How to Stain Concrete Floors and Patios

concrete patio
 Ziga Plahutar / Getty Images

PROJECT OVERVIEW

  • WORKING TIME: 5 – 8 hrs
  • TOTAL TIME: 1 – 2 days
  • YIELD: Stained Concrete Floor
  • SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate
  • ESTIMATED COST: $100 to $200

Concrete floors are a popular choice for patios, workshops, sheds, basements, and the garage, though they can also be installed in the kitchen, living room, dining room, or entryway. The growing popularity of concrete floors is due to the long-lasting durability, low material costs, efficient installation process, and the modern aesthetic of a polished concrete floor.

A plain concrete floor can look good with the right decor, but if gray doesn’t suit the room or the patio aesthetic, then you can stain the concrete a different color. Staining a concrete floor doesn’t need to be difficult as long as you take the time to properly clean, patch, and prepare the concrete floor before starting the project. Use this guide to learn how to stain concrete floors and patios.

Before You Begin

Staining concrete is a good option to give the room or patio a facelift, but it isn’t the only option. You can also use concrete paint as an alternative to a concrete stain, though if you choose to go this route for a garage floor, make sure to select a paint that will be able to withstand oil spills, harsh chemicals, and abrasive damage.

For those that prefer to stain the floor, it’s important to note that there are two types of concrete stain to choose from, including acid-based and water-based stains.

  • Acid-based stains cause a chemical reaction to occur when they are applied to concrete. This chemical reaction permanently changes the color of the concrete, allowing acid-stained floors to retain their color for a long period of time without fading. However, when acid is applied to concrete, the chemical reaction will continue to occur until the stain is treated with a neutralizing agent, which makes it difficult for an inexperienced DIYer to get the desired result.
  • Water-based stains come in a range of colors and they are the easiest option to work with, so this type of stain is recommended for anyone that has never stained concrete before. Due to the porous nature of concrete, water-based stains can seep into the hard material, forming a smooth coating on the surface, similar to a wood stain.

Safety Considerations

When working with paints, stains, sealants, adhesives, paint strippers, and other chemicals, it’s imperative that you take proper precaution to stay safe in the workspace. If you are working indoors, open windows and doors, then set up one or more fans to improve ventilation and encourage airflow through the space.

Even when you are working outdoors it’s important to have proper personal protective equipment. To stain concrete, it’s recommended to have a mask, safety glasses, gloves, a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and closed-toe shoes.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

Staining Outdoor Concrete Patios

  • Stiff broom
  • Garden hose
  • Pressure washer
  • Caulking gun
  • Floor scrubber
  • Drop cloth
  • Paint sprayer
  • Paint roller
  • Paintbrush

Staining Indoor Concrete Floors

  • Pry bar
  • Power sander
  • Shop vac
  • Stiff broom
  • Mop
  • Paint sprayer
  • Paint roller
  • Paintbrush

Materials

Staining Outdoor Concrete Patios

  • Crack sealant
  • Paint stripper
  • Degreaser and neutralizer
  • Painters tape
  • Concrete stain
  • Concrete sealant

Staining Indoor Concrete Floors

  • Crack sealant
  • Paint stripper
  • Concrete cleaner
  • Degreaser and neutralizer
  • Painters tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Concrete stain
  • Concrete sealant
  • Liquid wax

