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How do I Use Concrete Stain?

By T. L. Childree
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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There are a number of important steps in using concrete stain. First, make sure that the surface you are staining is free of blemishes, discolorations, markings, and cracks before applying the product. Next, carefully shield the surrounding area from coming into contact with the stain. After the surface and surrounding area have been properly prepared, test a small area of the concrete to determine what the actual color will look like. If you are satisfied with the color, apply two coats of the concrete stain to the surface, being sure to allow sufficient drying time between each. After the second coat has dried, apply a concrete sealer to the surface to protect the finish.

Proper surface preparation is essential to the concrete staining process because any blemishes in the concrete will be magnified by the stain. You should begin surface preparation by washing the concrete with a non-acid solution using a stiff brush. Rinse the surface with water and remove any excess moisture with a wet vacuum. Next fill all holes and cracks in the surface with concrete patching material and smooth any raised areas with a putty knife. Allow the surface to dry completely and vacuum away any remaining debris.

Surfaces that you do not want to stain should be shielded using painter’s tape and plastic sheeting prior to beginning the job. You will need to mix the concrete stain with a certain amount of water to make a solution suitable for brushing, rolling, mopping, or spraying applications. Then apply a small amount of the stain to an inconspicuous area to determine if the correct color has been achieved. Stains react differently with various types of concrete substrates, and the color may vary significantly from the manufacturer’s sample cards. The temperature of the concrete at the time that the stain is applied may also affect the final color, so follow the label directions exactly to achieve the best results.

When applying the concrete stain, always work from the rear to the front of the surface to avoid stepping in the wet stain. Metal sprayers should never be used because the reaction that occurs between acid and metal may affect the final color of the stain. If you are using a brush, try to avoid using circular motions as this will typically result in a poor finished appearance. It is important that you apply a sufficient amount of stain so that the acid can properly etch the concrete surface and provide a deep color. As you are applying the stain with a sprayer, have an assistant use a push broom to sweep away excess liquid.

After the first coat of concrete stain has been applied, allow the surface to dry in accordance with the stain manufacturer’s directions before applying a second coat. Apply the second coat of stain in the same manner as the first, making sure to sweep away any excess liquid. Once the second coat of stain has dried completely, use a broom to sweep away any dried residue. The entire concrete surface must now be neutralized with water and allowed to dry thoroughly prior to the sealer application. The last step is applying a coat of concrete sealer to the surface to protect it from stains and other damage.

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