Diamond D Company in Capitola, CA.

When applying stain to either new or existing concrete, understanding the basics -- from surface prep to final sealing -- are vital to a successful outcome. "Even staining specialists with years of experience can encounter problems from time to time," says Chris Sullivan, vice president of sales and marketing for ChemSystems Inc.

Using the right application tools is important too, especially with acid-based stains, which require an investment in acid-resistant brushes and spray equipment. Some tools, such as mops, rollers and squeegees, should only be used by experienced applicators because they can leave undesirable roller marks or streaks of color.

Keep in mind that once the stain is down, the color is permanent-there's no going back. Unlike paint, stains penetrate the surface and react with the concrete making future color changes are difficult. If you have any doubts, hire the services of an expert, especially if the slab is large or requires extensive surface preparation or you want to incorporate multiple colors and elaborate decorative effects.

How to Stain Concrete

Want to stain your floor or patio yourself? Here's an overview of the steps involved:

  1. Prepare the surface
  2. Apply the stain
  3. Remove any residue
  4. Add a sealer for protection

Learn more about the staining process.

Stain application tips
Staining concrete successfully requires a deft hand and a discerning eye. Here are a few tips for getting the best results:

  • Be scrupulous with surface preparation to ensure removal of contaminants or defects that could ruin an otherwise beautiful staining job. (See Cleaning Floors Before Concrete Staining.)
  • Carefully mask off surrounding areas to avoid unintentional staining - acid stains can be tough, and sometimes impossible, to remove.
  • Always apply a test sample of stain to a small, inconspicuous area of the concrete to be treated. Because so many variables can affect the final color, that's the only way to get an accurate preview of the finished look.
  • Stain colors will be more intense if you apply the stain soon after the concrete has been placed.
  • Follow the stain manufacturer's directions. Acid-based chemical stains often have different requirements than acrylic stains for surface preparation, application and cleanup. Manufacturers can also recommend the best application tools and coverage rates for their products.
  • To produce various concentrations of color, you can dilute the stain by adding water, either by wetting the concrete before the stain is applied or by spritzing the concrete after stain application with water from a spray bottle.
  • Don't expect color consistency or perfection. Variations are inherent in the staining process.
  • To treat areas that did not stain well, try applying a concrete dye or tint.
  • When using an acid-based stain, be sure to remove any residue remaining on the surface so the sealer will bond properly. Use a mixture of water and detergent, adding a tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of water to neutralize any remaining acid. Scrub with a buffing machine, and then pick up the residue with a wet vacuum. Rinse until the water is clear.
  • Protect your newly stained surface with a sealer. Be sure to select a product that’s compatible with the stain you’re using.

Related information:
Video: Pump-Up Sprayers for Applying Acid Stains
Troubleshooting Common Acid Stain Problems
How to Fix Acid Stain Problems

Find a Stained Concrete Contractor

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