Stained Concrete FAQ

FAQ about stained concrete…here are answers to frequently asked questions about stained concrete application, appearance, performance, benefits and maintenance.


Why do people want stained concrete?

Stained concrete appeals to people who want a unique, one-of-a-kind decorative concrete surface. Stained concrete is available in an array of colors. Stains can be mixed to provide different hues and shades of the same color, creating a complementary color effect.

Stained concrete is not like paint, or a one-color coating. Much like wood stain, concrete stain is much thinner than paint and permeates the pores of the clean concrete surface. It attaches to the chemicals in the concrete’s composition, infusing the surface concrete with a depth of color, light and dark, depending upon how the stain reacts to the chemicals already in the concrete.


What designs are possible with stained concrete?

Contractor Created Designs

There are many abstract designs possible for an experienced decorative concrete contractor to create.

Possible design effects are marbled, antiqued, variegated, or mottled. Most are abstract looking designs, unless the customer would prefer a hand-stained, textured pattern, which is made possible with newly poured concrete to which specially shaped stamping sets are used before the concrete hardens.

Textured Pattern Designs – After the concrete partially hardens, theses stamps are used to create different patterns such as flagstone, cobblestone, brick, slate, and others.

Once these patterns are formed in the concrete, including an optional border, after it dries, the concrete can be stained and sealed. Each individual pattern can also be hand-colored separately, with the colors of the customer’s choosing.


Why are no two stained concrete objects such as concrete floors, patios, walls, etc., ever be exactly the same shade of color, even when using the same stains and stain colors?
  1. Concrete chemical composition varies
  2. Concrete age
  3. Surface porosity
  4. Concrete hardness
  5. Amount of moisture within the slab

An experienced concrete contractor can alleviate some of the color differences due to his or her knowledge of stain colors and hues needed to blend the colors. However, it is possible that there will be some patches of concrete that will not accept color as uniformly as the rest of the slab.


Can anything made of concrete be stained?

Yes. Both acid and water-based stains can be applied to new or old and plain or integrally colored concrete (color-mixed in the cement truck). They can also be used both indoors and out, on everything from indoor concrete floors and kitchen countertops to pool decks, patios and driveways.

Concrete statuary can also be stained to match an existing outdoor hardscape color scheme. (house color, trim color, etc.)
Preparation of the concrete’s surface condition is the key to an attractive, long-lasting, stained piece of concrete. The concrete’s surface must be properly cleaned of dirt, debris, molds, oils, curing membranes, glues, adhesives, gum, and sealers.

Any existing film of any kind will prohibit the stain from penetrating into the concrete’s surface and creating a uniform and pleasant visual appearance.

Oils and salts can be the most difficult to clean out of the concrete’s pores. After pressure washing, some remnants of these chemicals can remain below the surface. This can change the color of the stain and possibly not allow a uniform look to the finished stained slab without additional contractor attention.

Washing your concrete with a regular garden hose does not get deep enough to properly clean out the concrete’s pores. Pressure washing is the best method for proper surface preparation before applying stain.


What is the difference between stained concrete and colored concrete?

Stained concrete is achieved by applying a thin coat of colored stain to properly prepared, cleaned concrete. The stain absorbs into the pores of the concrete. Colored concrete is pre-colored by adding a powdered color mix to the concrete batch at the concrete plant. It is mixed in the truck and when poured, is uniformly one solid, opaque color.


Can I stain my concrete myself?

Yes, however, you should be aware that having the proper tools, experience, and application knowledge is vital to achieving good results.

If you have any doubts, it is best to hire the services of a decorative concrete professional. This is especially true if you wish to use multiple colors, or special, more advanced designs.

Safety is also a factor. Acid-based stains contain corrosive chemicals that can cause eye and skin irritation, and produce very strong odors until it fully dries. Take proper precautionary measures by using corrosive-resistant gloves and wear eye-wear.


What stained concrete color options are there?

Color options are different for acid stains as compared to water based stains.

Acid stains are available in a color palette of approximately 8 different hues of color. Most of these are earth tones, such as browns, tans, terra cottas and soft, blue-green colors.

However, acid stains can be mixed or applied on top of one another to produce deeper, more rich and dramatic hues.
Water-based stains are available in many different colors. Color-wise, they offer a less dramatic, and more subtle, pastel, and translucent color to the concrete. Like acid stains, many water-based stains can be mixed together to create additional hues of color.


