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Stained concrete is the most common type of concrete finish. This is due to stained concrete’s versatility.

Stained Concrete can be installed on both freshly poured and existing slabs to achieve a wide range of finishes. It is commonly used in both residential and commercial installations.

What is Stained Concrete?

Although stained concrete may seem like an exaggeration, it is concrete slabs that have had some color added to their surface. This topic is complicated because there are many concrete colorants. Each has its own installation requirements and advantages.

Concrete stain penetrates concrete’s surface, unlike paint and other concrete coatings. It leaves a durable finish that is unlikely to crack or chip. Concrete stains can be seen through semi-translucent colors, just like wood stains. This allows you to see the natural beauty of the concrete and its variations through the stain color. Concrete stain is often easy to install and costs less than other flooring options.

Different types of concrete stain


Acid stain is the most popular type of concrete stain. An acid stain is the most common type of concrete stain. Acid stain is a common ingredient in residential and commercial concrete flooring installations, especially for brown concrete floors.

Acid stain is made of water, muriatic acids, and metallic salts. Acid stain permanently and chemically alters the color of concrete. It reacts with calcium on its surface. Concrete floors are stained when metallic particles bond to calcium.

Acid stains penetrate and create a color that is completely resistant to ultraviolet light. Acid stain is the best choice for outdoor surfaces because of its penetrating nature. Concrete stain can fade or become discolored if they are exposed to sunlight. Acid stains can be used in high-traffic areas without fear of cracking or peeling because they are extremely durable.

Acid stain can appear marbled or variegated due to the different amounts of lime used in concrete. An acid stain is a great option for covering imperfections in concrete surfaces when you are using darker stain colors. Acid stain is often used in loft-style apartments and rustic commercial renovations, where concrete slabs may have become worn or decades old.

An acid stain has a primary drawback. It’s only available in a small number of colors.

These colors include black, earth tones, light blues, greens, and dark blues. Acid stains can take up to 24 hours for concrete to react, which can prove prohibitive for some projects.

To protect acid stained floors from foot traffic, a sealer must be applied. Exterior applications are more common with solvent-based acrylic sealers, while interior installations are better with water-based polyurethane.


Water-based concrete stains, which are newer styles of concrete stains, deposit fine pigments onto concrete surfaces. They are available in a wide range of colors, unlike acid stains. Water-based stains don’t react with concrete like acid stains. They can also offer color with a uniform appearance. Water-based concrete stains can be used to make intricate designs and even add corporate logos to concrete floors. Water-based concrete stains have the highest potential to opacity and are therefore the best choice for staining concrete floors that are consistent in color.

They are UV stable but less durable than acid stain and less often used on concrete outdoor.

It is important to use a high-quality concrete sealer when using a water-based concrete stain. Stain concrete sealers must be regularly inspected and reapplied if necessary to prevent concrete floors from deteriorating in high-traffic areas.

Water-based concrete stains are also free from odors and VOCs, and they dry quickly. This is a big advantage for residential renovations and overnight staining in retail shops. Here is a water-based stain color guide.


Concrete dyes are a type concrete stain that is made up of ultra-fine pigments suspended with solvents. They are not reactive to concrete surfaces, unlike an acid concrete stain. They have the best transparency and natural appearance and are used primarily for tinting concrete overlays or polished concrete.

Concrete dyes that are solvent-based have a uniform stain color. However, they require skilled installation because of the short drying time. Concrete dyes cannot be used outdoors as they are not UV-resistant. Concrete dye can be used to add a natural-looking color to concrete floors. It is also available in many stain colors.


Integral color, although not technically a concrete stain is pigment that’s added to concrete before it’s poured. This technique is only applicable to new construction and does not offer the same benefits as a traditional concrete stain.

Integral concrete colors have the advantage of being uniform throughout the slab. The color will not change as the floor wears or ages. You can still see all the imperfections in concrete’s surface, giving it a modern look that rivals natural stone floors.

Integral color has another advantage: it is UV stable. This makes it ideal for outdoor concrete floors such as patios or skim work. Integral pigment doesn’t require sealing to keep it from fading so it is the best choice for surfaces such as pool decks that could become slippery if they were not sealed.

Apart from the fact that integral pigment can’t be used on concrete that is already poured, the main disadvantage of this pigment is the fact that it can raise the cost of concrete pours by up to 20%. This cost can be offset depending on the project by the fact that stain is not an additional labor expense after concrete has been poured.

Another consideration — Surface preparation

Although many homeowners are able to install stained concrete floors by themselves, it is important to properly prepare concrete surfaces, especially older slabs.

New constructions may need to be prepared with a swing buffer before staining. However, older slabs will require a planetary concrete grinding machine.

Only professionally polished concrete floors should be treated with acetone-borne concrete dyes. This installation is not recommended for DIYers due to dust control and flammability.