Stained concrete has been taking more of foothold in the flooring space now that advanced techniques are providing color and texture rich applications with unique characteristics that convey an artistic and rich quality the home or business owner seeks to convey. Since you choose the color and the finish, almost anything is possible. Not to mention some of the results have been even more stunning than a full natural stone installation. Yours and the designers imaginations are the only limiting factors when it comes to concrete stained floors.
If stained concrete is not your pick, check out some of our other flooring combinations…
Stained concrete appeals to many people who want to achieve unique decorative effects for a reasonable cost. For as little as $2 per square foot, you can use stains to create an infinite array of colors and special effects on both interior and exterior surfaces. Concrete stain does more than simply add color. Rather than produce a solid, opaque effect like paint or colored coatings, stains permeate the concrete to infuse it with rich, deep, translucent tones. Some stain manufacturers use adjectives such as “antiqued,” “variegated,” or “mottled” to describe the distinctive look. Even when treated with the same staining product in the same shade, no two concrete floors, walls, or countertops will look alike due to factors such as the composition and age of the concrete and surface porosity. The differing looks can be achieved from the understated elegance of burnished leather to the timeless beauty of natural stone. Enhance the palette of creative expression, ranging from different levels of multi-color intensity to simple sealing for a more natural concrete look.
Concrete Stain penetrates newly cured or existing concrete, along with our professionally installed overlays. Color stains and dyes infuse the top layer of the concrete providing a surface that will not chip, crack or peel. On site color and sheen sampling can be displayed to ensure unique results of one’s choice. Not to mention, everybody is familiar with maintenance and care of cement, there’s virtually none, except for cleaning up the oil leaking from the car, or tires marks, which treated concrete is resistant to.
Concrete staining and sealing is definitely a no nonsense, economical, dramatic and durable option that will satisfy for years to come.
When applying stain to either new or existing concrete, understanding the basics — from surface prep to final sealing — are vital to a successful outcome. “Even staining specialists with years of experience can encounter problems from time to time,” says Chris Sullivan, vice president of sales and marketing for ChemSystems Inc.
Using the right application tools is important too, especially with acid-based stains, which require an investment in acid-resistant brushes and spray equipment. Some tools, such as mops, rollers and squeegees, should only be used by experienced applicators because they can leave undesirable roller marks or streaks of color.
Keep in mind that once the stain is down, the color is permanent-there’s no going back. If you have any doubts, hire the services of an expert, especially if the slab is large or requires extensive surface preparation or you want to incorporate multiple colors and elaborate decorative effects.
Stain application tips
Staining concrete successfully requires a deft hand and a discerning eye. Here are a few tips for getting the best results:
Be scrupulous with surface preparation to ensure removal of contaminants or defects that could ruin an otherwise beautiful staining job. (See Cleaning Floors Before Concrete Staining.)
Carefully mask off surrounding areas to avoid unintentional staining – acid stains can be tough, and sometimes impossible, to remove.
Always apply a test sample of stain to a small, inconspicuous area of the concrete to be treated. Because so many variables can affect the final color, that’s the only way to get an accurate preview of the finished look.
Stain colors will be more intense if you apply the stain soon after the concrete has been placed.
Follow the stain manufacturer’s directions. Acid-based chemical stains often have different requirements than acrylic stains for surface preparation, application and cleanup. Manufacturers can also recommend the best application tools and coverage rates for their products.
To produce various concentrations of color, you can dilute the stain by adding water, either by wetting the concrete before the stain is applied or by spritzing the concrete after stain application with water from a spray bottle.
Don’t expect color consistency or perfection. Variations are inherent in the staining process.
To treat areas that did not stain well, try applying a concrete dye or tint.
When using an acid-based stain, be sure to remove any residue remaining on the surface so the sealer will bond properly. Use a mixture of water and detergent, adding a tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of water to neutralize any remaining acid. Scrub with a buffing machine, and then pick up the residue with a wet vacuum. Rinse until the water is clear.
Protect your newly stained surface with a sealer. Be sure to select a product that’s compatible with the stain you’re using.
