Guide to Acid Staining Concrete

Concrete acid staining brings outstanding colour to old cement floors. These floors are not limited to old basement renovations. New homes are being designed with concrete floors throughout, including kitchens, dining and living room areas because of the richness and visual texture acid stains provide. Acid stains are economical and can be applied to new or old concrete surfaces.


When acid stains are applied to concrete, a chemical reaction occurs between the metallic salts in the acid stain and the lime in the concrete. The reaction creates a flowing, mottled, natural look that can be polished and cut to create the look of tiles and other designs. The permanent stains will not peel off or fade.

Choose the Color

Choose a stain that suits the environment. A dark brown stain with a high shine and tilelike striations will look beautiful in an entrance or formal hall. If you're refinishing your basement to create a family room, you may want a lighter colour stain to brighten the space. Kitchen floors can be stained in rich rust colours or made to resemble terra cotta. You can create the illusion of large floor tiles, or you can stain your bathroom the shade of sky blue. The longer you leave the stain on, the deeper the colour will be.

Test Your Concrete

If your concrete surface has been sealed or spotted with grease and other types of soiling it will have to be stripped. Acid stains won't be able to saturate the surface unless the surface is porous. Sealers and grease inhibit porosity. To test your concrete, pour a bit of water in different spots on the floor, including high traffic areas. If it soaks in, your floors are most likely unsealed, and you can get by with just giving the floor a good scrubbing.

Do It Yourself

Acid staining is permanent. Once the colour is applied, it can't be removed without sanding equipment and hours of labour. Consider this fact before doing the job yourself. It's a good idea to start with a one-color project rather than a complex design. The process begins with a test for porosity and cleaning. Test for porosity by wetting the floor and note if it soaks in. If it soaks in, you can probably go ahead with a stain after a thorough scrubbing. If you have a new, unsealed concrete floor, be sure it is fully cured before applying stain. You will need stain, a spray applicator, paint rollers, paper and tape to mask off wall areas near the floor. See Resources for more information.

Marks on Existing Concrete

Acid stains create a translucent finish which shows the underlying texture and marks in the concrete. Depending on your preference and the depth of the marks, you may decide to leave these imperfections as they are. They can potentially add more character to your finished floor.

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About the Author

Ingrid Hansen has been published in "Twin Cities Business" magazine, the "Murphy Reporter," "Twin Cities Parent" magazine and the "Southwest Journal" newspaper. She has also written more than 30 non-fiction books for the K-12 library and education market, and has been a subject matter expert and a course designer for online college curriculum. She teaches English Composition at a local college, and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Hamline University.