Stained, polished concrete floor

If you want to give your concrete surfaces just a tinge of color versus the look of a solid paint color or plain concrete, consider staining your concrete surface this weekend. Concrete stain works similarly to paint, and is very simple and quick to apply but unlike paint, resists flaking and peeling on trafficked surfaces. Concrete stain has a more translucent finish than paint, letting the concrete’s natural appearance show through, providing an interesting and very appealing aesthetic. Learn more here about how to stain concrete floors and surfaces and then get started!

Step 1: Clean and Prepare the Surface

Remove any furniture or other items. The area you want to stain must be clean and free of loose paint, dirt and dust, or any other debris. You need access to the entire surface. Use a wire brush and a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water to scrub the surface clean and remove any foreign matter on the concrete.

Safety Alert!

Always wear protective clothing when working with TSP. Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Helpful Tip

In regions where phosphate use is restricted, use phosphate-free trisodium phosphate (TSP-PF).

If the concrete surface is painted or sealed, you will need to strip off the finish by scraping, sanding or using a chemical stripping agent. Most chemical strippers need to be mixed with water, so check the manufacturer's directions before applying. Using a clean rag, apply the solution evenly over the surface. Let it soak in for 20 to 30 minutes then use a plastic paint scraper, rag or sponge to wipe off the old finish. Once you've removed the old finish from the surface, use a clean rag to wipe it down so that the surface is completely bare. Let it dry. Afterwards, spray the concrete with a pressure washer or hard spray from a hose, and then mop. Allow the concrete to dry, and then thoroughly sweep the entire surface with a broom for good measure.

Remove any oil or grease on the concrete with a degreaser. Apply the degreaser and scrub the stain with a stiff-bristle brush, and then wipe with clean rags. Once you’ve finished cleaning, make any needed repairs to the floor. Fix any cracks or holes in the concrete with a concrete patch or a hydraulic cement. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when applying the concrete patch or hydraulic cement.

Step 2: Etch with Acid

Concrete surfaces should be acid etched before staining. This is especially true of new concrete. Carefully prepare a solution of one part muriatic acid to three parts water, using one gallon per 100 square feet of surface (a 10 x 10-ft. area). Use a stiff-bristle brush or push broom to scrub the solution into the concrete. Allow the solution to remain on the surface until it stops bubbling. Flush the solution off thoroughly with clean water. Then rinse the surface with water again. The surface must dry evenly. If puddles develop, the solution will become more concentrated and may affect the performance of your stain.

Safety Alerts!

Always add the acid to water to prevent the splash of hot acid—never pour water into acid.

Muriatic acid can cause severe chemical burns as a result of contact with skin or eyes, as well as irritation of the nose and throat from the inhalation of vapors. Always wear protective clothing such as rubber boots, rubber gloves and work goggles when using muriatic acid. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when handling acid.

After the surface has dried, use a shop vacuum and a mop to remove the powder created by etching. Next, sweep the surface with a broom. If you don’t remove the powder entirely, it may affect your stain finish.

Step 3: Apply Stain

Apply a water-based concrete stain in the color of your choice on interior or exterior surfaces. First using a brush to apply the stain around the perimeter of the area you’re staining, especially in a room such as a basement where it would be difficult to stain with a roller in corners or edges of the wall. Use a roller with extension pole or a sprayer to apply concrete stain over the rest of the surface evenly. Apply first coat evenly, working in one direction. Allow to dry at least 2 hours before applying the second coat. Apply the second coat in the opposite direction to the first coat. Two coats are usually sufficient. Before resuming traffic on the surface, be sure the stain has dried for the manufacturer-recommended time.

On exterior surfaces, you can apply a solvent-based, solid-color concrete sealer. These work similarly to stains by penetrating the concrete rather than coating it, making for a more durable finish than paint. Like stains, they are also resistant to UV rays, oil, salt and heavy traffic.

Use a roller to evenly apply the sealer over the surface, working in one direction. Do not brush or roll back over any partially dried areas. This may lift the coating from the surface. Allow the surface to dry for the manufacturer-recommended time before applying a second coat, if a second coat is necessary. Apply a second coat in the opposite direction of the first coat. Let the final coat dry for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Helpful Tip

Do not apply the water-based stain or solvent-based sealer if rain is expected within 12 to 24 hours.

Step 4: Seal the Concrete (Optional)

Consider using a quality waterproof concrete or masonry sealer to protect the stained finish indoors. If the concrete stain you chose doesn’t also seal the surface, it must be sealed separately. If you used a solvent-based, solid-color concrete sealer to stain your exterior concrete, apply a solvent-based clear-gloss concrete sealer as a topcoat to protect the stain coats. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Apply the sealer using a roller applicator and extension pole, working your way across in 3' to 4' sections. Apply at least two thin and even coats, leaving time in between for the coats to dry, for a duration specified by the manufacturer. Don’t use the concrete surface for the manufacturer-recommended time.

Step 5: Clean Up

Dispose of used stain or sealant cans appropriately. Cleaning paint brushes and other tools can be made easy with warm, soapy water, if you used water-based stain. Thoroughly rinse your roller covers, brushes, or sprayer parts in water until the water runs clear. If you used a solvent-based stain, use paint thinner to clean your tools. Carefully follow the manufacturer instructions for cleaning up solvent-based products.

Good job! You’ve learned how to stain concrete and transform your concrete walkway, porch, patio, garage or basement floor.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.