Do it yourself concrete staining is the cheapest and easiest way to enhance the appearance of your concrete surfaces. The alternatives, tearing out existing concrete and replacing with new or decorative overlays, are not recommended for do-it-yourselfers and can be very expensive. But before you begin your staining project there are a few things you need to know.
There are two types of concrete stains to choose from, acid stains and acrylic stains. Acid stains work by chemically reacting with free lime in the surface to produce a natural looking, translucent color. They create a mottled, variegated, multi-hued coloring. Every concrete surface reacts differently to acids stains making each job unique. Acrylic stains are waterborne and have pigments that seep into the pores and adhere to the concrete, therefore creating a more consistent, semi translucent color like that of a dye. Acrylic stains will help mask imperfections and discolorations whereas acid stains actually accentuate them.
For many surfaces, acid and acrylic stains will work equally as well, but which one you choose depends on the look you want. However, there are situations where one type will work better than the other. For older, exterior concrete (more than 15-20 yrs old) acid stains may not work because much of the free lime has leeched away. Acrylic stains are great for old concrete because of its increased porosity over time. Acid stains work well with newer concrete because of the availability of free lime. If repairs need to be made such as patching pop outs or scaling, then acrylics may be the better choice to help disguise the repairs. Any patching materials will stand out with acid stains. For smooth trowelled interior surfaces with less porosity, acid stains are usually better because they don’t require as much penetration to color the concrete.
Before beginning it’s also important to have realistic expectations. Staining can turn dull, gray concrete into a beautiful and colorful finish, but it’s impossible to know exactly how the finished product will look, especially with acid stains. Every concrete surface is different and so will accept stains differently. The exact same stain will have two different appearances with two different slabs. Even seasoned pros can’t predict the exact outcome of a staining job. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to try to exactly match the color of concrete to anything else such as brick or siding. There’s a very good chance you won’t be successful. Instead, choose a complimentary color or shade for your concrete. For instance, if you have light brown siding, then choose a dark brown stain.
The most critical part of staining is preparation. Take time in deciding how you want your concrete to look and getting the surface ready to apply the stain. You get one shot at getting it right unless you want to do a major overhaul to the surface. Do it yourself concrete staining is not a difficult process but does require an honest effort to be satisfied your finished product.