Instructions

How to Stain Outdoor Concrete Patios

  1. Clean the Concrete PatioFor the best outcome, start by cleaning the concrete patio as well as possible.Use a stiff broom to sweep and scrub the concrete patio, or use a mop or a pressure washer with a mild detergent to remove any stuck-on grime. If the concrete is coated in old sealers, paints, or adhesives, you may need to use a paint stripper to remove the old coatings.A degreaser and neutralizer can be used to remove oil spots left behind by leaking lawnmowers, chainsaws, or grills. Rinse the concrete patio after cleaning.
    TipIf you skip this step, then dirt, dust, and debris may prevent water-based stain from bonding to the concrete. While an acid-based stain doesn’t need to bond to the concrete, any debris on the floor could impede the contact between the acid and the concrete, leaving spots that contrast with the final color.
  2. Patch Cracks With Crack SealantIf there are any existing cracks in the concrete, now is the time to patch them. Use a caulking gun and concrete crack sealant to fill any cracks. Typically, crack sealant will take about 24 hours to dry. After it has dried, use a floor scrubber to buff uneven patches to get a smooth finish.
  3. Prepare to StainSet up drop cloths around the perimeter of the patio and use painters tape to protect any objects or surfaces that cannot be moved.Get your tools organized and ready to start staining. Fill a paint tray with stain for easy access while you work.If using a paint sprayer, use an acid-resistant airless paint sprayer for acid-based stain. Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions to load the stain into the sprayer.
  4. Apply the Concrete StainFor the best looking finish, apply the stain evenly over the concrete patio. Paint rollers tend to be better than paintbrushes for applying stain in even strokes across the concrete surface, though paintbrushes are necessary for reaching tight corners or narrow crevices.If using a paint sprayer, be sure to move at a steady pace, using broad, even passes to spray the concrete patio. Slightly overlap the spray pattern with each pass to maintain a wet edge as you work.TipIf you move too quickly, the patio will not be properly stained, but if you move too slowly, there is a risk of applying too much stain, which will then puddle on the patio floor.
  5. Apply the Concrete SealantAfter staining the concrete patio, the stain will require about 24 hours to fully dry. However, the drying time can vary between products, so make sure to read and follow the directions provided by the manufacturer.If you are using an acid-based stain, then the chemical reaction will continue until it has been neutralized. Once you are satisfied that the concrete is the desired color, use a neutralizing agent to stop the chemical reaction. Typically, the acid-based stain manufacturer will provide a basic timeline to follow, so you know when to apply the neutralizing agent.When the stain is dry, apply a concrete sealant to the patio. This will help to increase the life and durability of the stain, while also protecting the patio from abrasive damage.

How to Stain Indoor Concrete Floors

  1. Clear the RoomWhen you are staining and indoor concrete floor, you will need to remove all the furniture, rugs, lamps, and any other objects that are in the room. Use a pry bar to remove baseboards for access to the entire floor. If you are using a paint sprayer, remove any wall hangings or window furnishings. This will make it easier to set up protective plastic sheeting.
  2. Sand the ConcreteIf the concrete floor has been painted or sealed previously, then you will need to use a power sander to sand the surface of the concrete. The sander can also be used to smooth out any rough spots for a polished, uniform appearance.If you are staining a new concrete floor, you can skip this step.
  3. Clean the Patio FloorUse a shop vac to quickly suck up any sawdust, dirt, or debris from the concrete floor, then use a stiff bristle broom and a mop to scrub the concrete.Take your time to ensure that you remove any stuck-on grime that could prevent the stain from bonding to the concrete or impede the contact between the stain and the floor. Thoroughly rinse the concrete and give it time to dry.
  4. Patch Cracks With Crack SealantCracks in concrete will slowly grow over time unless they are repaired. Instead of trying to hide these flaws, use a caulking gun and concrete crack sealant to patch the cracks. Wait about 24 hours for the sealant to dry, then use a floor scrubber to buff the patches to get a smooth, uniform finish.
  5. Prepare to StainWith the room completely clean, the next step is to apply painter’s tape around the edges of the floor. If you are using a paint sprayer, then you should also put up plastic sheeting to protect the walls and nearby floors from stray drops of stain.Gather your tools for the project, including a paintbrush, paint roller, and paint tray. Fill the paint tray with stain for easy access while you work.If you decide to use a paint sprayer, make sure that it is suitable for the type of stain. Acid-based stains can eat away as the components within a standard paint sprayer, so it’s necessary to use an acid-resistant airless paint sprayer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to fill the paint sprayer with stain.
  6. Apply the Concrete StainChoose a side of the room to begin working from and a side where you will finish. If you don’t plan it out properly from the beginning, you may find yourself literally painted into a corner.To get a clean, even finish, use a roller for the bulk of the project, but keep a paintbrush handy for any corners, edges, or tight spaces. Apply the stain in even strokes across the surface of the concrete.When you are working with a paint sprayer, move at a consistent pace, while applying the stain in broad, even passes.
  7. Apply the Concrete Sealant and PolishCheck the manufacturer’s direction to find out how long it will take for the stain to dry. Typically, it takes about 24 hours for most concrete stains.If you used an acid-based stain, then the chemical reaction that colors the concrete will continue until you wash the concrete with a neutralizing agent. Generally, acid-based stain manufacturers will provide an approximate timeline for you to follow. When the acid has taken on the desired color, use a neutralizing agent to stop the chemical reaction.When the stain is dry, apply a concrete sealant to help improve the durability of the finish. If you are using a water-based stain, wait about 24 hours for the sealant to dry, then apply a liquid wax product. Polish the floor with the liquid wax product and a mop equipped with a microfiber pad.

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