How do I choose the right stain color?

Whether indoor or outdoor, most people attempt to match an existing color scheme. The most popular outdoor colors are variations of neutral colors which match their home’s color such as browns and tans, grays and greens.


Stained Concrete Tips and Things You Should Be Aware Of When Choosing Stains to DIY (Do It Yourself)
  • Colors are permanent. Repeat: Colors are permanent
  • Always do a test swatch in an out of the way spot, first. Let it dry for 24 hours.
  • If in doubt, begin by choosing a lighter color hue or shade. You can always apply a 2nd coat.
  • The liquid stain in the container may or may not be the same color after it dries for 24 hours. Always do a test patch, first.
  • New concrete will typically absorb more color than older, existing, weathered concrete.
  • Solid black outdoor concrete surfaces will absorb more heat. This makes it hotter to walk on, and can allow the concrete to absorb more heat, making the slab deteriorate faster than normal.
  • Acid based stains will have wider color variations than water-based stains, due to the way the acid adheres to the different chemicals within the concrete slab, itself. Lighter areas will need to be retouched to blend with darker areas.
  • Stain colors will look darker, richer, and have more visual depth after sealer is applied.
  • Two coats of sealer, allowing proper drying time between coats, will produce the best results. Read container directions for the proper recoating time window.
  • Stain color charts are available from stain manufacturers, decorative concrete supply houses, and decorative concrete contractors.
  • Decorative concrete contractors will usually be able to provide you with photos showing what the different colors look like after applied to concrete. Some may have a photo portfolio for you to look at. Others will have their photo portfolio on their website to help you choose your colors.
  • If requested, decorative concrete contractors can perform a color test swatch on your concrete before performing the entire application.


What can I do to get a more decorative or custom look on my stained concrete?
  • Application of multiple layers of stain
  • Application of multiple colors of stain
  • Application of a combination of stains and dyes
  • Application of thicker, gel stains with stencils to create special patterns
  • Pour new concrete and have it stamped with a pattern such as cobblestone, flagstone, etc.


What is the difference between acid stains and water-based stains?

Acid-based concrete stains react chemically with concrete to form a permanent bond. Colors are translucent (semi-see through). They result in deep, rich tones, made more visually attractive with the addition of a topcoat sealer, which gives the stains more depth and richness of color.

Water-based stains do not produce a chemical reaction with the concrete. This allows the colors to be more uniform and consistent. Water-based stains fill the pores of the concrete to produce a colored coating. Most water-based stains are very low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds). This means that they are safer to apply.


How much does stained concrete cost?

Basic: One-coat stain application with minimal preparation time can cost $ 2 to $ 4 per square foot.

Intermediate: Additional surface prep time, multiple colors and mixed media can cost $ 5 to $ 10 per square foot.

Custom Work: Stencil or special custom designs can cost $ 15 and up per square foot.


Will the colors fade?

Stained concrete is fade-resistant and, with properly applied sealant, very durable. Due to the fact that the color permanently bonds with the sub-strata under the concrete’s surface, the color does not fade. It is important, however, to reseal the stained concrete on a regular basis to keep its depth of colors protected interior dirt and oils, and from the outdoor elements.


How do I maintain stained concrete?

Concrete stain is absorbed a few millimeters below the concrete’s surface. In time, heavy walking or driving traffic will wear away the sealer. Exposure to weather elements will also wear away the sealant coat.

To prolong your stained concrete’s lifespan, protect exterior concrete surfaces with a clear, commercial grade sealer, preferably obtained from a decorative concrete supply house. Protect interior stained concrete with floor wax.


What are the long term benefits of stained concrete?


  • Beauty, artful design
  • Blending your home’s exterior color with the concrete which surrounds it
  • Added curb appeal


  • Durable
  • Fade-resistant
  • With proper care, stained concrete can remain both beautiful and functional, indefinitely


  • Low maintenance
  • Scratch resistant
  • Timely re-sealing with a high quality commercial grade sealer extends wear life and protects it from the elements



We hope that this stained concrete FAQ has been helpful to you. If we can be of service to you with your stained concrete project, please contact us.


Contact us for a stained concrete quotation, today.