How to Stain Interior Concrete Floors in 7 Easy Steps

how to stain interior concrete floors Middle Class Dad beautiful chocolate brown stained concrete floors in a kitchen

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There can be a lot of confusion about how to stain interior concrete floors!

Should I use acid stain or water-based stain? Do I need to “etch” my floors? How do you etch a concrete floor? Can I buy the right stain at places like Home Depot?

So I did some research and figured out what I needed to do and documented every step of the way (including my mistakes).

That included watching dozens of videos, talking to people and going to countless stores.  In the end, I determined that an acid stain would work the best.

To stain interior concrete floors, you’ll want to

1. Sand the floor completely
2. W
ash & rinse the floor
3. S
pray on the acid stain with a backpack sprayer. You can apply multiple coats waiting 2-3 hours in between.
4. Then 2 hours after the last coat, neutralize the acid with TSP and water
5. Rinse the floor thoroughly.
6. When dry, add water-based sealer (which can also be tinted)
7. Wax the floors

So now you know the steps, let’s get into the details of each step so you get beautiful interior stained concrete floors.

Can I buy concrete stain at Home Depot or Lowes?

Places like Home Depot or Lowes don’t sell acid stain (at least not in any of the multiple locations I have been in).

Non-acid concrete stain is more like painting the surface of the concrete. 

It sticks and covers the surface but doesn’t penetrate the concrete and change the color of the concrete like acid stain does.

The biggest issue with that from what I saw was wear and tear.  I didn’t want to have to repeat the process every year or two as the “painted” stain wore off.

Ready to jump right in? Get my recommended list of tools from Amazon Prime to get going on your project!

Why would you want to stain your interior concrete floors?

If you have pets or messy kids you’ve experienced the pain of constantly dirty carpets or having to hire carpet cleaners throughout the year.

Laminate floors look great when they’re first installed. But pets and kids can have them looking terrible very fast.

If you live in a house on a slab (as opposed to what they call pier and beam where there is a crawlspace under your house) it’s relatively easy to do stained concrete floors.

In my house, we had cheap Pergo-type fake wood flooring.

Every time my daughters dropped an ice cube it seemed like the floor would bubble up a little.  We also had a leak at the back door every time there was a bad rain.  Thus, after a year of living in our home, the floors looked pretty terrible.

You can see some of the warping towards the top end of this shot.

how to stain interior concrete floors Middle Class Dad warped laminate flooring

I knew I loved stained concrete floors and I had lived in a loft once in Oakland that had those.

But I wondered how to stain concrete? Was it was something I could do myself? Or would I have to spend thousands of dollars I didn’t have??

Can wood stain be used on concrete?

Some people also ask Can Wood Stain be Used on Concrete?

The short answer is yes, but it may not produce ideal results. Dive in deeper in a newer post of mine where I cover that question in-depth.

If you opt for acid stain just know that at least in my visits to places like Home Depot or Lowe’s, they DO NOT sell acid stain.

Thus I had to find a local concrete stain dealer.

There were plenty and most will sell to consumers as well as professionals.  Just Google or Yelp to find them in your area.

The process of “etching” the concrete is essentially prepping your concrete to be porous enough for the stain to soak in.

You can easily check your concrete by pouring some water (less than a cup) onto the floor and spread it around a little by hand and see if most of it doesn’t soak into the concrete over the course of a few minutes.

If it does soak in, you can skip the etching part.  Etching isn’t hard if you do need to do it, it just adds an extra step.

Also, know that in the event your concrete is new, you should always wait at least a month after new concrete is poured before attempting to stain it.

This cool video shows you the entire process from start to finish.

How much does it cost to stain a concrete floor?

All told, I spent less than $500.

That includes renting the sander from Home Depot and buying the cleaning products, acid stain, acrylic sealer, and wax. Obviously, my labor on the stained concrete floors was on the house!

Costs may vary on materials in your area and may go up over time.

But suffice to say that learning how to stain interior concrete floors will save you a bundle overpaying a pro to do it! The average pro would charge around $4.00 per square foot. But issues with slab or complexity of design can increase that significantly.

Thus in my kitchen and dining area, with a total of about 500 square feet would have cost me $2,000 or more, so I saved considerably by learning how to stain interior concrete floors myself.

Stained concrete floors aren’t hard and don’t require a professional

While you can definitely hire a professional and could get better results that way if you’re like me, you don’t have an extra $2-3k laying around.

Thus with a little hard work and just a few hundred dollars in materials you can get stained concrete floors yourself that will look great.

More importantly, your new stained concrete floors will be durable, long lasting and be a great discussion piece when guests come over.  Everyone will want to know how you got those amazing floors.  Then they’ll be blown away that you did it yourself!

So with my step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to stain concrete in no time!

The first step in my project was to pull up the old Pergo-type floorboards.  In most cases, these are not nailed or glued and just “float” on the concrete with a moisture barrier (fancy word for plastic sheet) in between.

The floorboards just snap together.

If you’re not trying to save the boards just pry one up with a flathead screwdriver or pry bar and then the rest will come up pretty easily after.

how to stain interior concrete floors Middle Class Dad removing the old laminate flooring

I did stained concrete floors in our kitchen and dining area (about 30’x15′) over the course of about 5 days (before and after work); right before our trip to Disneyland about 2 years ago.

That way I knew the floors would have plenty of time to dry while we were gone and we wouldn’t have to breathe any of the fumes (which turned out to be not that bad).

Ready to jump right in? Get my recommended list of tools from Amazon Prime to get going on your project!

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