How To Stain Concrete

If you’re looking for a durable and beautiful floor, stained concrete is an effective option. Concrete is not the boring gray as its reputation suggests. In fact, concrete is bursting with brilliant colors and tinted stones that create a striking look for your floors. Stains help to pull out this natural beauty for an attractive appearance and sealed, sanitary, resilient surface.OnFloor_Concrete

Best yet, staining concrete is simple for any DIYer. Below you’ll find the process for staining your concrete in either residential or commercial spaces.


What You’ll Need:

  • Concrete acid or water stain
  • Paint pan
  • Paint pad and handle
  • 4” paintbrush or spray applicator
  • Tarp
  • Soft-bristled broom
  • Hose
  • Bucket of Water
  • Rag for spills


  1. Choose the type of stain.

There are two basic types of concrete stains: acid and water-based.

Acid stains create a chemical reaction with the concrete surface. The metallic salts in the acid stain interact with the lime in the concrete to bring out the natural coloring in the pores of the concrete. This reaction creates a permanent bond between the stain and concrete that won’t peel or chip. The stain often creates a translucent, variegated color that looks similar to marble. Acid stains require neutralization and residue cleanup.

Water-based stains are nonreactive. They instead deposit pigment particles into the pores of the concrete. This is similar to paint or a wood stain, creating a more opaque appearance. Water-based stains have more color options and are easier to apply.


  1. Prep your floors.

Before applying any stain, you’ll need to grind and ready the surface. Learn how to prep your concrete for staining here. Make sure you protect any doorframes and walls with painters tape.

Note that different parts of concrete will absorb stain differently. For example, any “filled in” cracks or marks will likely stain darker. In this way, it’s crucial to fully prep and level your floor for the best stain application.  


  1. Ready the stain.

Follow the instructions on the stain to prepare it for application. Most stains need to be diluted with water. Put the stain into a paint pan and pour in the appropriate ratio of purified water. Use purified water to avoid trapping any particles within the stain, especially for acid stains.


  1. Apply stain around the perimeter of room.

Using a 4” paintbrush, apply the stain around the perimeter of the room. Apply in broad strokes one section at a time. This helps to control blending without the stain drying too quickly. After you’ve used up the stain on the paintbrush, use the “dried” paintbrush to even out the stain you just applied. This will help even out any brush strokes or lines. Then dip in the paint pan to re-apply more stain.


  1. Apply stain to floor.

Work in sections, moving along the natural seam of the concrete. You can apply with a paintbrush or a sprayer. A spraying applicator helps to evenly apply the stain in large commercial surfaces, which helps to avoid the stain drying before full application.  


  1. Let dry.

After the first coat, let the stain dry. Dry times will vary based on humidity and temperature. Wait at least 3 hours before reapplication of another stain coat.


  1. Apply another coat of stain.

You can then apply an additional coat. The more coats you use, the more intense the color of the stain. Acid stains usually don’t require more than one or two coats, but water-based coats can be applied multiple times for a deeper look.


  1. Cleanup residue.

After the stain has dried for 5+ hours, rinse the concrete with clean water using a hose. This will help rid the surface of any remaining stain residue. Rinse until the water runs clear. If using an acid stain, you’ll need to neutralize the stain with an application of baking soda or ammonia.

You can then use a soft bristled broom to loosen any leftover residue and rinse again. Open all doors and turn on fans to ensure thorough and even drying.  


  1. Add protection coats.

After letting the stain set overnight, you can then apply protection atop the stain. Although it’s not necessary for many stains, some people choose to apply sealers for further durability. You may also want to add a finish or polish to create a specific look, like a glossy or matte finish. Check out our concrete polishers to find the right choice for your space.


The Don’ts:

  • Don’t wash concrete with muriatic acid before staining. This will create a chemical reaction that will disable an acid stain from holding.
  • Don’t apply stains or sealers before first letting the concrete cure for 14-21 days.
  • Don’t forget to cover your walls and appliances before staining.
  • Don’t forget to neutralize acid stains.
  • Don’t apply stain in direct sun. This will dry the stain too quickly and cause uneven brush strokes and application.

The Bottom Line

Staining concrete can be done in less than 48 hours by any DIYer with a stain, an applicator, and a patient hand. If you need help finding the best stain and equipment for your concrete surface, contact Onfloor now for a consultation.

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