes dozens of times, and it still looks good!

I chose Mason’s Select products for the environmental factor. Their transparent concrete stains are 100% acrylic, plus their cleaner and etching products are biodegradable and non-corrosive. I felt it was a safer alternative to muriatic or phosphoric acid ~ and my plants did too.

Learn How To Stain Concrete On The Internet?

Yes, I’ll admit that when the concrete was ready my assistant and I sat down in front of my computer and watched 10 different U-Tube videos related to acrylic concrete stain.

As with anything in life, including how to stain concrete floors, preparation is key! If you don’t read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, how can you expect the product to perform? Here’s the steps involved:

  1. Pressure wash the area. You can rent equipment, hire someone to do it for you, or buy an inexpensive setup.
  2. Use Concrete Cleaner & De-greaser to remove dirt, grease & oil stains.
  3. Use Safe Solution Concrete Etcher to further clean and prepare the surface by roughening up the concrete. I covered things like my garage and house door, trim, etc. with plastic film. This helped cut back on the amount of cleanup later.
  4. Use a diluted solution of concrete cleaner to neutralize the etching solution and let the concrete dry completely before apply stain.
  5. Outdoors, mask walls, doors, etc. at least 3 feet high with plastic to protect from over spray. Painters tape made for rough surfaces works best if your home is stucco, regular painters tape if it’s aluminum or vinyl sided.
  6. Apply the transparent concrete stain in circular motions and work in sections by using the natural score marks in the concrete if possible. Try to keep the same distance and spray pattern throughout section.
  7. Apply at least two coats of sealer with sprayer or roller. We rolled it on.

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How to stain concrete tip: Etched concrete is very porous – Never use a paint brush or roller to apply the first coat of colored concrete stain! Doing so will show brush marks and overlaps of the roller in your stain. Rollers are OK with clear sealer because lap marks dry clear.

Photo on the left is after concrete cleaning and etching, and photo on right is after 3 coats of stain and 2 coats of sealer were applied.

In the front yard (driveway walkways and steps) we used a pump up airless sprayer like those used to spray pesticides ($12.)The biggest drawback is that they “spit” a lot, depositing larger drops of color which can soak in and cause speckling.

We got better results on the back yard project because we switched to a Wagner Spray Fast Plus Power Airless Sprayer. (about $75.)

How to stain concrete tip: After cleaning and etching, concrete and adjoining surfaces must dry before you start applying, then allow concrete stain and sealers at least 4 hours dry time between coats.

How To Stain Concrete Trim ~ Adding Decorative Touches

After applying two to three base coats of my lighter color to all the concrete in the front yard, I then used a regular paint brush to apply the darker stain for the trim. While it was still wet, I used these round brushes found near the drywall tools at Home Depot (below) with a clockwise/counterclockwise motion to swirl out the brush marks. Attach to a broom handle if you don’t like kneeling on the concrete.

round drywall brushes were used to swirl the darker colors of the trim
For the back yard trim I switched it up and used a paint brush and a weenie roller, but that was after the lighter based coat was applied and dry. (many ways to do this)

Some people use painters tape to create patterns in the concrete with different colors, or to simulate grout lines as you would see with stone or tile. The reason I didn’t do that was my darker sections were edged when the concrete was installed, making it easy for me to cut in with a brush.

On the virgin concrete (aged over 30 days) in the back yard that was to be a dark trim, I first applied a base coat of Sandstone and let that dry, then used #60401 Coffee, to help match the old and new. After two coats of this color on the new and one coat on the old concrete, I put one coat #6040 Brownstone on top to match the warm reddish brown color of my house trim.

Before and after photos of the back yard projects using transparent acrylic concrete stain: Notice how the new concrete was much different in color from the old? Now you can’t tell the difference!

How To Stain Concrete Floors ~ Indoors

For indoor applications it’s basically the same except you will need to tape plastic up the wall at least six feet to protect from over spray.

How to stain concrete tip: Always wear a paint respirator (not a dusk mask) when spraying concrete stain, or any paint, indoors or out.

If you want know how to stain concrete floors to make them look like granite or marble, the secret is in the layers! By blending two or more colors (while still wet) with brushes or rolling with rags dampened in stain, you can create extra depth and movement.

Try to keep to circular motions, except when adding faux cracks or veins. Add lines of a slightly darker or lighter color concrete stain, and blend them to create natural looking faults in your faux stone. (I did this on the driveway to hide an uneven spray pattern) Dry brushes can help feather.

After all the steps are complete and you’ve applied at least two coats of concrete stain sealer, (with adequate dry time in between) you can apply one to two layers of wax to further protect the sealer from wear. It’s much easier to re-wax every so often to bring back that gorgeous sheen than it is to redo your floors.

Important Update

How To Stain Concrete So It Doesn’t Come Off?

A month after applying, my concrete stain started peeling off in areas where water drips down from up high. Four months later and halfway into an unusually rainy season, more of the product is lifting off.

Since most of the peeling is towards the lower edge of the slab, and it’s located towards the bottom of a hill, I suspect the concrete is wicking moisture from the sandy soil. If you suspect moisture could be an issue for your yard or even basement, concrete stain may not be the right choice. Also, dragging furniture or anything heavy, sharp, etc, across your concrete stain will tear the finish up so be careful when moving things around your patio or your home.

If your yard has decomposed granite, sandy areas, or small crushed stones, which gets tracked onto your patio, it will scratch the finish and wear it down over time. Weed whackers will whack the stain off too! Bottom line, be prepared to do touch ups, one or more times a year.

I don’t recommend acrylic concrete stain around pools, on slopes, or areas that get wet a lot, since it gets slippery. When I inquired with the manufacturer about an additive to make it less slippery, they told me to contact my paint store, who told me to contact the manufacturer.

The total cost was $500. in materials and $1,000. in labor for a helper ($25. hour x 40 hours), plus another 30 hours of my own labor (free) Even though it’s not perfect, concrete stain is by far the most fabulously frugal thing we could have done, covering approximately 1400 square feet of front, side and back yard projects.

This article on how to stain concrete floors is based on my experience, while others may have had different experiences. Do your own research and make your own conclusions but before you leave you may want to bookmark this page so you can easily find your way back.

You’ll find many more paint ideas as well as home remodel tips in the links below.

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