Compare color options for acid stains, water-based stains and concrete dyes
Updated February 10, 2021
Staining Concrete Offers Design Versatility
Stains are a great way to add color to concrete both indoors and out. They are frequently used on interior concrete flooring and outdoor patios and more to impart rich colors. Bob Harris of the Decorative Concrete Institute describes stains as producing an organic look with a rich patina and warm variegated color effects. Stains are best known for earthy colors, however in recent years the palette has begun to expand.
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Acid stains provide natural color and depth to concrete floors and other surfaces. Many homeowners are attracted to the transparent, variegated finish that these stains impart. The palette for acid stains is usually limited to earthy tones, such as tans, browns, terra cottas and soft blue-greens.
These sample colors from Kemiko Decorative & Industrial Floor Finishes can give you an idea of the types of hues available.
Acid Stain Color Chart (PDF).
Comparatively, water-based stains come in a much broader range of hues, including black, white and even vivid yellow or orange. According to Chris Sullivan, author of the e-book Concrete Staining Today, the introduction of new stain technology allows contractors to achieve colors and finishes that are even more unique then those previously obtained from classic acid-based stains alone.
These sample colors from Brickform can give you an idea of the variety of shades available.
Water-Based Stain Color Chart (PDF).
Dyes take the color vibrancy up another level. Often used on polished concrete floors or to make bold graphics, logos or stenciled designs.
Here is a sample of possible colors for concrete using concrete dyes. Shown here are the dyes used over gray concrete, they will look different over polished concrete or a skim coat.
Concrete Dye Color Chart (PDF)
Game room floor gets upgrade with layers of rich brown stain. Concrete Arts, Hudson, WI
Here are the colors we used used most often:
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Traditional stains will give you a semi-transparent finish great for accenting the natural cracks and imperfections of your concrete surface. However, solid color stains are available if you wish to completely cover your existing concrete. These are applied in a similar manner to paint or coatings.
Concrete stains are great to use both indoors and outdoors. Applications range from:
Many stains offer UV stability and wear resistance, limiting fading and making your surface look vibrant for years to come. Indoors, water-based stains offer low VOCs, little to no odor and a wider color palette. Outdoors, acid stains offer the most realistic coloring for mimicking natural materials.
Since both acid and water-based stains produce a color unique to each stained surface, it is wise to test the color or colors you select before having them applied to an entire floor or patio. Request that your contractor apply a small amount of stain in an inconspicuous place so that you can be confident in your color choice.
If you are not happy with the test color, don’t feel limited to the options shown by stain manufacturers, many contractors can custom blend stains to create the exact shade you desire. Plus, different application techniques can be used to achieve unique looks. See some examples of staining techniques.