Ten Tips for Acid Staining Concrete Floors

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It's pretty easy to find "how to" articles about acid staining concrete floors. Some of them are pretty good. It is also important to learn about what not to do. Here's ten steps to avoid on your way to a beautiful acid stained  concrete floor. These can be lessons that save you time and money.

1) Don't start an acid staining project without spending quality time looking at the concrete and evaluating its condition. Stains, scratches, cracks & divots are "character" to some clients and serious flaws to others. Most damage to a concrete slab can be repaired, but more often than not the "fix" stands out more than the original problem. A lot of concrete is poured by the lowest bidder. A lot of times you get what you pay for. Bad concrete design mixes (often seen in residential construction) may not be suitable for exposed concrete floors. An overlay thick enough to fix this is expensive and raising the grade of the slab may create more problems. Then there's sloppy finishing, trash troweled into the floor, high and low spots, plumbing cut-outs, grade stakes left in the slab, left over curing compound, and on and on. It's much better to identify problems going into a project and account for them in your proposal and with your clients expectations, which leads me to my next item:

2) Don't oversell what you can do with acid staining a concrete floor. The concept of "character" in a concrete floor needs to be explored with your client. While there are many ways to skin a cat (and lots of tasty ways to cook one) you need to find that sweet spot where the expectations for a color stained floor meet the budgetary needs of the client.

3) Don't take shortcuts with concrete floor preparation. This is the most critical part of acid staining. Do all your floor patching first, preferably a day ahead or use a fast setting patching compound. It is a strict policy at High Tech Surface Solutions that all hard troweled floors are prepared with diamond grinding as well as scrubbing and scraping. We not only want to remove all contaminants from the concrete's surface, we want to create a good bonding profile for the concrete sealer that we will be applying to the color stained concrete. Edge work and corners require hand tools and elbow grease. Your time is well spent in this arena and makes it much easier to deliver a "no excuses" easy selling floor to your client.

4) Don't forget to vacuum along the baseboard as part of your cleanup prior to acid staining. This is a simple step that is often overlooked. Make sure you take this seriously and spend plenty of time on this task. It ties back in to the previous item on the list. Doing this makes the walls easier to tape, the acid stain easier to apply and saves frustration when you are sealing the floor. Now is a good time to check the floor surface for anything you might have missed in the prior step.

5) Don't rush through your taping and masking. This is no time to cut corners. Run your tape tight and at just the right height. Don't touch the floor with it and don't leave a gap. You don't want shadows and you don't want to wick stain onto the painted wall or baseboard.  Don't leave any wood that's going to stay wood (as opposed to being painted) come into contact with the acid stain, concrete dye or floor cleaning juice. Wood wicks up water into capillary channels, and nothing demonstrates this better than allowing kiln dried trim to come into contact with water that is contaminated with acid stain residue and concrete dyes. Do what you gotta do, use masking tape then duct tape (to avoid sticky residue) or use silicone caulk, just don't do let the wood get wet because it's really hard to fix and your client probably won't forgive you.

6) Don't start staining until you determine where you are going to put the acid stain residue and cleanup water. Do not put this stuff into storm drains or anywhere it can flow into a stream or pond. Different areas have differing soils and standards as to where the waste water can go. This is a thorny topic and is best for you do a little research for the area you are working in before you start your project. Taking this last step is why we have never had a bonding issue with any of our acid stain coatings.

7) Don't rush through the staining process. This is where you get to be an artist. Watch what you are doing and don't leave footprints, brush marks, spray stripes,etc.. It's got to look natural, like it just "happened".

8) Don't leave puddles on the concrete. Acid stain is weird stuff. Puddles come out lighter, or sometimes not stained at all.

9) Don't rush the reaction. Acid stain takes time, and there's nothing you can do about that. Leave the site, (we usually leave it overnight) give the acid stain plenty of time to migrate into the concrete and change the color.

10) Don't be a slacker  when you clean up the acid stain residue. Neutralize well because it is important that you don't leave any nasty Ph surprises for your concrete sealer. Ammonia or sodium carbonate, both work well for a neutralizer. Just make sure you don't mix it too strong (you don't want to discolor that pretty acid stain) and use plenty of it. All the un-reacted acid stain and un-bonded mineral salts have got to go. Scrub the floor vigorously (we use a buffer) and rise and repeat until your acid stained floor passes the white glove test. Seriously. If it rubs off on your hand it can act as a bond breaker for your concrete coating.

That's it. Your concrete floor has been properly prepared, acid stained, neutralized, cleaned and now is ready for the application of a concrete sealer. Depending on the type of coating system you are going to use the floor has to be dry or really, really dry. There are many ways to seal an acid stained floor, and that will be the subject of my next article.

High Tech Surface Solutions has been in the business of decorative concrete flooring since 1991. We have developed our own style of acid staining, concrete polishing and decorative overlays using experiences gained in the industrial and commercial world of concrete repair and protection. We are happy to answer your questions and welcome your comments. We are based out of Atlanta, GA and our service area includes all of Georgia and most of the surrounding states including; Alabama, Florida, South and North Carolina and Tennessee. For more information, please visit our website at www.diacrete.com or call us at 678 377 8083.

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