How To Stain Concrete Floors? (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On August 20, 2021

Were you wondering how to stain concrete floors? Stay right here.

In this ProPaintCorner.com article, we cover:

  • How to stain concrete floors
  • Tips and tricks of better results when staining concrete floors
  • All the materials you'll need to stain concrete floors

And much more!

How To Stain Concrete Floors?

So, before you do stain your concrete floors, I recommend you read this quick step-by-step guide to help you do it right.

What Do You Need To Know About Staining Concrete Floors?

Applying the stain to concrete creates a chemical reaction that permanently changes its color. 

The staining process is easy in theory, but it will definitely take some elbow grease to get the job done correctly. 

We don't, however, recommend taking this on as a DIY project unless you have at least a little bit of experience with staining surfaces.

This is an intermediate to advanced process for DIYers so be sure to read the whole guide to get a feel for whether or not you should take on this project.

What are the advantages of stained concrete?

There are plenty of advantages to staining your concrete floors, not the least of which is a better appearance! Keep reading to learn more about the awesome benefits of staining your concrete.

Adding value to property

Do you want to enhance the look of your property? Staining the concrete is an excellent idea.

Not only will concrete stain enhance the cosmetic look of your property, but it will also protect the concrete from water/UV damage.

Plus, staining concrete is an easy DIY project, so homeowners can easily add value without the trouble of hiring a contractor or pro painter.

Protect from stains/Easy cleanup

Acid-stained concrete smooths out the surface of the concrete in such a way that cleaning up spills is easy.

You'll also notice that unstained concrete stains easily stain when oil and other chemicals drip onto them, and it can sometimes be impossible to clean up.

Create cool visual effects in concrete

Do a quick internet search, and you'll find oodles of different styles and designs that can be utilized when staining concrete.

Cheaper than installing flooring/tile

That's right, staining concrete is a great idea if you're looking to save some money but still find an effective solution for the cosmetic improvement of your property.

Buy a bucket of stain instead of a boatload of wood flooring and tile the next time you need an improvement with less hassle.

How Much Stain/Epoxy Will I Need?

Measure each square foot of your project, and buy the recommended amount of stain according to each product--usually, the product description or paint container will let you know how much stain you'll need for the square footage.

What are the Different Types of Acid Stains?

There are several different kinds of acid stains you can choose from, each with their own benefits.

Pigments 

Made from synthetic iron oxide, pigments also come as a powder, and they mix in with the dry concrete mix.

Pigments are a great option if you haven't poured the concrete yet and want it to be a different color than just the regular color of concrete.

Stains 

There are 3 key different types of stains you can use when staining concrete.

Film forming stains

These are the oldest form of stain, and they form a protective film on top of the concrete. This is a less permanent way to stain concrete, and it is very common for film forming stains to crack and peel up over time.

Penetrating stains

Water-based penetrating stains are more effective and higher-technology than film forming stains.

Available in a wide range of colors, water-based penetrating stains don't have harmful VOC content, so this is a great flooring option for homeowners looking to do it themselves.

Dyes

Dyes come in powder form, they are typically not UV stable(research before you buy), and they are designed to change the color of the concrete on the most basic level.

What Type of Stain/Epoxy Should I Use on My Concrete?

It all depends on the look you want. Stained concrete floors will provide an embellished look to your concrete. Having said that, most shop floors typically have epoxy because it creates a rock hard surface.

For example, spilling brake fluid on a concrete surface that isn't stained or epoxied is a corrosive mess that will be hard to clean up. 

There are many different color options when staining concrete. See a color chart for each specific product to see all of your options--it's very common that the same stain product comes in many different colors.

What Supplies Will You Need For Staining Concrete Floors?

You may or may not need all of these supplies based on the project, but we won't leave anything out just in case. Here's everything you need so you don't forget:

Planetary grinder

We recommend using a planetary grinder if you're looking for the smoothest concrete surface possible.

