Do it yourself concrete staining is the cheapest and easiest way to improve the appearance of your concrete surfaces. The alternatives – chipping away the existing concrete and replacing it with new or decorative overlays – are not recommended for DIYers and can be very expensive. But before starting your staining project, there are a few things you need to know.

There are two types of concrete stains to choose from, acid stains and acrylic stains. Acid stains work by chemically reacting with free lime on the surface to produce a natural-looking translucent color. They create a mottled, variegated and multi-toned coloration. Every concrete surface reacts differently to acid stains, making each job unique. Acrylic stains are water-based and have pigments that seep into the pores and adhere to concrete, thus creating a more consistent semi-translucent color like that of a stain. Acrylic stains will help mask blemishes and discolorations, while acid stains accentuate them.

Acidic and acrylic stains will work equally well for many surfaces, but which one you choose will depend on the look you want. However, there are situations where one type will perform better than the other. For older exterior concrete (more than 15-20 years old), acid stains may not work because so much of the free lime has been washed away. Acrylic stains are great for old concrete due to their increased porosity over time. Acid stains work well with newer concrete due to the availability of free lime. If repairs are necessary, such as patches or inlays, acrylics may be the best option to help disguise the repairs. Any patch material will stand out with acid stains. For smooth trowelled interior surfaces with less porosity, acid stains are often better because they do not require as much penetration to color concrete.

Before you begin, it is also important to have realistic expectations. Staining can turn dull gray concrete into a beautiful, colorful finish, but it is impossible to know exactly what the finished product will look like, especially with acid stains. Every concrete surface is different and will therefore accept stains differently. The exact same tint will have two different appearances with two different slabs. Even seasoned professionals cannot predict the exact result of a staining job. For this reason, it is not a good idea to try to exactly match the color of concrete to anything else, such as brick or siding. Chances are high that you will not be successful. Instead, choose a complementary color or shade for your concrete. For example, if you have a light brown coating, choose a dark brown stain.

The most critical part of staining is preparation. Take your time deciding how you want the concrete to look and preparing the surface for staining. You have a chance to get it right unless you want to do a major surface check. Do it yourself concrete staining is not a difficult process, but it does require an honest effort to be satisfied with the finished product.

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