How to Stain Concrete

Revitalize a tired concrete patio: Give it a brand-new look with color stain.
By: Erinn Valencich

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Cracked cements gets a faux brick repair in this Smart Solutions how-to.

To stain concrete, it must be unpainted and unstained. Concrete is porous and once it's stained it has essentially been sealed.

Stamped and Stained Concrete Ideas

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Stained Concrete

Staining concrete can add a marbleized color to standard gray concrete surfaces while maintaining the integrity and durability associated with concrete.

Concrete Dye

Similar to faux finishing techniques, concrete dyes are applied in creative ways with sprayers, mops, sponges, rags, plastic sheets and other materials. As it's applied, the concrete is simultaneously stained and sealed. With concrete dye, it's difficult to achieve the depth of color that acid staining offers, but it's a fairly inexpensive process, and the ease of application can reduce labor costs. Concrete dye is also able to hide imperfections to some degree. A clear coat must be used on acrylic dyes to protect the color. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Epoxy Coating

Often used in garages to protect and beautify floors, epoxy coatings have come a long way. Available in acrylic, epoxy, urethane, polyurea or polyaspartic varieties, these coatings allow for quick application and are highly durable. Once available almost exclusively for commercial applications, these coatings are now highly sought-after in residential settings as well. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Stamped Concrete

Stamped concrete uses patterns that mimic tile, stone, rock, wood and other textured surfaces. The technique allows a large area of concrete to be decorated without sacrificing the structural integrity of the concrete. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Stamped Concrete: Stone Pattern

The texture that results from the stamping process can very closely mimic the look of real stone. The added texture can also provide increased slip-resistance. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Stamped Concrete Overlay

One way to renew the look of damaged concrete is to use a stamped overlay. Rather than tearing out existing concrete, which can be expensive and time-consuming, spread a thin layer of concrete over the damaged area (typically 1/4- to 3/4-inch, depending on the pattern used). Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Stencil Resurfacing

Concrete stencils create a unique decorative accent that adds a focal point to a pool, patio or driveway. They can be colored and layered with a wide variety of designs. The stencils should be cleaned by pressure washing, and sealed surfaces should be resealed every couple of years. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Exposed Aggregate

With the look of a small field of stones or pebbles, applying an exposed aggregate finish is an excellent way to improve the look of a standard gray concrete finish. This type of finish is durable, offers slip-resistance and is difficult to damage. It requires basic cleaning with occasional pressure washing to remove grit. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Acid Stain

In the acid-staining process, a chemically reactive stain is applied directly to unfinished concrete. Because it bonds with the concrete, it offers excellent resistance to peeling, flaking and fading. Acid stains typically produce rich, earthy tones in a wide variety of black, brown, orange, aged copper and green hues that highlight the natural variations present in concrete materials. Resealing every couple of years is recommended; unsealed concrete may require occasional pressure washing to remove absorbed grit and debris. Image courtesy of ConcreteIdeas.com

Materials Needed:

  • 9" tear-resistant deck paint pad
  • telescoping rod
  • handle for paint pad (attach to telescoping rod)
  • paint pan
  • 4" paintbrush
  • tarp
  • broom and hose
  • concrete stain (water-based)
  • bucket of water
  • rag (for any spills)

Choose a Color

Use the manufacturer's color chart as a guide to selecting your color. There are different levels of coverage in the various stain options. For this project, we've used a semi-transparent stain that looks like watercolor when applied. For more coverage, go with an opaque stain. Do a small test area on the concrete to make sure you're going to get the results you want. Always read the manufacturer's instructions on the container for any special considerations when using their product.

Gather Materials to Stain Concrete

Gather Materials to Stain Concrete

Use the manufacturer's color chart as a guide to selecting your color. There are different levels of coverage in the various stain options. For this project, we've used a semi-transparent stain that looks like watercolor when applied. For more coverage, go with an opaque stain. Do a small test area on the concrete to make sure you're going to get the results you want. Always read the manufacturer's instructions on the container for any special considerations when using their product.

From: Erinn Valencich

Prep the Concrete

Remove furniture and other miscellaneous objects (planters, etc.) from the concrete at this time. Remove all residue and loose particles from the concrete using a broom and hose. If there are any other elements stuck to the concrete, you can scrape those off as well. After cleaning, allow the concrete to dry for 24 hours.

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Apply the Stain

After the concrete has dried, you can begin applying the stain. Place your paint pan on the tarp and pour the stain into the pan. Using your paintbrush, apply the stain along the perimeter edge and at all seams (Images 1 and 2). Then, begin applying the stain over the rest of the concrete with the pad. Use the seams as natural divisions to work in. Stay in only one section at a time so you can maintain control over blending without it drying too quickly (Image 3). Once most of the stain is out of the pad, use what is left to feather (soften) the edges from your previous strokes before you add more stain to the pad (Image 4).

Parts of the concrete will absorb the stain differently. Rust spots will finish darker than the rest of the area you are staining. You can fill any holes or uneven areas in the concrete, but the fill will absorb the stain more quickly and be darker than the un-filled areas.

Note: Don't apply the stain in direct sun; wait for a cloudy day or apply it when the concrete is in shade. The stain will dry much more quickly in the sun and won't give you much time to blend your strokes.

Replace Furniture

The stain should be dry to the touch in four hours. Wait until the next day to place your furniture back on the concrete. The stain can scratch off if you drag the furniture over it, so be careful.

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