DIY Options for Staining Concrete

An empty room with a stained concrete floor.

One of the great things about industrial design is that it’s probably already built into your house. Making these rugged materials the focal point of your space is just a matter of highlighting their unique qualities. In the case of concrete floors, taking them from being a common building material to the star of the room can be as simple as staining them.

These projects can be done in basements, garages, patios, or anywhere there is a solid slab of concrete on the ground. If your floors are in good shape, free from cracks or gouges, you can easily put down a stain with just a little prep work.

Stain Types

Quikrete, the concrete manufacturer we all know from the yellow bags, has a couple of lines of concrete stains with a good range of colors and applications. The two major differences between the products are that the “Translucent Concrete Stain” is semi-transparent and will show the surface features of the concrete beneath. Their “Penetrating Concrete Stain” is opaque and will create a more uniform color. The palette for the penetrating stains isn’t as broad as the translucent line, so keep that in mind when selecting.


DIY Options For Staining Concrete

If your concrete floors aren’t in the greatest shape, it’s a good idea to fix them up before staining them. Rather than breaking up all that concrete and re-pouring a slab, there are other options that can cover the bad concrete and give you a new surface to work with.

Top Cap from Kingdom Products can be used indoors or out and is fully stainable. It’s applied with a large push trowel (known as a magic trowel) or it can be sprayed on with a mortar sprayer (available for rent from a home store). It goes on between 1/8-inch and 1/16-inch thick. For outdoor use, you can broom it for a non-slip surface, or keep it smooth for interior spaces.

Prep is very important for this surface treatment as well. All loose concrete should be removed. Fill any deep flaws with repair mortar before proceeding. The floor has to be clean and dry before putting your Top Cap on. After it’s dry and cured, you can apply the stain to really bring the new floors to life.

Prep and Application

DIY Options For Staining Concrete

The stains go on much like paint, with a brush and roller. Proper prep is necessary, such as cleaning the concrete as well as masking all around it. Unlike painting, though, there are some additional steps that are necessary to get the most out of the stain. If the concrete had been previously sealed, that sealant will need to be removed with a paint stripper and a pressure washer. Basically, the concrete needs to be porous enough to accept the stain. Quikrete has another product for the next step: Cleaner, Etcher & Degreaser. This gets scrubbed on the concrete, then rinsed off. After that, you’re ready to apply your concrete stain.

Getting Help

If resurfacing your floors seems a bit too daunting, it’s time to bring in a contractor. Robert Morris from Lyons Manufacturing, who makes an array of concrete products from patching to overlays, has some advice when it comes time to call on the professionals.

“Do a hell of a lot of research, or live with your mistakes.” Meaning, even if you’re hiring a contractor, know what the process for your floors will be so you’re completely informed as the project evolves. He suggests spending money where you won’t see it, predominantly on the bonding layer if you have to pour a new concrete overlay.

A broadcast aggregate, like sand, can be spread on wet epoxy, creating a very strong and stable base for a new concrete overlay. If this step is skipped, any amount of time and money you spend on the overlay and the stain could be short-lived. The top could chip, crack, and delaminate, and you’ll lose the fine visuals of the stain.

Robert also recommends being thorough when hiring a contractor. Concrete is a material that should be around for a very long time, so have the contractor take you to examples of his or her work. Think of it as a physical resume. Even if one of the contractor’s jobs is ten years old, it should still look good. Any premature aging issues or flaws are cause for concern.

Armed with good information and a good background on your contractor, the project has the best shot of going well.

Whether you hire someone for the job or do it yourself, staining a concrete floor will give you a custom industrial look that will last for many years to come.