Clean water 

Using water to wet the surface of the concrete when grinding the surface with a planetary grinder will help the diamond-bit surface of the grinder to last longer.

Some planetary grinders may not require the use of water, so we recommend operating each specific machine exactly according to the manufacturer's directions.

Respirator/Cotton mask

Protect your respiratory system when staining your concrete surface by using either a respirator or cotton mask. Some concrete stains are more toxic than others, so be sure to read the label on the container for in-detail recommendations.

Power washer 

Exterior surfaces will clean up much faster if you use a power washer to spray off the surface before painting.

Solvent

Use the proper solvent for cleaning up areas that were stained but maybe weren't supposed to be.

Concrete acid etch

The older-style(and very effective) method for prepping concrete for stain is by using a phosphoric/muriatic acid etch to create a bondable surface between the concrete and the stain.

You can still buy concrete etch off of Amazon, but do your research, and decide for yourself whether or not you want to use it on your project--it will also depend on the type of stain you use.

Paint masker

We highly recommend that you use a paint masker if you need to cover up larger areas. You will thank us later when you were able to cover up surfaces like baseboards.

Weed sprayer

That's right, you know those pump sprayers that you would normally use to apply weed killer to spray the sealant onto the surface after the stain has completely dried.

Painter's tape

Painter's tape will help in the masking process, and you can also use painter's tape to create awesome designs in the concrete(see the Youtube vid).

Broom/Handled brush

You can use a broom or a handled brush to apply the concrete stain onto the surface by using a circular motion.

Safety glasses

Acid stains and etches could seriously damage your vision, so we recommend you use a pair of safety glasses when performing your DIY stain job.

Cotton mask/Respirator

We also recommend that you protect your respiratory system when applying toxic chemicals to your new concrete.

Paint sprayer

Use a paint sprayer to easy cover large concrete slabs with stain. Check out our page for the best recommendations on paint sprayers and other products.

Bucket

You will need a bucket to mix some concrete stain products.

Degreaser

Using a degreaser can prep the surface of the floors to ensure they're stripped down of all grease and grime so they're ready to absorb the stain.

How To Stain Concrete Floors (5-Step Guide)

Now that you know exactly which supplies you'll need to get the job done right, let's hop into the step-by-step guide for staining concrete floors!

(Psst! You can click on any of the links below to jump ahead to that step.)

  1. Clean and prep/polish and etch the concrete surface
  2. Determine the type of stain being used
  3. Apply the first coat of stain, and inspect the results
  4. Apply a second coat if necessary
  5. Apply a sealant

Step 1 – Clean and prep the concrete surface

Cleaning and surface preparation always takes the longest in painting and staining, and it will be easy or difficult depending on how well the concrete was poured.

Some DIY painters may want a smoother surface to paint onto when staining concrete.

Luckily, smoothing out the surface of the concrete can be easily done using a planetary grinder. Ask your local home improvement store if they rent planetary grinders for polishing concrete. 

The grinder process can be compared to sanding wood before applying stain-- it closes up the pores of the concrete and helps the stain to stay on its surface rather than sinking too far down into the cracks.

Use a degreaser to remove tough spots

A degreaser is a less-toxic way to clean dirt and grime off of the concrete before staining.

Using a pressure washer

A pressure washer will work to clean off exterior concrete surfaces before etching. Pressure washing isn't completely necessary, but it will work wonders in helping create a completely clean surface before etching.

Etch the concrete

Etching the concrete will help chemically prep it for the stain job. Etch can be applied with a bristle brush or broom. 

Make sure to pour the etch into the mix after you pour in the water to avoid damaging chemicals splashing up into your eyes(use safety glasses).

Step 2 – Determine the type of stain being used

The type of stain used depends on your personal preference. If you aren't sure which stain you want to use, you could buy small samples of each, and paint small sections of your concrete floor to help you make the right decision.

Concrete overlays 

Concrete overlays are thin and decorative concrete pieces that are a great solution for beautifying old and worn concrete.