Although stain is permanent and won’t flake off like paint, it penetrates only the top layer of the concrete surface and will eventually wear away as the surface is worn by traffic or weather exposure. To prolong stain life, stain manufacturers recommend keeping stained surfaces protected with multiple coats of clear sealer (outdoors) and a floor wax (indoors). A good sealer will provide other benefits as well, such as adding sheen to the surface and enhancing color intensity. (See Protecting Acid Stained Floors and The Concrete Network’s Shop Smart Guide to Buying Concrete Sealers.)
Sealing Interior Stained Concrete
Acrylic Sealers: Acrylics are UV stable, affordable, and easy to apply or reapply, as necessary. They also offer a wet look that greatly enriches the appearance of stained finishes. The downside is that they have the softest surface of all the sealer types and require the most maintenance. One coat of a solvent-based acrylic sealer followed by a topcoat of a water-based acrylic will provide ample protection for interior stain applications. Future floor maintenance can be completed with additional coats of water-based acrylic sealers or waxes as needed.
Epoxy Sealers: If your stained floor is high traffic, such as a restaurant or other public space, an epoxy sealer may be a good option. Epoxies are harder than acrylics, but don’t allow trapped moisture to escape which may become a problem later. When sealing with an epoxy, thorough moisture testing is a must. Epoxy sealers are popular for stained countertops.
Urethane Sealers: This sealer type is the most expensive, but also the most abrasive-resistant. To get a proper bond, urethanes must be applied over a water-based epoxy. You also should be aware that they are not UV stable.
View this comparison chart of concrete sealers. Get information about how they work, primary applications, type of finish, and performance about each type.
Sealing Exterior Stained Concrete
Acrylic sealers are best for outdoor stain applications because they allow moisture in the slab to escape. Many contractors prefer solvent-based acrylics over water-based acrylics because they tend to perform better outside. If the shiny or wet look is not desired, silicone-based penetrating sealers are recommended for a matte finish.
To keep exterior stained surfaces protected, apply a new coat of sealer every year or two, or as necessary. When you begin to notice that water no longer beads up on the surface, it’s time to reseal.
While protecting stained concrete with a sealer or floor finish will repel dirt and help prevent wear, it does not eliminate the need for periodic maintenance. How much traffic the surface receives often dictates the amount of ongoing maintenance required. To protect your investment, ask the stain manufacturer or stain applicator to provide you with care and maintenance guidelines, including recommendations for cleaning products.
Here are some general maintenance tips:
For interior concrete floors subject to only light foot traffic, maintenance is usually a simple matter of dry dust mopping and occasional wet mopping with a neutral-pH cleaner.
If stained floors begin to loose their luster or shine, rewaxing will usually revive the appearance. In a typical residential setting, a year or longer may go by before it’s necessary to buff and rewax the floor. In businesses with more traffic, it will be necessary to reapply the finish at more frequent intervals.
For exterior stained concrete, keep the surface clean by sweeping it with a broom or leaf blower or rinsing with a garden hose. To remove stubborn dirt, scrub with a mop or medium-bristle brush and a mild cleaner.
To keep exterior surfaces protected, apply a new coat of sealer every year or two, or as necessary. When you begin to notice that water no longer beads up on the surface, it’s time to reseal.
Stained concrete countertops will have different protection and maintenance needs than walking surfaces. Be sure to consult the installer for guidance. (Also read Cleaning Concrete Countertops.)
While decorative concrete is very durable, sealant does in fact change the performance of concrete. Covering a concrete floor with a moisture barrier (such as plastic or rubber from a floor rug), treated or untreated, may cause damage to acid stained and treated concrete, especially over time. “Since these materials trap moisture, they can leave hard water deposits or other buildup that leaves a white film or darkened area on sealed concrete especially. Additionally, rolling of hard wheels found on carts and chairs, can grid dirt and debris in to the floor, causing wear to the finish, and creating a discoloring, similar to what you might see in the high traffic area with hardwood, or even carpet. The area becomes distinctly darker, more resistant to cleaning and reducing the life of your treated floor. Mopping your treated floor occasionally and using flat perforated mats or backless rugs (stuck in place with double-sided tape) for high traffic areas, taking care to let the flloors complete dry before replacing coverings, will ensure your floors will stay beautiful and functional for many years.
