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For many years, decorative concrete contractors have been using acid-based chemical concrete stains to achieve rich, earth-toned color schemes resembling natural stone, marble, wood, or even leather. But today, contractors are no longer limited to earthy shades. Read More [+]

  • Staining How-To Get pointers for achieving great results with stains, from the surface prep stage to the final application of sealer. How to Stain Concrete
  • Concrete Staining E-book Discover four emerging trends in staining and get insights from veteran stain applicators. Concrete Staining Today
  • Compare Coloring Products Use this chart to easily compare acid stains, water-based stains, dyes and more. Compare Stain Types
  • Get the Look Gallery View our interior stained concrete installation gallery to see completed projects and find out what products were used. Get the Look - Stained Floor Pictures
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Stained Concrete Product Information
Concrete Stain Color Chart See samples of popular color choices for staining concrete floors and outdoor surfaces.
Staining Product Reviews Get an inside look at the latest stains and application equipment.
Concrete Stain Costs Get an overview of prices for acid and water-based stains, dyes and sprayers.

Newer products on the market-such as water- and solvent-based dyes-are greatly expanding the artist's palette with colors ranging from soft pastels to vivid reds, oranges, yellows, and purples. And in some cases, these newer stain products are easier and safer to apply.

Concrete stains are a mixture of water, hydrochloric acid, and acid-soluble metallic salts. Because of concrete's porous qualities, they penetrate and react chemically in the concrete. Concrete stains become a permanent part of the concrete. They're known for their durability and long-lasting color because concrete stains will not fade, chip, or peel off.

Concrete stains are also known for their translucent color. Because of the various conditions of concrete surfaces, concrete stains react differently creating one-of-a-kind color and patterning.

HOW TO STAIN CONCRETE

Whether new or old, concrete of any age can be stained. The concrete staining process will vary depending on the type of stain used, whether it’s being applied indoors or outdoors, and the effect you desire. Always follow the specific instructions provided with the stain you are using.

Generally, there are four important steps when staining concrete:

  • Surface preparation
  • Application of concrete stain
  • Cleanup (and neutralization of acid stains)
  • Sealing the concrete

Learning how to stain concrete is easy if you are a professional who’s already familiar with concrete, if you are a DIY homeowner, it will be more challenging, but not impossible. Make sure you thoroughly understand the process before attempting to stain concrete or else you may end up with disappointing results.

CONCRETE STAIN COLORS

The sky is the limit when it comes to concrete stain colors. Acid stains offer a variety of variegated earth tones, while water-based stains offer a broader range of hues, including black, white, yellow and orange. Additionally, many experienced concrete stain applicators will blend colors to create custom shades.

Various colors of stain are applied using small brush to create a detailed design.
Decorative Concrete Institute in Temple, GA

The most popular concrete stain colors are:

  • Brown
  • Gray
  • Tan
  • Green
  • Terra cotta
  • Blue

Many contractors also use sawcuts to create unique patterns on concrete floors or patios that can then be stained multiple colors. The cuts prevent the stains from bleeding into one another and mixing. Stencils made for use on concrete can also be used for creating impressive designs with concrete stains.

CONCRETE ACID STAINS

Acid stains work by chemically reacting with the concrete to change its color and can be used both indoors and outdoors.

Use an acid stain if you want:

  • Permanent color that won’t fade, chip or peel
  • Rich, natural color variations that bring character and distinction to your concrete
  • Deep earth tones that can be diluted to create amazing effects

The primary benefit of acid stains is that once the reaction is complete the color is permanent and won't fade, chip off, or peel away. Acid stains are translucent and produce a unique look every time depending on the condition of the concrete. The colors are limited primarily to earth tones and the acid in the stain must be neutralized to stop the reaction.

Tips for applying an acid stain to concrete:

  • Do not acid-wash before application
  • Wear protective gear and be cautious when working with acids
  • Allow acid stains to dry for 5-24 hours, depending on the intensity of color desired
  • Neutralize acid stains with alkaline soap and water

Learn more: Tips for Choosing the Right Stain for Your Project

WATER-BASED CONCRETE STAINS

Water-based concrete stains are a newer, non-reactive option for staining concrete. Like acid stains they are UV stable and can be used indoors and outdoors, but unlike acid stains they offer a full spectrum of colors with longer working times.

Use water-based stains if:

  • Your project calls for colors not available with acid stains
  • You want to be able to create artistic effects by blending or layering colors
  • You want a stain that’s safe and easy to apply

Additionally, water-based stains impart a more consistent color (as opposed to the strong variegation of acids stains). Many staining pros like using water-based stains because they are safer to apply, have faster drying times, are low in VOCs, and save time and labor. Most non-reactive stains call for acid washing to open and prepare the concrete surface to ensure good adhesion.

Water-based concrete stains come in the following options:

  • Solid color
  • Semi-transparent
  • Acrylic

Outdoors concrete stain is often applied with a sprayer.

OUTDOOR CONCRETE STAIN

Staining is the most affordable and quickest way to transform exterior concrete. In just a couple of days you can take a boring gray slab and transform it into a beautiful stained concrete patio, driveway or pool deck. Typically, acid stains are a more durable choice for exterior concrete stain projects than water-based formulas. However, water-based stains will do fine outside if re-sealed frequently. Ultimately, choosing the best outdoor concrete stain comes down to the desired color and look.

INDOOR CONCRETE STAIN

Stained concrete floors make beautiful additions to the interiors of homes and businesses alike. When selecting an interior concrete stain keep in mind that acid-based stains are good for high traffic floors due to their longevity, while water-based stains are easier to apply, require less cleanup and aren’t as toxic. Acid stained concrete floors have an old-world mottled look that blends well with stone and wood and helps bring a timeless appeal to your indoor spaces. Concrete floors colored with water-based stains will have more vivid, consistent coloring suitable to more modern interior designs.

CONCRETE STAINING TIPS

Knowing some tricks of the trade is always helpful when starting a concrete staining project. Make sure to read the instructions that come with the stain you are using before getting started.

When staining concrete consider the following:

  • Make sure the concrete is fully cured before applying concrete stains
  • Concrete can be re-stained as long as it hasn’t been sealed (or the sealer has been removed)
  • Once you know how they work acid and water-based stains can be used on the same project
  • Make samples or test in a discreet area before applying concrete stain to the entire surface
  • Always seal stained concrete, whether indoors or out, acid or water-based

Last updated: April 6, 2018


Featured Products
Single Component Stain EnduraStain by Newlook. Premium quality & performance.
Acid Stain by Surfkoat Makes up to 2 gallons. Great for marble look.
Water Based Stain 16 Colors - easy application & clean-up
Stain-Crete by Increte 9 standard colors. Useful for old or new concrete.
Water Based Concrete Stain Environmentally safe alternative to reactive stains
Renaissance Stain Discounts available for contractors. Up to 10%.
Reactive Concrete Stain Ready to use. Produces translucent, variegated, and other effects.
Stone Tone Stain 10 color options. Resistant to chipping and fading.
Metallic Stain by Westcoat Produces metallic ions that combine with concrete for a metallic look.
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