Concrete is not just the foundation of your home anymore!  If you’re looking for the latest trend in flooring and you are adventurous enough for a do-it-yourself project, staining concrete floors may be the right upgrade for you.

As  Scottsdale real estate experts, we love sharing design ideas we come across while representing sellers and buyers – including how you can do those projects yourself. Check back to keep up-to-date with our latest posts on real estate and lifestyle information in Scottsdale.

Stained concrete floor in kitchen
Stained concrete floor in kitchen


Concrete came into ‘style’ about 10 years ago debuting in laundry rooms and bathrooms.  Since that time concrete has emerged as a durable, fashionable and easily cleanable product for counter tops and floors.

With the help of stain, concrete can take on a variety of looks at a low cost.   With a little knowledge and preparation you can create an incredible finish on your concrete that you’ll cherish and others will admire.

Essential information before you begin

Concrete Stains – follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully from preparation through completion.

Water-Based Concrete Stain
Water-based concrete stains contain acrylic.  It fills the pores and coats the surface making the concrete look stained.  When it dries, the coating can range from translucent to opaque depending on the stain you choose.

Water-based stains are easiest to apply and safer because they don’t contain solvents or acids.  They are available in a variety of colors. Some are environmentally friendly.

If you are staining a high-traffic area be aware that water-based concrete stains fade and wear.

Acid-Based Concrete Stains

Acid-based stains penetrate the cement reacting to the lime and other minerals in the concrete.  They aren’t coating the surface and don’t wear away.

An acid-based concrete stain is translucent.  The colors are limited to earth tones and bright blues.  Once applied you end up with a rich tone and beautiful marbling effects.

A little elbow grease goes a long way in staining a concrete floor yourself
A little elbow grease goes a long way in staining a concrete floor yourself

Determining whether your concrete floor can be stained

Bare cement that has never had flooring over it makes for an easy job. If you’ve had flooring on your concrete, though, you’ll have to take up the existing floor before you can start.

If the concrete was painted you’ll have to take the paint off.  Inspect the floor carefully because the condition will determine what type of stain you use.


  • Typically floors that have been covered have not been cleaned with muratic acid.  If the floors were cleaned with muratic, acid-based stain is out.
  • If the concrete is sealed you must use a water-based stain.   Sealers block the chemical reaction needed for an acid-based stain.
  • If your concrete is sealed and you’re determined to have an acid-based stain you’ll need to remove the sealer.   You can tell if a floor has been sealed by pouring a little water on the surface.  If it beads up, it is sealed; if it absorbs into the cement there is no sealer.
  • If your floor had glued carpet, tile or other flooring and there are stains or shadows, an opaque water-based stain covers the shadows better.  If you decide to use an acid-based stain, shadows in the concrete show up as color variation.
  • If your floors are in poor condition, contractors can install a layer of new concrete over surfaces.  This is called a “microfinish overlay,” and gives you a new surface to work with.

Patching Floors Before Staining
If your surface needs patching, use an acrylic-modified, low-shrinkage product that accepts stains.  Patches show through, but that variation is part of the beauty of concrete stained floors.

Fill cracks with a concrete filler.  Where cracks are large use liquid bonding then the concrete filler.  For small cracks it may be best to leave as a ‘character’ mark.

Application Tools

  • Sprayer – To apply the most even coverage use a pressurized garden pump sprayer.  Brushes leave marks.   For detail work use a spray bottle.  Get acid-resistent plastics (never use metal) if you’re working with an acid-based stain.
  • Scrub Brush – You may choose to scrub the stain into the floor as an alternative to a sprayer.
  • Buckets –  Once your stain mixture is in a bucket put a piece of cardboard underneath the bucket to absorb drips; you’ll avoid leaving a ring on the floor.
  • Preparation and Cleaning Supplies – Clean your floor.  Tape areas abutting the floor or those you don’t want stain on.  Use plastic for walls and door frames.  Have plenty of rags and sponges.

The Importance of a Clean Surface
To get a great surface you must be diligent about the cleaning process.  Stains show through, especially with acid-based stains.  Sweep the floor and wash with a pH-neutral cleaner or trisodium phosphate (TSP).   Do not use bleach or acid-based cleaners.

Kemiko, a company that sells stains, has a list of concrete cleaning products.  Kemiko favors products that are safe for people, pets and the environment.

Some jobs need strong medicine to remove residue (For example: lacquer thinner or xylene to remove curing compounds).

If you’re removing caulk, one contractor recommends scraping off as much as you can with a putty knife or floor scrapper.   Then apply a “poultice” to remove the remainder. (Recipe for “poultice”: mix fly ash or hydrated lime, with denatured alcohol to make a smooth paste and apply) Once it dries, the caulk is brittle enough to remove with a stiff-bristle brush.

Do one final cleaning before applying stain.

Staining Your Concrete Floor

Finished stained concrete floor in family room
Finished stained concrete floor in family room

Before you apply, find a small test area.  Once you’re sure about the color, apply the stain.  Application tips:

  • Stain when temperatures are 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dilute the stain, following the manufacturer’s directions.   If you want the color darker, spray additional coats.
  • Apply evenly, working from a corner backward to avoid walking on the area you just stained.
  • When spraying, use large circular motions and don’t overlap.  Professionals recommend a “figure-eight” pattern.
  • Stains take 3-4 hours to dry typically,  but read the stain manufacturer’s instructions for drying time.  The color changes when it dries.
  • Acid-based stains have to be neutralized when the desired color is reached. Follow the stain manufacturer’s directions on application.  Generally a neutralizer is a mix of one part ammonia and one part water; or baking soda, at a rate of one cup per gallon of water.  Vacuum up the residue with a Shop-Vac.
  • Spray the floor with warm water and sweep with a broom to remove any sticky residue. Avoid scrubbing. Use a Shop-Vac to remove water.
  • After the stain is dry, apply sealer.  Spray or roll on a water- or solvent-based sealer.  Solvent-based sealers dry faster than their counterpart, but deepen the stain color too.
  • Cure the sealer as instructed before walking on the floor.
  • Spreading wax (optional) over the finished concrete creates a high shine and barrier against wear and tear.  If you wax, buff to a gloss with a floor buffing machine.
  • Remove all tape and plastic only when the floor wax is completely dry.

Caring for your new concrete floor is simple – sweep and mop avoiding harsh cleaners.

For more design inspiration ideas, check out these posts on Hasbrook Interiors and the Resources we recommend for Eager Home Remodelers.

Reach out to us for more information on the Scottsdale area, or for ideas on how to decorate or increase the value of your home.

Don Matheson
Realtor | Founder
The Matheson Team – RE/MAX Fine Properties
21000 N. Pima Rd., #100, Scottsdale, AZ 85255