Concrete Staining 101


Grimy little spots from milk, popsicles, and bubble blowing soap.

I decided my back porch needed a face lift and I have always loved the stained concrete look.  That was the solution.  Eric usually pales when I bring up home improvement projects, but this one he was on board with.

For your benefit I used my porch as the guinea pig.  I can now bring you all kinds of wised advice on concrete staining.  All the kinds of things the side of the can doesn’t tell you.  Things like “you can use a roller to put the stain on”.  Yes you can but only if you like all the geometric shapes left behind from the roller overlapping.  Yep, I learned the hard way.  But let us start at the beginning.

You will first have to acid wash the surface ( I used the Behr line of concrete staining products).  This will etch and clean the concrete so it will take the stain.  That was easy.  I poured it on diluted with water using a watering can.  Then I left it for 10 minutes and then scrubbed it with a stiff brush.  I then hosed off the porch.  They don’t really tell you what to do with all the acid.  So I washed it into the lawn.  So far the plants and grass are still alive.  I have Rhododendrons there and I consoled myself with the fact that they like acid.  Admittedly this may have been a bit much.

I left it for one full day to be sure the concrete was dry.  Then I primed it. This I did put on with the roller.

You can see the overlap from the roller but in the end it didn't matter.

Ahhh the stain.  This was the real bugger.  The key here is that all the strokes you use to put is on, will to some extent, be seen in the end.  So if a smooth perfect surface is what you want this is not the product for you.  Behr has concrete paint. Go get that.  I for one like the imperfections.

Now they say you can use a roller which I did to put on the first coat ( I tried 3 methods actually).  This is where I broke into a cold sweat after having applied it.  It looked so bad.  The stain soaked into the dark areas of the primer faster than the light ones and to top it off you could see all the roller marks I used.  ”Holy cow!” I thought, “I just used $200 to ruin my back porch.”  There were hard lines all over the porch.  I would show you a picture but I didn’t take one.  I was so devastated and didn’t really want a photo of the porch I thought was permenantly ruined.  So, sorry no picts here.  As soon as it was dry enough to step on (read here about 30 mins) I did!  I just couldn’t live with it like that.  This time I used a brush.  That was more the look I was going for.  I did another coat with the brush.  Let it dry and then used a sponge.  A large yellow one with little texture.  These two methods really smoothed out the roller marks.  All said and done the porch has 5 coats of stain.  It gets darker the more you do and I wanted it a bit darker.

Here is the sponge I used.

I used the Behr color called Loden.  The sample in the picture they have there at the store is not at all like the real color.  The sample color looks greyish and cold.  But in reality it is a warm chesnut brown.  A color I think would go well with most anything.  When you open the can it looks purple, only helping to confirm your thought that what you just bought will be cold and ugly.  But don’t panic.  This is the right color.  It warms up A LOT.

Let me say this: this was the most paitent I have ever been for a project.  If you mess up the staining it’s a real bother to get it off again.  It cost about $150 to get the products plus supplies for an area that is about 200 sq. feet.

Here are the marks left after the 5th coat of stain.

And here is the finished product. Much better and I think it will resist the stains better.

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7 comments to Concrete Staining 101

  • Beth

    It looks great!

  • Michelle Young

    Love it, Meghan! Your hard work paid off.

  • Very nice. I am currently trying to demolish a raised flowerbed in my yard and put down a brick patio. . . now I’m thinking concrete could look nice.

  • Barrett Cardoni

    What a wonderful website! I definitely like all of the information you have right here. I plan on social bookmarking this for long term research. Remember to update it regularly.

  • Ria

    great job….this has been on my to do list for 3 years now and I think I have finally convinced my husband……but first we are going to widen the steps so we won’t face a lawsuit..or grandkids with cracked skulls…so was it pretty easy? Ken actually did this for a summer job – at least part of his job – about 3 years ago….he wants to help but I ‘m not too sure at how good his memory is..different doing it with your boss or by yourself. We have been researching it…but when the time comes I’ll be calling you. The sponge seems a great idea…maybe one like what you use for laying ceramic tiles would work? I believe it is textured on one side..

  • Sure, if you have any questions I would be more than happy to help. It’s not hard just time consuming.

  • Marty

    Yesterday after spending countless hours prepping my screened porch floor for the concrete stain .. I used the good old 3/8 roll they recommended ..it was a nightmare !! Roller streaks everywhere .. Had to get on my hands and knees with a brush to make it look decent .. Today I decided to use my microfiber dust mop ! Idid it in less than ten minutes and did not have to get down on my hands and knees ! It worked perfect !! I was ready to tile the floor to cover up the hideous paint job .. Ha !!

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