Hate Carpet? Would you love Stained Concrete Floors instead?
I get it! 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. 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.
I knew I loved stained concrete floors and I had lived in a loft once in Oakland that had those. But I wondered if it was something I could do myself? Or would I have to spend thousands of dollars I didn’t have??
There can be a lot of confusion about stained concrete floors!
- Acid stain?
- Water based stain?
- Do I need to “etch” my floors?
- Can I buy the right stain at places like Home Depot?
I researched the process for months. 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.
Non-acid concrete stain seemed to me more like it is 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.
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.
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 coarse 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.
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 $5,000 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!
The first step in my project was to pull up the old Pergo-type floor boards. 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 floor boards 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.
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 breath any of the fumes (which turned out to be not that bad).
STEP 1 – Prep Your Floors & trim
You’ll likely want to remove the baseboard trim in your room if it’s touching the floor. If it’s off the floor (like mine was due to there being the fake wood floor initially), you can just use painter’s tape to tape off the baseboards. If you opt to remove it, use a pry bar to gently pull it away from the wall which should leave it intact and allow you to reattach rather than replace.
TIP: On a piece of painter’s tape, mark each board as to which wall it goes on. If one wall has multiple boards, mark each section going left to right (ie: west wall section 1).
With baseboards done and the room empty of all furniture and/or appliances, now we need to sand the floor. If your floors are near perfect and don’t have any excess residue, paint or other things that would make your floors look less than perfect you can skip the sanding.
I rented a floor sander from Home Depot. This thing does kick up a lot of dust so I got sheets of plastic and tried to separate the rooms I was doing from the rest of the house and to hide the kitchen cabinets and countertops.
TIP: Make sure you wear a dust mask or respirator and safety goggles!
You want the floors to be relatively smooth and to remove any sealer, glue or wax that could have been on there. In my home the original slab was obviously not totally level so they had used some kind of leveling compound. This looks and feels similar to concrete but was rougher and applied in patches so it was easy to spot. Know going in to the process that this will not stain as dark as the rest of the concrete.
You can see some of the leveling compound on my floors in this shot.
If it’s a thin layer you could scrape it off (it flakes up fairly easily) or in the staining process you could reapply stain to this part more than the rest of the floors.
But the beauty of stained concrete floors are the imperfections!
Just go through the entire room with the sander smoothly, evenly and a little slowly. The sander I rented did come with a vacuum as part of it which did help with dust and as much dust as this kicks up, every little bit helps!
You’ll notice my stove there. I did eventually move it before the staining process but since I knew that floor would never be seen and the rails to hold the range in place were attached to the concrete, I did not sand that area under it.
This concludes Part 1 of this series. Ready to keep going? Here is Stained Concrete Part 2!
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Do you have any questions? Have you stained concrete? Have any tips?
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Of course in the day and age we unfortunately live in I have to add the following: I am not a general contractor or professional concrete stainer. This post and part 2 walk you though the steps I took in staining my concrete. Your results could differ. Please consult a professional if you need to.
Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution):
Metallic Marble Concrete Staining – Augusta GA- Augusta GA by Decorative Concrete Kingdom is licensed under CC BY 2.0