The repair process for concrete stained, etched and treated floors is identical to the installation process. In summary, any cracks must be filled and sealed, the surface acid etched to prepare for the stain, apply the stain and seal. In some cases, you may need to etch an overlaying area to mute the existing color, then use sample stain tones and amounts to achieve the desired result. The saving grace of most treated concrete floors is their muddled appearance, which are inconsistent in terms of color anyway, making blending of repairs a lot easier than any other medium.
Any floor that is above the level of the surrounding ground on which the structure is built.
Acrylic monomers are injected into the cell structure of the wood to give increased hardness and then finished with a wear layer over the wood.
A slightly different chemical make up than Polyurethane with the same benefits.
Added to the urethane finish for increased abrasion resistance of the wear layer, which is becoming extremely popular on the better grade wood floors.
A cement slab poured below the level of the surrounding terrain.
A quality of oak. Better Oak has some small knots and very little dark graining.
These products have a very distinctive groove in them. Beveled edge planks lend themselves to an informal and country decor. With the urethane finishes applied at the factory today, the beveled edges are sealed completely, making dirt and grit easy to be swept or vacuumed out of the grooves.
In the summer months, when the humidity is higher, wood will expand and gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle.
Advanced technology that allows the use of space-age ceramics to increase the abrasion resistance of the wear layer.
A quality of oak. Clear Oak has no visual blemishes or knots and is extremely expensive.
Engineered wood plies that are stacked on top of each other but in the opposite direction is called cross-ply construction. This creates a wood floor that is dimensionally stable and less affected by moisture than a 3/4” solid wood floor. Cross-ply construction allows the plies to counteract each other which will stop the plank from growing or shrinking with the changes in humidity. The other advantage for you is versatility. You can install these floors over concrete slabs in your basement as well as anywhere else in your home.
A type of warping with a concave condition; the sides are higher than the center.
Each board is just slightly beveled. Some manufacturers add an eased edge to both the length of the planks as well as the end joints. Eased edges are used to help hide minor irregularities, such as uneven plank heights. Eased edge is also called micro-beveled edge.
One of the three common types of wood floors. (Others are Solid and Longstrip Plank.) Engineered wood floors are generally manufactured with 2,3, or 5 thin sheets or plies of wood that are laminated together to form one plank. Most engineered floors can be nailed down, stapled down, glued down, or floated over a wide variety of subfloors, including some types of existing flooring.
Finish in Place
Finish in Place, or unfinished hardwood, is installed in the home and then sanded. The stain and 2-3 coats of urethane finish are then applied. The urethane finish, brushed or mopped on, is known as a “floor finish” not a “furniture finish”. Finish in Place floors may be screened and recoated to rejuvenate the finish and revitalize the floor’s natural beauty.
Floating Floor Installation
With the floating installation method the floor is not mechanically fastened to any part of the subfloor. A thin pad is placed between the wood flooring and the subfloor. Then a recommended wood glue is applied in the tongue and groove of each plank to hold the planks together. The padding has its advantages: it protects against moisture, reduces noise transmission, is softer under foot, and provides for some additional “R” value. Some engineered floors and all Longstrip floors can be floated.
The recommended mastic or adhesive is spread on with the proper sized trowel to adhere the wood flooring to the subfloor. You should know that engineered wood floors and parquets can be glued down. Solid strip floors and plank floors can only be nailed or stapled.
Each wood species has its own unique graining and texture. The graining on the boards is determined by the way it has been cut. Natural variations in the color and grain are normal and to be expected.
Janka Hardness Test
This wood hardness rating test measures the force needed to embed a .444 inch steel ball to half its diameter in a piece of wood. The higher the number the harder the wood. Although this is one of the best methods to measure the ability of wood species to withstand indentations, it should be used as a general guide when comparing various species of wood flooring.
On a piece of wood, the round, harder, usually darker in color, cross section of where the branch joined the trunk of the tree.
Laminate is a manufactured product that simulates the look of hardwood, ceramic tile, natural stone and many other types of flooring.
