So you want to get rid of your old, worn-out, wall-to-wall carpeting. Good choice! But what are you going to do next? Hardwood floors can be expensive and are sometimes a pain to maintain. Laminate flooring is the next best thing, but maybe you’re just not into it. Tile can take forever to install and isn’t doesn’t exactly create a warm vibe in living rooms and bedrooms. So what else is there? How about…nothing? That’s right—there’s nothing to say you absolutely must replace your carpets with another type of floor covering. Why not just leave the concrete subfloor bare? Concrete floors have become very popular in homes everywhere. They’re low-maintenance, highly customizable, and can work with pretty much any style of decor. The only problem is that “as is,” bare concrete isn’t all that nice to look at. Luckily, staining concrete floors is a relatively easy process, and we’re here to tell you how to do it!

1. Decide what type of stain you want to use: acid-based or water-based.

Water-Based Stains

You can get almost any color with water-based stains, and since they don’t interact with the concrete like acid-based stains do, the color will stay consistent. Water-based stains are easier to apply and clean up, and they’re not toxic. The stain adheres pretty quickly, so if you make a mistake it can be challenging to fix. There are certain situations that dictate a need to use a water-based stain instead of acid-based:

*There are stains like oil or grease that you can’t remove.

*The concrete has already been cleaned with acid.

*The concrete was sealed during installation. The sealer must be removed before staining.

Acid-Based Stains

Your color choices will be more limited with acid-based stains. They typically come in earth tones and are translucent, allowing variations in the concrete to show through. In fact, acid-based stains often take on a more natural look that mimics wood or stone. Acid-based stains usually last longer than water-based stains and won’t fade, peel, or chip. This makes acid-based the best choice for high-traffic areas.

2. Gather your tools and materials.

For this project you will need:

Airless Paint Sprayer

Mop

Paint Roller and Extension Pole

Painter’s Tape

Plastic Sheeting

Respirator

Safety Glasses

Sander

Shop Vacuum

Work Gloves

Masonry Sealer

Concrete Stain

Degreaser

Floor Cleaner

Liquid Wax

3. Prep your work area.

Some prep work is required to ensure that you get the best coverage possible from your concrete stain. Remove all furniture, rugs, and accessories from the room, and clean the concrete thoroughly with a regular floor cleaner. You may need to use degreasers, paint remover, or mastic remover if needed. Take artwork and mirrors off the walls just in case. It’s also a good idea to remove baseboards.

4. Sand the surface.

Using a sander, polish away any rough spots and sand the concrete down to create an even surface. If the concrete you’re staining is new, you can skip this step. (Note, however, that it should be at least one month old before staining.) Use a shop vacuum to clean up the dust and debris from sanding. Next, repair any cracks or pits with concrete sealant and a putty knife.

5. Protect the walls.

Use plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to prevent any stain from getting on the walls. Cover walls from the bottom and up to about two feet.

6. Apply the stain.

Water-Based Stain

  • Test a sample in an inconspicuous area to see how many coats you’ll need to apply for the desired color and effect. Once you’ve figured that out, pour your water-based stain into a handheld airless sprayer. Spray evenly across the floor in a circular motion, being careful not to let the stain puddle in any one area. If it does puddle, just wipe it up with a clean cloth before it dries. Let the first coat dry, then add additional coats as needed.
  • Let the stain dry completely, and wait at least 24 hours before applying the sealer. Once the waiting time is up, use a paint roller with an extension pole to roll the sealant evenly over the floor. Use a synthetic roller for the smoothest application and finish.
  • After the sealant is dry, it’s a good idea to wax the surface. This enhances the color and allows the stain to last longer. If you don’t like a glossy surface, use a wax with a matte finish. Pour liquid wax for residential use into a spray bottle and spray small surfaces at a time. Using a mop with a microfiber pad, spread the sprayed-on wax in a circular motion. Repeat until the room is finished. You’ll need to reapply wax to your concrete floor about once a year, depending on how much traffic the room gets.
  • Allow the floor to dry completely before walking on it or returning baseboards and furniture to the room.

Acid-Based Stain

  • Please be aware that acid-based stain is toxic, so you’ll need to use extra care when applying it. Use protective eyewear, clothing, and footwear as well as a respirator. Always mix the stain outdoors, and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation in the room while you stain the floors.
  • Again, test a small, inconspicuous area to determine how many coats you’ll need. Then pour the stain into a handheld airless sprayer that’s primarily plastic (the acid will corrode any metal parts).
  • Spray the stain evenly over the floor. Have someone follow behind you with a broom working the stain into the floor to help create a more consistent finish. Allow the first coat to dry before applying a second coat.  
  • Once the stain is dry, acid residue must be removed before you can apply the sealer. Create a neutralizer pouring four parts water to one part ammonia into a spray bottle. Spray the floor and allow it to dry, then mop the floor with clean water. Use a shop vacuum to clean up excess water, and allow the floor to dry overnight.
  • After the neutralizer has dried, apply the sealer. Just like with the water-based stain, use a synthetic paint roller with an extension pole to apply the sealant to the floor. Apply two coats. Make sure the floor is completely dry before walking on it or moving furniture and baseboards back into the room.

Enjoy your newly stained concrete floors!

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