The key to a good concrete overlay job is a flat surface. If the existing concrete is cracked and rising, it may not be a good candidate for concrete overlays.

Concrete acid stain 

Concrete acid stain is very easy to apply. Simply brush the acid stain into the concrete using circular motions.

Pigments

Mix pigments in with concrete before pouring to yield a different color.

Epoxy

The two-part epoxy with(or without) the textured flakes is possibly the most classic way to paint a garage floor. 

We highly recommend an epoxy stain for industrial uses because it makes cleanup so much easier. Whether it's food or brake fluid, it all stays on top of the epoxy surface, wipes up much faster, and doesn't stain.

Deciding on stain color?

There are so many different color options when it comes to acid staining. We recommend you get a color that compliments or matches surrounding areas.

For example, if you're staining a patio surrounding the grass, you might want to go with a green color to blend in with the surfaces.

You could also consult an interior designer for help choosing the perfect color for your next project.

Step 3 – Apply the first coat of stain and inspect the results

Now it's time to apply some stain to the entire surface of the concrete. 

The tool you use to apply the concrete will depend on which type of stain you use. If you're using an actual stain (not epoxy), we recommend using the stain applicator that is used in the Youtube video linked above. 

You could also use a broom or bristled brush to work the stain into the surface of the concrete using a circular motion.

If you're using two-part epoxy, a normal paint roller cover will work just fine.

Step 4 – Apply a second coat if necessary

You may want to apply a second coat of stain on high-traffic areas to ensure a long-lasting finish.

Some professional painters might say that one coat is all you need, and that may be true, so we recommend you read the manufacturer's instructions printed on the stain can for the best results.

Regardless of whether or not you do decide to apply a second coat of stain, wait for it to dry for a sufficient amount of time before sealing it in or walking on it (~24 hours).

Some epoxy jobs like garage floors recommend waiting for a couple of weeks before driving on it to allow the paint to cure completely.

Step 5 – Apply a sealant

You should apply a sealant/concrete sealer to stained surfaces to lock in the stain and protect it from oils, stains, water, grease, etc.

Shop on Amazon for a plethora of options when it comes to sealant for your concrete.

The easiest way to apply the sealant is by using a weed sprayer and then wiping it into the surface after the fact with the applicator. 

See the Youtube video posted above for a great example of two people applying a sealant to their project.

Be sure to let the sealant dry for the recommended amount of time before walking on it. If you are staining in humid environments, you might have to wait even longer than the recommended amount of dry time.

Staining wood can actually increase its lifespan. This is because the stain prevents splintering, rot, and rain from destroying the wood's surface.

Other Valuable Resources on How To Stain Concrete Floors

Outdoor spaces are much easier to prep because you can use a power washer to sprayer the concrete off. 

When using a power washer, spray close to the concrete surface to expose a cleaner surface underneath. Try to use a 3,000 PSI(or higher) power washer for the job.

Is Grinding/Polishing The Surface Really Necessary?

We only recommend renting out a planetary grinder if you want interior concrete floors to have a high-gloss look. Chances are, if you over-polish an exterior surface, it will become slippery when it gets wet.

We recommend simply etching and staining exterior surfaces by using a simpler process. Below is a great DIY example of an at-home concrete stainer who does a great job.

Do you need a new paint sprayer for your next stain job? 

We've done all the research for you. Check out our recommended paint sprayers here, and find one suitable for your next project.

Whether you're looking for the highest quality paint sprayer on the market for a top quality job on your concrete patio or an inexpensive sprayer to get the job done on a large concrete flooring project, you can rely on our products pages to provide you the info on top notch painting products.

Other supplies and tools?

Use our painting resources to help find the best deals on all things staining and painting. We recommend buying off of Amazon because you will save money all the way around.

Plus, Amazon delivers right to your doorstep, so you won't need to waste your time driving to the nearest home improvement store.

Questions?

Do you have questions specific to your concrete staining project? Drop us a line on our home page, and we'll be happy to help.


Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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