Concrete Staining: Types, Process, and Benefits

Concrete staining is a technique that building professionals use to enhance the appearance of concrete surfaces using color. Whether indoors or outdoors and on the floor or countertops, concrete staining offers versatile and customizable solutions to give concrete surfaces a more upscale look.

Concrete Staining: Types, Process, and Benefits

Concrete stains can hide surface imperfections as well as add character and beauty to any concrete surface. This technique has become a popular choice for anyone looking to elevate their space and add a touch of elegance and uniqueness.

Concrete Staining: Types of Stain

There are two main types of stains that contractors use to finish concrete surfaces: acid-based stains and water-based stains.

Acid-Based Stains

Acid-based stains are made from a mixture of water, hydrochloric acid, and metallic salts. This mixture reacts with the minerals in the concrete to produce the color. The acid in this mixture etches the surface of the concrete which allows the metallic salts to penetrate and form a lasting bond with the concrete. Acid-based stains offer fewer color options, typically earth tones such as browns, greens, blues, and reddish hues. Acid-based stains also require more experience to apply because their application requires more safety precautions.

Water-Based Stains

Water-based stains are non-reactive and produce color through pigment rather than a reaction with the surface material. Water-based stains penetrate the concrete surface and bond with it through absorption. This process produces a more consistent color appearance. Water-based stains are available in a wide range of colors with varying intensity. Contractors can mix, layer, and blend them to create custom colors. Many people prefer water-based stains to acid-based stains because of their ease of application, quick-drying time, and low odor.

Concrete Staining: Sealer Types

A sealer is a top coat that protects, preserves, and enhances the color of the concrete. There are three main types of sealers and each has different properties.

Acrylic-Based Sealers

Acrylic-based sealers are created using both water-based and synthetic resins. This sealer creates a protective barrier against stains, moisture, and wear. This kind of sealant is easy to apply and quick drying, so it is ideal for DIYers. These are the least expensive type of concrete sealers.

Polyurethane Sealers

Polyurethane sealers come in both water-based and solvent-based formulas. These both create a thick and protective glossy coat that gives the concrete surface excellent resistance to wear and tear. Polyurethane sealers are slightly more expensive than acrylic sealers but less expensive than epoxy sealers.

Epoxy Sealers

Epoxy sealers provide the thickest and most durable coating, so they are known for their durability and longevity. This sealer type requires more expertise and knowledge to achieve, but once complete, they are easy to maintain. Epoxy finishes may yellow when exposed to sunlight, so they are not recommended for outdoor use.

Concrete Staining: Steps in the Process

Staining concrete is a multi-step process. The following are key steps to consider.

  1. Prepare the Surface

Surface preparation is crucial for the success of stained concrete. The concrete surface must be clean, free from dirt, grime, grease, and any other previous coating. Depending on the condition of the concrete and the type of coating you need to remove, this could include pressure washing, scrubbing, or chemical cleaners.

Surface preparation also includes fixing any cracks, dents, or divots that need to be repaired before the stain application.

  1. Consider Stain Types

Consider the type of stain that you want to use for your concrete finish: acid or water-based. Acid-based stains offer earthy colors which produce a slightly variegated pattern due to the chemical reaction. These stains require skill and expertise to apply. Water-based stains are more plentiful. They are easier to apply and produce a vivid and consistent color.

  1. Color Selection

Concrete stain colors are varied in hue and intensity. Water-based stains offer more options for color. You can also mix and layer water-based stains to produce custom colors. When you decide on a color you like, it is best to test it on a sample or in an inconspicuous area on your surface area to see if you like the way it looks once you have applied it.

  1. Application Techniques

You can apply the concrete stain using various techniques including spraying, brushing, or rolling. The application type you choose is dependent on the type of concrete stain you choose. Carefully review the manufacturer’s instructions before you begin this process to achieve the most optimal results.

  1. Sealing and Maintenance

Once the stain has been applied and allowed to fully dry, it is essential to seal the concrete to maintain it in the best condition. Sealing the concrete surface protects the color from stains, UV damage, and wear. There are different types of concrete sealers available such as acrylic sealers or epoxy coatings.

  1. Considering the Process

As you walk through these steps in your mind, consider how you want to accomplish this task. Think about if this is something that you want to do yourself or something that you want to entrust to a professional. Hiring a professional may be a smart move if your concrete surface needs intense preparation and repair. It also may be the best idea to hire a professional if you want to use an acid-based stain as these require specialized knowledge and expertise.

Concrete Staining: Costs

The cost of concrete staining is variable, depending on the preparation, stain type and amount, the intricacy of the design, and if you use professional help. This results in a wide cost range from between $2-$25 per square foot. On average, most people pay between $3-$14 per square foot with an average of $8.50 per square foot. These prices include the costs of materials and labor.

You can save money on concrete staining by doing the job yourself and using just one color, a water-based stain, and an acrylic rather than an epoxy sealer.

Concrete Staining: Benefits and Drawbacks

Concrete staining is a popular concrete finishing technique that has numerous advantages. Consider these points to decide if this technique is right for your project.


  • Aesthetic Improvement – One of the most essential benefits of this option is the way that it transforms a plain concrete surface into a more visually appealing surface. Staining adds depth, dimension, and visual texture. People use this finish to create unique patterns and designs and mimic other materials like marble or stone.
  • Versatility – You can apply concrete stains to indoor and outdoor spaces in a wide variety of areas including floors, pool decks, countertops, and sidewalks.
  • Cost-Effectiveness – Concrete stained floors are a cost-effective alternative to many other flooring options.
  • Durability – Stained concrete floors are durable for many years. The color is resistant to fading, chipping, and peeling. Applying a sealer at regular intervals can help to prolong the color finish.
  • Low Maintenance – Maintaining stained concrete surfaces is relatively easy because of its smooth surface. Regular cleaning such as sweeping or light mopping is sufficient for regular maintenance. Stained concrete floors will require some sealant application to help maintain their finish. This will need to be more frequent for high-traffic or outdoor areas.
  • Eco-Friendly – Concrete staining is considered a more eco-conscious choice as it is using an existing surface reducing the need for other materials like wood or stone. Water-based stains are also low in VOCs, which makes them a green choice.
  • Conceals Imperfections – Concrete stains are an effective way to cover minor surface imperfections like chips or dents. The variegated or vibrant color of the stain makes these minor imperfections less noticeable.


  • Difficulty in Consistency – Achieving consistency in color and texture can be difficult if you are not experienced in concrete staining. Especially when using an acid-based stain, it is best to get professional help to achieve consistent results.
  • Limited Modifications – Once the concrete has been stained, it can be difficult to change the color though small modifications in hue and vibrancy may be achieved if the contractor uses water-based stains from the beginning.
  • Periodic Resealing – Sealers will wear off over time due to use and weather. It is necessary to periodically reseal the surface to protect the color.
  • Need for Professional Expertise – It is best to use a professional if you do not have adequate building experience as this is a finish that can be difficult to modify if you get it wrong.