Long Strip Plank
One of the three common types of wood floors. (Others are Engineered and Solid.) Long Strip Plank floors are similar to Engineered floors and have several wood plies that are glued together. The center core is generally a softer wood material and is used to make the tongue and groove. A hardwood finish layer is glued on top of the core. The top layer can be almost any hardwood species and is made up of many smaller individual pieces that are laid in three rows. This gives the effect of installing a board that is 3 rows wide and several planks long. Long Strip floors come in a wide variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species and when damaged they are easy to replace.
Moisture Cured Urethane
A similar chemical make up as solvent-based urethanes, but this finish needs the humidity (moisture) in the air to cure.
Are used to cover expansion joints and to enhance the performance and appearance of the hardwood floor. In many cases, moldings and baseboards need to be removed for hardwood installation.
This method is typically used with the 3/4″ solid products, however there are adapters available for thinner flooring sizes as well. 2″ nailing cleats are used with a wood flooring nailer and mallet to attach the flooring to the subfloor.
Number 1 Common
A quality of oak. Number 1 Common Oak has more knots and more dark graining.
Number 2 Common
A quality of oak. Number 2 Common Oak has more knots and more dark graining.
A cement slab that exists on the same plane as the surrounding terrain.
When shopping for a hardwood floor you will see boards in various sizes. The narrower board widths are referred to as “strips” and the wider units as “planks.” When we think of solid wood floors we generally are talking about a 3/4″ thick plank that is 2 1/4″ wide. This is the classic strip wood floor, although it is possible to find a narrower width or a slightly thinner gage. The strips are generally in random lengths from 12″ – 84″.
A clear, tough and durable finish that is applied as a wear layer.
Pre-Finished Wood Floor
Pre-finished hardwood flooring comes ready for installation in your home. The hardwood boards have already been sanded, stained and finished at the manufacturing plant. In many cases this can provide a harder, better- protected surface. Several coats of urethane are sprayed on the boards and then they are UV dried for a very durable finish. Pre-finished floors offer a wider variety of wood species and save hours of labor and cleanup. They also may be screened and recoated to rejuvenate the finish and revitalize the floor’s natural beauty.
Each species has its own unique graining and texture. The graining on the boards is determined by the way it has been cut. Rotary Cut is a cutting process that displays a larger and bolder graining pattern.
A quality of oak. Select Oak has some small knots and very little dark graining.
Each species has its own unique graining and texture. The graining on the boards is determined by the way it has been cut. Sliced Cut is a cutting process that shows a more uniform pattern.
One of the three common types of wood floors. (Others are Engineered and Longstrip Plank.) Solid wood floors are one solid piece of wood that have tongue and groove sides. When we talk about solid wood floors, we tend to think of floors that are unfinished, but it’s important to know that there are also many pre-finished 3/4” solid wood floors. Solid wood floors are sensitive to moisture and because so they are used in nail down installations and are not recommended for installation below ground level, or directly over a concrete slab.
Oil is used as part of the chemical make up of the polyurethane finish.
The edges of all boards meet squarely creating a uniform, smooth surface that blends the floor together from board to board.
With this method 1-1/2 to 2 inch staples are used versus nailing cleats to attach the wood flooring to the subfloor. A pneumatic gun is used to drive the staple into the wood flooring and subfloor.
When shopping for a hardwood floor you will see boards in various sizes. The narrower board widths are referred to as “strips” and the wider units as “planks.” When we think of solid wood floors we generally are talking about a 3/4″ thick plank that is 2 1/4″ wide. This is the classic strip wood floor, although it is possible to find a narrower width or a slightly thinner gage. The strips are generally in random lengths from 12″ – 84″. The most common wood species used for solid strip floors are red oak, white oak, maple, cherry, white ash, hickory or pecan.
Tongue and Groove
The joining of two boards, one board having a tongue on its edge that fits into a groove in the edge of the other.
Un-Finished Wood Floor
An Un-Finished wood floor allows you to have a custom job – you choose the wood species and it’s sanded and the stain is applied on site. With Un-Finished you also have the chance to level the surface of the entire floor after it has been installed.
Factory wood finishes that are cured with Ultra Violet lights versus heat.
Water is used as part of the chemical make up of the polyurethane finish.
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